Alexa McDonough was ‘a public servant in the truest sense of the word’, says Nova Scotia premier

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Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston said 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 Saturday in a Halifax care home after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease.

The longtime politician’s career included stints as leader of the Nova Scotia NDP 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 the Nova Scotia NDP in 1980.

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

“Alexa McDonough was a trailblazer whose name will be mentioned in the same breath as Agnes Macphail and Gladys Porter,” Houston said.

In a statement, Nova Scotia NDP Leader Gary Burrill said people still talk to him about McDonough when he knocks on doors in Halifax Chebucto.

“In her doorstep glory, Alexa loved people, and people loved her back,” Burrill said.

He said McDonough had a huge influence on generations of women in Nova Scotia.

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh said McDonough will be greatly missed.

“She dedicated her life to social justice, stood up for women in politics and never backed down from a challenge,” he said in a tweet.

Skilled at finding common ground

Former CBC reporter Peter Mansbridge has interviewed McDonough countless times over the years. He said McDonough was good at finding common ground with her colleagues and opponents.

He said it was convenient given that his roots were in the Liberal Party. She helped shape the Nova Scotia Liberal Party’s social policy platform in the 1970 provincial election, but left the party in 1974 after becoming disillusioned with it and joined the NDP.

“She was always viewed with some suspicion by the left of the party,” Mansbridge said. “However, she managed to bridge those differences for most of her tenure.”

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