Donald C. MacDonald, Fellow of York’s McLaughlin College

Donald C. MacDonald, a Fellow of York’s McLaughlin College, died Saturday, March 8, at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto of heart failure at the age of 94.

Becoming leader of the Ontario Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) in 1953, Mr. MacDonald remained leader through the evolution of the CCF into the Ontario New Democratic Party until 1970.

"His tenacious advocacy for progressive social policy had an important impact on the policies of the Progressive Conservative governments of Leslie Frost and John Robarts," said York political science Professor Ian Greene, master of McLaughlin College.

Right: Donald C. MacDonald

Active in the life of McLaughlin College, Mr. MacDonald taught at the college, gave numerous talks and attended many events. He represented the provincial riding of York South from 1955 to 1982 when he resigned to make way for Bob Rae, leader of the NDP at the time.

In 1988, Mr. MacDonald published his memoirs, The Happy Warrior: Political Memoirs (Dundurn, 1998, Second Edition), in which he criticized Rae for his handling of the NDP. Mr. MacDonald believed Rae eroded the relationships the CCF and later the NDP had built with the labour movement, farmers and rural communities.

"Donald was not just a politician, he was a visionary. As a lifelong New Democrat, Donald never wavered in his commitment to social democracy – he always put his principles first," said Howard Hampton, current leader of the NDP. "He was a true believer who never lost faith in the ability of people to build a better world. He was an exceptional grassroots organizer and tireless advocate for his constituents in York South who he represented in the legislature for 27 years."

Mr. MacDonald has been referred to as the best premier Ontario never had. Born in British Columbia, he later moved to Quebec. In 1942, he joined the Royal Canadian Navy and served Canada in the Second World War.

"He was full of life and his energetic comments on current policy issues were unforgettable," said Greene. "Donald C. MacDonald was a valued Fellow of McLaughlin College. He will be missed."

Mr. MacDonald was instrumental in establishing permanent funding for provincial community health centres. He advocated for freedom of information legislation and for civil liberties. He was made a member of the Order of Canada in 2003.

Mr. MacDonald is survived by his wife Simone, two daughters and a son.