Former Alberta Cabinet Minister Turned Independent Senator Elaine McCoy Dies

December 29, 2020 Updated: December 29, 2020

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 later 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.

Senate Speaker George Furey in a statement called McCoy a respected member of the parliamentary community who will be greatly missed by her colleagues.

“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.