“An election is no time to discuss serious issues”

Glib comment attributed to Prime Minister Kim Campbell during the 1993 election campaign. Responding to a question about social policy, Campbell didn’t actually say these exact words. Rather, a journalist allegedly shortened her longer statement, which was that a 47-day campaign was not long enough to discuss the changes she envisioned. Though Campbell was misquoted, the supposed line (and her pontificating in delivering it) fed perceptions that she and her party were arrogant and out of touch. As the PCs barrelled toward a historically disastrous loss, it was one of many nails – both external (Mulroney’s unpopularity, the rise of the Bloc and Reform) and self-inflicted (an inept campaign, the Chrétien face ad) – in their coffin.

Yet two and half decades on, Campbell’s bon mots have come to be seen in another light. Today’s election campaigns are rarely venues for a serious discussion of the issues. Politicians make grandiose promises they can’t keep and attack policies they later adopt. With media coverage often centering on scandals, polls and the “horserace,” it’s easier to attack an idea than properly explain it – one need look no further than the carbon tax issue that sunk the Liberals in 2008. While it may have helped end her short time in office, Campbell’s supposed quip has stood the test of time for its unintended candour and wisdom.

Image Source: Campbell on election night – October 25, 1993 (iPolitics)

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