During his more than sixty years in journalism, politics and public relations, Robert MacBain has built up a vast deposit of knowledge, experience and perspective.
MacBain spent almost 28 years as a well-regarded public relations consultant providing counsel and service to the Chief Executive Officers of major corporations, financial institutions, government departments, hospitals, social service agencies and trade and professional associations.
A systematic approach to crisis communication management – which he developed and applied to the baby deaths investigations at the Hospital for Sick Children, the controversial municipal water contamination issue at the Uniroyal Chemical Ltd. plant in Elmira and other high-profile cases – was required reading at the School of Business and Economics at Wilfrid Laurier University.
On the political front, MacBain was director of communications for the 1974 national Liberal campaign, communications adviser to Revenue Minister Ron Basford, central media adviser in the 1975 Ontario campaign, speech writer for Economic Development Minister Don Johnston in the 1984 Liberal leadership campaign and speech writer for David Peterson in the game-changing 1985 Ontario campaign.
MacBain dropped out of the Journalism program at the Ryerson Institute of Technology before finishing the first year and went to work for $40 a week as a reporter at the Barrie Examiner. He moved on to the St. Catharines Standard, Edmonton Journal and the Calgary Herald. He then became a senior reporter at the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail and the Telegram. He topped off his successful career in journalism as news director of Toronto radio station 1050 CHUM.
Robert MacBain was born in Inverness, Scotland, on March 30, 1937. His father was the ballroom manager of the town’s largest hotel and abandoned him when he was nine to live with his pregnant girlfriend in London. MacBain and his single mother moved to Canada in 1947.
During his first three years in Toronto, MacBain lived in seven different houses and attended four different schools.
MacBain dropped out of Grade 8 two months after he turned 14, left home and went to work on a dairy farm near Toronto. He then worked as a butcher’s delivery boy, service station attendant, coach building apprentice, ranch hand, retail sales clerk, apprentice mechanic, door-to-door salesman, auto parts cleaner, and shipping clerk.
When MacBain was 18, he went forward at a Billy Graham crusade in Toronto and became a born-again Christian. He attended Toronto Bible College for one year and picked up four papers of Grade 12. After considerable study of the Bible and other books, MacBain became a confirmed agnostic.
MacBain then went to work as a dump truck driver, earthmoving equipment operator, and tractor-trailer driver. He also spent six weeks in the Royal Canadian Air Force where he was required to bark: “56360, MacBain, Sir!”
Despite his lack of formal education, MacBain was admitted to the Journalism program at the Ryerson Institute of Technology when he was 23. He was bored out of his mind at Ryerson and spent most of his time rehearsing as a lead singer in RIOT ’61 — a school musical.
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Robert MacBain lives in the Upper Beach area of Toronto with his wife of 40 years – former International Cooperation Minister Maria Minna.