Canada's bright star fades under scrutiny: Kim Campbell's outspokenness is spoiling her chance of leadership

THERE are growing indications that the bloom has come off Defence Minister Kim Campbell's campaign to succeed the Prime Minister, Brian Mulroney, as leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and head of the national government.

As 4,000 Tories pour into Ottawa for a leadership convention this weekend, a profusion of delegate surveys and public opinion polls have all indicated Canada's initial infatuation with the perky, 46-year-old divorcee from British Columbia on Canada's Pacific coast has cooled.

Although Ms Campbell, an unconventional politician with a habit of shooting from the lip, soared into prominence following Mr Mulroney's announcement in late February that he was quitting politics, her campaign has suffered a series of setbacks, most of them self-induced, during the intervening three months.

It has now become apparent that much of her initial momentum was based on a desire by Conservatives to distance themselves from Mr Mulroney's unpopularity. They reached out to her because she was, of all of the possible successors, the most different from the current prime minister.

Polls taken early in the campaign indicated a Conservative government led by her would restore Tory support and give the party a fighting chance against the Liberals and the Bloc Quebecois, which have been leading the Conservatives by a large margin.

But recently, Liberal support has risen again and Ms Campbell is now facing a strong and potentially fatal challenge for the party leadership, and premiership, from the Environment Minister, Jean Charest. At 34, he is a small-town lawyer who has turned his Quebec origins, flawless bilingualism, and steady political style to his advantage.

The gap is closing as the more Canadians have learnt and observed about Ms Campbell, the less popular she has become. Her biggest problem has been a tart tongue that has often betrayed an intellectual arrogance lurking behind a populist facade.

In one of the nationally televised encounters with the other four leadership candidates, Ms Campbell referred to people who disagreed with her proposals for public spending cutbacks and fiscal reform as 'enemies of Canadians'. In a widely quoted interview with a prominent journalist, the Defence Minister expressed her distaste for apathetic Canadians who shun involvement in political parties, refering to them as 'condescending SOBs'. In another burst of candour, she alienated many Roman Catholics with a glib reference to the 'evil demons of the papacy'.

Ms Campbell's unhappy personal life and her patchy academic record have also come in for intense media scrutiny.

Her problems on the campaign trail were exacerbated by problems in her defence portfolio. At one point she had to break off her tour and return to Ottawa to initiate an inquiry into the deaths of Somali civilians at the hands of Canadian soldiers serving in the United Nations peace-keeping force in Somalia. Four paratroopers were subsequently charged with murder and torture.

In the meantime, Mr Charest has been steadily building support, based on a superior performance in a series of televised debates, and a strong federalist approach to Quebec.

Assuming that Canadians were tired of having leaders from Quebec (for all but a few months of the last 25 years, the prime minister of Canada has been a Quebecker), Ms Campbell has stressed her origins in British Columbia and adopted a very low-key approach to Quebec nationalism and the language question.

Mr Charest has tackled the argument that it is time to choose a non-Quebecker as leader with strong pro-Canada statements and by stressing his ability as a federalist Quebecker to challenge the separatist-leaning Bloc Quebcois. For the moment, Mr Charest's strategy seems to be working better.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Fans line up at the AVNs, straining to capture a photo of their favourite star
life Tim Walker asks how much longer it can flesh out an existence
Life and Style
Every minute of every day, Twitter is awash with anger as we seek to let these organisations know precisely what we think of them
techWhen it comes to vitriol, no one on attracts our ire more than big businesses offering bad service
Professor David Nutt wants to change the way gravely ill patients are treated in Britain
people Why does a former Government tsar believe that mind-altering drugs have a place on prescription?
Norway’s ‘The Nordland Line – Minute by Minute, Season by Season’ continues the trend of slow TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Jonny Evans has pleaded not guilty to an FA charge for spitting at Papiss Cisse
Life and Style
Kate Moss will make a cameo appearance in David Walliams' The Boy in the Dress
The image released by the Salvation Army, using 'The Dress'
Liverpool defender Kolo Toure
football Defender could make history in the FA Cup, but African Cup of Nations win means he's already content
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Consultant - London - £65,000 OTE.

£65000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Technical Presales Engineer - central London ...

Recruitment Genius: Physiotherapist / Sports Therapist

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Physiotherapist / Sports Ther...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive / Advisor

£8 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives / Advisors are required...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Operative

£14000 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans campaign: Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after £300,000 gift from Lloyds Bank

Homeless Veterans campaign

Donations hit record-breaking £1m target after huge gift from Lloyds Bank
Flight MH370 a year on: Lost without a trace – but the search goes on

Lost without a trace

But, a year on, the search continues for Flight MH370
Germany's spymasters left red-faced after thieves break into brand new secret service HQ and steal taps

Germany's spy HQ springs a leak

Thieves break into new €1.5bn complex... to steal taps
International Women's Day 2015: Celebrating the whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Whirlwind wit of Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir's seminal feminist polemic, 'The Second Sex', has been published in short-form for International Women's Day
Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Mark Zuckerberg’s hiring policy might suit him – but it wouldn’t work for me

Why would I want to employ someone I’d be happy to have as my boss, asks Simon Kelner
Confessions of a planespotter: With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent

Confessions of a planespotter

With three Britons under arrest in the UAE, the perils have never been more apparent. Sam Masters explains the appeal
Russia's gulag museum 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities

Russia's gulag museum

Ministry of Culture-run site 'makes no mention' of Stalin's atrocities
The big fresh food con: Alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay

The big fresh food con

Joanna Blythman reveals the alarming truth behind the chocolate muffin that won't decay
Virginia Ironside was my landlady: What is it like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7?

Virginia Ironside was my landlady

Tim Willis reveals what it's like to live with an agony aunt on call 24/7
Paris Fashion Week 2015: The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp

Paris Fashion Week 2015

The wit and wisdom of Manish Arora's exercise in high camp
8 best workout DVDs

8 best workout DVDs

If your 'New Year new you' regime hasn’t lasted beyond February, why not try working out from home?
Paul Scholes column: I don't believe Jonny Evans was spitting at Papiss Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible

Paul Scholes column

I don't believe Evans was spitting at Cissé. It was a reflex. But what the Newcastle striker did next was horrible
Miguel Layun interview: From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

From the Azteca to Vicarage Road with a million followers

Miguel Layun is a star in Mexico where he was criticised for leaving to join Watford. But he says he sees the bigger picture
Frank Warren column: Amir Khan ready to meet winner of Floyd Mayweather v Manny Pacquiao

Khan ready to meet winner of Mayweather v Pacquiao

The Bolton fighter is unlikely to take on Kell Brook with two superstar opponents on the horizon, says Frank Warren
War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable