Tom Wappel

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Tom Wappel
Member of Parliament
for Scarborough Southwest
In office
Preceded byRiding established
Succeeded byMichelle Simson
Member of Parliament
for Scarborough West
In office
Preceded byReg Stackhouse
Succeeded byRiding abolished
Personal details
Thomas William Wappel

(1950-02-09) February 9, 1950 (age 69)
Toronto, Ontario
Political partyLiberal
ResidenceScarborough, Ontario

Thomas William "Tom" Wappel (born February 9, 1950) is a Canadian politician. He was a Liberal member of the House of Commons from 1988 to 2008, representing the Toronto riding of Scarborough West and its successor riding of Scarborough Southwest. He did not seek re-election in the 2008 general election.

Wappel is a staunch social conservative. He is a prominent opponent of abortion and gay rights, and has made controversial comments on immigration and the role of religion in government. He opposes the death penalty, and describes himself as holding liberal views on economic issues.[1] In 1998, he was awarded the Joseph P. Borowski Award.[2] He is separated, with five children.

Early life and career[edit]

Wappel was born in Toronto, to Hungarian parents. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Toronto (1971), and a Bachelor of Laws from Queen's University (1974). He was called to the Bar of Ontario in 1976, and worked in civil litigation and corporate law and taught classes in negotiation. Wappel is a member of the Knights of Columbus.[3]

1988 election[edit]

Wappel won the Scarborough West Liberal nomination in 1988 in a surprising upset over Patrick Johnston, a star candidate who had been personally recruited by party leader John Turner.[4] His campaign was supported by members of the anti-abortion group Campaign Life, and his election platform included a pledge of "respect for human life, from conception to the natural end of life".[5] He also opposed the Canada-United States free trade agreement, and criticized the media for portraying him as a single-issue candidate.[6] He won a narrow victory in the general election, defeating Progressive Conservative incumbent Reg Stackhouse by 440 votes.

During the election, Campaign Life activists circulated a pamphlet that accused Stackhouse of supporting "baby-killing" in some circumstances.[7] There is no evidence that Wappel personally endorsed the pamphlet.

The Progressive Conservatives won a majority government in 1988, and Wappel entered parliament as a member of the opposition. John Turner resigned as party leader in 1989, and a new leadership contest was called to select his replacement.

Leadership candidate[edit]

Wappel was the first declared candidate in the Liberal Party's 1990 leadership convention, announcing his candidacy on June 29, 1989. He described himself as the only candidate willing to make abortion a leadership issue.[8] Wappel spoke against abortion in all circumstances, saying that while rape and incest are terrible tragedies, "they cannot possibly be compounded by the further tragedy of destroying human life."[9] He also called for increased immigration to Canada and harsher penalties against drug traffickers, while opposing the Meech Lake Accord and "distinct society" status for Quebec.[10]

Wappel spoke against federal daycare programs during one all-candidates meeting, arguing that the Canadian government should promote stay-at-home parenting instead.[11] Late in the campaign, he said that he did not consider single-parent households or same-sex couples to be families.[12]

His candidacy was not supported by any other MPs although he won the endorsement of Liberals for Life, an anti-abortion pressure group working inside the Liberal Party, in March 1990.[13] During his nomination speech at the convention, Wappel called for abortion to be made a criminal offence with a maximum penalty of life imprisonment.[14] He finished in fourth place, as Jean Chrétien won the leadership on the first ballot.

Opposition Critic[edit]

Wappel was appointed as the Liberal Party's immigration critic in January 1991. Late in the year, he prepared an internal party document calling for the creation of detainment camps (to be called Welcome Centres) for refugees arriving in Canada. Claimants would be provided with food, lodging and clothing, but would not be permitted to work outside the centre while their cases were under review. The proposal also called for any claimant with HIV to be automatically denied status. His suggestions were leaked to the media, and were immediately rejected by the Liberal Party leadership.[15] He was removed as the Liberal Party's immigration Critic in January 1992, and reassigned as critic for the Solicitor-General.[16] In his new position, he called for increased safeguards in Canada's parole system.[17]

Wappel was endorsed by the Canadian Police Association in the 1993 federal election, and focused his campaign on "law and order" issues.[18] He was easily re-elected as the Liberals won a majority government nationally.

Government backbencher[edit]

Chrétien government

Wappel was not appointed to Jean Chrétien's cabinet, and was a frequent critic of his own party's social legislation. He opposed the Chrétien government's decision to extend anti-discrimination protection to homosexuals in 1994, describing homosexuality as "statistically abnormal, [...] physically abnormal and [...] morally immoral".[19] Some politicians and journalists called for Chrétien to expel Wappel from caucus after this remark, but no disciplinary action was taken.[20] Later in the year, Wappel described homosexuality as "not genetic, but a choice", while arguing that religion is "virtually genetic, since it is passed from generation to generation".[21] He remained active on law enforcement issues, introducing a private member's bill to create a national witness protection program and calling for tougher provisions under Canada's Young Offenders Act.[22]

He was re-elected to a third term in the 1997 election, again running on a "law and order" platform. When parliament resumed, he introduced a private member's bill designed to prevent persons convicted of serious crimes (and their relatives and collaborators) from receiving any financial benefit resulting from artistic depictions of their acts. The bill was supported by some members of the law enforcement community, but was criticized by artists and was often described as poorly drafted. Toronto journalist Michael Valpy dismissed it as "legal gibberish" and "a piece of junk".[23] The bill passed the House of Commons but was rejected by the Senate of Canada in 1998, despite last-minute adjustments.[24]

Wappel ran for Speaker of the House of Commons of Canada in 2001, seeking support from backbench Liberals and opposition members. He was eliminated after the first ballot of a secret vote by all Members of Parliament (MPs).[25]

He faced media scrutiny in May 2001, when he refused to help a veteran in his riding whom he suspected of having voted for a rival candidate in the previous election. Wappel wrote a letter to the constituent, asking "How is it that you are writing me for my help if you did not think enough of my abilities to justify voting for me?"[26] The letter was released to the media, and Wappel's remarks were widely criticized by journalists[27] and MPs from all parties. Chrétien reprimanded Wappel, and required him to issue an apology.[28] Wappel later described the letter as a "stupid mistake", and called for voters to forgive him.[29]

In July 2002, Wappel joined with fifteen other Liberal MPs in calling for Paul Martin to succeed Jean Chrétien as Liberal leader.[30] Later in the year, he was unexpectedly elected chair of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans in a free vote of other committee members.[31] He issued a report in June 2003 arguing that federal bureaucrats had "badly managed" the sockeye salmon fishery in British Columbia's Fraser River two years earlier.[32]

Martin government

Paul Martin succeeded Chrétien as party leader and prime minister in December 2003. Wappel remained a government backbencher, and was returned to a fifth parliamentary term in the 2004 election as the Liberals were reduced to a minority government.

Wappel remained one of the most vocal social conservatives in the Liberal caucus, and was a prominent opponent of the Martin government's 2005 same-sex marriage legislation, which he described as "discriminatory, a sham, and a hoax".[33] According to one report, Wappel told Martin that he was "profoundly disappointed" with his handling of the issue during a private caucus meeting.[34] There was some speculation that Wappel would join fellow MP Pat O'Brien in leaving the Liberal caucus over the marriage bill, but he decided to remain in the party.[35]

Opposition MP[edit]

Wappel was re-elected to the House of Commons in the 2006 federal election, as the Conservative Party won a national minority government. Wappel was one of twenty-four Liberal MPs to vote for an extension of Canada's military mission in Afghanistan in May 2006.[36] He also renewed his call for abortion legislation, describing Canada as "the only western democracy that has absolutely no law whatsoever when it comes to protecting the unborn child".[37] In February 2007, he was the only Liberal MP to vote for the extension of two controversial anti-terrorism measures that had first been passed by the Chrétien government in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The measures, which critics described as a threat to civil liberties, were defeated when the Bloc Québécois, New Democratic Party and most Liberals voted not to support their extension.[38] Wappel expressed surprise that more Liberal MPs did not support the extension.[39]

Wappel did not endorse any candidate in the 2006 Liberal leadership election, as none of the candidates were declared social conservatives.[40] He indicated that he would personally vote for Joe Volpe at the convention.[41]

Food labels[edit]

Wappel promoted several private member's bills calling for better nutritional labels on food products. In 1998, he introduced a bill that would have required nutritional labels on all foods sold in grocery stores. It was supported by the Alliance for Food Label Reform, and Wappel argued that it would help reduce the risk of heart disease and cancer among consumers.[42] The bill was not passed.

In 2004, he introduced a separate bill requiring fast food restaurants to list salt and fat content on their menus.[43] It was defeated by a vote of 198 to 64 in November 2006.[44]


On March 23, 2007, Wappel announced that he would not stand in the next federal election.[45] His tenure as a Member of Parliament ended with the 2008 federal election.

Wappel joined the Campaign Life Coalition as its legal counsel on January 1, 2009.[46]

Electoral record[edit]

2006 Canadian federal election: Scarborough Southwest
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal Tom Wappel 19,930 47.83 −1.63 $31,803
Conservative Vincent Veerasuntharam 10,017 24.04 +0.26 $68,687
New Democratic Dan Harris 9,626 23.10 +0.79 $18,101
Green Valerie Philip 1,827 4.38 +0.38
Independent Trevor Sutton 147 0.35
Communist Elizabeth Rowley 120 0.29 −0.15 $280
Total valid votes 41,667 100.00
Total rejected ballots 189 0.45 −0.11
Turnout 41,856 62.37 +5.21
Electors on the lists 67,109
Sources: Official Results, Elections Canada and Financial Returns, Elections Canada.
2004 Canadian federal election: Scarborough Southwest
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal Tom Wappel 18,776 49.46 −10.36 $47,511
Conservative Heather Jewell 9,028 23.78 −4.59 $63,040
New Democratic Dan Harris 8,471 22.31 +12.05 $21,397
Green Peter Van Dalen 1,520 4.00 not listed
Communist Elizabeth Rowley 168 0.44 $300
Total valid votes 37,963 100.00
Total rejected ballots 215 0.56 −0.10
Turnout 38,178 57.16 +3.73
Electors on the lists 66,797
Percentage change figures are factored for redistribution. Conservative Party percentages are contrasted with the combined Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative percentages from 2000.
Sources: Official Results, Elections Canada and Financial Returns, Elections Canada.
2000 Canadian federal election: Scarborough Southwest
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal Tom Wappel 21,466 60.01 +6.61 $47,146
     Progressive Conservative Ellery Hollingsworth 5,251 14.68 +1.01 $14,019
Alliance Nabil El-Khazen 4,912 13.73 −6.72 $30,429
New Democratic Dan Harris 3,638 10.17 −1.05 $10,666
Canadian Action Walter Aolari 336 0.94 $4,886
Communist Dora Stewart 165 0.46 $202
Total valid votes 35,768 100.00
Total rejected ballots 237 0.66 −0.04
Turnout 36,005 53.43 −9.52
Electors on the lists 67,382
Sources: Official Results, Elections Canada and Financial Returns, Elections Canada.
1997 Canadian federal election: Scarborough Southwest
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal Tom Wappel 20,675 53.40 −1.34 $35,520
Reform Tom Ambas 7,918 20.45 −0.62 $41,884
     Progressive Conservative Brian McCutcheon 5,294 13.67 −0.70 $16,872
New Democratic Dave Gracey 4,345 11.22 +4.28 $7,984
Green David James Cooper 482 1.25 $0.00
Total valid votes 38,714 100.00
Total rejected ballots 273 0.70
Turnout 38,987 62.95
Electors on the lists 61,932
Percentage change figures are factored for redistribution.
Sources: Official Results, Elections Canada and Financial Returns, Elections Canada.
1993 Canadian federal election: Scarborough West
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal Tom Wappel 21,335 54.44 +17.64 $36,378
  Reform Aubrey Millard 8,314 21.21 $17,967
  Progressive Conservative Reg Stackhouse 5,664 14.45 −21.30 $43,710
  New Democratic Party Steve Thomas 2,771 7.07 −19.28 $39,447
  National Greg Gogan 578 1.47 $3,145
Green Jim MacLeod 276 0.70 $140
  Natural Law Ron Robins 212 0.54 $0
  Abolitionist Alfred Morton 40 0.10 $94
Total valid votes 39,190 100.00
Rejected, unmarked and declined ballots 346
Turnout 39,536 64.21 −8.94
Electors on the lists 61,574
Source: Thirty-fifth General Election, 1993: Official Voting Results, Published by the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada. Financial figures taken from official contributions and expenses provided by Elections Canada.
1988 Canadian federal election: Scarborough West
Party Candidate Votes % ±% Expenditures
Liberal Tom Wappel 15,363 36.80 −5.3 $42,085
     Progressive Conservative Reg Stackhouse 14,923 35.75 +7.2 $39,606
New Democratic Dave Gracey 11,000 26.35 −0.6 $43,075
Libertarian Anna Young 459 1.10 $1,558
Total valid votes 41,745 100.00
Rejected, unmarked and declined ballots 226
Turnout 41,971 73.15
Electors on the lists 57,376

All electoral information is taken from Elections Canada. Italicized expenditures from elections after 1997 refer to submitted totals, and are presented when the final reviewed totals are not available. Expenditures from 1997 refer to submitted totals. The +/- figures from 1997 and 2004 are adjusted for redistribution.


  1. ^ Tom Wappel, "Being a Christian in politics" Archived 2006-01-05 at the Wayback Machine, Theological Digest & Outlook, March 2000.
  2. ^ "MP Tom Wappel to announce his retirement today" [press release], Canada NewsWire, 23 March 2007, 12:35.
  3. ^ Tom Wappel, official curriculum vitae Archived 2005-03-24 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. ^ Stevie Cameron, "An avalanche of bad news leaves pre-election Liberals gloomy", Globe and Mail, 15 September 1988, A2.
  5. ^ "Scarborough West Swing riding could be 3-way fight", Toronto Star, 16 November 1988, A14. Wappel thanked the Campaign Life Coalition and "all [his] fellow Knights of Columbus" in his nomination acceptance speech. See Dan Smith, "Turner's prize recruit loses nomination bid", Toronto Star, 10 September 1988, A3.
  6. ^ Deborah Wilson, "Liberal is trying to shake anti-abortion label", Globe and Mail, 19 November 1988, A16.
  7. ^ "Metro's 15 new faces in Parliament", Toronto Star, 27 November 1988, A8. The original newspaper notice indicated that Stackhouse was described as a "babykiller", but this was later corrected (see Lorne Manly, "Pledging a return", listed below).
  8. ^ Susan Delacourt, "Anti-abortion MP is first to seek Liberal leadership", Globe and Mail, 30 June 1989, A5. Rival candidate John Nunziata later endorsed a pro-life position as well.
  9. ^ Lorne Manly, "Wappel runs for leadership", Toronto Star, 4 July 1989, E1.
  10. ^ Lorne Manly, "Pledging a return to family values, Scarborough West MP Tom Wappel has entered the race for the federal Liberal leadership", Toronto Star, 30 June 1989, A12.
  11. ^ Carol Goar, "Copps steals show from Chrétien", Toronto Star, 29 January 1990, A11.
  12. ^ "Candidates differ on family issues", Toronto Star, 22 April 1990, A18.
  13. ^ "Pro-life group supports Wappel", Toronto Star, 10 March 1990, A8.
  14. ^ William Walker, "The Liberal tradition in politics should include protecting unborn children from abortion, leadership candidate Tom Wappel said in his major convention speech", Toronto Star, 23 June 1990, A14. Walker's original report incorrectly asserted that Wappel supported the death penalty for women who have abortions and doctors who perform them. This was corrected the next day. Wappel opposes capital punishment.
  15. ^ Paul Watson, "Liberal MP proposes special camps for refugees". Toronto Star, 15 November 1991, A2; Toronto Star Editorial, 13 January 1992, A12.
  16. ^ "Marchi, Tobin take on Liberal campaign role", Toronto Star, 16 January 1992, A12.
  17. ^ Kellie Hudson, "Mom outraged sex offender to be released from prison", Toronto Star, 1 November 1992, A4.
  18. ^ Deborah Kyvrikosaios, "Police to back campaigns of 'law and order' politicians", Globe and Mail, 19 July 1993, A2; "Scarborough West", Toronto Star, 22 October 1993, A9.
  19. ^ Tu Thanh Ha, "Dissident Liberals fight bills on gays", Globe and Mail, 28 September 1994, A1.
  20. ^ see for instance, William Neville, "A poor response from Chrétien", Winnipeg Free Press, 6 October 1994, Editorial Page.
  21. ^ "A God gene? Gosh", Globe and Mail, 18 November 1994, A24.
  22. ^ Rudy Platiel, "Witness protection", Globe and Mail, 21 April 1994, A6; David Vienneau, "New bill to double teen killers' terms", Toronto Star, 2 June 1994, A16.
  23. ^ Michael Valpy, "Dump the Son of Sam bill", Globe and Mail, 28 November 1997, A21.
  24. ^ Janice Tibbetts, "Senate sinks profit-from-crime bill", Winnipeg Free Press, 11 June 1998, B1.
  25. ^ Fred Chartrand, "New Speaker Milliken fulfills dream", Toronto Star, 30 January 1999, p. 1.
  26. ^ Robert Fife and Joseph Brean, "Chrétien tells MP to help veteran following snub", National Post, 10 May 2001, A06.
  27. ^ Rex Murphy, "Tom Wappel," CBC, May 10, 2001
  28. ^ "Canadian PM raps own MP for snubbing war veteran", Reuters News, 9 May 2001, 15:43 report.
  29. ^ Catherine Dunphy, "Liberals' Wappel hoping voters have forgiven him", Toronto Star, 14 June 2004, B02.
  30. ^ Anne Dawson, "16 Liberal MPs willing to declare PM should resign", National Post, 25 July 2002, A01; James Travers, "Dummies fall silent as political season changes", Toronto Star, 5 September 2002, A23.
  31. ^ Kelly Toughill, "Unusual committee casting --- Plum job for backbencher", Toronto Star, 16 November 2002, H05
  32. ^ "Commons committee says Ottawa mismanaged Fraser River salmon fishery", Associated Press Newswires, 12 June 2003, 11:48 report.
  33. ^ Tonda MacCharles, "Liberal MP slams bill on marriage", Toronto Star, 19 February 2005, A06.
  34. ^ Jane Taber, "Liberal MPs clash over gay marriage", Globe and Mail, 3 February 2005, A1.
  35. ^ John Ivison, "Martin lives to die another day", National Post, 7 June 2005, A6.
  36. ^ John Ivison, "Vote on Afghanistan reveals the Grit divide", National Post, 19 May 2006, A4.
  37. ^ "Pro-life debate", Countdown, 11 May 2006.
  38. ^ Juliet O'Neill and Andrew Mayeda, "Anti-terrorism measures defeated, 159 to 124: One Liberal MP backs government on issue", Montreal Gazette, 28 February 2007, A12.
  39. ^ Joan Bryden, "Liberal MP unrepentant for defying Dion on anti-terror vote", Canadian Press, 28 February 2007, 18:23.
  40. ^ Deborah Gyapong, "Grits bereft of pro-life nominee" Archived 2006-05-04 at the Wayback Machine, Western Catholic Reporter, 1 May 2006.
  41. ^ Mike Adler, "Scarborough MPs leaning toward Ignatieff in Liberal leadership contest"[permanent dead link], The Mirror, 27 September 2006.
  42. ^ "A Canadian member of parliament, backed by 13 medical, consumer and food organizations", Food Chemical News, 30 November 1998, Volume 40 Number 41.
  43. ^ Andre Picard, "Want fries, calories, fats with that burger?", Globe and Mail, 9 December 2003, A3; Dana Flavelle, "MP wants tougher labelling", Toronto Star, 18 September 2006, D1.
  44. ^ "National: MPs defeat fast-food fat-content bill", Ottawa Citizen, 9 November 2006, A5.
  45. ^ "Liberal Liberals breathe easy: Outspoken social conservative Wappel to retire" Archived 2007-09-29 at the Wayback Machine, Canadian Press, 23 March 2007.
  46. ^ "Wappel joins CLC as legal counsel" Archived 2009-07-11 at the Wayback Machine, The Interim, February 2009

External links[edit]