“It’s just nuts.”
“That is a slogan designed to make people mad,” she said in an interview with Global News airing on Monday evening.
“It’s designed to create unnecessary division, anger, resentment. That is not how grown-up people address the problems.”
Campbell was first elected federally in 1988, representing a Vancouver riding. She also served as justice and defence minister under Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney.
As a member of Parliament, she said she learned from colleagues who came from different parts of the country with different priorities and problems.
In the current political climate, she is concerned about leaders who deliberately play on division as a political strategy to make people mad and exaggerate grievances and spread false information.
Canada, she said, is too good for that.
“When I was a young woman and I discovered I could move people when I spoke, it frightened me because I grew up after the war and I would say to my mother, you know, how did Hitler come to power? And she said that it was a very charismatic order,” she said.
Campbell said politicians have to have respectful “adult conversation” about difficult issues like western alienation, climate change and equalization payments — but that can’t happen if the discussion starts from a position of hostility.
“In a sense, Canada is a solution looking for a problem. We’re a hugely successful country, but we’re a complex country. We’re a huge country. And we’re always going to have issues we have to resolve,” she said.
One such issue is climate change.
“The carbon lobby has been so successful in trying to create a sense of uncertainty,” she said.
Campbell thinks the Conservatives’ stance on climate change was a factor in their election loss. Andrew Scheer’s party secured 121 seats in the October vote, but the Liberals captured more support — enough to form a minority government.
Campbell also accused the Conservative Party of lacking vision and collaboration. Some voices within the party are not being heard, she said, leaving former Progressive Conservatives “not quite sure where to go.”
She said the next Conservative leader needs to be brave and bring people together to find solutions to complex problems.
“You know, we are dealing with difficult issues. This is not a time to be calculating and triangulating and trying to avoid any kind of tough positions. We need strength. We need to tackle the issues,” she said, referencing climate change and a resurgence in authoritarianism abroad.
Campbell has been a strong critic of U.S. President Donald Trump. In August, she apologized after facing backlash for tweeting that she hoped hurricane Dorian would hit Trump’s Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago.
Some have criticized her for not being prime ministerial on social media.
First of all, she said, she’s not prime minister anymore.
Asked whether being a woman means she faces increased scrutiny, Campbell said there are people out there who disagree with her and will use “whatever they can”— whether it’s gender or the length of time she served as prime minister.
“Well, if I was only prime minister for two minutes, it can’t bother you terribly if I make my views known,” she said.
Campbell said she deleted her Twitter app in September to focus on a project and thought she would re-install it, but still hasn’t. She said she’s happier and has less anger and anxiety but said she will also call out issues that concern her.
“And I am very worried about what’s happening to the world,” she said. “And I care about it.”
Campbell was Canada’s 19th prime minister. She served in the role for part of 1993 after winning the Tory leadership contest sparked by Mulroney stepping down.
Another woman hasn’t occupied the office since.
“Since I was prime minister, there have been 15 changes of leadership in parties that could form a government,” she said. “And no woman has really come close to being elected. It’s harder than it looks because it’s about power. And when the chances are of getting your hands on the lever of power, there are a lot of men who think that they are entitled to be there.”
Campbell, 72, worked as a speaker, educator and consultant after leaving federal politics. She was appointed Canadian consul general in Los Angeles in 1996, and more recently, she served as the founding principal of the University of Alberta’s Peter Lougheed Leadership College.
These days, she still does speaking engagements, spends time at her home in Italy and says she’s about to start working on a book, tentatively called Being Female.
Campbell is also the former chair of an elite organization called the Council of Women World Leaders, which includes more than 60 current and former presidents and prime ministers.
She said it’s important for women to pursue political leadership.
“When the prime minister created a gender-balanced cabinet, that provided more opportunities for women to get that kind of experience, visibility, credibility, et cetera.”
“And, you know, I think it will happen. I am surprised it has taken so long.”
With files from Kerri Breen, Global News