TORONTO -- Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell, sworn in Friday as North America's first female national leader, faces a short term of office as she leads her slumping Progressive Conservative party into a federal election expected in a few months.
Campbell, in an attempt to put a fresh face on a stale government that has ruled almost ten years, introduced a slimmed down cabinet and other symbolic gestures as she heads into several months of unofficial campaigning that precedes her calling an election.
After unveiling her cabinet choices, Campbell said it represented a 'new lean streamlined government that will be more responsive to the real needs of Canadians.'
'We've reduced the total number of departments from 32 to 23, the number of ministers has been cut from 35 to 25 and that total includes seven new ministers,' Campbell said.
'The women and men who are joining me today know that Canada expects a great deal from them. We take on our new responsibilties with the clear and certain knowledge that Canadians are asking government to do more with less, just as Canadians have had to do in their own families and businesses,' Campbell said.
In a symbolic gesture, Campbell's cabinet appointees rode to the swearing-in ceremony at Rideau Hall Ottawa in taxis, not limousines.
Campbell also pledged to urge the appointed Senate, which is dominated by members of her party, to reconsider a controversial $4,800 pay raise they voted themselves this week. The vote renewed calls to abolish the largely ceremonial Senate.
Canadian federal governments have a maximum five year term of office, and the one Campbell inherited Friday from former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney is in its last year.
It's believed Campbell will wait until fall to hold a national election.
When Campbell won the Progressive Conservative leadership race two weeks ago, Liberal leader Jean Chretien joked that she had only won a 'summer job.'
A Gallup Poll published Thursday showed Chretien's Liberals leading Campbell's Progressive Conservatives 41 percent to 36 percent, with the socialist New Democratic Party at 10 percent.
However, the gap between the top two parties was previously far greater, and the Progressive Conservatives are said to be gaining ground.
Some polls suggest Campbell personally leads Chretien in popularity with voters.
However, Canadians tend to cast their vote based as much on who is running in their local elections as they do on who is the national party leader. With that in mind, Campbell has had to weather a brace of retirements of veteran Progressive Conservatives in so-called 'safe' electorates.
Polls suggest Campbell and her party are holding their own in the French-speaking and sometimes separatist minded province of Quebec, a 'must win' province for any party that hopes to win a national election.
One poll this week suggested Campbell's Progressive Conservatives are tied at about 35 percent in Quebec with the separatist Bloc Quebecois, while another poll suggested Campbell is far and away the most popular federal party leader among Quebecers.
To bolster her Quebec support, Campbell Friday appointed Jean Charest, the boyish and bilingual environment minister she beat for the leadership, to the position of deputy Prime Minster. He also becomes Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs and Minister of Industry, Science and Technology, a position from which he'll beable to distribute huge sums of money for job creation in Quebec.
Campbell, 46, overcame criticism of her sharp tongue, stylish ways and single lifestyle to become the 19th prime minister in the history of the 126-year-old country. She projected herself as a new-style leader who would dismantle political elites and practice the 'politics of inclusion.' However, as it became apparent she would win the nation's top job, power brokers and other moneyed groups and individuals flocked to her side.
British tabloids dubbed the blonde, blue-eyed Campbell 'Canada's Madonna' when two-year-old photos showing her apparently nude became public some months ago. The photos, shot for an art exhibition, showed the then Canadian Justice Minister bare shouldered and holding her legal robes in front of her.
During the leadership campaign, proponents of 'family values' attacked Campbell for being twice-divorced and childless. Campbell was also criticized for comments in a magazine article in which she appeared to attack the Roman Catholic church she had once been an adherent of, and for labelling as 'S.O.B.s' people who criticize politicians but don't join political parties.
Retaining their cabinet positions are: Minister of Agriculture Charlie Mayer; Senate House Leader Lowell Murray; Minister of Multiculturalism and Citizenship Gerry Weiner; Solicitor General Doug Lewis; Transportation Minister Jean Corbeil.
Newly appointed to cabinet are: Campbell campaign manager Ross Reid as Fisheries Minister; staunch Campbell supporter Perrin Beatty in the prestigious foreign minister posting; Defense Minister Tom Siddon; Finance Minister Gilles Loiselle; Public Works Minister Paul Dick; Minister of International Trade Tom Hockin; Minister of Communications and Minister of Canadian Heritage Monique Landry; Minister of Employment and Immigration Bernard Valcourt; Attorney General and Justice Minister Pierre Blais; Health Minister and Status of Women Mary Collins; Indian Affairs and Northern Development Pauline Browse; President of the Treasury Board Jim Edwards; Minister of Science Doug Nicholson; Minister of Forestry Barbara 'Bobbie' Sparrow; Veterans Affairs Peter McCreath; Minister of Western Economic Diversification Larry Schneider; Garth Turner, who as a business journalist slammed taxes, takes over Canada's taxation department; Environment Minister Pierre Vincent.