Larry Campbell

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Larry Campbell
Larry Campbell (2714953856).jpg
Former Vancouver Mayor Larry Campbell in 2009
Senator from British Columbia
Assumed office
August 2, 2005
Nominated byPaul Martin
Appointed byAdrienne Clarkson
37th Mayor of Vancouver
In office
2002 – December 5, 2005
Preceded byPhilip Owen
Succeeded bySam Sullivan
Personal details
Larry W. Campbell

(1948-02-28) February 28, 1948 (age 72)
Brantford, Ontario, Canada
Political partyCanadian Senators Group
Other political
COPE (2002–2005)
Liberal (2005–2014), Senate Liberal Caucus (2014–2016), Independent Senators Group (2017–2019)
OccupationPolitician, RCMP, BC Coroner's Service

Larry W. Campbell (born February 28, 1948) was the 37th mayor of Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada and is currently a member of the Senate of Canada. On April 6, 2016, he left the Senate Liberal caucus to sit as an Independent.[citation needed]

Before he was mayor, Campbell worked for the RCMP as a police officer, and in 1969, he was transferred to the Vancouver detachment.[1] From 1973, he served as a member of the force's drug squad.[1]

Starting in 1981, Campbell worked for the Vancouver District Coroner's office.[citation needed]

In 1996, Campbell was appointed BC Chief Coroner, a post in which he served until 2000.[citation needed]

Early career[edit]

Originally from Ontario and of Scottish descent, after high school Campbell's grandfather found him a job digging ditches for coaxial cable.[2] Later he was a steel worker as a hand riveter in a boxcar plant in Hamilton. He joined the RCMP on a bet with a Hamilton municipal police officer. He spent about three years in uniform, but did not like to issue traffic tickets. He was transferred to the drug squad in Vancouver where he worked in street enforcement mainly regarding heroin, including undercover work. He started a drug squad in Langley. Throughout his RCMP tenure, he never laid a single marijuana charge.[2]

After serving in the RCMP for 12 years, the provincial chief coroner told him that the new Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms would negatively impact his drug enforcement efforts and convinced him to become Vancouver's coroner. During the emerging AIDS pandemic, he became a strong advocate for progressive harm reduction policies, quipping that needle exchanges causing drug addiction "is like flies causing garbage". He served for 20 years, retiring as chief coroner for the province.[2]


Campbell was elected in 2002 under the banner of the left-wing Coalition of Progressive Electors (COPE) party. He was the city's first mayor to be elected from the party.[citation needed]

His electoral success has often been tied to his personality and diverse background. As the city's former chief coroner, his life inspired a popular CBC Television drama called Da Vinci's Inquest.[1] The show was later followed by a spinoff, Da Vinci's City Hall, in which the Da Vinci character followed his real-life counterpart into politics.[citation needed][3]

Campbell was also popular for his opposition to the provincial government, led by BC premier Gordon Campbell (no relation). Mayor Campbell sought to check the premier's eagerness to host the 2010 Winter Olympics by calling for a citywide referendum on the bid.[citation needed] The mayor felt that the people needed a say about the Olympics, and since Gordon Campbell refused a provincial-wide referendum, Vancouver was only allowed to hold a non-binding, citywide plebiscite. Although Mayor Campbell had originally portrayed himself as critical of the bid, he eventually joined the "yes" side and began actively campaigning for it.[citation needed] The "yes" side ultimately won the vote, but only after a long and often highly polarized debate. His decision to "flip-flop" on the issue received widespread criticism, and some claimed this reflected a "go with the flow" attitude.[citation needed]


Campbell has publicly identified himself as a moderate centrist, although his actions suggest that he was a left leaning candidate. His political positions put him in conflict with some of the leftist members of his Coalition of Progressive Electors party who had expected Campbell to take the city's government in a more social democratic direction once elected.[4]

Shortly after Campbell's election, infighting broke out within his COPE party between the moderate Mayor and his like-minded city councillors versus some of their further left colleagues. On December 14, 2004, Campbell and councillors Jim Green, Raymond Louie and Tim Stevenson announced that they would form an independent caucus within COPE. The media quickly dubbed the bloc the "COPE Light" councillors (in contrast to the "COPE Classic" councillors).[5]

Campbell's two main projects in office were the Woodward's building redevelopment designed by architect Gregory Henriquez and the establishment of a safe injection site to help curb Vancouver's injection drug problem. He had championed the idea of a "four pillars" approach to ending drug abuse. With the 1999 signing of the Vancouver Agreement, the Four Pillars was characterized as "Prevention, Treatment, Law Enforcement and Harm Reduction." Campbell promoted the implementation of the safe injection site (opened in September 2003), and the Vancouver Police Department assigned 60 officers to the Downtown Eastside in April 2003.[citation needed]

In 2005, the Mayor announced that he would run for a second term as an independent.[citation needed] On 30 June 2005, Campbell changed his mind, however, announcing that he would not run for re-election at all in the fall municipal elections that year.[citation needed]


On August 2, 2005, Prime Minister Paul Martin announced Campbell's appointment by Governor General Adrienne Clarkson as a Liberal senator. Campbell completed his term as mayor before taking up his seat in the Canadian Senate. Critics condemned Campbell's acceptance of the Senate post as hypocritical, as the mayor had previously cited the fact that he was "not a politician" as a key reason for leaving his job at City Hall.[citation needed]

On January 29, 2014, Liberal Party leader Justin Trudeau announced all Liberal senators, including Campbell, were removed from the Liberal caucus, and would continue sitting as Independents.[6] According to Senate Opposition leader James Cowan, the senators will still refer to themselves as Liberals even if they are no longer members of the parliamentary Liberal caucus.[7]

On 6 April 2016, Campbell left the Senate Liberal Caucus to sit as an Independent and later joined the Independent Senators Group.[citation needed] On November 4, 2019, he joined the Canadian Senators Group.[8]


Campbell enjoyed widespread popularity with the public during his time as mayor of Vancouver, but some critics believe he showed little patience for the detailed creation of civic government policy.[citation needed]

Although Campbell ran as the candidate for COPE (Coalition of Progressive Electors), he had no history of association with that party, and he was often in conflict with the more left-wing elements of COPE.[citation needed] After the election, for the first time in Vancouver history, COPE controlled most of the seats on the Vancouver city council, but it soon became clear that not all COPE members shared common views with the Mayor.[citation needed]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Biography, larrycampbell.coa
  2. ^ a b c "The War on Drugs Has Failed. Is Legalization the Answer? -- Closing Plenary". Rice University's Baker Institute. 9 March 2012. Retrieved 12 November 2012. Lay summary.
  3. ^ "Da Vinci's City Hall - IMDB". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 14 June 2016.
  4. ^ Bula, Frances. "Campbell stakes out centre: Jim Green aims subtle threat, invitation at diverse group at dinner," Vancouver Sun, March 31, 2005, pp. B1.
  5. ^ Bula, Frances. "Mayor Campbell, councillors will form their own caucus," Vancouver Sun, December 15, 2004, pp. A1.
  6. ^ Cudmore, James (29 January 2014). "Liberal leader says senators not welcome in caucus | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved 30 January 2019.
  7. ^ "Trudeau's expulsion catches Liberal senators by surprise". Globe and Mail. 29 January 2014. Retrieved 29 January 2014.
  8. ^ "Senators List". Senate of Canada. Retrieved 5 November 2019.


External links[edit]