Politician, journalist, 1952-
(Member of Parliament from 1984-2004)

Sheila Copps is one of Canada's most well known political figures. During her time as a member of parliament and as part of the Liberal government, she served as Minister of Heritage and Deputy Prime Minister. She recently retired from federal politics.

Early life and career

Sheila Maureen Copps was born on November 27, 1952, in Hamilton, Ontario. She was introduced to politics at an early age; her father was one of Hamilton's most well respected mayors. Copps studied English and French at the University of Western Ontario, and pursued graduate studies at McMaster University and the University of Rouen. She worked as a journalist for several years, and wrote for the Hamilton Spectator and the Ottawa Citizen.

Copps' foray into politics began not at the federal level, but at the provincial one. She attempted to run for Ontario's provincial parliament (for Hamilton-Centre) in 1977 as a Liberal candidate but was defeated by the candidate from the NDP. She lost by fourteen votes. She ran again in the same riding four years later, and won a landslide victory against the same NDP candidate. The Ontario Liberals formed the Opposition. Copps ran for the leadership of the Liberal Party of Ontario a year later, but came second.

Federal politics

Copps ran as a Liberal in the riding of Hamilton-East in 1984, but this time for a seat in the federal House of Commons. The 1984 Canadian federal election put the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada in power and the Liberal Party became the Official Opposition. It was during the eight year Tory reign that Copps cemented her reputation as a socially progressive politician and as a fervent critic of the Progressive Conservative government. She ran for the federal Liberal leadership in 1990 after the retirement of John Turner but came in third.

The Liberal Party defeated the Progressive Conservative Party handily during the 1993 Canadian federal election and Copps was rewarded with a high level position in Jean Chrétien's first cabinet; he named her deputy prime minister. During the election campaign, Chrétien had sworn to rid Canada of the much-loathed GST. When the Liberal government backpedalled on this promise, Copps announced that she would resign her seat in the House of Commons if the GST was not abolished. When it wasn't, she kept her word and resigned. She ran again in the by-election that ensued and was re-elected. She was also restored to her position as deputy prime minister.

Copps' time as deputy prime minsister was full of controversy. The position is largely honourary and doesn't come with too much responsibility. When Chrétien left Canada for a state visit, Copps drew criticism by insisting that she was "in charge" of Canada during his absence. She also became the target of criticism after introducing a program that distributed free Canadian flags to whomever wanted one. It was seen as a gross misuse of taxdollars (though the recent sponsorship scandal makes it look tame -- ed.)

Chrétien eventually moved Copps from her position as deputy prime minister to the Ministry of Canadian Heritage in one of his cabinet shuffles. During her time as head of this ministry, Copps introduced legislation that increased copyright protection given to artists.

Party infighting

Sheila Copps announced that she would run for the Liberal party's leadership shortly after Chrétien announced his retirement in December, 2003. Longtime Liberal finance minister Paul Martin had been unofficially campaigning for the Liberal leadership for years and he had been the heavy favourite to replace Chrétien for a long time. Copps refused to be daunted by this, however, and continued her quest until the very end. Martin won with over 90% of the vote.

2004 brought with it drastic changes to Canada's riding landscape. Copps' longtime riding of Hamilton East was abolished and merged with the nearby riding of Stoney Creek. Martin refused to guarantee Copps the Liberal nomination for the new riding and she was forced to fight for the right to run in the new riding against "Martin-loyalist" Tony Valeri. She lost her nomination bid and intended to appeal the vote, saying she'd been told the electoral process was flawed. She eventually dropped the appeal. Copps had mused publicly about running for the NDP if she lost the nomination bid but retracted the statement.

Bowing out

Sheila Copps retired from federal politics in May of 2004 when she announced that she would not run in the 2004 Canadian federal election. She often served as an analyst for CTV coverage of the election and is currently working on her second book. Her first book, Nobody's Baby (the title refers to her now famous response to a Progressive Conservative MP who told her to "settle down, baby") was released in 1986. Worth Fighting For was published in late 2004. It caused quite a stir in Canadian political circles, since Copps claimed that Martin had wanted to scrap the Canada Health Act during his first term as finance minister and that she had acted alone to save it.

Copps has one daughter and several step-children. Reports indicate that she might return to federal politics if Martin leaves.

Sheila Copps http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sheila_Copps 24 July 2004
Sheila Copps & Assoc http://www.sheilacopps.ca 23 July 2004

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