"Government can’t build strong communities alone. Government can help – they can enable, facilitate and put the right public policy in place. But then it’s up to each one of us in our own way, with our capacities. It is up to each one of us to do our part to help build a strong community."
Anne McLellan’s contributions to Canada include service as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of many key portfolios. She is a legal scholar, a respected university professor and a tireless leader in a myriad of volunteer roles.
A. Anne McLellan was born August 31, 1950 in Noel Shore, a small farming community on the Bay of Fundy in Hants County, Nova Scotia. Her father, Gilmore, and mother, Joan, provided Anne and her siblings, John and Jean, with a peaceful rural upbringing. Anne was also raised in a community where politics were “bred in the bone.” Both parents were involved in party politics and Joan, in particular, offered a strong role model through her active community leadership and service as an elected member of the county council.
Anne studied Political Science as an undergraduate at Dalhousie University in Halifax where she established herself as a dedicated student and an active member of the Young Liberals Club. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts degree, she went on to earn a Law degree from Dalhousie in 1974, followed by a Master of Law degree from King’s College, University of London in 1975. She was admitted to the Bar of Nova Scotia in 1976 and began work with a Halifax law firm. However, after a short time in practice, Anne turned her attention back to academia and joined the Law Faculty at the University of New Brunswick, where she taught contract law and constitutional law as an Assistant Professor and also completed a short term as Acting Associate Dean. Anne was the first woman hired to a tenure-track position in the Law Faculty at UNB.
In 1980, Anne was offered an opportunity to teach at the University of Alberta. She was intrigued by the constitutional issues being debated by the Prime Minister of the day, Pierre Trudeau, and then Alberta Premier, Peter Lougheed. Anne decided to move west to learn more about the Alberta perspective. The Premier, who had initially sparked her interest in her new home province, would grow to become a trusted sounding board for Anne and a future colleague at the national law firm of Bennett Jones, LLP. Anne spent the next 13 years as a member of the U of A Law Faculty, serving as an Associate Professor, Professor, Associate Dean and Acting Dean. In 1987, she spent a sabbatical year as a Visiting Scholar at Duke University, where she taught a course in Comparative Civil Liberties. She is now a life-long Duke Blue Devils fan!
While she established herself as a legal academic, Anne also remained active in Liberal Party politics. She was involved in policy development and worked with hopefuls on their election campaigns. In 1992, Anne had her first experience as a candidate herself. She was approached to run for federal office by community contacts who were impressed with her speeches on the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. After talking it over with her family, Anne decided to stand as the Liberal candidate for Edmonton Northwest. On October 23, 1993, Anne McLellan became the first federal Liberal elected in Alberta since 1968. It was one of the tightest races in the country, with Anne taking the seat by an initial count of just one vote on election night, before securing an 11-vote victory after a judicial recount.
In her first Cabinet post, as Minister of Natural Resources, Anne played a key role in the development and promotion of the Alberta oilsands resource on the national stage. In 1997, Anne won another tight race and was re-elected as the Member of Parliament for the new constituency of Edmonton West. At that time, she received a new portfolio as Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. She retained her seat in the general election of 2000 and continued with her duties as Justice Minister before taking on a new assignment in 2002 as Minister of Health. A year later, Anne McLellan was named Deputy Prime Minister of Canada and also became the nation’s first Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. It was a time when Canada was finding its way in a post 9-11 world and Anne offered much needed leadership and sound policy development in efforts to safeguard the nation and its citizens. Anne won her final election race in 2004, in the riding of Edmonton Centre, and continued with her previous Cabinet posts. She was defeated in the general election of 2006. During her long and prestigious career in Ottawa, Anne McLellan established a new record as Alberta’s longest serving federal cabinet minister. She left Parliament Hill with a solid reputation as a forward-looking politician who worked respectfully and effectively, with colleagues of all political stripes, in service of her fellow Albertans and all Canadians.
Anne continued to find ample opportunities to serve as a private citizen. In 2006, she joined the firm of Bennett Jones LLP as a senior advisor. Anne also took on new duties as the Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the U of A’s Alberta Institute for American Studies. A number of corporate board appointments offered further opportunities for Anne to share her considerable experience and strategic counsel.
Anne’s energy, passion and dedication to service can be seen in the remarkable resume of volunteer leadership that she has built since retiring from the political arena. The breadth of her community involvement has been remarkable, with a particular focus on initiatives that serve women, strengthen health care and extend supports to vulnerable people. During her service as Chair of the Royal Alexandra Hospital Foundation, Anne was directly involved in fundraising for the state-of-the-art CK Hui Heart Centre, promoted ongoing development of the Lois Hole Hospital for Women and supported the beginning of a novel inner-city health initiative. The long list of organizations that have benefitted from Anne’s energy and guidance also includes the United Way, the Women’s Emergency Accommodation Centre, the Edmonton Community Foundation, Habitat for Humanity, Telus Edmonton Community Board, Canadian Blood Services, the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation and the Canadian Donner Foundation. Anne has continued to shape public policy and debate as a member of the Premier's Council for Economic Strategy and as a director and vice-chair of the Institute for Research on Public Policy.
Anne McLellan holds prestigious honours for her service to the nation. She is an Officer of the Order of Canada and received Honourary Doctor of Laws degrees from the University of Alberta and Cape Breton University. When reacting to honours received, Anne modestly suggests that “recognition is less about me than it is an acknowledgment of all the wonderful people with whom I’ve been lucky enough to work over the years.” In truth, Albertans, and all Canadians, have been very fortunate to enjoy the tremendous energy, dedication and passion that Anne McLellan has shared throughout her lifetime. Citizens for generations to come will continue to benefit from all that she has offered the nation.