Alexa McDonough’s impact on Canadian politics cannot be measured solely by election victories or seat tallies. As the first female leader of a mainstream Canadian political party, she helped transform Nova Scotia and Canadian politics. In the process, she transcended party affiliation and gender to become simply “Alexa” to Canadians across the country.  

In this authorized biography, veteran author Stephen Kimber chronicles Alexa’s life and political career and, with it, weaves a narrative of the changing attitudes towards women in politics, from her early battles as the lone female MLA in a hostile Nova Scotian legislature to her leadership of the federal NDP to her role as senior stateswoman in Jack Layton’s shadow cabinet.  Along the way, Kimber delves into McDonough’s personal life to uncover the origins of her political career: her upbringing in a wealthy family committed to progressive politics, her tightknit circles of women friends, her personal metamorphosis from “wife-of” to “leader-of,” and her emergence as a political leader whose importance goes beyond partisan politics. The result is an engrossing story of one of Canada’s most beloved politicians, whose common touch and life-long advocacy of progressive causes made her a significant player in Canadian public life.

What Others Say

“It was such a pleasure to read the story of this feisty, principled, brilliant woman who persevered through highs and lows, who defied the odds and the men who tried to bring her down and who always found the light in the moment. This book is a delightful, important read!”

Kathleen Wynne
Former Premier of Ontario

“Kimber’s account is spot on. He sugar-coats nothing, and McDonough, a private person, who was under a spotlight for most of her career, helps him tell the story. Spoiler alert: the ending is bittersweet.”

Jane Taber
Former Globe and Mail columnist

“A deeply personal, yet objective, informative and thought-provoking account of the life of one of Canada’s most inspiring parliamentarians.”

Senator Wanda Thomas Bernard

“It’s everything I hoped for — a portrait of one of our great political leaders, written by one of our best writers.”

Graham Steele
Author, Politician

“Kimber’s book is a wonderful and detailed account of Alexa’s rich life, that Nova Scotian woman who broke a glass ceiling of her time, just for being a woman.”

Monia Mazigh

“This touching biography portrays a woman of spirit, a true feminist, who paid a personal price for her life in politics.”

Wendy Elliott

“As a political historian who has written extensively on Canadian social democracy, the NDP and its predecessor the CCF, I found the book informative and it brought back many memories of significant events and colourful individuals… For those who want to know more about this remarkable Canadian political leader, Stephen Kimber’s book Alexa! is a worthy in-depth biography. It is a tribute to this special person whom I was honoured to call a friend and colleague. She sought to give voice to the less powerful. Hers was a quest for a better world. We urgently need more such leaders in this hyper-partisan and perilous world.”

Alan Whitehorn,
professor emeritus, Royal Military College of Canada
and former JS Woodsworth Chair in Humanities, Simon Fraser University.