DEFENSE Minister Kim Campbell has become the clear favorite to
win the leadership of Canada's Progressive Conservative Party and
become prime minister.
Prime Minister Brian Mulroney's Feb. 24 announcement that he
would resign as party leader and prime minister was a starter
pistol's pop for a field of would-be party leaders. Party
strategists, and apparently Mr. Mulroney himself, decided that bad
polling numbers were not going to rebound and that the party needed
a new face to lead the ticket in federal elections this fall.
As of March 15, the leadership race still had no formally
declared candidates, although that is expected to change soon.
The striking element of the race so far has been Ms. Campbell's
rocket start. She has amassed, in a matter of weeks, the keys to
success: money, insider support across Canada, and good polling
numbers. An early Gallup poll showed that with her as party leader,
Conservatives would close the gap in popular support with the
A former political science professor who entered political life
as a member of the Vancouver School Board in 1981, Campbell was
elected to the House of Commons in 1988. Her fast-track career has
included the high-profile posts of minister of state for Indian
affairs in 1989 and minister of justice, which she was named in
February 1990. She was appointed the nation's first woman defense
minister in a January Cabinet shuffle.
Part of the reason for her climb is that Campbell, as a relative
newcomer to Mulroney's Cabinet, has not been heavily tarred by his
fiscal policies, which have included unpopular cuts to social
programs. She also is considered a softer Conservative, taking
uncharacteristic positions such as open support for gay rights.
"I think there's a yearning to find something that binds us and
some way of defining us and some way of feeling that Canada really
is something," Campbell told the Monitor in December. "I think
that's one of the things people in public life have a
responsibility to do - to find the language that encapsulates the
ideas and the feelings that make community life a reality."
David Bellamy, a political science professor at Carleton
University in Ottawa, says Conservatives "have found a way to
resuscitate themselves by playing down the old gang - the
hard-headed neoconservatives - and to put forward a more sublime
sort of person, which is what Kim Campbell is purported to be."
The Conservative field has rapidly narrowed as opponents,
finding a dearth of money and support, have dropped out. Deputy
Prime Minister Donald Mazankowski announced March 2 that he would
not run. Three days later International Trade Minister Michael
Wilson said he would not run either. …