His political career began in 1984 with his election to Vancouver City Council. Two years later, Campbell became mayor, an office he held until 1993. During that time, he also served as president of the Union of BC Municipalities and chaired the Greater Vancouver Regional District. In 1993 he was elected leader of the provincial LIBERAL PARTY, and won the Vancouver-Quilchena seat through a by-election on 18 February 1994. Between 1996 and 2011 he sat for Vancouver-Point Grey. Although the Liberals won the popular vote in the 1996 general election, the NDP won more seats. Surrounded by scandal, however, the NDP lost popularity and in the 2001 general election, the Liberals, who promised "a new era for British Columbia," had a landslide victory, winning 77 of the 79 seats.
Campbell was sworn in as premier on 5 June 2001, succeeding former premier Ujjal DOSANJH. Within a day of Campbell's taking office, the Liberals delivered on a promise to cut taxes dramatically. A promised review of the government's delivery of services and a poor economy led to a major downsizing of the civil service and reductions in spending, most conspicuously in social welfare and health benefits. Despite massive protest rallies and widespread disappointment with the government, a poll shortly before the government's first anniversary showed that the Liberals had the support of 45% of decided voters. Campbell also made strides with the provincial Pacific Gateway Program, an initiative that invests in infrastructure to support the growing volume of Asia-Pacific trade, placing BC as a leader in the North American trade gateway. BC was also awarded the prestigious 2010 OLYMPIC GAMES during Campbell's inaugural term.
Campbell won a second term as premier on 17 May 2005, but Liberal support was not as strong as it had been in 2001. The NDP captured 33 of the 79 seats, garnering support from seniors and families who had been affected by the Liberal government's cuts to social spending. Campbell's second term was defined by several key initiatives, particularly in the areas of increased employment (inevitably losing ground due to the recession in late 2008 and 2009), First Nations relations, and climate change. The Tsawwassen Treaty, which came into effect in 2009, provides financial support to help increase the economic vitality of the Aboriginal community in the Lower Mainland region of BC. It was the first urban treaty ever negotiated in the province. In 2008 Campbell enacted a controversial carbon tax on fossil fuels, an initiative that was widely criticized by the NDP in the 2009 election.
In 2009, Campbell won a third-consecutive majority - the first premier in 25 years to do so - in an election that was, once again, marked by low voter turnout. Making use of the new Internet communication technology "Twitter," the Liberal party broadcast election coverage the day of the election, unwittingly violating the provincial Elections Act. The party was later chastised for its actions but no charges were formally laid. Soon after, Campbell's government introduced a controversial piece of legislation, the Harmonized Sales Tax, which eliminated both the PST and GST in favour of one 12% tax on goods and services. Though popular in the business sector, the tax, which took effect in July 2010, was opposed by consumers whose household budgets would be drastically affected.
Opinions on the new HST not only divided public opinion of the party, but also fractured the Liberals themselves. Popular support waned considerably, placing the Liberals behind the NDP, and although Campbell promised a major income tax cut and reshuffled his cabinet to appease his dissenters, a veritable caucus rebellion later that year forced Campbell, Canada's longest-serving premier to that time, to announce his resignation as party leader. He was replaced as premier by Liberal leader Christy CLARK on 14 March 2011.
Author PATRICIA ROY
Links to Other Sites
Government of British Columbia
The official website of the Government of British Columbia. Scroll down to the bottom of the page for a list of links to specific departments, agencies, and programs.
Premiers of British Columbia
A list of premiers of British Columbia, 1871 - today. From the Government of British Columbia website.
Order of British Columbia
The official website for the Order of British Columbia. Check out the online profiles and photos of previous recipients.