03.20.2017 07:12 AM

Independent: Sheila Copps on political party skullduggery

…in today’s Hill Times:

Politics is at its worst in political parties. Internal decisions are usually made in secret with little recourse to the rules of due process that apply to normal business decisions.

…Decisions were made which served to tilt the nomination process in the races to replace outgoing ministers, John McCallum and Stéphane Dion. Notwithstanding public protestations to the contrary, non-transparent internal steps were taken that served to benefit party-preferred candidates, facing tough nomination battles.

In one case, the meddling backfired. The popular mayor of St. Laurent, Alan DeSousa, was deemed ineligible to run by the party’s vetting committee. That move ostensibly paving the way for party favourite and former provincial minister Yolande James. Instead, DeSousa’s 26-year-old assistant, Emmanuella Lambropoulos, whose candidacy was green lighted, surprised everyone by winning the nomination.

By any standards, former PMO staffer Mary Ng, and former Quebec provincial ministeryolande James would both have been excellent candidates.They are young, articulate and reflect the diversity of Canada’s population.

But party meddling handed them a poisoned chalice.

The moves provoked a hot debate among Liberals. Jack Siegel, former co-chair of the Liberal constitutional and legal affairs committee, defended the party on his Facebook page. He claimed “the Liberal Party has had retroactive blind cut-offs for close to 25 years,” using it as a means to prevent “dumping thousands of forms at the deadline, keeping their signups secret and overloading the party’s membership systems with the flood of forms, all in urgent need of inputting.”

Siegel was deeply involved in the nomination which prompted my departure from politics. He oversaw a decision to count 500 unsigned ballots that had not been initialed by the returning officer. The membership system in the party of ces was so ‘overloaded’ that, just before midnight, an official deleted 378 eligible Liberals from the voting list. Party officials wanted to ensure the nomination of my opponent, who was the leader’s choice.

I know whereof Sheila speaks. I was at that meeting in her Hamilton riding in March 2004, and I was there to vote for her. I’d left my Dad’s deathbed to come and support her. Jack, I am sad to say, wouldn’t let me vote. “I expected that,” I told him.

I turned on my heels and went into the hallway, where I told the media about how Paul Martin’s thugs had rigged democracy against Sheila Copps. She, of course, ended up losing her own riding to Tony Valeri – and Paul Martin, of course, would go on to lose (deservedly, blessedly) to Stephen Harper. Partly because he had utterly destroyed the unity of the Liberal Party.

Are things any better under Justin Trudeau? Well, let’s put it this way: ten years later, when Dennis Mills was urging me to seek the Liberal nomination in Toronto-Danforth in 2014, I got a few calls from senior Grits. I was told the same thing, over and over: “Forget it. Don’t bother. They’ve already decided to reject you in the green light process.”

Why, I asked.

“You’re too independent-minded.”


  1. ABB says:

    Kinda goes against the idea of open and democratic governance. SAD!

  2. Kevin says:

    Ay, there’s the rub – independent-minded. Crotchety, snarly old farts like me will always be more inclined to support the independent-minded candidate, if our values align, because we can be more confident that person will think about issues and do/vote for what they think is right. And if the party doesn’t like it, ain’t it a shame. If all I wanted was someone to push a button a certain way when they’re told, I can push my own button and save some taxes. So I’m a Liberal to the core, but if I think you’re a weasel get off my lawn.

    I’ve been a fan of Ms. Copps for years – pushing her out that way was outrageous. And you would have been a great MP. Uncontrollable, but that’s a point in your favour IMO.

    • Ronald O'Dowd says:


      Funny how Copps was cherished as part of the highly effective Rat Pack. They put quite a few nails through the Mulroney government. And then things changed…

  3. JH says:

    In one way the Liberal Old Boy’s Club and Trudeau did luck out. Alan DeSouza won’t run as an independant now, given Emmanuella’s win. Had he done so, those who know the riding say he would have won easily.

  4. Jean says:

    Thank you for giving insight into what happened here. These two recent cases of Liberal bigwigs apparently meddling in the nomination process do not bode well for a new way of doing politics. However I was offended when a local political studies professor, publishing in the newspaper under his academic title, used the occasion to generalize that Liberals were known for unfair and underhanded tactics, and he even related an allegation from the Ignatieff nomination in 2005 to amplify his point. This author is known as anti-Liberal Party and he seemed to relish this new reason to justify his hostility.
    I wrote a rebuttal to say that constructive ideas for improving nomination processes should be debated in an impartial way. Surely it is not only one party that has indulged in nomination interference, not that that makes it any more acceptable.

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