Infobox CanadianMP | name=Alexa Ann McDonough
birth_date=birth date and age |1944|08|11
Halifax Regional Municipality, Nova Scotia
spouse= Peter McDonough (divorced)
Alexa Ann McDonough, née Shaw, MP (born
August 11, 1944) is a Canadian politician who led the New Democratic Party of Nova Scotia from 1980 to 1994, and was subsequently elected leader of the federal New Democratic Party(NDP) in 1995. She was succeeded by Jack Laytonas NDP leader after she stepped down in 2003. McDonough remains in office as the Member of Parliament for Halifax. She is currently the only woman from Atlantic Canadain the Canadian House of Commons.
McDonough was born in
Ottawa, Ontario. Her father, Lloyd Shaw, was a wealthy businessman, but was committed to progressive politics. He served as the first research director for the NDP's predecessor, the Co-operative Commonwealth Federationand an early financial backer of the NDP when it formed in 1961.
McDonough was involved in social activism from an early age, when, at 14, she led her church youth group in publicizing the conditions of
Africville, a low-income neighbourhood in Halifax. [ [http://www.tatacentre.ca/social_justice_institute_with_al.htm] ] She attended Dalhousie Universityin Halifax, earning a Bachelor of Arts degree in 1965 and a Masters of Social Work in 1967. She worked in the United Statesfor two years, and then returned to Nova Scotia to work for the Department of Social Services.
After unsuccessfully running twice for a seat in the federal House of Commons in 1979 and 1980, McDonough became the leader of the provincial NDP in Nova Scotia, winning a seat in the
Nova Scotia House of Assemblyin 1981. She was the second woman in Canadato lead a major political party after Hilda Watsonof the Yukon Progressive Conservatives. Although she spent the next three years as the only New Democrat and the only woman in the House of Assembly, she was widely regarded as a tough, passionate and courageous advocate for NDP issues. She was instrumental in fighting for and winning the first ban on extra billing in Canada, worker health and safety improvements, human rights protections and pay equity.
In 1994, she stepped down as leader of the Nova Scotia NDP.
In 1995, after then federal NDP leader
Audrey McLaughlinannounced her retirement, McDonough entered the leadership race.
Prior to the NDP leadership convention on
October 14, 1995, McDonough was widely viewed as an also-ran behind the leading contenders, Svend Robinsonand Lorne Nystrom, but at the convention she placed second on the first ballot, ahead of Nystrom in what was almost a three way vote split. Although Robinson had placed first on that ballot, he felt that most of Nystrom's supporters would go to McDonough on the second ballot, giving her the victory. Thus, he conceded to McDonough before a second ballot could be held.
McDonough inherited a party which had won just nine seats in the 1993 federal election, but in the 1997 election, her first as leader, the party won 21 seats, including a historic breakthrough in the Atlantic provinces. McDonough was elected as the Member of Parliament for Halifax.
During the next few years, McDonough's leadership of the party elicited controversy. She was widely seen within the NDP as trying to pull the party toward the centre of the political spectrum, in the Third Way mode of
Tony Blair— although, actually, when a party policy convention voted on a resolution to formally adopt Third Way policies in the party's platform, McDonough herself voted against it. Union leaders were lukewarm in their support, often threatening to break away from the NDP. Many activists within the party began a process called the New Politics Initiative, or NPI, which tried to build more connections between the NDP and activist groups who were currently outside the parliamentary process. The NPI proposal was voted down when it was presented at a party policy conference, but many of its ideas were taken up later by Jack Layton, whose campaign to lead the NDP was endorsed by a number of prominent NPI supporters including Svend Robinson, Libby Daviesand Judy Rebick.
Canadian Allianceunder its new leader Stockwell Daypresented a further challenge to McDonough's NDP. Fearful of the prospect of a Canadian Alliancegovernment, many NDP supporters moved to the Liberals. As well, two NDP MPs, Rick Lalibertéand Angela Vautour, crossed the floor to other party caucuses, reducing the NDP caucus to 19 seats.
In the 2000 federal election, the NDP was held to just 13 seats and its poorest percentage of the popular vote in years. McDonough was challenged by Socialist Caucus member
Marcel Hatchfor the party leadership in 2001, but received 645 votes to just 120 for Hatch. The party also gained Windsor Westin a 2002 by-election, bringing its caucus to 14 members.
McDonough announced that she was stepping down as NDP leader in 2002. At the leadership convention on
January 25, 2003, she was succeeded by Jack Layton. She was re-elected to Parliament in the 2004 federal election and again in 2006.
In the NDP's
shadow cabinet, McDonough is the critic for International Development, International Cooperation and Peace Advocacy.
June 2, 2008, McDonough announced that she would not re-offer in the riding of Halifax in the next federal election. She made the announcement at the Lord Nelson Hotel, the same place where she celebrated her 1997 victory as the MP for Halifax. McDonough said she would continue on as the MP for Halifax until the next federal election. [cite web
title=Halifax MP Alexa McDonough announces retirement
During her time as leader of the federal NDP, McDonough was romantically involved with David MacDonald, a former Progressive Conservative MP and cabinet minister. MacDonald ran as the NDP candidate in
Toronto Centrein the 1997 election; he had been defeated as the PC incumbent in the riding just one election prior. McDonough reportedly quipped to the media that her strategy was to build up the NDP "one Red Toryat a time".
* [http://www2.parl.gc.ca/Parlinfo/Files/Parliamentarian.aspx?Item=ca5bb188-7a33-44b8-8f38-e7249ac31ade&Language=E&Section=FederalExperience Parliament Webpage]
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