Campbell for Canada

June 15, 1993

Kim Campbell is an important first in Canadian politics. She hails from Vancouver. She speaks for the West. She is a provincialist, instinctively for strong government in the province, be it Quebec or Alberta. Canada has never had a British Columbian for federal prime minister. Vancouver is suddenly the nation's third great city. The centers of population and economic power have been moving westward a long time. Now it is recognized.

Oh yes, in addition, Ms. Campbell is a woman, and Canada has never had one of those for prime minister, either. And she is 46, one of Bill Clinton's generation. She hasn't been in politics long, she has held top jobs, and she has a sharp tongue. When it gets going, Canadians call it Campbellmania.

Brian Mulroney, the outgoing prime minister, held that job nine years, led the party for ten and won two elections for the Conservatives. He brokered free trade with the U.S. and failed to win a constitutional agreement to give his native Quebec more unique power. He is one of the giants of Canadian politics and more unpopular now than any predecessor has ever been. Canada's economy is long-suffering. It is time for a change.

In the parliamentary system, the ruling party that the voters are sick of can arrange the change from the top and within, then call the election within limits as suits its purpose. The British Tories dumped Margaret Thatcher and eked through the next election with John Major. Their Canadian counterparts are replacing Mr. Mulroney with Ms. Campbell. Imagine if the Republicans had been able to dump President Bush for someone like Jack Kemp last year.

A remarkable parallel is Turkey. When Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel became president, his center-right, rather Islamic (for Turkey) True Path Party had to pick a leader to succeed as prime minister. It chose Tansu Ciller, 47, an economist only recently in government. Ms. Ciller is busy giving the government a new image.

Ms. Campbell has her work cut out, including reviving Canada's national unity and restoring its economy. But first, she must call an election by November. As matters stand, the likely winner is the Liberal Party led by its old warhorse, Jean Chretien of Quebec, though Ms. Campbell's personal popularity standing is higher than his.

And if that happens, Ms. Campbell's party leadership could be brief. The man she beat to become leader, her probable No. 2 in government, is standing by to supplant her as party leader. He is Jean Charest, also from Quebec. He is 34.

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