Originally published February 8 2016.
“If I was going to be on Council, I was going to try to be Mayor, and if I lost Mayor, I’d go back to business, and if I won Mayor, I’d get out of business … I ended up winning.”
– Gordon Campbell – November 10, 2015
What I love most about working in documentary is that I can create a film starting from a list of questions, not answers. This has definitely been the case with The Rankin File – so much so that we titled the project a ‘documentary investigation.’ While I completed a significant amount of research before we began filming, new questions and new themes continue to emerge even after the cameras started rolling.
I was excited to interview Harry’s political opponent in the 1986 mayoral campaign – a then political newcomer named Gordon Campbell. Campbell, currently Canada’s High Commissioner to the UK, began his decades-long political career by besting Harry in that election. After serving three terms as mayor, Campbell entered the provincial arena and was elected premier in 2001. During his ten-year tenure, Campbell and the Liberal government made big changes whose impacts are still being felt years after Campbell moved on.
My interest in interviewing Campbell was to hear his perspective on Vancouver in 1986 – what was at stake in that election? How did his vision for the city differ from Harry’s and COPE’s? What was going on at the ground level during the campaigns?
I was rather shocked to hear Campbell state the above quote – it runs counter to my base assumptions of what motivates most people to enter politics (or perhaps, more than anything, it reveals my own naïveté). But what most intrigues me about Campbell’s statement is how lightly he took his entry into politics, and yet how significant his decision came to be. It further puts Harry’s story into the greater perspective of provincial and federal politics, and it raises the question – what would British Columbia – not just Vancouver – have looked like had Harry won?