Senator Elaine McCoy praised for helping to modernize Canada’s Senate

Former longtime Alberta cabinet minister graduated from Faculty of Law in 1969

Helen Metella - 04 January 2021

Senator Elaine McCoy, a University of Alberta Faculty of Law alumna from the Class of 1969, died on December 29. She was 74 years old.

She had been a member of the Senate of Canada since 2005 and helped create its independent senators group in 2016.

On Twitter, fellow independent senator Paula Simons praised her as “an icon of Alberta politics,” who was passionate about balancing the protection of the environment and Alberta’s energy sector.

In a statement of condolence, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau paid tribute to her as
“an accomplished lawyer who dedicated her life to protecting people,” and as a senator who “championed human rights and environmental causes.” Former Prime Minister Joe Clark and his wife, Maureen McTeer, remembered her online as “one of the most resilient and caring people we knew.”

Senator McCoy was an influential voice for Senate modernization, and its first member to regularly blog on her experiences in Ottawa as well as on political issues of the day.

Cabinet minister

Before joining the senate, she served as a Calgary MLA and provincial cabinet minister. During almost 20 years in provincial politics, she was minister of consumer and corporate affairs, minister responsible for women’s issues, minister of labour, and minister responsible for human rights and for Alberta’s civil service.

While in government, she created the Insurance Council of Alberta, restructured the Alberta Securities Commission, and introduced new policies to protect consumers and to recognize foreign credentials.

She set up an Alberta Human Rights commission inquiry which was responsible for investigating and eliminating supremacist activity in the province. She also spearheaded the Lake Louise Declaration which was Alberta's first action plan designed to fight violence against women. The Declaration was adopted by all political ministers responsible for women's issues across Canada.

Senator McCoy began her career in law as senior legal counsel for the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board and as counsel for TransAlta Utilities Corporation.

Senator McCoy was predeceased by her husband, Miles Patterson. She is survived by her mother, Jean, and older brother, Bill. Expressions of condolence may be made online.