Alexa McDonough, the primary lady to steer a serious political social gathering in Canada and an inspiration to generations of New Democrats even after her retirement from politics 14 years in the past, has died. She was 77.
The previous chief of each the federal and Nova Scotia New Democratic events died at a care house in Halifax on Saturday, after a prolonged wrestle with Alzheimer’s illness, her household mentioned.
Recognized affectionately as merely Alexa, McDonough modified the face of politics in Canada and paved the best way for different ladies to take their locations on the pinnacles of political energy.
The one-time social employee’s ardour for social justice carried her first to the Liberal Get together of Nova Scotia, the place she helped craft the social gathering’s social coverage platform within the 1970 provincial election. However by 1974, disenchanted with the federal government of then-premier Gerald Regan, she discovered a brand new house within the NDP and by no means left.
McDonough by no means shied away from a problem, failing twice to win a seat within the Home of Commons earlier than launching a bid for the management of the Nova Scotia NDP in 1980. The actual fact she did not have a seat within the provincial Home of Meeting, nor a lot help in Cape Breton, house to her management rivals, didn’t hinder her efforts.
She handily beat the 2 to change into the primary lady in Canada to steer a serious political social gathering.
Almost a 12 months later, within the provincial normal election, she gained a seat within the district of Halifax Chebucto, the social gathering’s first win on mainland Nova Scotia. It was a shocking upset, significantly for the Liberal incumbent who had laughed off the potential for a McDonough win on election day.
For the subsequent three years, she was a celebration of 1 and the one lady at Province Home, house to Nova Scotia’s legislative meeting.
The NDP did not meet the two-seat threshold to set off additional public funding or earn acknowledged social gathering standing, so McDonough had no time to savour her first political victory. She needed to keep on the combat of holding the PC authorities of John Buchanan accountable with a skeleton workers and on a shoestring price range.
Though a lone voice throughout her first three years within the legislature, McDonough was steadfast in her criticism of the “outdated boys membership,” patronage and the best way members of the Home carried out themselves. She mentioned she was subjected to sexist and misogynistic private assaults because of this.
MLAs gave so little thought or consideration to ladies representatives that there wasn’t even a separate washroom accessible for feminine MLAs at Province Home. McDonough needed to line up to make use of the general public washroom one flooring beneath the chamber whereas her male colleagues had entry to a washroom simply steps from their seats.
Though she loved private reputation, McDonough was not capable of lead the social gathering previous the three-seat high-water mark it achieved in 1984 and once more within the 1993 election. On Nov. 19, 1994, she resigned as chief with no definitive plans for her future.
“It’s totally, essential to me that you just perceive I do it with complete pleasure, and with no sense of remorse in any respect,” she informed supporters the day she introduced her choice.
John Holm, her caucus colleague who would take over as chief, paid tribute to her at a celebration occasion later that 12 months: “I’ve, through the years, grown to not solely love and respect Alexa, however to admire her great braveness and integrity.”
Barely a 12 months later, McDonough’s burning want to have an effect on change, significantly for girls, drove her to a brand new problem, federal politics. She threw her hat into the ring to attempt to win the management of Canada’s New Democratic Get together, in what was broadly seen as a long-shot problem to the perceived front-runners, Svend Robinson and Lorne Nystrom.
As soon as once more, she defied the chances and was elected chief in 1995.
Within the Home of Commons, as she did beforehand at Province Home, McDonough championed the necessity for robust social packages, a extra caring and compassionate authorities, and gender fairness.
She made larger electoral positive aspects throughout her time main the federal social gathering than she did throughout her 14 years on the helm of the provincial social gathering. The 12 months she first gained her seat within the Home of Commons, in 1997, New Democrats greater than doubled their seat depend from 9 to 21.
She characterised that election as a combat for a greater Canada.
“This marketing campaign goes to be about an actual debate between what sort of a Canada we’ll construct, what sort of companies are going to be there for working folks, for working households,” McDonough mentioned.
However the subsequent election introduced a disappointing outcome, and in 2003 McDonough resigned to sit down as a member of the workforce quite than its captain. She left politics for good in 2008, selecting to take action surrounded by household, associates and former colleagues on the Lord Nelson Resort in Halifax, in the identical room she had launched her political profession 29 years beforehand.
“It is time for the torch to be handed to the upcoming generations,” she informed reporters and supporters on June 2, 2008.
Born in Ottawa in 1944, McDonough grew up in a house the place her father, Lloyd Shaw, and her mom, Jean MacKinnon, have been energetic within the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, a precursor to the NDP.
Coming from a distinguished Nova Scotia household, the Shaws, McDonough’s political rivals typically dismissed her as having been born with a silver spoon in her mouth, combating for causes from a place of privilege.
Criticism, nonetheless, appeared to spur her on quite than discourage her.
Watch Alexa McDonough communicate in 2013 about her breast most cancers prognosis:
After politics, McDonough served as president of Mount Saint Vincent College in Halifax for a 12 months when it wanted an interim chief. The college is now house to the Alexa McDonough Institute for Girls, Gender and Social Justice.
She has since been acknowledged for her lengthy and distinguished political profession. She was awarded the Order of Canada in 2009 and the Order of Nova Scotia in 2012, the identical 12 months the Affiliation of Former Parliamentarians gave her a lifetime achievement award.
Her well being has been a problem for greater than a decade. She was handled for breast most cancers and was later recognized with Alzheimer’s illness.
By means of all of it she has been surrounded and aided by her household and closest associates, a few of whom have been political allies and shut confidants.
McDonough leaves behind two sons, Justin and Travis.