Alexa McDonough

Alexa McDonough, originally from Halifax and a social worker by trade, made outstanding contributions to social democracy in Canada. She made history when she became the first woman to lead a major political party in Canada when she was elected leader of the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party in 1980. McDonough, also formidably known as “Alexa,” led the federal New Democratic Party from 1995 until 2003.

The daughter of a prominent member of the Co-Operative Commonwealth Federation, Alexa studied at Dalhousie University and the Maritime School of Social Work. She began her career teaching at the School of Social Work and working for the City of Halifax.

Alexa began her political career with the Nova Scotia Liberal Party, writing the Party’s social justice platform. She left the Party leading up to the 1974 election after becoming disillusioned with Liberal Premier Gerald Regan. With her sights still set on politics, she ran successfully as leader of the Nova Scotia NDP. In 1981, she shocked politicos by winning a seat in Halifax Chebucto – the provincial NDP’s first seat on the Nova Scotia Mainland. Alexa would lead the Nova Scotia NDP until 1994.

In 1995, Alexa ran successfully to be leader of the federal NDP in 1995, prior to having a seat in the House of Commons. She led the Party back to official party status, winning an unprecedented number of seats in the Atlantic provinces. As leader, she championed strengthening social services and gender equity. Alexa stepped down as Party leader in 2003, being succeeded by Jack Layton.

Following her political career, Alexa was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and was appointed interim president of Mount Saint Vincent University. During her tenure, the university made her a Doctor of Humane Letters in 2009 and renamed its women’s studies institute the Alexa McDonough Institute for Women, Gender, and Social Justice in 2013. In 2012, McDonough received the Order of Nova Scotia.


Alexa McDonough. The Canadian Encyclopedia. (n.d.). Retrieved June 1, 2022, from

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