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Alexa McDonough was ‘a public servant in the best sense’, says the NS prime minister

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Nova Scotia Prime Minister Tim Houston says the hallmark of Alexa McDonough’s political career was the respect she had for the people she represented.

“She was a public servant in the truest sense of the word and will be greatly missed by people across Canada,” Houston said in a statement Saturday.

McDonough, 77, died at a Halifax nursing home on Saturday after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

The politician’s career for a long time included serving as Leader of the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party and as leader of the federal party.

McDonough became the first woman to lead a major political party in Canada when she became leader of Nova ScotiaNDPin 1980, a post she held until 1994, when she left. She was elected chair of the federal NDP in 1995 and held that post until 2003, but continued to serve as an MP for two more terms, until 2008.

“Alexa McDonough was a pioneer, whose name will be mentioned in the same spirit as Agnes Macphail and Gladys Porter,” Houston said. Macphail was the first woman elected to the House of Commons in Canada and Porter was the first female member of the Nova Scotia Legislature.

McDonough is greeted by supporters as he attends a rally in Corner Brook, NL, in 2000. (Andrew Vaughan / The Canadian Press)

In a statement, Nova Scotia NDP leader Gary Burrill said people still talk to him about McDonough when he paints in Halifax Chebucto, her previous riding.

“In her glory on the doorstep, Alexa loved people and people loved her back,” he said.

Burrill said McDonough had a huge impact on generations of women in Nova Scotia.

NDP Federal Leader Jagmeet Singh said McDonough will miss him greatly.

“She dedicated her life to social justice, defended women in politics and never backed down from a challenge,” he said in a Twitter post.

Capable of finding the middle ground

Former CBC reporter Peter Mansbridge has interviewed McDonough many times over the years. He said she was adept at finding the middle ground with her colleagues and opponents.

Mansbridge noted that McDonough’sroots were in the Liberal Party. She helped create the Nova Scotia Liberals’s social policy platform in the 1970 provincial election, but she left the party in 1974 after being disappointed and joining the NDP.

“She has always been viewed with some suspicion by the party left,” Mansbridge said. “However, she managed to overcome these differences for most of her term.”

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