Alexa McDonough, former NDP leader and trailblazer for women in politics, has died

Alexa McDonough, the first woman to lead Canada’s largest political party and a supporter of the New Democrats even after retiring 14 years ago, has died. He was 77 years old.

A former leader of both federal parties and the Nova Scotia New Democratic died at a children’s home in Halifax on Saturday, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease, his family said.

Popularly known as Alexa, McDonough changed the face of Canadian politics and paved the way for other women to take their place at the pinnacle of politics.

A one-time passion for socialism led him to the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia, where he helped formulate a party policy in the 1970 general election.

McDonough was greeted by his supporters during the federal election when he attended a rally in Cornerbrook, NL, on Nov. 25, 2000. (Andrew Vaughan / Canadian Press)

McDonough did not hesitate to challenge, having twice failed to win a seat in Parliament before formulating the Nova Scotia NDP leadership in 1980. The fact that he did not have a seat in the regional parliament, nor much support in Cape Breton, home to his opposition, did not thwart his efforts. .

She hailed the pair as the first woman in Canada to lead a major political party.

About a year later, in the general election, he won a seat in the Halifax Chebucto government, the party’s first victory in Nova Scotia. It was very disappointing, especially for a Liberal leader who laughed at McDonough’s chances of winning on election day.

For the next three years, it was a one-woman party at Province House, home of the Nova Scotia legislature.

McDonough congratulates his six-year-old granddaughter, Abbie Jean McDonough, on June 2, 2008, announcing that she will not run for office. McDonough represented the NDP in government for 13 years. (Mike Dembeck / Canadian Press)

The NDP did not meet with a two-seat solution to make more government funding or gain a well-known party, which is why McDonough did not have time to enjoy his first victory. He had to continue the fight for the PC government of John Buchanan to hold accountable the orthopedic staff and on a limited budget.

Despite being one voice in his first three years in parliament, McDonough was unwavering in his criticism of the “old boys’ club,” the support and the way members of the House treated it. He also said that he was exposed to the dangers of homosexuality as a result of this.

The MLAs did not consider or think seriously about women’s representation so there was not even a special laundry room for women MPs in the Province House. McDonough had to stand up to use the laundry room on the floor of the room where his male colleagues had the opportunity to go to the laundry stairs from their chairs.

Clarence Williams, 89, patiently waited for McDonough at an election campaign rally at Canada Auto Workers hall in Windsor, Ont., Nov. 24, 2000. (Andrew Vaughan / Canadian Press)

Despite his popularity, McDonough was not able to lead the party through the three-seat system he won in 1984 and in the 1993 election. 19, 1994, resigned his position as a leader with no clear plans for his future.

“It is very important for me to understand that I am doing this with all my heart, without any worries,” he told agents the day he announced his decision.

John Holm, a fellow caucus who would take over the presidency, paid tribute to him at a party later that year: “I have always loved Alexa and admired her courage and loyalty.”

A year later, McDonough’s burning passion for reform, especially for women, led him to launch a series of protests against federal politics. He tossed his hat in the ring to try to win the leadership of the New Democratic Party of Canada, which seemed like a long-term challenge to the seemingly forward, Svend Robinson and Lorne Nystrom.

Once again, he denounced the incident and was elected leader in 1995.

McDonough, left, was received by Ontario NDP environmentalist Marilyn Churley as she arrived at the Toronto polling station on Oct. 22, 2000. (Frank Gunn / Canadian Press)

In the House of Commons, as he had previously done in the Province House, McDonough emphasized the need for strong moral values, a caring and compassionate government, and equality between men and women.

He won more elections during his presidency of the federation than he did in his 14 years as district party leader. The year he won his first seat in the House of Commons, in 1997, the New Democrats doubled their seats from nine to 21.

He hailed that choice as a fight for a better Canada.

“This campaign will be about the real conflict between the Canadian nation we are building, and what services will be available to working people, working families,” McDonough said.

But the next election brought disastrous results, and in 2003 McDonough he ceased to be a member of the team and not as his captain. He left politics in 2008, deciding to do so in the presence of family, friends and former colleagues at the Lord Nelson Hotel in Halifax, the room where he started his political career 29 years ago.

“It is time for the light to be passed on to future generations,” he told reporters and donors on June 2, 2008.

Born in Ottawa in 1944, McDonough grew up in a house where his father, Lloyd Shaw, and his mother, Jean MacKinnon, were active in the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, the forerunner of the NDP.

Coming from a well-known Nova Scotia family, the Shaws, McDonough activists sometimes accuse him of being born with a silver spoon in his mouth, fighting for lucky reasons.

Still, the criticism seemed to strengthen him rather than weaken it.

See Alexa McDonough talking about 2013 about her breast cancer:

Alexa McDonough opens up about cancer

The former NDP leader said he received the news four months ago. 4:06

After politics, McDonough served as President of Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax for one year when it lacked a permanent leader. The university is now home to the Alexa McDonough Institute for Women, Gender and Social Justice.

Since then, he has been known for his political and well-known work. He was received the Order of Canada in 2009 and Order of Nova Scotia in 2012, the same year the Association of Former Parliamentarians awarded him the most prestigious award of his entire life.

Her health has been deteriorating for more than a decade. She was treated for breast cancer and later diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.

Through it all he has been surrounded and supported by his relatives and close friends, some of whom were his political allies and his closest secret.

McDonough is survived by two sons, Justin and Travis.

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