Pro-lifers take little comfort in Copps’ by-election victory
Advocates of honest government and opponents of the GST weren’t the only people expressing disappointment after Sheila Copps was re-elected as a Member of Parliament. Pro-life and pro-family leaders are also lamenting Copps’ victory in a recent by-election.
Copps won the Hamilton East contest June 17 with 50 per cent of the vote, down from 67 per cent in the 1993 general election. She had resigned her seat May 1 this year after reneging on a 1993 campaign to promise to scrap the GST.
“I had to ask you to renew the bond of trust with me and tonight you did,” she said in her victory speech. “You had the power to say no, but you granted me that vote of confidence.”
Reform candidate Andy Sweck noted that the Copps tradition in Hamilton was hard to overcome (her father was a long-time popular mayor in the city). “I’ve talked to lots of people who said they’d vote for Sheila and when I asked them why, they said they always had.”
Campaign Life Coalition president Jim Hughes said Copps’ reappearance isn’t good news.
“She’s not very good,” he noted of Copps’ stand on life and family issues. “She hasn’t taken a stand on our side and, in fact, is usually seen on the other side. It’s terribly frustrating for us to see her supported by so many Catholics and committed Christians.”
Copps didn’t respond to a Campaign Life questionnaire but was quoted in a 1990 Southam News article as favouring abortion in the first trimester – “which is the majority of them,” said Hughes.
He said there were three realistic pro-life options among the 13 candidates vying in Hamilton East – Reform nominee Andy Sweck, who is personally pro-life, against government funding of abortion and opposed to doctor-assisted suicide; independent candidate Ken Campbell and Christian Heritage Party representative Tristan Emmanuel.
Emmanuel, who received 76 votes, expressed disappointment after the by-election. “Obviously, we’re not pleased with the result… I didn’t think I would win, but I also didn’t think Sheila would walk back into Parliament with such a victory.”
He said he was surprise by the degree of voter indifference in Hamilton East. “If this campaign said anything, it’s that Canadians are politically apathetic and that’s one of the reasons our country is falling to pieces. People said, ‘What’s the difference? The candidates are all the same.”
“The issues of significance were not played on at all, he added. He noted recent federal gay rights legislation “wasn’t an issue at all. People didn’t ask questions about it or express disgust with the government for ramming the bill through.”
But Ken Campbell expressed delight over the by-election campaign after finishing fifth, ahead of all the other non-main-line candidates.
“We issued a victory statement…noting all the objectives in our wave-making mandate had been more than met,” he said. “We had nearly twice the votes of the next nearest candidate.”
Campbell said that like Emmanuel, he hadn’t gone into the by-election with the hope of winning, but rather wanted his campaign to serve as a platform for publicizing the Christian point of view.
“We published and distributed to every household in the riding two pieces of campaign literature (and) 1 participated in all the all-candidates meetings, radio roundtables and television debate.”
“There is a tremendous sense of satisfaction in fulfilling the mandate of being a non-partisan voice or Christ and His church, he added.
Fallout from the Copps’ by-election win has been swift throughout southern Ontario and the rest of the country. Copps was immediately welcomed back into the Liberal fold and is poised to resume her former role as deputy Prime Minister.
Many commentators have wondered about the extent of local voters’ loyalty to the Copps family name. Others suggest that despite her gaffe over the GST PROMISE, Copps has always been a good representative for Hamilton East. With the by-election out of the way, some feel the Liberals will soon turn attention to an assisted suicide law and/or a fall general election.