Narrowly spurned by Liberals, Sheila Copps throws in the towel

OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail

Sheila Copps speaks during the presidential candidates debate at the Liberal Party's policy convention in Ottawa on Jan. 13, 2012. (Peter Power/Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)

Defeated but not down, Sheila Copps laughed at the recent description from one pundit that she was in politics “when Madonna was a virgin.”

“There’s a certain amount of shelf life in politics and obviously age matters,” the 59-year-old told The Globe Tuesday morning. Ms. Copps was first elected to the House of Commons in 1984 but had been in provincial politics even before that. “Obviously, I can’t turn back my age. I can do anything else but I can’t change my birth certificate.”

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( Like a Virgin, Madonna’s second album, was released in November of 1984; Ms. Copps was elected to the Ontario Legislature in 1981.)

On Sunday at the Liberal policy convention, she failed in her bid to become party president. It was a squeaker, losing by 26 votes to her rival Michael Crawley, a 42-year-old Toronto businessman.

The 3,000 or so delegates at the convention were in a mood for change and renewal. Ms. Copps – despite her experience and her assertions that she has a lot of energy and a good work ethic – could not prevail.

In fact, she had even had some fun over the weekend defending her age, noting that she had lost 25 pounds, still played a competitive game of tennis and that her sex life “isn’t bad.”

She added: “I’m not out to pasture yet.”

Put her out to pasture they did, however. On Tuesday, Ms. Copps said she’s done with politics.

“I mean I’m not done with helping but I’m certainly not going to be running. ... I definitely won’t be running for anything else,” she told The Globe. For the past five years she’s been trying to raise money to build a school in Haiti so she will be redoubling her efforts on that this year.

Ms. Copps admitted there was some disappointment with the result as her family, including her husband, Austin Thorne, had worked hard on her campaign. A day earlier, she’d posted a piece on Facebook noting that the third Monday in January is considered the most depressing day of the year.

“But the day after our defeat is not depressing,” she wrote. “On the contrary, we fought an excellent principled campaign based on the issues. In a democracy there are losses and victories.”

She added: “At the end of the day, the party made a choice. As much as democracy may hurt from time to time, it is the best system we have. that is why we need to restore democracy and a voice to each and every riding in the country with open nominations and welcoming membership.”

As for the close race, she’s used to it. “I lost a provincial election once by 14 votes amongst 35,000. So this is a landslide,” she told The Globe.

Dewar builds momentum; Mulcair faces citizenship fire

Paul Dewar is gathering more steam in his bid to become NDP leader with a new series of endorsements.

Following on the heels of some caucus power – Linda Duncan and Charlie Angus endorsed him last week – Mr. Dewar is announcing Tuesday that three more Manitoba New Democrats are supporting him. Andrew Swan, the provincial Justice Minister, and MLAs Deanne Crothers and Matt Wiebe are the latest to endorse the Ottawa MP.

Ten other Manitoba MLAs threw their support behind Mr. Dewar earlier, including Health Minister Theresa Oswald and Finance Minister Stan Struthers.

All of this support comes to Mr. Dewar from a province that has a horse in the leadership race – Niki Ashton, the MP for Churchill. Her father, Steve Ashton, is Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation in the Manitoba government.

The endorsements come as one of Mr. Dewar’s rivals, Quebec MP Thomas Mulcair, faces questions question for having dual citizenship.

Sun Media reported Tuesday that Mr. Mulcair intends to keep both his Canadian and French passports, which runs counter to what the late Jack Layton had said about former Liberal leader Stephane Dion’s dual citizenship.

“I would prefer that a leader of a party hold only Canadian citizenship, because one represents many Canadians, and for me that means it’s better to remain the citizen of one country,” Mr. Layton said.

Despite its best efforts, the Sun could not get any of Mr. Mulcair’s leadership rivals to take a hard line and criticize his stand.