Nancy Hartling, centre, stands with Senator Peter Harder and Senator Elaine McCoy before being sworn in during a ceremony in the Senate in Ottawa on November 15, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Nancy Hartling, centre, stands with Senator Peter Harder and Senator Elaine McCoy before being sworn in during a ceremony in the Senate in Ottawa on November 15, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Former Alberta cabinet minister turned Independent senator Elaine McCoy dies

OTTAWA — Sen. Elaine McCoy, who sat as an Independent from the day she was appointed to the upper chamber, has died.

McCoy died Tuesday in Ottawa. She was 74.

Born in Brandon, Man., McCoy began her career in politics in Alberta in the 1980s when she ran in the provincial riding of Calgary West to replace the retiring Peter Lougheed.

She was named a cabinet minister responsible for consumer affairs and women’s issues before being responsible for labour, human rights and the civil service.

In 2005, then-prime minister Paul Martin appointed her to the Senate.

She styled herself a Progressive Conservative even though that party in 2003 merged with the Canadian Alliance to form the modern Conservative Party of Canada.

She wore the title as symbol of what she called her fiscal conservatism and more progressive social values.

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney said in a statement that McCoy was a persuasive and unapologetic advocate for the province’s workers and energy sector.

That was on display in June 2019 when she rose in the Senate to speak against a government bill to enact an oil tanker moratorium along B.C.’s northern coast.

“No amount of public opinion should dictate to me what my job is. My job is to be the elder statesman,” she said at the time.

“To hide behind the Senate’s reputation or a particular group’s reputation in the Senate is a dereliction of duty.”

In 2016, she helped form the Independent Senators Group as the Trudeau Liberals looked to appoint senators that weren’t officially tied to any party caucus. The ISG is now the largest caucus within the Senate.

The prime minister said in a statement Tuesday that McCoy championed human rights and environmental causes, and was also a strong advocate for effective Senate modernization.

“A great Albertan, Senator McCoy was an accomplished lawyer who dedicated her life to protecting people, including through her work supporting several charitable organizations,” Justin Trudeau said.

“She was a dedicated public servant and will be missed.”

Senate Speaker George Furey in a statement called McCoy a respected member of the parliamentary community.

“She will always be remembered as a proud Albertan, an ardent defender of fairness, and a tireless champion for the people she represented,” his statement said.

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