Tuesday, 12 June 2012


Tom Campbell passed away on February 3, 2012 at the age of 84.  He was the Mayor of Vancouver for three terms from 1966 to 1972.

I had forgotten Tom Campbell was a lawyer. Otherwise, he was hard to forget.  Campbell was no shrinking violet.  He used to say,   “I don’t care what the press says about me as long as they spell my name right”   They got it right for his obituary and it brought back a flood of memories.

Tom Campbell ran as an independent against the NPA’s Mayor Bill Rathie  (1962-1966)  and won.  The next time around he ran with the NPA.

In the late sixties the phrase “Generation Gap” expressed the sharp differences between those under thirty and everyone else.  Tom was in his forties but no one in politics exemplified the Gap better than he.

When the hippies proceeded to occupy the lawn at the Vancouver Courthouse (now the Art Gallery) the Mayor promptly called a press conference on location.  The interview, conducted by none other than Doug Collins, is posted on Wikipedia.  To listen to it is to revisit the recent Occupy Vancouver Protest as it was occurring in the parallel universe of time.

Collins: Mayor Campbell.  Does it not seem wrong to you that anyone should be apprehended in a public place on account of his beard?

Campbell: “I think that any lazy lout that lies down on the sidewalk and obstructs traffic should be charged with loutering…  I mean loitering.  I think that anybody that obstructs the rest of the decent people of Vancouver should be charged *** they [hippies] expect hospitals police protection and they shout “fuzz” when the police are around.  *** They want to take everything and give nothing.  They are parasites *** a scum community.  They have organized and have decided to grow long hair***”

The Georgia Straight remembers Tom Campbell well.  He tried, unsuccessfully to shut them down.

Campbell, called Tom Terrific by friends and foe alike, was not fettered by the chains of political correctness nor was he addicted to polls.  He said what he thought - sometimes   before he thought it.

Between 1969 and 1975 I worked in Vancouver’s Social Planning Department which was established during his administration.  In 1970 the Yippies (Youth International Party) who were the interventionist branch of the hippies and who eventually became yuppies, announced that they were going to liberate the animals in the zoo.  They would hold an impromptu Rock concert somewhere in the West End.  Then they would march on the zoo and there they would bring about the Great Release of lions, tigers and bears. Oh my, it was rumored that Abby Hoffman (Nixon’s Nemesis) himself would  take part.

City Hall dealt with this through the Social Planning Department by hiring Bruce Allen.  Mr. Allen had just opened his offices as an impresario in Gastown.  I paid him $500 to organize a rock concert East of Main Street in False Creek Park.  Allen assembled many budding rock stars.  News of the concert scheduled for the same time as the Great Zoo Liberation was leaked and, as hoped the Revolution was diverted to False Creek Park for the better music.  The animals remained imprisoned.  No one suspected that City Hall was behind it.

The next day Tom Campbell called me into his office.  He acknowledged that our dirty trick was successful but wanted me to know that in his opinion one should deal with things directly.  The police would have been happy to protect the zoo and it might have been better to deal with Yippies and Hippies by more orthodox means.  Rock Concerts for animal liberationists was not his idea of good public policy.

The West End Community Planning process started under the Campbell administration and was completed under Mayor Art Phillips TEAM party. So did some of the City run arts programs funded by the Federal Government but run out of City Hall.

After he left office, Campbell disappeared from politics and public life.  What happened was simply that the hippies and yippies became first yuppies and ultimately Campbell’s kind of decent working people:  lawyers, laborers, judges, builders, brokers and bankers.  For the rest of his life Tom Terrific eluded publicity in all its forms- politics, elder statesmanship, the senate and academia.  He must have found that having a life, raising a family and becoming wealthy was a reasonably satisfying alternative.  I ran into him in the late 80s.  We had a pleasant conversation in which he mentioned his considerable real estate portfolio and his antique clock collection.

Mayor Gregor Robertson graciously pointed out on hearing of his passing that Two Bentall Centre, the Centennial Museum, the Bloedel Conservatory, HR Macmillan Planetarium and Pacific Centre were built under his watch.  He oversaw the initial acquisition of some of the South Side of False Creek.

In the early sixties Vancouver was often described as a site in search of a city. When Campbell left it had started to become something more.

(This article was first published  in the "The Advocate" and is reprinted with the editors kind permission.)


  1. It was on this day, June 13, 1969 that Mayor Campbell drank from Kits Pool to show doubters that the water was safe. Shouldn't there be a statue?

  2. This was a brilliant article. Thanks for posting it Jon!

  3. The Parks Board should make a fountain.