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Catherine Callbeck, on the road to leadership victory

The Story

Catherine Callbeck is poised to make history. The businesswoman and former federal member of Parliament is expected to capture the leadership of P.E.I.'s Liberal party. If she does and then wins the next election, she will become the first woman to be elected premier in Canada. Callbeck, whose family owns a popular grocery and hardware store on the Island, is quietly reserved but is well-known, with grassroots connections. Critics, however, say she lacks vision and charisma. CBC Radio travels with Callbeck and meets her supporters and naysayers. 

This page had previously incorrectly stated in the headline that Callbeck was the first woman to serve as a premier in Canada. The headline was updated on Jan. 21, 2018.

Medium: Radio
Program: The World At Six
Broadcast Date: Jan. 22, 1993
Guests: Catherine Callbeck, Nancy Guptill, Pat Mella
Host: Michael McIvor, Bob Oxley
Reporter: Michael Hornbrook
Duration: 3:07

Did You know?

• Catherine Callbeck was born on July 25, 1939, in Central Bedeque, P.E.I. She studied at Mount Allison, Dalhousie and Syracuse universities.
• From 1974 to 1978 Callbeck worked in the P.E.I legislative assembly as minister of Health and Social Services and as minister responsible for the disabled. She subsequently left provincial politics to work for her family's business.

• In 1988, she returned to politics, this time making her mark on the federal scene as the official opposition critic for consumer and corporate affairs, energy, mines and resources, financial institutions and as associate critic for privatization and regulatory affairs.
• Callbeck captured the leadership of the P.E.I. Liberal party in January 1993, succeeding Joe Ghiz. In March 1993, she won 31 of 32 seats in the legislature and became Canada's first elected woman premier. The lone Opposition seat was won by Conservative leader Pat Mella.

• Over the course of her leadership, Callbeck's popularity dropped in the polls. In trying to present a balanced budget she made the unpopular decision to roll back civil servants' wages. This decision resulted in mass protests and rallies.
• In 1993, one in 10 Islanders was employed as a civil servant.
• In August 1996, Callbeck announced that she was stepping down as P.E.I.'s provincial Liberal leader.

• Callbeck was appointed to the Senate on Sept. 23, 1997.
• In 1991, Rita Johnston became premier of British Columbia after winning the Social Credit leadership race. She was, however, defeated soon after in a provincial election.


P.E.I. Elections: Liberal Landslides and Tory Tides more