The Rat Pack was a group of four Liberal Members of Parliament who rose to prominence in the mid-1980s through their dogged opposition to Brian Mulroney’s Conservative Government. The members of the Rat Pack – so-named by a journalist after the famous group of Las Vegas entertainers – were John Nunziata, Sheila Copps, Don Boudria and Brian Tobin. At a historic low-point for the Liberal Party, the Rat Pack was successful both in making life difficult for the government and raising the profile of the Liberal opposition.
These four MPs made it their mission to cause trouble for the Mulroney government, including daily (often theatrical) barrages in Question Period. Nunziata, known as “King Rat” for his relentless attacks, was derided by some yet uncovered scandals, giving new life to Roy Cohn’s supposed quip that “even some of the stuff I make up turns out to be true.” When Copps was told to “just quiet down, baby” by Justice Minister John Crosbie, she defiantly replied “I’m nobody’s baby,” which became her political moniker. Boudria, famously thrifty, took great pride in exposing government patronage. Tobin, the lone member who’d served in government, easily made the transition to opposing Mulroney. The Rat Pack soon reached national prominence and even sold t-shirts depicting a red rat and the Parliament Buildings.
Three of the four eventually became cabinet Ministers when the Liberals returned to power in 1993. A disappointed Nunziata was not included and continued to attack the government – this time comprised of his own Liberal colleagues – highlighting the difficulty of transitioning from opposing to governing. In 1997, he was ejected from caucus for voting against the budget. The relentlessness and creativity of the Rat Pack have ensured its place among the most effective oppositions in Canadian political history.
Image: The four members of the Rat Pack with Liberal leader John Turner and their t-shirts (The Canadian Press)
Suggested by Parli Contributor Milton Chan.