Last Thursday was Alexa McDonough’s last day in the House of Commons as leader of the NDP (a new party leader will be elected on January 25, but the House will not be sitting again until after that date).

When Alexa announced her resignation as leader (she’ll be staying on as the MP for Halifax), I told a Kitchener-Waterloo Record reporter that “while Alexa was very passionate about a lot issues, I think it’s true that this passion didn’t come through when she spoke.” It’s really quite unfortunate that, perhaps because of this, more people didn’t get to know her, or to see her as more than the leader of the fourth largest party in the House of Commons.

Having heard part of the tribute to her by her colleagues on the CBC, I wanted to read the whole thing. I visited the Website for Canada’s Parliament and found far more than I was looking for. Here is an excerpt from MP Brian Masse’s remarks (which drew a standing ovation):

“She has worn many different hats over the years and she has met all the challenges with grace, fierce determination and unwavering commitment to building a social democracy in Canada. It has been my pleasure to serve under her leadership. Her support and encouragement since I first decided to run in the by-election earlier this year have been valuable and for that I am deeply grateful. On behalf of my caucus colleagues and the New Democrats across the country, I would like to thank her for her incredible and tireless efforts as our leader for the past seven years fighting for a better, more democratic and just society that we know Canadians want. Our thanks to Alexa; we look forward to the inspiration and dedication we know she will bring to the House as the member for Halifax.”

While this official tribute to McDonough was inspiring, an equally fitting tribute to Alexa was the excellent work done by the entire NDP caucus throughout the day. Since most Canadians will sadly never hear about this kind of work, I decided to make it my business to show readers a day in thelife of the NDP in the House of Commons.

In question period, McDonough pointedly questioned Foreign Affairs Minister Bill Graham on the federal government’s failure to protect the rights of Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen unjustly deported to Syria by the United States.

Brian Masse (Windsor West) and Judy Wasylycia-Leis (Winnipeg North Centre) both offered well-informed contributions regarding the upcoming federal budget consultations.

Libby Davies (Vancouver East) cited a Polaris Institute report on defense spending and asked whether the federal surplus couldn’t be better used to implement the Romanow report than to increase spending on the military. Libby also asked Judy Sgro (chair of the Liberal task force on urban affairs) about funding for a national housing program.

Later, Svend Robinson (Burnaby-Douglas) exposed the fact that the feds have not acted (and judging by the weak response to his question, are not likely to act) on a promise to ban the terms “light” and “mild” from cigarette packaging — something that they promised to do over a year ago (of course, that was before nicotine addict Ann McLellan became Minister of Health).

Yvon Godin (Acadie-Bathurst) then asked about the status highway infrastructure in New Brunswick, an important local issue for his constituents.

Svend Robinson also presented three petitions (none of which should earn him a reprimand from caucus, I hope) and Judy Wasylycia-Leis presented two.

Peter Stoffer (Sackville-Eastern Shore) introduced a private member’s bill to give Employment Insurance protection for people caring for a sick relative. As well, Bill Blaikie (Winnipeg-Transcona) introduced a private member’s bill to protect the rights of rural route mail carriers, who are classified as “independent contractors” and therefore have virtually no rights.

Blaikie also took on Martin Cauchon over the cost overruns on the gun registry (though I disagree with Blaikie’s vote on Bill C-68, I think he does well to stick to cost issues in this particular debate).

Towards the end of the day, Svend Robinson asked what the government is doing to prosecute Ang Li, the former boyfriend and alleged killer of Amanda Zhao, who is now living in China. He did so during adjournment proceedings, whichis quite a tricky use of parliamentary procedure (something for which Svend doesn’t get nearly enough credit).

Thanks, Alexa. You’ve served your riding, your party and your country well. And thanks to our other thirteen MPs who do a great job in the House of Commons every day. If only there were more of you.


Scott Piatkowski

Scott Piatkowski is a former columnist for He wrote a weekly column for 13 years that appeared in the Waterloo Chronicle, the Woolwich Observer and ECHO Weekly. He has also written for Straight...