John Godfrey

John Ferguson Godfrey, PC CM (born December 19, 1942) is a Canadian educator, journalist and former Member of Parliament.

John Godfrey

Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Don Valley West
In office
October 25, 1993  August 1, 2008
Preceded byJohn Bosley
Succeeded byRob Oliphant
Personal details
Born (1942-12-19) December 19, 1942
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Political partyLiberal
Spouse(s)Trish Bongard
ProfessionEconomist, historian, journalist, editor, administrator
PortfolioMinister of State for Infrastructure and Communities (2004-2006)


Godfrey was born in Toronto, Ontario. His father, Senator John Morrow Godfrey (June 28, 1912 – March 8, 2001), was a Canadian pilot, lawyer and politician. John Godfrey graduated from Upper Canada College in 1960.[1] In 1961, he attended the Neuchâtel Junior College in Neuchâtel, Switzerland.[2]

In 1965, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Trinity College, University of Toronto and in 1967, he received a Master of Philosophy from Balliol College, Oxford and Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) from St Antony's College, Oxford in 1975. He worked as an economist, historian and journalist. In the mid-1970s Godfrey was a history professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax. He served as president of the University of King's College from 1977-87. From 1987 to 1991 he was editor of the Financial Post.


He was elected to the House of Commons of Canada as the Liberal Member of Parliament (MP) for the Toronto area riding of Don Valley West in the 1993 election, and was re-elected in each subsequent vote until his retirement from federal politics in 2008.[3]

During the 1995 Quebec referendum, Godfrey had an acquaintance perform a psychiatric evaluation of separatist leader Lucien Bouchard.[4]

In 1996, he and fellow Liberal MP Peter Milliken introduced the Godfrey–Milliken Bill a parody of the American Helms–Burton Act. The gesture received extensive media coverage including in the United States, where Godfrey was featured on the CBS program 60 Minutes. From 1996 to 2004, Godfrey served as a Parliamentary Secretary under Prime Minister Jean Chrétien.

Minister of State for Infrastructure and Communities

In 2003, Paul Martin succeeded Chrétien as Liberal leader and prime minister. Following the subsequent 2004 election, Godfrey, among other key Martin allies, was appointed to the Cabinet in the role of Minister of State for Infrastructure and Communities. In this role, he was primarily responsible for overseeing the "New Deal for Cities", Federation of Canadian Municipalities relationship, and other initiatives in Canadian federal-municipal relations. This role was considered a keystone of Martin's industrial strategy.

According to Auditor General of Canada Sheila Fraser, Canada lags far behind the US and UK in municipal performance audits for government, in applying its own statements to procurement, and in direct federal standards applying to municipal operations. Godfrey was tasked with dealing with these substantial problems, a role complicated by the fact that, constitutionally, provinces in Canada have formal jurisdiction over cities and municipalities, and have blocked most necessary changes in funding and operations. This is markedly different from in the US where the General Accounting Office has applied specific accounting standards, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency has required specific upgrades to city emergency responses. As in major American cities, federal support of a municipal emergency response is a problem of particular concern in Godfrey's home city of Toronto, following the SARS outbreak, the August 2003 blackout and smog and snow crises. Toronto is also considered to be the primary target for any asymmetric warfare/terrorist attack on Canada.

As an additional complexity, Canadian cities faced with gridlock and smog problems due to commuting and urban sprawl, now face Kyoto Accord requirements to cut greenhouse gas output.

To deal with these problems, on a national level, Godfrey was directly involved in negotiations regarding climate change auditing and other municipal performance indicators that would apply at least to cities in Canada, and eventually to all municipalities.

Liberal leadership

On February 3, 2006, CBC Newsworld's Don Newman announced on air that Godfrey was planning a run for the Liberal Party leadership.[5] Godfrey declared his candidacy on Goldhawk Live on March 19, shortly after the rules and convention date were set. Media reaction was positive, but competed with coverage of Ashley MacIsaac, who declared his intention to run to the Halifax Daily News the next day.

In the early stages of the campaign he was recurrently cited as exemplar of intellectualism in the race, being one of three former university professors in the running. Name-recognition remained a challenge, but Godfrey received plaudits in the Canadian blogosphere[6] for his performance in the first all-candidates meeting at the Liberal Party of Alberta convention on April 8.

On April 12, 2006, Godfrey announced his withdrawal from the race, due to concerns about his health.[7] On October 20, 2006, Godfrey announced his support for Bob Rae for the federal Liberal leadership. He made the announcement at the National Press Club, on the occasion of a speech by Rae on the environment.

Leaving politics

Godfrey announced in November 2007, that he would be resigning his seat in parliament on July 1, 2008 and would leave earlier if an election were called before that date. He subsequently delayed his resignation date until August 1. The Conservative Party alleged that the Liberals chose to delay the by-election for financial reasons[8] though Godfrey's office stated that the delay was due to a private members bill Godfrey had worked on not being given Royal Assent until June 26.[9]

On June 17, in a point of order following Question Period, Godfrey gave his resignation speech to the House of Commons.[10]

Headmaster of the Toronto French School

John Godfrey left politics to become Headmaster of the Toronto French School, a prestigious independent school in the Lawrence Park area with two campuses in Toronto. He held the position from 2008 until resigning in June 2014.[11]


  1. "UCC community members join Order of Canada". Upper Canada College. 2019-01-17. Retrieved 2019-11-19.
  2. Canadian Who's Who. 1997.
  3. "Results may be more complete than as published Riding-by-riding results from across Canada Ontario Algoma". Toronto Star. October 26, 1993. p. B10.
  4. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2005-05-03. Retrieved 2006-04-14.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  5. (.ram)
  6. "Poor health pushes Godfrey from Liberal race". CBC News. April 12, 2006. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
  7. Ivison, John, "Liberal war chest on credit", National Post, July 9, 2008. Retrieved 2014-06-04.
  8. "Candidates girding for byelection calls", Hill Times, July 14, 2008
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