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‘We are in great peril’: Former PM Kim Campbell takes on Trump

Former prime minister Kim Campbell, shown in this 2013 file photo, is using her social media following to denounce Donald Trump’s suitability for the U.S. presidency.

Andrew Vaughan/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Kim Campbell is one former Canadian prime minister who is not mincing words about her dislike – and distrust – of U.S. President Donald Trump.

While her Progressive Conservative predecessor in office, Brian Mulroney, is working with the Trudeau government to help navigate negotiations with the mercurial American leader, Ms. Campbell is using her social media following to denounce Mr. Trump's suitability for President.

From calling him a "fat-shamer" to "not competent" on international crises and questioning his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin, Ms. Campbell says her outspoken criticism of Mr. Trump stems from a profound concern for the state of the world.

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"We are in great peril," Ms. Campbell, 70, recently told The Globe and Mail. "I am a passionate defender of democracy. And I was a Soviet specialist, and I'm watching resurgent authoritarianism supported by the ex-KGB officer who runs Russia."

Using her Twitter account, Ms. Campbell – a cabinet minister in Mr. Mulroney's government who later served as Canada's first and only female prime minister for almost five months in 1993 – has emerged as one of the most candid political voices in Canada.

"I do not owe it to never have a snarky comment to anybody. I do not owe it to people to have a frontal lobotomy," she said in an interview.

Recent social-media comments include alleging Mr. Trump "knows [about] obstruction & destruction of evidence!" and using former president Richard Nixon's infamous defence, "I am not a crook," to caption an article about U.S. Attorney-General Jeff Sessions.

In one tweet from September, 2016, Ms. Campbell posted an article that claimed Mr. Trump "doesn't like fat people." She captioned the post "Nice man-boobs, Donald!"

"Well, it might not be the most tasteful thing I've said," Ms. Campbell told The Globe. "Donald Trump is a fat-shamer, and he's a hypocrite. And I don't care if he's fat, but I care about the vicious comments he makes about, particularly, women."

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A tireless advocate for women, Ms. Campbell has also publicly urged the Senate to pass former Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose's bill to require sexual-assault training for judges.

In July, 2016, Ms. Campbell, a lawyer and former justice minister, was appointed by the Trudeau government for a six-month term as the chairperson of the independent advisory board for Supreme Court of Canada judicial appointments. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau recently said Ms. Campbell will be part of the next selection process.

Members of the advisory board must abide by Mr. Trudeau's rules for public-office holders, which state they must refrain from "expressing partisan views in a public setting where this may reasonably be seen to be incompatible with, or impair the ability to discharge, the office holder's public duties."

Ms. Campbell said her public comments about Mr. Trump have no impact on her duties of recommending Supreme Court judges to the Prime Minister.

"I am objective and impartial, but I'm not stupid and I'm not uninformed. And I'm not commenting on Canadian political issues," she said.

Although Ms. Campbell said her comments about Mr. Trump have nothing to do with the work of the court, an Ontario judge is facing a public disciplinary hearing this summer for wearing Mr. Trump's "Make America Great Again" campaign hat into court the day after the November election. Ontario Court Justice Bernd Zabel could be fired for his actions.

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Most of the public criticism during her time on the advisory board was levelled at Mr. Trump, but she has also publicly targeted Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer, although that was before her appointment and his recent victory.

In a post from June, 2016, Ms. Campbell declared "What an ass!" when responding to a tweet about Mr. Scheer's support for the "leave" side in the Brexit vote.

"I think he was an ass to say that," Ms. Campbell told The Globe. "He was not elected leader of the party at the time."

A spokeswoman for the Prime Minister's Office wouldn't answer questions about whether Ms. Campbell's comments breached the government's ethical guidelines.

"We expect all [Governor in Council] appointees, including members of the Advisory Board for Supreme Court of Canada Judicial Appointments, to abide by the standards and guidelines in place for public-office holders," PMO spokeswoman Eleanore Catenaro said in an e-mail.

Peter Russell, emeritus professor of political science at University of Toronto, said he doesn't think Ms. Campbell's comments should disqualify her from the advisory board.

"The ranting about Trump – if that ruled people out and made them partisan, about half of all the people in the Western world, or more, would be considered too partisan for anything," he said.

For her part, Ms. Campbell said she is "fastidious" about not commenting on Canadian politics, and claims to no longer be associated with any political party.

"My party doesn't exist anymore," she said.

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