Fond of Flora
Cape Bretoners continue to remember North Sydney native.
In the heart of the 1979 federal election campaign, Joyce MacDougall was learning the political ropes as a first-time Progressive Conservative candidate in the riding of Cape Breton-The Sydneys.
So it was with open arms that she welcomed North Sydney native Flora MacDonald, then an established Ontario MP for Kingston and the Islands, to join her on the campaign trail.
“She was kind enough to come in and campaign with me and she gave me all kinds of tips. I was young, totally new in that field, a woman, and she gave me pointers and helped in every way she could,” said MacDougall.
Some 36 years later, MacDougall, who lost the election to Liberal Russell MacLellan, said she never forgot that show of support from MacDonald — a women she considered a role model and a mentor.
“She said that she wanted to come home and to lend a helping hand, and so she did,” she said. “She was so friendly and people reacted to her so well because, of course, she was from the area.”
A day after MacDonald’s death in Ottawa at age 89, people across the country and around the globe were continuing to remember her contributions as a politician and humanitarian. MacDougall said she remembers MacDonald as an energetic, down-to-earth woman.
“She never forgot a person, ever. She could be walking through an airport and spot someone from Cape Breton and immediately go over and say hello and ask how they were,” she said. “She was just a fine, fine lady and always talked about her Cape Breton roots no matter where she was — that was very important to her.”
Susan (O’Keefe) Muise, a Sydney native who now lives in Elmsdale, N.S., was a volunteer with MacDougall’s campaign in 1979 when MacDonald came to town.
“She was such a wonderful woman,” she said. “She came over and we chatted like we were the best of buddies. She was that kind of a person.”
In Sydney on Monday, there were visible signs of remembrance for MacDonald, as the flags outside the civic centre in Sydney were lowered to half mast.
Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor Cecil Clarke said MacDonald represented the island well on the national and international stage.
“Her distinguished political career is a great source of pride for all Cape Bretoners,” he said. “She continued to make a positive impact in the world through her humanitarian work, which took her to Afghanistan many times in recent years. Former Nova Scotia premier Rodney MacDonald, now CEO of the Gaelic College, de- scribed her as an inspiration to generations of Canadians and said he really enjoyed getting the chance to talk with her on a number of occasions over the years.
“I was always struck by her kind and generous nature, and the fact that she was always wearing her heart on her sleeve for Cape Breton Island,” he said.
MacDonald said she was widely respected and commanded attention when she spoke, whether it was on the political scene or in the field of international development.
“Her work internationally goes without question. She was a humanitarian and will be deeply missed by many,” he said.
Flora MacDonald, right, campaigned with Cape Breton-The Sydneys Progressive Conservative candidate Joyce MacDougall, centre, in Sydney during the 1979 federal election campaign. Susan (O’Keefe) Muise, a volunteer on MacDougall’s campaign, also met MacDonald that day. MacDonald died Sunday at age 89.