Who was John Deutsch?

John James Deutsch was the first chairman of the Economic Council of Canada and the 14th principal of Queen’s University

Deutsch was a native of Quinton, Saskatchewan, the eldest of 17 children in a Prairie farm family. He graduated from Regina’s Campion College and was a member of its teaching staff from 1930 to 1933 while doing extramural work at the University of Saskatchewan. He won a scholarship to Queen’s and graduated in 1934 with a degree in commerce and economics. He continued postgraduate work in economics until, in 1936 at age 25, he became a research assistant at the newly formed Bank of Canada. A year later he was lent to the Rowell-Sirois Royal Commission on Dominion-Provincial Relations and soon became the Commission’s research director. After the Commission reported in 1940, Dr. Deutsch went back to Queen’s to teach economics, but soon was appointed secretary of the newly formed Canada-United States economic committee. He served later as wartime assistant to Deputy Minister of External Affairs and helped establish Canada’s National Selective Service program.

When the war ended John Deutsch became an editorial writer for the Winnipeg Free Press but within a year was back in the federal field as Secretary to a Royal Commission charged with classifying senior positions in the civil service. In 1947 Prime Minister MacKenzie King picked Dr. Deutsch to negotiate, in secret, a trade agreement with the United States. Deutsch apparently succeeded in negotiating a sweeping liberalization of Canada-U.S. trade, only to have King reject it. In 1953 he became Director of the International Economic Relations division of the Finance Department, a role that gave him the rank of Assistant Deputy Minister. Later the same year he became Secretary of the Treasury Board in Ottawa. But having reached the top in the federal civil service, he yearned for a return to the academic world.

In December 1955, Dr. Deutsch accepted a professorship in the Economics Department at the University of British Columbia. He was soon named head of the department, and he served in that post until 1959 when he returned to Queen’s as Vice-Principal, Administration. Four years later he returned to Ottawa as Chairman of the newly created Economic Council of Canada, an advisory body that took on the role of prodding successive governments into new directions of economic policy. He stayed with the Council until the fall of 1967 when he became principal-elect of Queen’s, succeeding Dr. J.A. Corry as principal in 1968. Dr. Deutsch retired as principal in 1974, but continued on as a professor of Economics, a post he held until his death in 1976.

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