Nancy Riche, a major figure in the Canadian labour movement and one of the key figures in Newfoundland and Labrador's NDP, has died.

Riche, 66, who had been playing a major role in the New Democratic campaigning leading to the Oct. 11 election, died Saturday in hospital in St. John's, of complications from a heart condition.

She had been in hospital for a week.

Final interview

Nancy Riche appeared on CBC Radio's The Sunday Edition on Sept. 25, as part of a segment on whether strikes have a future. You can listen to that episode here.

Her nephew, John Riche, who is running for the NDP in the district of Mount Pearl South, described his aunt as "a giant of feminism and social democracy."

He said the news prompted him to put his campaign on hold temporarily, but not for long.

"We're going to shut down the office today of course, and no campaigning today, but you know, I think she'd want us to keep going," said Riche, a realtor who said his aunt was delighted when he became a candidate earlier this year.

Nancy Riche, who grew up in St. John's, was a key voice in Canadian labour during the 1980s and 1990s. As secretary-treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress, she was an outspoken critic of free-trade deals that the Canadian government was pursuing at the time.

But Riche was best known in her home province for her work for the NDP, including behind-the-scenes work over many elections — none more exciting, though, than for the current election.

"They are oh so set to go," Riche told CBC News last month of the party's volunteers, as they gathered in St. John's for a launch party in advance of the writ being dropped.

Progressive Conservative Leader Kathy Dunderdale reacted strongly Sunday morning to news of Riche's death.

"I was shocked and saddened to learn of her passing," Dunderdale said in a statement.

"Her contributions to this province were many, in her roles as activist, feminist and champion of workers' rights. She has left a substantial legacy that will never be forgotten."

Liberal Leader Kevin Aylward said Riche was a tireless advocate for social and labour rights, and made the province a better place.