Helen MacDonald (Nova Scotia politician)

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Helen MacDonald
Leader of the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party
In office
July 17, 2000 – April 24, 2001
Preceded by Robert Chisholm
Succeeded by Darrell Dexter
MLA for Cape Breton The Lakes
In office
Preceded by Bernie Boudreau
Succeeded by Brian Boudreau
Personal details
Born New Waterford, Nova Scotia
Political party NDP
Residence Bras d'Or, Nova Scotia
Occupation teacher, administrator

Helen MacDonald is a Canadian politician. She represented the electoral district of Cape Breton The Lakes in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly from 1997 to 1999. She was a member of the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party.[1]

Early life and career[edit]

Born in New Waterford, Nova Scotia, MacDonald was educated at the Nova Scotia Normal College and St. Francis Xavier University.[2][3] She was a teacher and education administrator for 37 years.[4]

Political career[edit]

A longtime NDP supporter, MacDonald first attempted to enter provincial politics in the 1988 election, finishing third in the Cape Breton-The Lakes riding behind Liberal Bernie Boudreau and Progressive Conservative incumbent John Newell.[5] She ran again in the 1993 election, losing to Boudreau by more than 5200 votes, while edging out the Progressive Conservative candidate to finish second.[6]

Following Boudreau's resignation as MLA, MacDonald ran in the byelection to replace him.[7] On November 4, 1997, MacDonald won the byelection by 665 votes, becoming the first provincial New Democrat elected from Cape Breton since 1978.[8] MacDonald was also the first woman MLA elected in Cape Breton.[9] She was re-elected by 866 votes in the 1998 election,[10] and served as caucus chairwoman and gaming critic.[11] She was defeated when she ran for re-election in 1999, losing to Liberal Brian Boudreau by 101 votes.[12][13]

On March 22, 2000, MacDonald announced that she was entering the race to replace Robert Chisholm as leader of the Nova Scotia New Democrats.[9][14] At the leadership convention on July 15, MacDonald trailed MLA Kevin Deveaux by four votes after the second ballot, but with the support of third place candidate Maureen MacDonald,[15] she overtook Deveaux on the third ballot to win the leadership.[2][16][17] MacDonald officially took over as leader on July 17.[18]

In October 2000, MacDonald announced that she would run in the Cape Breton North riding when a byelection was held to replace former Liberal premier Russell MacLellan.[19][20] On January 14, 2001, she was nominated to run as the NDP candidate for the riding.[21] On March 6, 2001, MacDonald finished third in the byelection, losing to Progressive Conservative Cecil Clarke.[22][23][24] Following the loss, MacDonald said she would continue to serve as leader, but resigned on April 24, after she learned that six members of the NDP caucus wanted to meet with her to ask for her resignation.[25][26][27] She was succeeded by Darrell Dexter.[28]

Personal life[edit]

MacDonald and her husband John reside in Bras d'Or, Nova Scotia. They have six children.[2]


  1. ^ "Electoral History for Cape Breton-The Lakes" (PDF). Nova Scotia Legislative Library. Retrieved 2015-08-23. 
  2. ^ a b c "Helen at helm; Party picks NDP veteran as new leader in 3rd round". The Chronicle Herald. July 16, 2000. 
  3. ^ "Getting to Know: Helen MacDonald" (PDF). New Dawn Enterpriser. Summer 2012. Retrieved 2015-08-23. 
  4. ^ "New NDP boss picked from N.S. party roots". The Globe and Mail. August 8, 2000. 
  5. ^ "Returns of General Election for the House of Assembly 1988" (PDF). Elections Nova Scotia. p. 45. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-05-12. Retrieved 2015-08-23. 
  6. ^ "Returns of General Election for the House of Assembly 1993" (PDF). Elections Nova Scotia. p. 55. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2014-10-06. Retrieved 2015-08-23. 
  7. ^ "Vote big test for Liberals". The Chronicle Herald. November 4, 1997. Archived from the original on June 5, 2000. Retrieved 2015-08-23. 
  8. ^ MacIntyre, Mary Ellen (November 5, 1997). "NDP will have first C.B. MLA in years". The Chronicle Herald. Archived from the original on June 6, 2000. Retrieved 2015-08-23. 
  9. ^ a b "MacDonald joins NDP leader race: Former Cape Breton MLA focusing on social justice". The Daily News. Halifax. March 23, 2000. 
  10. ^ "Election Returns, 1998 (Cape Breton The Lakes)" (PDF). Elections Nova Scotia. Retrieved 2015-08-23. 
  11. ^ "A look at the candidates". The Daily News. Halifax. July 14, 2000. 
  12. ^ "Election Returns, 1999 (Cape Breton The Lakes)" (PDF). Elections Nova Scotia. Retrieved 2015-08-23. 
  13. ^ "Boudreau pulls upset". Cape Breton Post. June 28, 1999. 
  14. ^ "Ex-C.B. politician wants NDP job". The Chronicle Herald. March 23, 2000. 
  15. ^ "Needham MLA plays queenmaker". The Daily News. Halifax. July 16, 2000. 
  16. ^ "Helen MacDonald new NDP leader". CBC News. July 16, 2000. Retrieved 2015-08-23. 
  17. ^ "NDP in Nova Scotia chooses new leader". The Globe and Mail. July 17, 2000. 
  18. ^ "New NDP leader takes helm". CBC News. July 17, 2000. Retrieved 2015-08-23. 
  19. ^ "NDP chief to run in MacLellan's old Cape Breton seat". The Sunday Herald. October 15, 2000. 
  20. ^ "NDP leader picks seat, now must cool heels". The Daily News. Halifax. October 15, 2000. 
  21. ^ "NDP boss unopposed as party's candidate for vacant C.B. seat". The Chronicle Herald. January 15, 2001. Archived from the original on February 23, 2001. Retrieved 2015-08-23. 
  22. ^ "Byelection Returns, 2001 (Cape Breton North)" (PDF). Elections Nova Scotia. Retrieved 2015-08-23. 
  23. ^ "Tories win Cape Breton North". CBC News. March 7, 2001. Retrieved 2015-08-23. 
  24. ^ "Still no seat for NDP leader: MacDonald third in Cape Breton North". The Daily News. Halifax. March 7, 2001. 
  25. ^ "NDP boss forced to resign". The Chronicle Herald. April 25, 2001. 
  26. ^ "Leader of Nova Scotia NDP resigns post". The Globe and Mail. April 25, 2001. 
  27. ^ "Ousting was 'scapegoating': 'They literally trampled over the decision-making body of this party' -- MacDonald". The Daily News. Halifax. April 29, 2001. 
  28. ^ "Dexter interim NDP boss". The Chronicle Herald. April 30, 2001.