- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 13, 2003

HAMILTON, Ontario, Feb. 13 (UPI) — Canadian Heritage Minister Sheila Copps chose a working class doughnut shop Thursday to announce her bid to replace Prime Minister Jean Chretien.

In many ways it's the consummate Canadian icon — a popular gathering place where working-class Canadians talk hockey first and politics second over coffee.

Copps chose the locale and its lunchtime crowd for a reason, though. She hopes to position herself as the only left-wing candidate running for the Liberal Party's leadership.

"We are not in Ottawa here, we are on Ottawa Street," Copps said. "There are Ottawa Streets all over this country, where honest and upright people live and raise their families. Those are the kind of people I am trying to reach."

Copps says her campaign will focus on universal access to education, environmental protection and cultural diversity, along with equality for gays and lesbians.

Those are the core big and small-L liberal values that have been most important to Copps throughout her life both as a politician and a mother, her campaign strategists say.

"I want to ensure that Canada is the most civilized country in the world," she said. "I want to make our country the most inclusive country in history."

This isn't the first time Copps, 50, has run for the party's top job.

Her leadership bid in 1990 fell short, but gave voters a chance to see her in a new light.

Until then, she was a member of the so-called Rat Pack, a group of young, idealist Members of Parliament out to embarrass the then-Conservative government at every chance.

In 1993, Chretien made Copps his deputy prime minister and environment minister. She stick-handled what was then the toughest federal environmental assessment legislation in the world.

Three years later, Copps was named heritage minister, head of a government department responsible for protecting Canada's bilingual English and French culture from competing American influences across the U.S. border.

She may have moved on from her Rat Pack days, but Copps was still no stranger to controversy. She was caught in a "flag flap" when her department hatched a $20-million plan to give away Canadian flags for free.

Copps also suffered great embarrassment when she pledged to get rid of the federal goods and services tax or resign her seat in the House of Commons. She waffled on the promise, but eventually resigned her seat — only to be re-elected in a by-election several weeks later.

Copps is perhaps best remembered as "Tequila Sheila" — a not-so-friendly moniker former Conservative cabinet minister John Crosbie gave her when he told her in the House of Commons to "pass the tequila, Sheila, lie down and love me again."

She countered that with "Nobody's Baby," a 1986 autobiographical look at the world of Canadian politics, including her distinction as the first female Member of Parliament to have a baby while in office.

More than decade later, the Canadian edition of Hustler attacked Copps for her protectionist policies.

The porn magazine featured a photo of her above three different pictures of female genitalia. It invited readers to choose which picture they thought suited her and explain why they'd like to have sex with her.

Copps' supporters were horrified by the move. They blamed it on legislation she introduced against so-called "split-run" magazines — American publications that ran Canadian ads, but little Canadian editorial content.

Her bill would have made it illegal for Canadian businesses to advertise in foreign-owned magazines if a certain percentage of the publication did not originate in Canada. But Ottawa and Washington negotiated a modified version of the legislation that still protected Canadian culture.

Controversy aside, Copps has supported left-leaning, liberal causes throughout her career — a trait she likely inherited from her father, a popular local politician in his own right.

While Copps is the first candidate to officially launch her leadership campaign, at least two other candidates are expected to do the same by the end of March.

Deputy Prime Minister John Manley and former finance minister Paul Martin have hinted at their interest, but say they are in no hurry to declare their intentions.

Both politicians are more popular than Copps and advocate more centrist policies than she does.

The Liberals are schedule to hold their leadership convention in Toronto Nov. 15.

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