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Campbell contradiction

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The recent signing of former CBC chairwoman Carole Taylor as a star Liberal candidate no doubt helped shift women voters into the Liberal column. But Ms. Clark said Mr. Campbell has always tried hard to draw women into the party and has welcomed their contribution.

"If he had trouble appreciating the role women play politically, he wouldn't have made me deputy premier and he wouldn't have given me all the support and encouragement he did," Ms. Clark said.

She said Mr. Campbell recognized abilities in her that she didn't even know she had, and gave her challenges that allowed her to flourish in a pressure-packed, male-dominated world.

Mr. Campbell, nurturing the political interests of women? It doesn't fit with his image, but then many things don't. Norman Ruff, a veteran observer and a professor of political science at the University of Victoria, said there is an intriguing dichotomy to Mr. Campbell.

"On the one hand he is a tough guy who is able to make hard decisions and follow through on difficult policy initiatives. On the other hand he seems to want to be liked.

"He remains somewhat of a puzzle, despite all his years in the public arena," Prof. Ruff said.

"It's completely wrong to say he's mean and uncaring, but I wouldn't go to the other side and say there's a hidden compassionate streak either.

"He's a career politician but there still seems to be a degree of discomfort, a kind of over-hype, in the way he delivers his message . . . he's got this evangelical, preacher style he falls into."

In one recent address, he noted, Mr. Campbell actually spoke to himself on stage, saying "calm down," after almost shouting about an NDP policy that would take essential-service designation away from teachers.

"It seems he is just trying too hard," Prof. Ruff said.

"It all stems, I think, from an underlying insecurity inside Campbell. There is this inner conflict and he deals with it by saying 'I'm tough. I can handle hard decisions.' And on the other hand he is saying, 'Please like me.' His insecurity is surprising because, given the position he's in, with the economy going and the polls in his favour, he should really be bursting with confidence."

Prof. Ruff said he thinks the Liberal government reflects its leader's conflicted emotions in its own policies.

"The first three years we saw that toughness [in restraint policies], but suddenly, in the last nine months, it's all been kiss-and-make-up politics." Prof. Ruff said. "But you have to wonder, is what we are seeing now the Campbell of post-2005 or is this just something for the campaign that will vanish after the election?"

Questions like that have always seemed to hang over Mr. Campbell, but it hasn't stopped people from voting for him.

Mr. Campbell and his wife of 34 years, Nancy, spent two years as volunteers in Nigeria, working for CUSO, shortly after their marriage. They have two grown sons, Geoffrey and Nicholas.

Mr. Cambell has a BA in English from Dartmouth College in New Hampshire and an MBA from Simon Fraser University. Before entering politics, he worked at Marathon Realty and had his own development company, which put up two midsize hotels in Vancouver. In the early 1970s he worked as an assistant to Art Phillips, who was then the mayor of Vancouver, and got a taste for public service.

First elected leader of the B.C. Liberal Party in September of 1993, he gained a seat in the legislature in a 1994 by-election, was re-elected in 1996 and then in 2001 led his party to the largest victory in the province's history, claiming all but two seats. The latest poll has his party leading the NDP by 46 per cent to 38 per cent. With that margin, and the economy strong, Mr. Campbell should cruise to victory.

But just last week he cautioned Liberals not to take anything for granted, not even in his own riding. He knows from experience that life can change suddenly and it's best to be on guard.

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