By Greg Locke
HALIFAX, NS – Alexa McDonough, the trailblazing politician who the the Nova Scotia and then federal NDP parties, died Jan 15, 2022, after a long battle with Alzheimer’s . She was 77.
Born Alexa Ann Shaw in Ottawa on August 11, 1944, she married the late Peter McDonough in Halifax in 1966.
She began a career in social work as the assistant to the director of Social Planning Department at the City of Halifax in 1969, and later served as a member of the faculty at the Maritime School of Social Work at Dalhousie University.
Her passion for social justice led her first to the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia, where she helped craft the party’s social policy platform in the 1970 provincial election. But by 1974, she was disenchanted with the government of then-Premier Gerald Regan, and left to join the NDP.
She would become leader of the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party in 1980, and Member of the Legislative Assembly in 1981, for Halifax-Chebucto. She resigned from the provincial party on Nov. 19, 1994.
A year later, jumping to federal politics, she became federal NDP leader in 1995, winning the post as a long-shot winner party stalwarts Svend Robinson and Lorne Nystrom. She won her first seat in the House of Commons in 1997.
In 2008, she retired from politics, and is often called “The Best Premier Nova Scotia Never Had,”
In 2009 McDonough became Mount Saint Vincent University Interim President. Over the years, she earned numerous honours, including the Order of Canada, the Order of Nova Scotia and four university honorary degrees.
The university is now home to the Alexa McDonough Institute for Women, Gender and Social Justice.
Alexa McDonough led, not only by blazing her own trail as a female politician, but also by her ongoing efforts to encourage others — women, people of colour, those without privilege — to take their own rightful place in politics and the world. She made room for them.
Photos by Michael Creagen.
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