A Tribute to Don Brown - Richard Pickering
I recently spent an enjoyable afternoon with Don learning about his history with the NDP.
A native of Hamilton, Don studied math and physics at McMaster University. While there he had an opportunity to attend a World Student Christian conference in Kansas. He was impressed by the participants’ commitment to social justice and he resolved to make his own contribution. After his undergraduate studies he went on to Trinity College to study for the Anglican ministry, finishing in 1951. Don spent two years as an assistant priest in the parish of St. George’s in St. Catharines where he met Sheila. They were married in 1953. After four years in Elora (St. John’s) and two years in Hamilton (St. Mark’s) they moved with their 3 children Christine, David and Andrew, to Merritt B.C. in 1960 where Don was Vicar of the Anglican Church. (St. Michael).
Their first “brush” with politics occurred in Merritt when the local NDP riding association asked Sheila to run in the election. She declined but they had not eluded the NDP as the candidate frequently came by asking for advice about his speeches.
In 1965 they moved to Edmonton (St. Luke’s) where they “caught” Trudeau mania. At a Liberal Party rally Don was inspired by the energy and enthusiasm, and their son, David, even shook hands with Trudeau. Don did some leafleting but there was no party allegiance yet!
Don left the ministry in 1968 to study community development at the University of Alberta to better understand social inequities of which he had become increasing aware. This was especially apparent where aboriginal populations intersected with white communities.
In 1970 Don was invited to join the social action ministries in the National Program office at the headquarters of the Anglican Church of Canada in Toronto, a unique opportunity to employ his new knowledge. Together with other church activists he was part of delegations to Ottawa advocating for social reforms; low income housing and poverty reduction.
Having returned to Ontario, Don and Sheila bought 3/4 acres of land from Don’s sister and brother-in-law in Flamborough, and built a house on the Millgrove Side Road. Commuting to Toronto left little time for community activities from 1970 to retirement in 1989. Don and Sheila now live in Waterdown.
Politics surfaced again for Don in the 1990 provincial election when Don Abel was the NDP candidate – who went on to victory! Don and Sheila participated in rallies, a parade and leafleting. Their daughter, Christine, was already part of the local NDP riding association and was responsible for bringing Don into the provincial riding association in 1992, when he became one of the Chief Financial Officers (CFO).
In 1997 he accepted the role of CFO in Jessica Brennan’s federal campaign. He was the CFO in two successive Jessica Brennan campaigns. Don was the CFO of the provincial riding association until 2005 and has worked in all campaigns since starting with NDP in 1992.
Now that he has stepped back from his active role in the executive he sees more clearly the need for examination of the party’s future direction.
Don has also been active on the coordinating committee of the Hamilton Chapter of Canadian Organic Growers where he was treasurer for 14 years. It was one of the first organization he joined after retiring in 1989 and he is still involved though less actively than he once was.
He is also the bookkeeper for Organic Food Conferences Canada, the body which hosts the annual Guelph Organic Conference and Trade Show; and one of the founding directors of Positive Power Cooperative Inc. of which he was director/ treasurer for three years.
Some of Don’s suggestions for the NDP:
Spend less time and energy criticizing and more on coming up with better ideas: criticize policy not people
Run a “no fouls” (i.e. positive) campaign
Develop clear policy statements emphasizing values of the NDP: justice, compassion, truth and equality
In the midst of power politics keep a human perspective in policies and actions.
When we describe those whose circumstances we are trying to improve we need to be careful about who may be left out.
We thank you, Don, for all you have done for the riding and the NDP! Keep the ideas and suggestions coming!