James Armstrong Richardson

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James Armstrong Richardson, Jr.
Born James Armstrong Richardson
March 28, 1922
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Died May 17, 2004
Winnipeg, Manitoba
Nationality Canadian
Other names The Honourable James Armstrong Richardson
Occupation Member of Parliament, Canada; Cabinet Minister, politician, benefactor, grain merchant
Known for Grain exporting
Spouse(s) Shirley (m. )

James Armstrong Richardson, PC (March 28, 1922 – May 17, 2004) was a Canadian Cabinet minister under Pierre Trudeau, and a Winnipeg businessman.

Early life[edit]

Richardson was born on March 28, 1922 in Winnipeg, Manitoba to James Armstrong Richardson, Sr. and Muriel (nee) Sprague. He attended St. John's-Ravenscourt School.[1] He attended Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, and earned a B.A. in Political Science and Economics.[2]

World War II[edit]

After university, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force. He served as an anti-submarine pilot based in Iceland and Labrador during World War II. He finished his war service with the rank of pilot officer. For his service, he was awarded the following: War Medal 1939-1945 the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal with Overseas Clasp, the 1939-1945 Star and the Atlantic Star.[3]

Business pursuits[edit]

Following the war, Richardson joined the family owned grain company, James Richardson and Sons, and became Chief Executive Officer and chairman in 1966.


He left the company to enter politics, winning a seat in the Canadian House of Commons in the 1968 election as the Liberal Member of Parliament for Winnipeg South. Richardson easily defeated future provincial cabinet minister Bud Sherman, his Progressive Conservative opponent.

Richardson was appointed to the cabinet of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau as a minister without portfolio on June 6, 1968. He also served as acting Minister of Transport for five days in early 1969, and was promoted to Minister of Supply and Services on June 5 of the same year. From November 27, 1972, until October 12, 1976, he was Minister of National Defence.[4]

Richardson was re-elected without difficulty in the 1972 election. In the 1974 election, he defeated future Premier of Manitoba Sterling Lyon by only 1,266 votes.

Resignation from Trudeau cabinet[edit]

In 1976, Richardson resigned from the Trudeau cabinet over a language issue in the Canadian Constitution. Discussions were underway in that timeframe for Canada to bring home its constitution which was held by Britain. The constitution, then referred to as the British North America Act of 1867, was the act of British Parliament to bring the provinces of Canada together as the Canadian confederation. Britain intended to hand over the constitution in 1931, but Canada could not agree on a means to enact amendments.[5] Richardson claimed that Trudeau was to allow Quebec perpetual veto power over "any future amendments to the constitution concerning language rights" Richardson was referring to a 1971 proposal which enabled Quebec or Ontario separate veto powers but did not allow the other, smaller provinces, the same power.[6] As late as 1981, the debate over veto power continued with the smaller provinces preferring "opt out" language which would enable them to not apply amendments in their territory.[5] In ensuring provincial negotiations, the veto clauses were removed from the constitution which was backed by the Supreme Court of Canada.[7]

Business Liberal[edit]

Richardson was known as a "business Liberal", on the right wing of the party. He clashed with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau over his plans to patriate the Canadian Constitution and resigned from Cabinet in 1976 to protest the government's implementation of official bilingualism.[4] In 1978, he left the Liberal caucus entirely and crossed the floor (by actually physically crossing it) to sit as an Independent MP for the remainder of his term. He unsuccessfully attempted to form a new political party, the One Canada Party,[8] but that floundered and he was not a candidate in the 1979 election. Richardson endorsed Joe Clark's Progressive Conservative Party in the 1980 federal election.[4]

Post political life[edit]

After leaving elected politics, Richardson helped found the Canada West Council and served on a number of corporate boards. He also created James Richardson International, the successor company to James Richardson & Sons.[4]

In 1987, Richardson announced his support for the newly created Reform Party of Canada. He was the brother of Agnes Benidickson, former Chancellor of Queen's University and brother-in-law of former Liberal MP and Cabinet minister William Moore Benidickson.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Memorable Manitobans James Armstrong Richardson (1922-2004)". Manitoba Historical Society. Manitoba Historical Society. Retrieved May 4, 2015. 
  2. ^ "THE RICHARDSON". Winnipeg Free Press. Winnipeg Free Press. Retrieved May 4, 2015. 
  3. ^ "Parliament Info". RICHARDSON, The Hon. James Armstrong, P.C., B.A. PARLIAMENT of CANADA. 
  4. ^ a b c d "James Richardson dead at 82" by Aldo Santin, CanWest News Service, May 18, 2004
  5. ^ a b "Trudeau says constitution accord near". The Spokesman-Review. November 1, 1981. 
  6. ^ UPI-CP (October 14, 1976). "Richardson Quits in a Huff on Language". Montreal Gazette. 
  7. ^ Campbell, Charles (January 9, 1983). "Quebec leader trying to regain veto he gave away last month". The Spokesman Review. 
  8. ^ "Rival trying to steal his men, Socred says", by Mary Trueman, Globe and Mail, January 24, 1979

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