Former Canadian Broadcasting Corp. president Albert Johnson died Monday in Ottawa after a lengthy illness. He was 87.
Johnson, a career civil servant, headed the CBC from 1975 to 1982. The Saskatchewan native found the work brought him back to his roots in Regina, when he started in government under Premier Tommy Douglas.
He was president and chair of the board of CBC, Canada’s national pubcaster, from 1975 to 1982 and was committed to the notion that the public broadcaster was key to maintaining the country’s national identity.
“If there hadn’t been a CBC, I wouldn’t have had any real sense of Canada, or of being Canadian, when I was growing up,” he’s quoted as saying in his biography at awjohnson.net. “In broadcast terms, programs which strengthen our institutions, news about national celebrations, Parliament, religious services, historical shows, music and sports events all constitute a kind of social glue of one kind or another reinforcing the sense of belonging to our country.”
When the pubcaster came under attack, Johnson made a number of speeches in the late ’70s, saying “I believe the CBC to be the single most important institution for Canadianism outside the Parliament of Canada.”
After he left CBC, Johnson became a teacher, scholar, and policy consultant, teaching at Queen’s U. and the U. of Toronto. He later developed and directed the South Africa-Canada program on governance. In 2004, he published the book, “Dream No Little Dreams: A Biography of the Douglas Government of Saskatchewan, 1944-1961.”
Survivors include his wife, Ruth, two sons and two daughters and a granddaughter.