Longtime Alberta senator Elaine McCoy, who also served as a Calgary MLA and provincial cabinet minister for years, has died.
McCoy was named to the Senate by former Prime Minister Paul Martin in 2005 after first practising as a lawyer in Calgary and then serving as the MLA for Calgary-West from 1986 to 1993.
Premier Jason Kenney said in a statement Tuesday that he was saddened to learn of McCoy’s death.
“Elaine was a persuasive and unapologetic advocate of Alberta workers, and the province’s role as a responsible energy producer,” he said.
“In recent years, senator McCoy faced significant health challenges, none of which stopped her from working hard to represent Albertans in the Parliament of Canada. For that, and for a lifetime of public service, I am deeply grateful.’
The cause of death wasn’t immediately made public.
McCoy was born in Brandon, Man., with her family moving frequently in Canada and overseas while she was a child.
She finished a BA and LLB at the University of Alberta, then practised law, becoming a senior legal counsel for the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board and a counsel for TransAlta Utilities Corporation.
Outgoing Alberta premier Peter Lougheed asked McCoy to run for the seat he held in Calgary-West when he retired.
Once elected, McCoy was immediately named to the Progressive Conservative cabinet of Don Getty as minister of consumer and corporate affairs and the minister responsible for women’s issues.
According to her Senate biography, she created the Insurance Council of Alberta, restructured the Alberta Securities Commission, and introduced new policies to protect consumers and to recognize foreign credentials.
After being appointed Alberta’s labour minister in 1989 as well as minister responsible for human rights and for Alberta’s civil service, McCoy set up an Alberta Human Rights commission inquiry that was responsible for investigating and trying to eliminate supremacist activity in the province.
She was also interested in the issue of domestic violence and was instrumental in the creation of the Lake Louise Declaration, billed as the province’s first action plan designed to fight violence against women. That declaration was adopted by all ministers responsible for women’s issues across Canada, her biography states.
McCoy sat as an Independent in the Senate from the day she was appointed, according to her bio, although it says “she also carried the designation ‘Progressive Conservative’ for some years.”
A message from the Speaker of the Senate says she will be greatly missed.
“She will always be remembered as a proud Albertan, an ardent defender of fairness, and a tireless champion for the people she represented,” it reads.