|Sheila Copps Canadian Press photo|
By Canadian Press, from Globe and Mail, September 7, 2011
Former cabinet minister Sheila Copps has announced she will run for the presidency of the federal Liberals and fight any plans to have the party merge with the NDP.
Ms. Copps said she disagrees with former prime minister Jean Chrétien’s prediction that it is only a matter of time before the Liberals and the NDP become one entity.
She believes the party should instead unite internally so it can return to being a strong centrist option.
“I think we need to do some internal merging. ... So I don't agree with my colleague and friend Mr. Chrétien that the only solution is merging the Liberals and the NDP,” she told The Canadian Press on Wednesday.
Ms. Copps, 58, said it is important that the Liberals resurrect themselves to help counter Prime Minister Stephen Harper's Conservatives.
“If [Mr. Harper] wants to get rid of the Liberal Party, it is not to help the NDP,” Ms. Copps said.
“He wants to get rid of the Liberal Party because he feels if there is a vacated centre and the country goes into two polar opposites, there's a good chance he could stay in power in perpetuity.”
As for why she wants to become Liberal Party president, Ms. Copps said: “I've got the seven-year itch and it needs scratching.”
And the former deputy prime minister appears to be under no illusions about the challenges she would face, saying she would like to bring in “money, memberships and morale – and not necessarily in that order.”
Ms. Copps said she wants to modernize the party, make it more accessible and have one million voters cast ballots in the leadership race.
If the Liberal Party wants to find the "social liberal" democracy side of its collective psyche, there would be no one more fitting to recruit as party president than former Deputy Prime Minister, former member of the "Rat Pack," former Heritage Minister, and former candidate for leader of the party from the "social democracy" wing than Sheila Copps, daughter of the former mayor of Hamilton.
Here is a feisty, combative, articulate renegade political voice from "lunch-box" and "blue collar" Hamilton where the pretense of Ottawa's rarified atmosphere would find little acceptance and the worker-bee mentality prevails.
This piece does not pretend to state that Ms Copps is even interested in the post, only that Ms Copps would be a "shot of Jack Daniels" that the party needs when it is groping through the dense fog and uncertainty that fell on May 2 in the election results.
It was Sheila Copps who, as a contender for the party's leadership along with Paul Martin and John Manley, posted her own policy proposals all of them committing to significant enhancement of the social safety net that began with Lester Peason's minority government and the adoption of medicare through the Canada Health Act. And then she watched as no one paid any attention to her hard work, not the media and certainly not her two opponents. She knows what it is like to have ideas, proposals and vision and to be a voice crying in the wilderness with no one listening.
She knows what it is like to be called "babe" by John Crosbie, then Minister of Finance in the Joe Clark Progressive Conservative government, as Crosbie's way of poking fun, to which Ms Copps replied, "I am nobody's babe!"
She wasn't then, and she isn't now, anyone's babe.
She is someone who can take the reins of this wilting party, grab it by the proverbial 'shirt' and shake it until all the cobwebs and all the dynasties and all the empty bottles of Canadian Club are cleaned out of its cupboards along with the complacency of the long-standing reputation as the 'governing party'. She is not indebted to anyone and no one owes her. She is and has always been her own voice and if ever the party needs all the integrity, and all the force of a January gale blowing through the corner of Yonge and College, one of the coldest corners in Canada when the wind is right, it is now. There will be no one in the country who will not hear from, and be inspired by, and even provoked by the voice of Ms Copps, should she offer her name for party president.
Of course, there will be those who argue, 'she's just another voice from the party's museum, one of the manikins the party drags out from time to time, to bask in the glow of what used to be.' To which we respond, "Sheila Copps is no manikin! Sheila Copps is no museum piece! Sheila Copps is president of her own public relations and communications company in her home town of Hamilton and as the saying goes, "there's lots of life left in her yet"...
And the party will never be the same if it takes the leap of faith to install her in the CEO's chair.
There will be total openness and transparency about both the party's policy and process. There will be no backroom deals; there will be no rejection of the outsiders, given the outsider status that she endured for so long. She knows what it is like to be ignored and alienated and nevertheless continue to fight for what she believes.
And, both political opponents, Conservative and NDP, will also know that the party is not only alive and kicking; they will know that the funds and the candidates needed to fight an election, not to mention the policy details and their detailed costings, will be available, ready and generating high quality and quantity in both categories.
Some people are, it seems, built for difficult assignments. And this assignment is one of the most challenging in Canadian political history. And while new people are certainly needed to be brought into leadership positions in the Liberal Party of Canada, there is still room for people who have been in the political wars of the party's and the country's past, if they are still willing to make another contribution.
There is no room for a figurehead president; there is also no need for an honourary president, some name who would add stature and luster to the brand. This is time for trench-digging and trench warfare, in the political sense.
And Ms Copps, if she is interested, would be a more than adequate candidate on the ballot for party president.
Let's watch for an announcement! And let the sparks fly! May they be both heat and light!