Donald MacDonald (Nova Scotia politician)

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Donald MacDonald

2nd President of the Canadian Labour Congress
In office
Preceded byClaude Jodoin
Succeeded byJoe Morris
1st Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Labour Congress
In office
PresidentClaude Jodoin
Secretary-Treasurer of the Canadian Congress of Labour
In office
1st Leader of the Nova Scotia Co-operative Commonwealth Federation
In office
Preceded bynew party
Succeeded byRussell Cunningham
Member of the Legislative Assembly
In office
October 28, 1941 – October 23, 1945
Preceded byGeorge M. Morrison
Succeeded byJohn Smith MacIvor
ConstituencyCape Breton South
Majority62 votes
Personal details
Born(1909-09-12)September 12, 1909
Halifax, Nova Scotia
DiedSeptember 25, 1986(1986-09-25) (aged 77)
Ottawa, Ontario
Political partyCo-operative Commonwealth Federation
Spouse(s)Gertrude MacDonald [1]
ChildrenDonald MacDonald[1]
Alma materSt. Francis Xavier University
OccupationTrade Unionist/Politician

Donald MacDonald, OC (September 12, 1909 – September 25, 1986) was a Canadian social democratic politician and trade unionist who led the Nova Scotia Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and was elected as a member of the Nova Scotia House of Assembly in 1941. In 1968 he was elected President of the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC).[2]

Early life[edit]

He was born in Halifax on September 12, 1909. His family moved to Sydney, Nova Scotia, on Cape Breton Island when he was still a boy. By age 17, he was working at the coal piers at the Sydney Steel Plant. His education included graduating from Sydney Academy High School and attending St. Francis Xavier University (St. F.X.).[3]

Early union experience[edit]

At the age of 21, Donald MacDonald became the president of the United Mine Workers (UMW) Local 4560. He worked at the pier throughout the 1930s.[2]

CCF MLA[edit]

After the UMW strike of 1940, MacDonald wanted labour to have an active voice in the provincial legislature. He served on the Nova Scotia Co-operative Commonwealth Federation's (CCF) governing board known as the provincial council from 1940 until 1951. In 1941, he then ran for and won the CCF's nomination for the provincial electoral district (riding) of Cape Breton South. He won the 1941 provincial election by a mere 62 votes over Liberal incumbent MLA George Mackay Morrison.[4] Being one of only three CCF candidates elected, he became the leader of the CCF party in the Nova Scotia Assembly until 1945.[3]

He ran for re-election in 1945, but lost another close election to Liberal John Smith MacIvor by 330 votes.[5] The CCF lost Cape Breton South, but still retained two seats on the island and in the House of Assembly. His successor as party leader, Russell Cunningham was elected in Cape Breton East in the 1945 election, making up for the loss of Cape Breton South.

Canadian Congress of Labour[edit]

In 1942, he joined the organizing staff of the Canadian Congress of Labour (CCL). After his 1945 loss in the Cape Breton South riding, he became the regional director of the Maritime Provinces.[2] In 1951, he became the CCL's secretary-treasurer and chief executive officer. He was very much a part of the organizational force that created the Canada Labour Congress in 1956.[3]

President of the CLC[edit]

He was elected secretary-treasurer at the 1956 founding convention of the CLC. In 1967, during Canada's Centennial Year, MacDonald was appointed acting president of the CLC in September, due to Claude Jodoin being incapacitated by illness.[1] The position formally became his when he was elected president in a 1968 convention.[1] He served three two year terms and resigned in 1974.[3]

During this period, he became the first non-European to be elected president of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions. He retired in 1974.[2]

Donald MacDonald was recognized for his contribution to Canada's business and political life. On December 22, 1972 he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada.[6] His other honours include: the Canadian Centennial Medal; the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.

After a long battle with cancer, MacDonald died in a hospital, in the nation's capital, Ottawa, on September 25, 1986.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Canadian Press (1986-09-27). "CLC founder earned international acclaim". The Globe and Mail. Toronto: CTVglobemedia. p. D8.
  2. ^ a b c d MacDowell, Laurel Sefton. "MacDonald, Donald". The Canadian Encyclopedia. HISTOR!CA. Retrieved 2007-02-11.
  3. ^ a b c d "Donald MacDonald". Government of Canada. Retrieved 2009-11-06.
  4. ^ "Elections Returns, 1941" (PDF). Elections Nova Scotia. Retrieved 2007-02-11.
  5. ^ "Elections Returns, 1945" (PDF). Elections Nova Scotia. Retrieved 2007-02-11.
  6. ^ "Honours, Order of Canada: Donald MacDonald, O.C., LL.D." Governor General of Canada. Retrieved 2007-02-13.
Nova Scotia House of Assembly
Preceded by
George M. Morrison
Member of the Legislative Assembly
for Cape Breton South

Succeeded by
John Smith MacIvor
Party political offices
New political party Leader of the Nova Scotia
Co-operative Commonwealth Federation

Succeeded by
Russell Cunningham
Trade union offices
Preceded by
Claude Jodoin
President of the Canadian Labour Congress
Succeeded by
Joe Morris