Who is Canada's ex-PM Kim Campbell? What happened in 1993?

Canada’s only female prime minister has been in the news recently.

According to the BBC, one of Canada’s former prime ministers, Kim Campbell, has recently gained international attention over a tweet she posted regarding “sleeveless dresses” on TV.

Making use of Twitter’s 280 characters, the former leader said: “I am struck by how many women on television news wear sleeveless dresses- often when sitting with suited men. I have always felt it was demeaning to the women and this suggests that I am right. Bare arms undermine credibility and gravitas!”

Twitters users reacted to her post, with many strongly rebutting the ex-leader’s statement while others did agree with her.

Campbell’s tweet has sparked an interesting debate, but it is the story of Campbell that is of interest here. Unlike the UK’s first female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Campbell’s time as prime minister was short-lived.

In the 1988 Canadian election, Canada’s centre-right Progressive Conservatives, led by Brian Mulroney, retained their majority, however, they did lose seats to the New Democratic Party and the now-governing Liberals. Mulroney’s party won the popular vote, getting eleven percentage points more than their nearest rivals.

Shortly before the 1993 election, Mulroney resigned, with CBA highlighting that his low approval rating was a contributing factor.

Resultantly, the party needed a new leader – and prime minister – ahead of the general election. Campbell replaced Mulroney, and initially had good ratings. In fact, even a month ahead of the election in October, the Progressive Conservatives were neck and neck with their Liberal rivals, but as their Campbell-led campaign went on, the party quickly fell out of favour with the public.

In the end, the public produced a parliament that rocked Canada’s political establishment, crashing the mostly two-party system and elevated Quebec nationalism to the forefront of Canadian politics.

The Liberals, led by Jean Chretien, won a handsome majority, taking 177 out of the 295 available seats. In contrast, Campbell’s Progressive Conservatives won just two seats. That’s right, Canada’s governing party went from holding a comfortable majority to just two seats. In fairness, they won 16% of the vote, but the country’s archaic FPTP voting system decimated them, with Campbell herself losing her own riding.

Resultantly, the Bloc Quebecois, who only stand in the province of Quebec, became the country’s official opposition party. To put this in a UK context, imagine Labour winning a majority, the Conservatives losing all but a handful of seats and the SNP rising to become the country’s official opposition.

Preston Manning’s Reform Party came third, winning 52 seats, largely replacing the Progressive Conservatives as the country’s centre-right force.

The New Democrats lost seats, but still won more than Campbell’s Progressive Conservatives.

Campbell's reappearance reminds us that politics can be shocking and exciting.

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