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Kim Campbell: 'Why are you afraid to hear me?'

When Kim Campbell set her sights on Ottawa, she was a tart-tongued, unapologetically determined, razor-sharp intellectual. She confounded politicians and voters alike and her career was accordingly thrilling, awkward, at times thorny and ultimately very brief. CBC Archives examines Campbell's meteoric rise through the political ranks from her role as an outspoken backbencher to Canada's first woman prime minister.

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"Why are you afraid to hear me?" Progressive Conservative candidate Kim Campbell yells at a raucous all-candidates meeting. Campbell is fighting for a seat in the NDP federal stronghold of Vancouver-Centre. At the meeting Campbell is heckled for defending the unpopular Conservative free trade initiative, as shown in this CBC Television report. But, the quiet majority take note of Campbell and elect the fiery and outspoken politician to Parliament. 
• "The television clip of that outburst was shown throughout the campaign, including a few times on national television. I was mortified because I thought it was uncharacteristically shrill. Interestingly, many people who saw it loved it, and some thought it won me the election." Kim Campbell, Time and Chance

• Campbell left the Social Credit Party in 1988 to purse federal politics. Campbell replaced retiring Tory minister Pat Carney in the riding of Vancouver Centre.
• Campbell defeated NDP candidate Johanna den Hertog by 269 votes.
• In 1988, Campbell was one of a record 39 women elected to Parliament.

• Prime Minister Brian Mulroney appointed Campbell to his cabinet as junior native affairs minister. Three months later, she was promoted to the high-profile position of justice minister. Campbell was the first woman to hold this post.
• Campbell and lawyer Howard Eddy married on Aug. 23, 1986. Eddy moved to Ottawa with Campbell when she was elected an MP but in 1991, Eddy and Campbell separated.

• As justice minister, Campbell developed a reputation as being particularly knowledgeable. "If there was a Supreme Court judgment, she would always have been briefed and have something substantive to say. Her predecessors would duck away and say they hadn't had a chance to read the judgment," reporter Stephen Bindman recalled of Campbell. "It was a pleasure to cover someone who really thought about the issues. There were people crying in the justice department when she left." (Ottawa Citizen, March 20, 1993.)

• Campbell was also particularly well-spoken and journalists enjoyed her ability to turn a clever turn of phrase. At a fundraiser, Campbell joked about the gun legislation she steered through legislation with a Mae West impression. "Say fella," she asked, "is that a prohibited weapon with a barrel length of less than 18 inches possession of which is grandfathered by those who satisfy the requirement of being a genuine gun collector on or before Oct. 1, 1992, in your pocket, or are you just glad to see me?"

• Campbell came under fire, however, when she defended Bill C-43 which would have made abortion a crime unless the woman's doctor concluded that continuing the pregnancy would harm her mental or physical health. Campbell had previously condemned B.C. Premier Bill Vander Zalm for his hard line against abortion and was criticized by women's groups for supporting this legislation.

• In 1990, Bill C-43 was defeated in the Senate. 
Medium: Television
Program: CBC News
Broadcast Date: Nov. 13, 1988
Guest(s): Russ Brink, Pietro Calissi, Kim Campbell, Ken Carty, George Cassaro, Jane Frost, Ron Johnson
Reporter: Karen Webb
Duration: 3:14

Last updated: June 14, 2013

Page consulted on September 10, 2014

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