“Nobody’s baby”

A brilliant parliamentary retort to misogyny.

Liberal Sheila Copps was first elected to the House of Commons in 1984. Unfortunately for her, in that election Brian Mulroney and the PCs scored a landslide victory. The Liberals lost 95 seats and, as Opposition, needed new tactics.

Enter the Rat Pack. A group of four young Liberal MPs, including Copps and Captain Canada, they were determined to hold the Mulroney government to account by any means necessary.

The rookie Copps quickly found an opponent in the blunt and brash John Crosbie, a political veteran, Minister of Defence at the time, and a key player in the 1979 downfall of Joe Who? During a parliamentary debate in 1985, Crosbie told Copps to “Just quiet down, baby.” She fired back across the aisle, “I’m nobody’s baby.” The riposte became Copps’s political catchphrase and the title of a quick-to-print book published one year later.

Copps was one of just 27 women elected to the House of Commons in the 1984 election. This was less than ten percent of MPs at the time. Yet it was progress, doubling the representation of women compared to the previous Parliament. Women candidates had earned the votes of Canadians, but this did not shield them from the abuse of their male colleagues. They reported being called “slut,” “bitch,” and “fishwife” among other indignities in Canada’s most hallowed chamber. These insults would have made “fuddle duddle” blush. Today, women hold 103 of the 338 seats in the House of Commons – just over 30%.

It may be tempting to see “Nobody’s baby” as a relic of a by-gone era. However, women MPs continue to report disproportionate harassment on and off Parliament Hill. The more things change…

As for Copps and Crosbie, even though he included her in what he called the “Four Horsewomen of the Apocalypse,” and famously sang a song at her expense, the two became friends later in life. When Crosbie passed away in January 2020, Copps called him “a great Newfoundlander and a great Canadian.” She remains nobody’s baby.

Image Source: Mike Geiger, Flickr

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