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Honourable Sheila Maureen Copps

Photograph of Honourable Sheila Maureen Copps

P.C., M.P.

First woman Deputy Prime Minister of Canada.

Born in Hamilton, Ontario on November 27, 1952.


Political Affiliation: Liberal

Legislative Career: First elected to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in the 1981 provincial election as member for Hamilton Centre riding. Served until July 10, 1984.

First elected to the House of Commons in the 1984 general election as Member of Parliament for Hamilton East and continues to serve.

Appointed to the Cabinet as Deputy Prime Minister, November 4, 1993 to June 10, 1997; Minister of the Environment, November 4, 1993 to January 24, 1996; Minister of Canadian Heritage, January 25, 1996 to April 30, 1996 and June 19, 1996 to the present.

Honours and Awards: Sworn to the Privy Council, November 4, 1993.

After attending the University of Western Ontario, McMaster University, and the University of Rouen in France, Sheila Maureen Copps began a career in journalism. She came from a political family; her father was the mayor of Hamilton for 14 years, so when she was approached to run as the Liberal candidate for Hamilton Centre in the provincial election of 1977 she agreed. She lost the election but worked for provincial Liberal leader, Stuart Smith, and again ran in the 1981 provincial election, this time successfully.

In the same year, Ms. Copps ran for the leadership of the Ontario Liberal party, coming second. She had a strong showing which demonstrated that a woman could make a credible leadership candidate. In the provincial legislature, she became opposition health critic and headed a task force which travelled through Ontario examining problems with the health care system.

On July 10, 1984, Ms. Copps resigned from the legislature to seek the federal Liberal nomination for the Hamilton East riding. She has written that one of the factors which weighed in her decision to enter federal politics was the opportunity to be elected along with a greater number of women who could act as role models and with whom she could share her experiences. Succeeding in this election, she was subsequently re-elected in the general elections of 1988, 1993, and 1997 and a by-election in 1996.

As a member of the official opposition from 1984 to 1993, Copps was appointed critic for several portfolios: Health and Welfare, then Fitness and Amateur Sport in 1987, later Environment and co-critic for Social Policy and finally, in 1990, Industry. In 1990, she made a second leadership bid, this time for the Liberal Party of Canada, making her the first woman to contest that position. On January 31, 1991, Copps was appointed Deputy Liberal Party Leader.

When the Liberals came to power in 1993, in addition to being appointed Minister of the Environment she became the first woman to be appointed Deputy Prime Minister. In 1996, she became Minister of Canadian Heritage and was re-appointed Deputy Prime Minister. In spring 1996, after her resignation resulting from opposition to the G.S.T. and her subsequent success in the by-election, Copps was re-appointed to both positions.


Beaulieu, Carole. — "Sheila Copps ou "l'instinct libéral". — L'actualité. — Vol. 15, no 5 (1 avril 1990). — P. 16-18.

Copps, Sheila. — Nobody's baby : a survival guide to politics. — Toronto : Deneau, 1986. — ISBN 0888791356 — 192 p.

Lownsborough, John. — "Bad Copps, Good Copps". — Chatelaine. —Vol. 68, no. 2 (February, 1995). — P. 48-49, 51, 98-99.

McDonald, Marci. "Rebel with a cause". — Maclean's. — Vol. 107, no. 14 (April 4, 1994). — P. 16-22.

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