Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston says 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 and she will be sorely missed by people across Canada,” Houston said in a statement Saturday.

McDonough, 77, died at a Halifax care home on Saturday after a lengthy struggle with Alzheimer’s disease.

The longtime politician’s career included stints as Nova Scotia’s NDP leader and as the leader of the federal party.

McDonough became the first woman to lead a major political party in Canada when she became the leader of the Nova Scotia NDP in 1980.

McDonough is greeted by supporters as she attends a rally in Corner Brook, N.L., in 2000. (Andrew Vaughan/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 canvasses in Halifax Chebucto.

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

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

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

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

Skilled at finding middle ground

Former CBC journalist Peter Mansbridge interviewed McDonough countless times over the years. He said McDonough was skilled at finding middle ground with her colleagues and opponents.

He said this was handy given her roots were in the Liberal Party. She helped craft the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia’s social policy platform in the 1970 provincial election, but left the party in 1974 after growing disenchanted with it and joined the NDP.

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

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