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The end of a most significant era

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There are very few politicians across the land who are known by their first names only but - indisputably - one of them is Alexa. (Okay, okay, Alexa McDonough.)

Alexa first ran for public office in 1979 - the year Margaret Thatcher became prime minister of the United Kingdom. She lost that first election and the one following, but since 1981, she has been an NDP fixture in Nova Scotia, both on the provincial and the federal scenes. She has served as leader at both levels and is respected by many people across the political spectrum. She has worked actively for peace while effectively serving a constituency that includes a large military presence.

Of course, she is also vilified by some people for her unwavering feminism. She has never failed to refer to herself as a feminist and she has, for decades now, kept issues of concern to women at the top of the agenda. Several years ago, in an interview with me - long before Hillary, long before Sarah - she had this to say about women in politics and women in the workplace:

I've always felt that as sexist as the political environment can be, it's still a privileged workplace compared to the working experience most women face. I think from day one I protected myself from that sexist barrage by rationalizing that it didn't make sense to take it personally - that any woman would have been on the receiving end of it. Secondly, as awful as it got sometimes, at least it was taking place in a public arena, under a microscope you might say, and in a way, that was protection that most women at their jobs are not afforded. Sexual harassment is so pervasive and so many women working outside their homes are placed under so many pressures - working at jobs that are insecure and unprotected - their situations are so much worse than anything I experience during my working day. And when it comes to equal pay, it's one of the few jobs in the country where that is guaranteed: women legislators are paid equally to their male counterparts.

Alexa is not running in this election. This evening, New Democrats in Halifax are gathering to choose her successor. They will choose among Irvine Carvery, project manager of Metropolitan Regional Housing Authority and an Africville activist; Megan Leslie, a community legal worker at Dalhousie Legal Aid Service; and Alexis MacDonald, a community development worker and national chairwoman of the NDP's Participation of Women committee. MacDonald is known for having twice run in strong campaigns against current defence minister, Peter MacKay.

(Edited to add: Megan Leslie won the nomination on the second ballot and many who were there feel she will be a great candidate and a fine successor to Alexa.)

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