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Sheila Copps


Sheila Copps

The Honourable
Sheila Copps
Member of Parliament for Hamilton East
In office
November 5, 1984 – May 23, 2004
Preceded by John Munro
Succeeded by Riding abolished
Minister of Canadian Heritage
In office
Preceded by New Position
Succeeded by Hélène Scherrer
6th Deputy Prime Minister of Canada
In office
November 4, 1993 – April 30, 1996
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien
Preceded by Jean Charest
Succeeded by Herself
Deputy Prime Minister of Canada
In office
June 19, 1996 – June 11, 1997
Prime Minister Jean Chrétien
Preceded by Herself
Succeeded by Herb Gray
Minister of Multiculturalism and Citizenship
In office
Preceded by Michel Dupuy
Minister of Environment
In office
Preceded by Pierre H. Vincent
Succeeded by Sergio Marchi
MPP for Hamilton Centre
In office
Preceded by Mike Davison
Succeeded by Lily Oddie Munro
Personal details
Born Sheila Maureen Copps
(1952-11-27) November 27, 1952
Hamilton, Ontario
Political party Liberal
Spouse(s) Austin Thorne (? – present)
Ric Marrero (?-?, div.)
David Miller (?-?, div.)
Profession Journalist

Sheila Maureen Copps, PC OC, (born November 27, 1952)[1] is a former Canadian politician who also served as Deputy Prime Minister of Canada from November 4, 1993, to April 30, 1996, and June 19, 1996, to June 11, 1997.

Considered a prominent left-wing member of the Liberal Party of Canada, Copps was an advocate for women's and minority rights, and protection of the environment. Her combative style and reputation for flamboyance were trademarks of her political career.

On November 10, 2014, Copps stated that she has been sexually assaulted and raped and one of the incidents happened while she was serving in the Provincial Parliament of Ontario.[2] She said she felt compelled to come forward with the allegations after tweeting support for former Q host Jian Ghomeshi.[2]

Early life

Copps was born in Hamilton, Ontario. She is a second-generation member of a political family that has dominated Hamilton-area politics on the municipal, provincial and federal levels. Her mother, Geraldine Florence (Guthro) Copps, was a Hamilton city councillor. Her father, Victor Kennedy Copps, was one of the most influential mayors of the City of Hamilton. She attended Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School. She is married to Austin Thorne (her third husband), and has one daughter, Danelle (from her second marriage). She was the first sitting Member of Parliament in Canadian history to give birth.

Copps earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in French and English from King's University College at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, and pursued further studies at McMaster University in Hamilton and the University of Rouen in France. She worked as a newspaper journalist, both with the Hamilton Spectator and the Ottawa Citizen.

Political career

Copps entered provincial politics in the 1977 provincial election, running for the Ontario Liberal Party in Hamilton Centre. She lost, finishing fourteen votes behind incumbent New Democrat Mike Davison. Copps appeared on the ballot for this election as "Sheila Copps Miller", using the surname of her then-husband. In all subsequent campaigns, she would refer to herself as "Sheila Copps".

After working as a constituency assistant to party leader Stuart Smith for the next four years, Copps again ran in Hamilton Centre for the 1981 election. She defeated Davison by 2,804 votes, and joined thirty-three other Liberals in forming the Official Opposition to Premier William Davis's Progressive Conservative government. Copps ran for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal Party in 1982 following Smith's resignation, and despite her lack of experience finished a strong second against David Peterson.

Copps turned to national politics in the 1984 federal election, campaigning for the federal Liberals in the riding of Hamilton East. This election resulted in a landslide victory for Brian Mulroney and his Progressive Conservative Party, which won 211 out of 282 seats. Copps was personally elected, defeating New Democratic Party candidate David Christopherson by 2,661 votes, but had relatively few allies in the House of Commons for the next four years.

Copps proved to be an influential member of the small Liberal opposition. She became a prominent member of the "Rat Pack", a group of young Liberal MPs who made it their business to bring misery to the Mulroney government. Fully bilingual, she earned both praise and scorn for her spirited attacks on Mulroney and his ministers. She released her autobiography, Nobody's Baby, only two years into her federal career, and was by all accounts a rising star in Canadian politics. The book came after Minister of Justice John Crosbie told Copps to "just quiet down, baby" during a heated debate.

In 1987, Copps became the first sitting MP in Canadian history to give birth, when her daughter Danelle was born. Later, Copps commented that she became part of her "entourage", making friends across the country.[3] In 1988, Copps was re-elected without difficulty in the federal election.

Copps was a candidate in the 1990 Liberal leadership race to succeed John Turner. She finished third, behind Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin.

In 1992, Copps supported Murray Elston's unsuccessful bid to succeed David Peterson as leader of the Ontario Liberal Party.

Federal minister

The Liberals came to power in the 1993 election, defeating Kim Campbell's Tories. Chrétien became prime minister following the election, and named Copps as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of the Environment. This marked the first time in Canadian history that a woman had been named to the post of Deputy Prime Minister. Following a 1996 cabinet shuffle, she relinquished the Environment portfolio and became Minister of Canadian Heritage.

Copps resigned briefly in the spring of 1996. One of Chrétien's campaign promises had been to abolish Brian Mulroney's highly unpopular Goods and Services Tax, a promise he later reneged on in an effort to avoid decreasing government revenues. During the 1993 election campaign, Copps promised during a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation "town hall" program that she would resign if the GST was not abolished. After commissioning a poll which suggested that she would win her riding should a by-election be called, Copps accordingly vacated her Hamilton East seat in 1996, and promptly ran again in the ensuing by-election. The by-election would have Reform put up billboards around her riding, one of which featured a pig at a trough with "SHEILA" marked on it; and another with her picture and, "Promise to cut the GST: It worked last time!" written on it. Copps won handily, though with a significantly reduced percentage of the vote from 1993, and Chrétien reinstated her to her previous cabinet posts. During her victory speech, she noted that the Liberals "kicked butt" in the by-election; an editorial cartoon in the right-wing Toronto Sun tabloid the next day portrayed Hamilton East voters as "buttheads," which caused some controversy.

Following the 1997 election, Copps' somewhat damaged reputation led to Chrétien removing her from the position of deputy prime minister, which was instead given to political stalwart Herb Gray. Copps made little upward progress in cabinet after this demotion, and by many accounts came to have relatively little influence over the direction of government policy. Many believe that Anne McLellan surpassed her as the most prominent woman in government during this period.

Following Jean Chrétien's announcement of his intent to retire in February 2004, Copps became the first candidate to officially declare for the party leadership. Despite her efforts to build support among women, minority groups and the party's left-wing, she began and ended the leadership contest well behind the overwhelming favourite, Paul Martin, whose supporters controlled the party machinery; John Manley departed from the running before the vote.[4] She was supported by few MPs, and many questioned the relevance of her campaign. Some speculated that she would withdraw prior to the Liberal leadership convention on November 14, 2003. She did not, but instead gave a nomination speech that was effectively a concession, urging her followers to rally around Martin as party leader after the vote. As expected, Martin easily won the Liberal leadership and went on to become prime minister. Quite notably, her national campaigning saw her sign up over 32,000 new party members.[5][6]

On December 9, 2003, Copps turned down the offer of a patronage appointment from Martin and announced that she intended to remain in the House of Commons. Many suspect that Martin wanted to appoint Copps as Canada's ambassador to France or UNESCO.

Nomination battle before 2004 federal election

Riding redistribution placed Copps in a serious nomination battle with another Liberal MP, Tony Valeri, who was named to Martin's cabinet as Minister of Transport. With redistribution, part of Valeri's Stoney Creek riding was merged with part of Copps's Hamilton East to create Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, while the remainder was merged with other neighbouring ridings to create Niagara West—Glanbrook. The remaining portion of Hamilton East was merged with parts of Hamilton West to create Hamilton Centre. Of the 115,709 constituents of the riding of Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, a slight majority of constituents (58,462) were from the old Stoney Creek while a minority (57,247) were from the old Hamilton East

Copps' position was that Valeri should have sought the nomination in Niagara West-Glanbrook, where he resided and in which there was a regional airport that would complement his transport portfolio. Valeri's position was that the majority of his former Stoney Creek constituents lived in the new Hamilton East—Stoney Creek riding, Copps no longer lived in Hamilton and he resided less than 100 metres from the riding boundary.

In a December interview with Hamilton's CHCH-TV, Copps complained that Martin was trying to drive her, other women and other Martin opponents out of the Liberal caucus. Beth Phinney, who represented nearby Hamilton Mountain, offered to stand down in favour of Copps, but Copps turned this offer down. On January 14, 2004, she suggested that she could campaign for the New Democratic Party in the upcoming election if Valeri won the Liberal nomination. Copps later retracted this threat.

On March 6, 2004, Valeri defeated Copps by 2,802 votes to 2,491. Copps argued that there were improprieties in the nomination process and in the conduct of the vote, and called on various authorities to investigate (other nomination elections between Chrétien and Martin supporters had similar allegations of tampering). She initially appealed the vote results to the Liberal Party of Canada. Her appeal was late as it was filed beyond the 72-hour deadline after the commencement of the nomination meeting, but the Appeals Commission of the Liberal Party waived the deadline. Nevertheless, Copps dropped the appeal on March 29, alleging a lack of transparency in the process.

In July 2005, Hamilton police announced a formal end to the investigation after finding no evidence to substantiate Copps' allegations including tampering of her telephones on the day of the nomination. As the access codes to her phone system were apparently listed on a bulletin board, the police estimated that at least 40 individuals had access to the phone system.

Post-political career

On May 14, 2004, Copps stood in the Canadian House of Commons and announced she would not run for re-election as an independent. She later suggested in comments to reporters that she may return to politics once Paul Martin was no longer Prime Minister. In her first public engagement after departing politics, she accepted a role in a Kingston, Ontario dinner theatre production of Steel Magnolias.[7] She also guest starred on the evening soap opera Train 48.[8]

Her second autobiography, Worth Fighting For, was published by McClelland and Stewart in October 2004, and resulted in further public controversy with Paul Martin and other members of the Liberal Party. Copps alleged that Martin had put a pledge in his 1995 budget to rescind the "outdated" Canada Health Act, and further claimed that her intervention had the offending line removed from the document. Her allegations were denied by Martin and David Dodge (whom Copps claims faxed her the draft of the budget), Diane Marleau (who was Health Minister at the time) and others.

After leaving politics, Copps wrote regular commentary for the National Post. In September 2005, concurrent with a redesign, she was introduced as a regular columnist for the Toronto Sun which was also published in various Sun papers across Canada. Copps quit her column in December 2007.

She also hosts a weekly syndicated radio talk show, Weekends with Sheila Copps, focusing on lifestyle issues such as health and financial planning. She succeeded Dini Petty as host of the series. She is also employed by Quebecor, a prominent Canadian media distribution company. In this capacity she has been working on a new series for the History Television.

In March 2006, the Saint-Jean-Baptiste Society of Montreal, a prominent sovereigntist group, demanded $100,000 from Copps, claiming that she had defamed them in a television interview on January 6, 2006. Sovereigntists claim that Options Canada illegally spent $3.5 million to promote federalism in Quebec, while Copps claimed that the St-Jean Baptiste Society spent $4.8 million from the Quebec Government to promote sovereignty, which the group denies. Copps claims that she had been unaware of the group's demands until she was approached for comment by reporters on March 5, 2006, and that she has yet to receive any legal notice from the group.[9]

In 2006, subsequent to Paul Martin's resignation as Prime Minister, Copps decided not to seek the Liberal leadership.

Following the John Turner, and Aline Chrétien. The event also served as a fundraiser for Liberal women in Canadian politics.

As the daughter of late Hamilton Mayor Victor Copps, she has long been the object of speculation as to whether or not she would follow in the footsteps of her father,[10] recently stating that, if she were to return to politics, she would do so "it would be in my hometown and nowhere else."[11]

Copps ran to be president of the Liberal Party of Canada in 2012 but lost to Mike Crawley by 26 votes.[12][13][14] Following the defeat, Copps announced her retirement from politics stating that while she would continue to volunteer in political campaigns she would not be running for office again.[12] She was appointed an officer of the Order of Canada on December 30, 2012.[15]

Writings and publications

  • Nobody's Baby: A Survival Guide to Politics (1986). Toronto ON : Deneau. 192 p. ISBN 0-88879-135-6.
  • Worth fighting for (2004). Toronto ON : McClelland & Stewart. 213 p. ISBN 0-7710-2282-4.
  • La batailleuse (2004). Montreal QC : Boréal. 236 p. ISBN 2-7646-0341-X.
Chapter contribution
  • Trish Hennessey and Ed Finn (editors). "Fight for equality is far from being won.", in: "Speaking Truth to Power : A Reader on Canadian Women's Inequality", Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Ottawa, c.2010. pp. 15–18.
  • "Canada's Historic Places Initiative", Heritage/Patrimoine, 6:26, Spring 2003 .
  • "Canadian Cultural Policy in a Global Economy", Canadian Business Economics, 7(3):40-3, Oct. 1999.
  • "Celine Dion: Made in Canada", NPQ: New Perspectives Quarterly. 15(5):17, Fall 1998.
  • "Initiative des Endroits Historiques du Canada", Heritage/Patrimoine. 6:26, Spring 2003 .
  • "Liberal Flogging of the Government's Green Plan", New Environment. pp. 39ff, Annual, 1990.
  • "Two Grit Guys and a Cutie?", Bulletin Centre for Investigative Journalism. no. 42:9, Winter 1990.

See also


  1. ^ "Powerplay (TV Series) Biography: Sheila Copps". Retrieved January 15, 2008. 
  2. ^ a b "Sheila Copps: I was raped and sexually assaulted".  
  3. ^ "Guergis to join small club of new mothers in office". CTV Edmonton. Canadian Press. December 1, 2010. Retrieved June 4, 2011. 
  4. ^ Dunfield, Allison (July 23, 2003). "Martin will have to wait, PM says". The Globe and Mail (Toronto ON). Retrieved June 4, 2011. 
  5. ^ "Copps seeing Liberal race through to the end". CTV Edmonton. November 14, 2003. Retrieved June 4, 2011. 
  6. ^ "Black & white and funny all over! Sheila Copps and Maxime Bernier to host the thirteenth annual Black & White Opera Soiree: Opera on the Hill". Canada's National Arts Centre. Ottawa ON. November 4, 2009. Retrieved June 4, 2011. 
  7. ^ "Copps conquers stage fright in acting debut". CTV (Toronto ON). October 8, 2004. Retrieved June 4, 2011. 
  8. ^ Ortved, John (June 16–23, 2005). "Last train to boredom". NOW Magazine (Toronto ON). Retrieved June 4, 2011. 
  9. ^ Copps Option Canada, Canadian Press, March 4, 2006.
  10. ^ Cooke, Terry. "Clash of the dynasties: Copps vs. Ferguson in 2010?" The Hamilton Spectator. 2006
  11. ^ Nolan, Daniel. "Copps: been there, done that." The Hamilton Spectator. April 23, 2009.
  12. ^ a b Taber, Jane (January 17, 2012). "Narrowly spurned by Liberals, Sheila Copps throws in the towel". Globe and Mail. Retrieved January 17, 2012. 
  13. ^ "Sheila Copps would let Rae run to lead Liberals". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. September 7, 2011. Retrieved 2011-09-10. 
  14. ^ "Liberals choose renewal in electing Crawley". CBC News. January 15, 2012. Retrieved January 15, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Appointments to the Order of Canada". Governor General of Canada. Retrieved December 31, 2012. 

External links

  • Official website
  • Sheila Copps at the Internet Movie Database
  • Sheila Copps – Parliament of Canada biography
  • Ontario Legislative Assembly Parliamentarian History
  • Perspective of a digital copyright reformer on Sheila Copps, MP
  • Audio interview with THECOMMENTARY.CA's Joseph Planta
  • Sheila Copps Editorial Cartoon Gallery By Graeme MacKay of The Hamilton Spectator
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