In 1978, Joyal, along with a group of concerned Montreal citizens that included Nick Auf der Maur and Robert Keaton, co-founded the Municipal Action Group ("MAG"). Joyal was particularly well known at the time for having supported L’Association des gens de l’air, a group which was criticizing the lack of spoken French by airport controllers. Joyal led the newly formed MAG and ran for mayor against the incumbent, Jean Drapeau. MAG succeeded in electing one member to Montreal council (auf der Maur), but Drapeau's party won 52 seats. As Joyal had not resigned his federal seat, he returned to Ottawa.
Joyal is an Officer of the Order of Canada, Officer of the National Order of Quebec and is also a Chevalier in France's Légion d’Honneur. He is an expert art collector and appraiser. In recent years, he has used his knowledge of the art world and his influence on the Senate and the government to get Parliament to assemble a collection of original portraits of the kings of France for the period during which Canada was first explored and colonized by France. In 2004, these paintings were placed on the walls of the central block of the Parliament Buildings, as companions to the portraits of the British and then Canadian monarchs who had been the sovereigns of the territories forming Canada since 1763.
1The department was eliminated in 1993 when the government was reorganized. The position of Secretary of State for Canada was not legally eliminated until 1996 when its remaining responsibilities were assigned to other cabinet positions and departments, particularly the newly created position of Minister of Canadian Heritage.