New Democratic Party leadership election, 1995

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New Democratic Party leadership election, 1995
← 1989 October 12 - 15, 1995 2003 →
  Svend Robinson.jpg Mcdonoughalexa.jpg Lorne Nystrom (2012).jpg
Candidate Svend Robinson Alexa McDonough Lorne Nystrom
Delegate count 655 566 545
Percentage 37.8% 32.6% 31.5%

Leader before election

Audrey McLaughlin

Elected Leader

Alexa McDonough

New Democratic Party leadership election, 1995
Date October 12−15, 1995
Convention Ottawa, Ontario
Resigning leader Audrey McLaughlin
Won by Alexa McDonough
Ballots 1
Candidates 3

New Democratic Party leadership elections

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The 1995 New Democratic Party leadership election, was held in Ottawa, from October 12–15 to elect a leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada. This convention was held because Audrey McLaughlin retired as federal leader. Although Svend Robinson led on the first ballot, he conceded the leadership to Alexa McDonough, who was appointed by a motion put forward by Robinson. This was the last NDP leadership convention that was decided solely by delegates attending and voting at the convention.


As the fortunes of the Nova Scotia NDP were slowly rising during the mid-1990s, the same could not be said of its federal counterpart. The 1993 Canadian federal election was nothing short of an unmitigated disaster for the NDP.[1] Under Audrey McLaughlin's leadership, the party suffered its worst defeat since the late 1950s, in terms of seats, when it was then called the CCF.[1] When looking at the popular vote, it was the worst ever election for a federal social-democratic party in the 20th century, with just seven percent of the vote.[1] The party only had nine seats, three short of the twelve seats needed to have official party status in the House of Commons, and all the extra funding, research, office space and Question Period privileges it accords.[1] In the aftermath of the 1993 election, the party set about reforming its policies and purpose, with McLaughlin announcing on April 18, 1994 that she would step down as leader by 1996.[2] McLaughlin, faced with internal squabbles like the ones that occurred in the Nova Scotia party back in 1980, advanced her departure from the end of 1996 to the end of 1995.[3] With an internal party atmosphere that could best be described as toxic, Alexa McDonough, Lorne Nystrom, and Svend Robinson, entered the leadership campaign in the spring of 1995.[4] The conditions were similar to the ones that McDonough faced during her first leadership campaign in Nova Scotia during 1980: a divided party that was self-immolating.[4]

Leadership ballot[edit]

To make it on the convention ballot, a leadership candidate had to win one of the primaries held throughout the country ahead of the convention. A candidate could also make it on the ballot if a 25% national vote threshold was reached. Herschel Hardin was the only candidate who failed to win a primary and he was thus excluded from the convention ballot. Prior to the NDP leadership convention on October 14, 1995, McDonough was widely viewed as an also-ran behind the leading contenders, Svend Robinson and Lorne Nystrom.[5] At the convention, Alexa McDonough surprised many media pundits and placed second, with 566 votes, on the first ballot, ahead of Nystrom who received 514 votes.[6] Although Robinson had placed first on that ballot, with 655 votes, McDonough seemed to be successful with her "anyone-but-Svend" rallying-cry to Nystrom supporters.[7] He sensed that most of Nystrom's supporters would go to McDonough on the second ballot, giving her the victory.[7] Comprehending that his odds of winning were now practically non-existent, he conceded to McDonough before a second ballot could be held, and moved a motion to formally appoint her as the new leader.[5]

Quebec Primary

Candidate Percentage
Svend Robinson 44.94%
Lorne Nystrom 34.82%
Alexa McDonough 10.12%
Herschel Hardin 10.12%
Total 100%

Atlantic Primary

Candidate Percentage
Alexa McDonough 68.50%
Svend Robinson 21.10%
Lorne Nystrom 7.24%
Herschel Hardin 3.15%
Total 100%

Ontario Primary

Candidate Percentage
Svend Robinson 43.67%
Lorne Nystrom 26.17%
Alexa McDonough 22.87%
Herschel Hardin 7.29%
Total 100%

BC/North Primary

Candidate Percentage
Svend Robinson 50.80%
Lorne Nystrom 29.32%
Alexa McDonough 12.03%
Herschel Hardin 7.85%
Total 100%

Prairies Primary

Candidate Percentage
Lorne Nystrom 71.86%
Svend Robinson 18.07%
Alexa McDonough 5.60%
Herschel Hardin 4.47%
Total 100%

Labour Primary

Candidate Percentage
Lorne Nystrom 38.02%
Svend Robinson 32.32%
Alexa McDonough 28.46%
Herschel Hardin 1.20%
Total 100%

Primaries - Total

Candidate Percentage
Lorne Nystrom 44.69%
Svend Robinson 32.06%
Alexa McDonough 18.47%
Herschel Hardin 4.78%
Total 100%

First Ballot

Candidate Delegate Support Percentage
Svend Robinson 655 37.8%
Alexa McDonough 566 32.6%
Lorne Nystrom 545 31.5%
Total 1,735 100%


Robinson's move helped to unify the party and shake his image as a lone wolf.[7] After the vote, Robinson met with about 200 of his supporters, who were shocked, and in some cases, outraged at what he did.[7]

McDonough inherited a party that had won just nine seats in the 1993 federal election. In the 1997 election, her first as leader, the party won 21 seats, including a historic breakthrough in the Atlantic provinces. McDonough was elected as the Member of Parliament for the federal riding of Halifax, the same riding in which she ran unsuccessfully in 1979 and 1980. She continued to win it consecutively, three more times until she retired from politics in 2008, and the party did not lose the all-important official party status during her leadership.


  1. ^ a b c d Globe Editorial (1993-10-28). "Retooling the New Democrats". The Globe and Mail. Toronto: CTVglobemedia. pp. A26. 
  2. ^ Delacourt, Susan (1994-04-19). "NDP plans to redesign the left: McLaughlin to give up helm". The Globe and Mail. Toronto: CTVglobemedia. pp. A1, A6. 
  3. ^ Howard, Ross (1995-01-23). "NDP sets new style for leadership race". The Globe and Mail. Toronto: CTVglobemedia. pp. A1, A2. 
  4. ^ a b McCarthy, Shawn (1995-10-15). "McDonough best choice to rebuild federal NDP". The Toronto Star. Toronto: Torstar. pp. A4. 
  5. ^ a b Windsor, Hugh (1995-10-16). "Second fiddle leads NDP: McDonough wins, Robinson gives in". The Globe and Mail. Toronto: CTVglobemedia. pp. A1,A5. 
  6. ^ Harper, Tim (1995-10-15). "McDonough 'natural leader' from teens". The Toronto Star. Toronto: Torstar. pp. A5. 
  7. ^ a b c d McCarthy, Shawn (1995-10-15). "New Democrats pick McDonough". The Toronto Star. Toronto: Torstar. pp. A1, A5.