Campbell, Avril Kim

Avril Kim Campbell, née Avril Phaedra Douglas Campbell, lawyer, politician (b at Port Alberni, BC 10 Mar 1947). Campbell obtained a degree in political science at the University of British Columbia and pursued doctoral studies at the London School of Economics. She lectured in political science at UBC (1975-78) and at Vancouver Community College (1978-81) before articling and launching a career as a lawyer. Her political career began with two terms on the Vancouver School Board (1981-84). In 1985-86 she was executive director in the office of British Columbia Premier Bill Bennett. In July 1986 she made an unsuccessful bid for the leadership of the provincial Social Credit Party, and in October 1986 was elected to the provincial legislature. An effective backbencher, she became disenchanted with the leadership of Premier Bill Vander Zalm and in 1988 repudiated his position on abortion, effectively severing her connection with the Social Credit Party.

Campbell was first elected to the House of Commons in November 1988 as a Conservative. She served as minister of state for Indian Affairs and Northern Development in 1989. As minister of Justice and Attorney General from 1990 to 1992, she introduced reform legislation on a number of issues, including abortion. She also served on the influential Cabinet Committee on Priorities and Planning and was senior minister for British Columbia. Prime Minister Brian Mulroney moved her to National Defence in January 1993 and the following month announced his own retirement. Campbell entered the leadership race as a heavy favourite to win the Tory leadership. Despite a strong challenge from Jean Charest, she managed to win on the second ballot. She took office officially, as the first female prime minister in Canadian history, on June 25, 1993.

Campbell rode an initial wave of popularity in her first few months as prime minister, but her party's standing began to fall almost as soon as the 1993 campaign began. The Mulroney coalition of Western and Québec Conservatives disintegrated under the advance of the Reform Party in the West and of the Bloc Québécois in Québec. Campbell's problematic performance in the campaign, her focus on the debt rather than jobs, her verbal stumbling, her refusal to discuss social programs and her inability to distance herself from the extremely unpopular Brian Mulroney, whose government had failed in its promises to increase jobs, renew federalism and lower the public debt, propelled the party from defeat to disaster. The Conservative Party suffered the greatest defeat in Canadian political history. It was wiped out completely, even in its traditional stronghold of Alberta. Only two Conservatives were elected in all Canada, one of whom was her leadership rival Jean Charest. Campbell herself lost her own seat of Vancouver Centre to the Liberal candidate. She left office after the third-shortest term as prime minister, after Sir Charles Tupper and John Turner.

In August 1996 Prime Minister Chrétien named Campbell Canadian Consul General in Los Angeles. She had been serving as professor at the Harvard University Kennedy School of Government at Irvine, California.