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Alexa McDonough: Former NDP leader dies at 77

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HALIFAX – Former NDP federal leader Alexa McDonough, a political pioneer who paved the way for women in politics, died Saturday in Halifax at the age of 77.

Her family confirmed McDonough’s death after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

McDonough became the first woman to lead a major political party in Canada when she was elected leader of the Nova Scotia Young Democrats in 1980. She became the leader of the federal NDP in 1995 and served as the party’s leading post until 2002.

But in an interview Saturday, Justin McDonough said his mother was a consensus builder who gained respect beyond party political lines.

“I think the only thing I learned from her is that you can have bold conversations and you can disagree with someone, but that does not mean you will not show respect and appreciate it. opinion “, he said. “Her political life resonated in this direction.”

Nova Scotia Prime Minister Tim Houston paid homage in a statement calling McDonough a historic figure in provincial and federal politics.

“The hallmark of Ms. McDonough’s long career was her respect for the people she represented,” Houston said. “She was a public servant in the truest sense of the word and will be missed by many people across Canada.”

Known lovingly to many across the country as merely “Alexa,” McDonough was a former social worker who cut her political teeth on the Nova Scotia Liberal Party before joining the provincial NDP in 1974.

After occupying the party leadership, she became the first New Democrat from the Nova Scotia continent to sit in the provincial legislature when she was elected to a Halifax constituency in 1981. She was the party’s only voice in the legislature over the next three years.

“These are achievements of a truly historic level,” said Gary Burrill, Nova Scotia’s current NDP leader. “She is a great person in the landscape in the history of the province.”

Burrill said the Nova Scotia New Democrats have suffered a significant loss and are a “black party”.

McDonough resigned as provincial leader in 1994 and later jumped into federal politics, where she posed a challenge to the top national party post in 1995. She won the NDP federal leadership in a rage over perceived top candidates Svend Robinson and Lorne Nystrom.

She was elected to the House of Commons for the first time during the 1997 federal election, while her party’s number of seats went from nine to 21. That total included a breakthrough in Canada’s Atlantic, where the New Democrats got six out of 11 Nova Scotia countries.

“This was a moment that broke the mold of Nova Scotia politics that had existed for more than a century,” Burrill said.

McDonough made him federally mark as a champion of strong social programs and gender equality. She retired from politics in 2008.

Born Alexa Ann Shaw in Ottawa on August 11, 1944, she adopted the nationwide name when she married Peter McDonough in Halifax in 1966.

McDonough was a Canadian Order Officer and a member of the Nova Scotia Order and is a past president of Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax.

She has left behind her sons, Justin and Travis, along with seven grandchildren.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published on January 15, 2022.

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