McDonough tells NDP to aim for the top

McDonough gives final speech to party delegates

In her last hurrah as leader of the federal New Democrats on Friday night, Alexa McDonough told delegates at the convention to replace her not to give up on trying to run the country.

Hundreds of the party faithful in Toronto honoured McDonough for her efforts, and gave her a final chance to speak as their leader.

"Who says there isn't a lot of life left on the left in our beloved country," she said. "Is it too late for me to reconsider?"

McDonough announced in June last year she would step down, so the party could rejuvenate itself under a new leader.

For much of her speech, McDonough focused on the accomplishments of her tenure beginning in 1995.

Two years before she took the helm, the NDP managed to win only nine seats in Parliament, leaving the party three short of qualifying for party status.

Under McDonough's leadership, the NDP won its way back to party status in 1997 with 21 seats then slid again in 2000, down to 13 seats.

That election started a process of self-examination for the NDP, in which it considered a dissolution to start over under a new banner. McDonough's decision to step down was an extension of that process.

Manitoba Premier Gary Doer had one word to describe the outgoing leader: class.

"She is a person who won this leadership with class, has led our party with class, and is passing on the torch of leadership with class," he said. "She is a person of class."

While the evening was mostly supportive of McDonough, some in the party won't be sorry to see her go. Her leadership has come under fire, most notably from CAW president Buzz Hargrove.

But McDonough isn't leaving entirely. She will remain in the House of Commons as an MP, and has said she would run in her Halifax riding again.

As a final thought, McDonough told delegates the NDP should never give up on its goal of winning a federal election.