Richard Johnston (politician)

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Richard Johnston
Ontario MPP
In office
1979–1990
Preceded by Stephen Lewis
Succeeded by Anne Swarbrick
Constituency Scarborough West
Personal details
Born (1946-08-08) August 8, 1946 (age 71)
Pembroke, Ontario
Political party New Democrat
Spouse(s) Vida Zalnieriunas
Residence Prince Edward County
Alma mater Trent University
Profession Social worker

Richard Frank Johnston (born August 8, 1946) is a retired Canadian provincial politician, educator and administrator.

Background[edit]

Johnston was born in Pembroke, Ontario and grew up in Peterborough. As a young man he was active in the Anglican church and at one point considered becoming a priest.[1] In 1964, Johnston enrolled at Trent University being the second person to register at the opening year of the university.[2] He also worked at Trent as an administrator and counsellor. In 1967 he moved to Montreal to write fiction and poetry because as he said, "I couldn't afford Paris."[3] After that he moved to Whitby where he became a social worker specializing in the elderly. He was the founding executive director of community care in Durham Region.[1][4]

Johnston and his wife operate a vineyard and winery in Prince Edward County.[5]

Politics[edit]

Johnston's first association with politics was in the 1970s when he worked as a campaign organizer for Stephen Lewis in Scarborough West. He was the campaign manager for the 1977 election.[6]

When Lewis left politics, Johnston ran to succeed him as the NDP Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) for Scarborough West, winning election to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in a 1979 by-election.[7] Johnston was re-elected three times before he retired in 1990. The only time he faced a serious challenge was in 1981, when he defeated Progressive Conservative John Adams by 375 votes.[8]

He crusaded for improved benefits to the poor and disabled by attempting to live for a month on a "welfare diet" in 1982, limiting his food budget to that of the average person on welfare.[1]

Johnston ran in the 1982 NDP leadership convention to succeed Michael Cassidy. He characterized himself as a 'rank-and-file' candidate who was more in tune with the grassroots of the party in contrast with Bob Rae who had the support of leaders in the party and the trade union movement. Johnston received support from the left wing of the party including MPPs Floyd Laughren, Jim Renwick and Ross McClellan.[9] Johnston promoted a strong anti-nuclear stand and was proponent of nationalizing key industries such as the banks, Bell Canada and natural resource companies such as Inco's mining and smelting operations.[10][11] On February 7, 1982, Rae won on the first ballot with 64.5% of the vote beating Johnston by 844 votes. Johnston was magnanimous in defeat saying of Rae, "a leader with an unparalleled capacity to turn a phrase and turn on a crowd. I will be proud to serve in the Legislature with Bob Rae as my leader."[12]

In the legislature, Johnston served as chair of the NDP caucus and chair of the social development committee during the 1985 to 1987 minority legislature in which the NDP held the balance of power. Johnston, unlike Rae, had originally supported a coalition government with the Liberal Party following the election of 1985.[3]

In 1983, Johnston moved a resolution to declare Ontario a nuclear weapons-free zone but it was defeated, a decision that moved him to tears. In 1987 he introduced a private members bill on the same issue and it was passed with support of all three parties. Only 2 Liberals and 7 Conservatives opposed it.[3][13] He travelled to Nicaragua to help build a school and medical facility.[14] In 1987, he presented a report to the legislature, Toward a New Ontario, which recommended an overhaul of the existing social assistance system.

In 1990, Johnston decided to retire from politics. He said that after suffering a heart attack in 1984 he wanted to pursue a career that was easier on his health.[15]

After politics[edit]

Following his departure from politics, Johnston returned to academia serving as chair of the Ontario Council of Regents for the Ontario Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology from 1991 to 1995. He then served as president of the First Nations Technical Institute on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory from 1995 until 1998 as well as a member of Trent University's board of directors. Johnston served as president of Centennial College in Scarborough from 1998 until 2004.[5]

In 2006, he was appointed to the board of trustees for OPSEU's pension trust.[5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Stead, Sylvia (June 30, 1984). "NDP's Johnston takes risks to highlight issues". The Globe and Mail. p. 18. 
  2. ^ "2007 Distinguished Alumni Award Winners". Trent University. Archived from the original on January 13, 2014. Retrieved January 13, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c Contenta, Sandro (March 23, 1986). "'Red Richard' fights for the poor". Toronto Star. p. D1. 
  4. ^ "Richard Johnston to be roasted and toasted at farewell dinner". Ottawa: Canada NewsWire. June 14, 2004. p. 1. 
  5. ^ a b c "OPTrust Appoints Two New Trustees to Help Govern $10.5 Billion Pension Plan". Ottawa: Canada NewsWire. January 16, 2006. p. 1. 
  6. ^ Mosher, Peter (March 28, 1979). "The Other Election 3 candidates using Ottawa to gain votes". The Globe and Mail. p. 4. 
  7. ^ "Scarborough West, Wentworth held by NDP's Johnston, Isaacs". The Globe and Mail. Toronto. April 6, 1979. p. 1. 
  8. ^ Canadian Press (1981-03-20). "Election results for Metro Toronto ridings". The Windsor Star. Windsor, Ontario. p. 22. Retrieved 2014-01-14. 
  9. ^ Speirs, Rosemary (September 25, 1981). "Johnston enters NDP contest". The Globe and Mail. p. 5. 
  10. ^ Stead, Sylvia (October 22, 1981). "Three NDP candidates differ on nuclear policy". The Globe and Mail. p. 2. 
  11. ^ "The NDP picks a leader". The Globe and Mail. February 5, 1982. p. 6. 
  12. ^ Stead, Sylvia (February 8, 1982). "New Ontario NDP leader Rae promises to fight MDs over salaries". The Globe and Mail. p. P1. 
  13. ^ "Ontario declares itself nuclear-arms-free zone". The Windsor Star. November 14, 1986. p. A8. 
  14. ^ "From 'Red Richard' to college president". Toronto Star. March 20, 1999. p. 1. 
  15. ^ "Scarborough MPP planning to retire". Toronto Star. February 2, 1990. p. A12. 

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