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Don Johnston

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Title: Don Johnston  
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Subject: Jean Chrétien, Herb Gray, John Crosbie, 30th Canadian Parliament, Heenan Blaikie
Collection: 1936 Births, Canadian Queen's Counsel, Commander's Crosses with Star of the Order of Merit of the Republic of Hungary (Civil), Grand Crosses of the Order of the White Double Cross, Independent Liberal Mps in Canada, Lawyers in Quebec, Liberal Party of Canada Leadership Candidates, Liberal Party of Canada Mps, Living People, McGill University Alumni, McGill University Faculty, Members of the House of Commons of Canada from Quebec, Members of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada, Officers of the Order of Canada, Officiers of the Légion D'Honneur, Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development Officials, Politicians from Ottawa, Presidents of the Liberal Party of Canada
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Don Johnston

The Honourable
Don Johnston
The Honourable Donald J. Johnston, P.C., O.C., Q.C. (pictured on left)
4th Secretary-General of the OECD
In office
June 1996 – June 2006
Preceded by Jean-Claude Paye
Succeeded by José Ángel Gurría
President of the Liberal Party of Canada
In office
Preceded by J. J. Michel Robert
Succeeded by Dan Hays
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Saint-Henri—Westmount
In office
Preceded by Charles Mills Drury
Succeeded by David Berger
Personal details
Born Donald James Johnston
(1936-06-26) June 26, 1936
Ottawa, Ontario
Political party Liberal 1978–1988, 1990–present
Independent Liberal 1988
Cabinet Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada (1984)
President of the Treasury Board (1980–1982)
Minister of State for Economic and Regional Development (1983–1984)
Minister of State for Economic Development (1982–1983)
Minister of State for Science and Technology (1982–1984)
Committees Chair, Standing Committee on Public Accounts (1979)

Donald James Johnston, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) from 1996 to 2006.


  • Early life 1
  • Early legal career 2
  • Political career 3
  • OECD 4
  • Current legal career 5
  • Awards and distinctions 6
    • Foreign honours 6.1
  • References 7
  • External links 8

Early life

Donald Johnston was born in Ottawa, Ontario. He attended McGill University receiving his BA and graduating as a Gold Medallist from the University's Faculty of Law in 1958, receiving his BCL. While at McGill, Johnston was an active member of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity. In 1958, Johnston went on to pursue advanced studies in economics and political science in Grenoble.

Early legal career

In 1961, he joined the Montreal based law firm of Stikeman Elliott, practicing business and tax law. In 1973, he was a founding partner of Johnston Heenan Blaikie (now just Heenan Blaikie), along with Roy Heenan and Peter Blaikie. From 1964 to 1977, he was a lecturer in fiscal law in the Faculty of Law of McGill University.

Political career

Johnston was first elected to the Canadian House of Commons in a 1978 by-election in Westmount in Montreal, Quebec, as a candidate of the Liberal Party of Canada. As a member of the cabinet of Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau from 1980 to 1984, Johnston successively held the positions of President of the Treasury Board, Minister of State for Science and Technology, and Minister of State for Economic and Regional Development.

When Trudeau announced his retirement in 1984, Johnston ran to succeed him as Liberal leader and prime minister in that year's Liberal leadership convention. Johnston came in third in a field of seven behind John Turner and Jean Chrétien. Johnston served as Minister of Justice and Attorney General in the short-lived Turner government until its defeat in the 1984 federal election.

In opposition Johnston and Turner split over the issue of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and the Meech Lake Accord: In an attempt to reconcile the divided Liberal caucus on these issues, Turner decided to support the Accord and oppose Free Trade. Johnston was opposed to the Accord and for Free Trade, and, on January 18, 1988, resigned from the Liberal caucus to sit as an "Independent Liberal" until retiring from Parliament when the 1988 general election was called.

Johnston returned to the Liberal fold in 1990, after Turner's resignation as leader, and served two terms as president of the Liberal Party of Canada from 1990 to 1994, seeing the party through its victory in the 1993 general election.


In 1994, the government of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien proposed Johnston for the position of Secretary-General of the OECD. Johnston was elected to the post in November 1994 by the organization's member governments.

As the first non-European to occupy this prestigious position, Johnston began his mandate in 1996 and was elected to a second term in 2001. During his administration, the OECD represented 30 of the most advanced national economies and expanded its engagement to more than 70 non-members, with special country programs for Russia, China, Brazil and India. While the OECD is a forum for macroeconomic policy issues, it also deals with virtually all underlying structural issues including financial markets, trade and investment, taxation and corporate governance.

Under Johnston’s stewardship, the OECD took the global lead in establishing the Principles of Corporate Governance (now the world standard) and revised the Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, the bedrock of what is now known as corporate social responsibility. The Organisation also championed the correction of international harmful tax practices and the international harmonization of competition policy, while at the same time fostering sustainable development, which Johnston introduced to the OECD shortly after his arrival. He also created the Education Directorate which introduced the Program of International Student Assessment (PISA), now the leading reference for international educational comparisons.

OECD recommendations in these areas have been critical in enabling countries to structurally adapt to the challenges of globalization while maximizing its benefits to their economies.

Johnston stepped down from his position at the OECD on May 31, 2006.[1]

Current legal career

In 2006, Johnston rejoined Heenan Blaikie as a member of the International Business Law Group. He focuses his practice on national and international business law, working with clients to expand their businesses in an increasingly complex and competitive global environment. He is a frequent speaker around the world, addressing a broad range of issues including climate change and energy initiatives.

Awards and distinctions

In recognition of his accomplishments at the OECD, Johnston was awarded the Grand Cordon of the Order of the Rising Sun, the second most prestigious Japanese decoration and the highest one that can be bestowed on a non-Japanese citizen. He received the Grand-Croix de l’Ordre de Léopold II, one of the highest honorific distinctions in Belgium, given by royal decree and generally reserved for heads of state. He was also presented with the Commander’s Cross with the Star of the Order of Merit of the Republic by the President of Hungary and the Order of the White Double Cross, First Class, by the President of the Slovak Republic.

In July 2008, Johnston was appointed Officer of the Order of Canada,[2] in recognition of his contributions to public service in Canada as well as his achievements at the OECD. He was made an Officer of the National Order of the Legion of Honour in 2011.[3]

He has also received several honorary doctorates from McGill University,[4] Bishop’s University, University of King’s College, McMaster University and the Economics University of Bratislava, Slovakia.

Johnston is an advisor to and a Director of the McCall MacBain Foundation in Geneva. In addition, from 2006 until 2010, he was Chairman of the International Risk Governance Council (IRGC) in Geneva.

Foreign honours


  • "Canadian Who's Who 1997 entry".  
  1. ^ ",2340,en_2649_201185_34241472_1_1_1_1,00.html". 
  2. ^ "Governor General Announces New Appointments to the Order of Canada". 
  3. ^ "AWARDS TO CANADIANS". Canada Gazette. 
  4. ^ "". 
  5. ^ Slovak republic website, State honours : 1st Class in 2006 (click on "Holders of the Order of the 1st Class White Double Cross" to see the holders' table)

External links

  • Don Johnston – Parliament of Canada biography
Parliament of Canada
Preceded by
Sinclair Stevens
President of the Treasury Board
Succeeded by
Herb Gray
Preceded by
Mark MacGuigan
Minister of Justice
Succeeded by
John Crosbie
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