Kim Campbell

The Right Honourable Kim Campbell

In office:
June 25, 1993 to November 4, 1993

Born: on March 10, 1947, at Port Alberni, British Columbia, Canada

Political party:
Progressive Conservative (1988–2003)

Other political affiliations:
British Columbia Social Credit Party (Before 1988)

Alma mater:
University of British Columbia
London School of Economics


Religion: Anglicanism

Campbell was the first, and to this day, the only female Prime Minister of Canada, the first baby boomer to hold that office, and the only Prime Minister born in British Columbia.

While in her pre-teens, Campbell was a host and reporter on the CBC children’s program Junior Television Club.

She married  Nathan Divinsky, her longtime partner, in 1972.   They divorced in 1983.

She was called to the British Columbia Bar in 1984, and practised law in Vancouver until 1986.

Campbell married Howard Eddy in 1986, a marriage that lasted until shortly before she became prime minister. Campbell is the second prime minister of Canada to have been divorced, after Pierre Trudeau.

She is currently married to Hershey Felder, an actor, playwright, composer, and concert pianist.

Campbell was elected in the 1988 federal election as the Member of Parliament (MP) from Vancouver Centre.  In 1989 she was appointed to the cabinet as Minister of State (Indian Affairs and Northern Development). From 1990–1993 she held the post of Minister of Justice and Attorney General where she oversaw notable amendments to the Criminal Code in the areas of firearms control and sexual assault.

In 1993 Campbell was transferred to the posts of Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs. Notable events during her tenure included dealing with the controversial issue of replacing shipborne helicopters for the navy and for search and rescue units. The actions by Canadian Airborne Regiment in the military scandal known as the Somalia Affair also first emerged while Campbell was minister.

In February 1993, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney announced his retirement  to take effect June 25, 1993. Campbell entered the party leadership race to succeed Mulroney. Governor General Ray Hnatyshyn appointed her Prime Minister on June 25.

Campbell had served in four cabinet portfolios prior to running for the party leadership, including three years as Minister of Justice, and garnered support of more than half the PC caucus when she declared for the leadership. After becoming party leader and Prime Minister, Campbell set about reorganizing the cabinet. She cut it from 35 ministers to 23 ministers; she consolidated ministries by creating three new ministries: Health, Canadian Heritage, and Public Security. In August 1993, a Gallup Canada poll showed Campbell as having a 51 percent approval rating, which placed her as Canada’s most popular prime minister in 30 years.

Campbell was the first Canadian prime minister not to have resided at 24 Sussex Drive since that address became the official home of the Prime Minister of Canada in 1951. Initially, Campbell’s predecessor Mulroney remained at 24 Sussex while renovations on his new home in Montreal were being completed. Campbell instead took up residence at Harrington Lake, the PM’s summer and weekend retreat, located in rural Quebec, north of Ottawa; and she did not move into 24 Sussex after Mulroney left. Like Charles Tupper and John Turner, Campbell never sat in Parliament as Prime Minister, as her term was filled by the summer break and the election campaign.

When an election was called in the fall of 1993, the party had high hopes that it would be able to remain in powe.  The election had to be called at that time because the government mandate for a maximum of five years was set to expire.

However, Campbell’s initial popularity soon declined.  When she was running for the party leadership, Campbell’s frank honesty was seen as an important asset and a sharp contrast from Mulroney’s highly polished style. However, that style backfired when she told reporters at a Rideau Hall event that it was unlikely that the deficit or unemployment would be much reduced before the “end of the century”.  During the election campaign, she further stated that discussing a complete overhaul of Canada’s social policies in all their complexities could not be done in just 47 days; this statement was reduced to her having stated that an election is no time to discuss important issues.

Campbell was still personally more popular than Chrétien. Knowing this, the Progressive Conservative campaign team put together a series of ads attacking the Liberal leader. The second ad appeared to mock Chrétien’s Bell’s Palsy facial paralysis.  This generated a severe backlash from all sides.  Even some Tory candidates called for the ad to be pulled from broadcasts. Campbell claims to have not been directly responsible for the ad.  The ad controversy was widely regarded as the final nail in Campbell’s prime ministerial coffin.

The Somalia Affair took place during her “watch” as Minister of National Defence, and became a handicap during her subsequent period of public life. When the Liberal Party of Canada took power, the incident became the subject of a lengthy public inquiry, continuing to focus attention on Campbell and the PCs.

Campbell faced hurdles that she blamed as being insurmountable. Mulroney left office as one of the most unpopular prime ministers since opinion polling began in the 1940s. He considerably hampered his own party’s campaign effort by staging a very lavish international farewell tour at taxpayer expense, and by staying in office until only two and a half months were left in his mandate. Under the circumstances, Campbell came into office with almost no room to make mistakes.

On a personal note:
Resides in Paris, France

Kim’s autobiography, Time and Chance, was published in 1996 and became a national bestseller in Canada.

In a democracy, government isn’t something that a small group of people do to everybody else, it’s not even something they do for everybody else, it should be something they do with everybody else.” Kim Cambell, March 25,1993

During the 1993 election, Kim Campbell hired an American advertising company to create a commercial for her campaign. The commercial, which mocked Jean Chrétien’s facial disablility (paralysis on one side), was not well received in Canada.

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