How culpable was Kim Campbell in the Canadian Tory wipeout in 93?

Is Kim Campbell a byword for incompetence in Canada? Or is she viewed as a helpless bystander against a backdrop of inexorably shifting political plate tectonics?

The phrase ‘It will be like Canada’ crops up from time to time in UK political commentary, referring to the catastrophic election results of the Canadian conservative party in 1993. A majority government was reduced to 2 seats! I’m not sure what has happened to the natural conservative vote in Canada, presumably the party has recovered in some way.

Total annihilation was bandied about as a possible scenario for the UK Labour party under Gordon Brown in the next election. The global financial crisis suggests that things will be no way near that cut and dried, but it’s interesting to think about a major party in a Western democracy can just get completely rinsed out in a general election.

She didn’t run a great campaign in 93, but with the country’s attitude towards Mulroney, no one could have survived that as PC leader. It’s difficult to explain the magnitude of the animosity towards him now (especially since most of the things he was hated for are kind of silly in retrospect), but it’s sort of like if McCain had run expressly on the idea of continuing Bush’s third term.

It was basically taken by the Reform party.

It never recovered. The remains of the PCs had to re-merge with the Reform party in order to create the current Conservative party.

Her election as leader was one of my earliest political memories. I remember saying to someone “Her opponent (Jean Charest) is so much better!”

That person (wish I could remember who) responded with something like “Yes, that’s why he’s not going to win. Everyone knows that the party is going to tank in the next election, so whoever leads them through that election is going to end their career. Party members want to keep Charest around so they’ll lead Campbell to the slaughter.”

This is exactly how things have turned out, with one small difference - Charest is now a provincial Liberal.

There are a lot of small-C conservatives in this country (former “Progressive Conservatives”) who don’t know who to vote for - the Conservative party isn’t progressive enough, and the “progressive” parties (Libs/NDP/Greens/BQ) aren’t conservative enough.

She was undoubtedly going to lose the election anyway. The newly imposed Goods And Services tax by the Mulroney PCs was not popular, and the Liberals vowed to remove it as part of their election campaign: something they reneged on anyway. (Along with a promise to renegotiate free trade.)

But she ran a terrible campaign and seemed to stick her foot in her mouth at the most inopportune times. She got lambasted for saying something like “Campaign time is not the time to be talking policy issues.” And near the end when it was certain she would lose, her campaign switched to terrible attack ads against Jean Chretien, actually insulting him because of his partial facial paralysis by saying “Is this the face of a Prime Minister?” We are a little more used to attack ads now in Canada, but weren’t in 1993. No, she would have lost anyway, but she drove herself into the ground during the election campaign.

A funny (to me) short story: I was living in Yellowknife during the '93 election. There was a news story on the radio about Kim Campbell. She was referred to as “he” and “Mr. Campbell” more than once. I laughed my butt off.

YK being the small town it was, everyone in town knew about it within hours, and the news caster got bugged about it for months.

I misread the OP as blaming Kim Cattrell for the Canadian Tory wipeout, and was wondering how she managed that. All I could think was that the Canadian Tories had somehow been connected to Sex and the City.

I’d say that Campbell did nothing to save the party. Mulroney is the one to blame for the destruction of the PCs.

My feeling is that they would have still crashed and burned, but maybe not that badly, if the campaign had been better run. And I don’t think all the fault can be rested on her. A lot of it (her cold and distant manner, for example), but not all.