Manitoba Historical Society
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Manitoba History: The Remarkable Career of David A. Golden

by Hugh Grant
Department of Economics, University of Winnipeg

Number 67, Winter 2012

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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David A. Golden is a member of two extraordinary, albeit informal, clubs. He is part of an outstanding generation of individuals that emerged out of the unique culture of north end Winnipeg and went on to accomplished careers in a variety of fields. Golden’s tastes ran not to journalism (as they did for Larry Zolf and Max Freedman), science (Maurice Victor and Louis Slotin), ice cream entrepreneurship (Irvine Robbins), television entertainment (Maurice Halperin, better known as Monty Hall), opera (Morley Meredith, born Morley Margolis) or literature (Jack Ludwig, Miriam Waddington and Adele Wiseman). He did flirt with a career in law (à la Max Cohen, Allan Gotlieb and Samuel Freedman) but, as with Gotlieb and Sylvia (Knelman) Ostry and Bernard Ostry, he would enter public service. [1]

Arriving in Ottawa in 1951, he joined the second remarkable group, the Canadian civil service, at the height of its well won reputation for excellence. As Deputy Minister of the Department of Defence Production (1954–1962) he would serve under the iconic C. D. Howe and then persevere through the turbulent years of the Diefenbaker Government. Returning briefly as Deputy Minister of the Department of Industry (1963–1964), he left the civil service to become President of Air Industries Association of Canada (1962–1963, 1964–1969), and then the first President of Telesat Canada (1969–1980). For this later role, he is rightfully considered to be among the founders of the Canadian space program.

His passage from one club to the other was anything but easy.

David A. Golden, at the time of his 1941 graduation with a law degree from the University of Manitoba
Source: Golden family

Growing Up In Winnipeg’s North End

David Golden was born in 1920 to Russian immigrants who had fled the pogroms for the Canadian prairies. Sholem Wilfrid Golden (1885–1970), grew up in southern Russia where his father was the manager of a nobleman’s estate. He left to train as a dental technician in Europe before coming to Winnipeg in 1905. Rose Pearlman (1890–1987) was born in what is now Belarus, and arrived in Winnipeg in 1906 where she found immediate employment in a pickle factory. Sholem and Rose married in 1914 and would raise four children—Don, Esther, David and Frances.

Sholem—a Yiddishist, a charmer, a teller of tales, a speaker of five languages, and a self-educated intellectual—had an abundance of virtues but none that prepared him very well for earning a living. Rose’s brother-in-law, Shimon Stoffman, a successful businessman, set Sholem up in various ventures, mostly small stores in rural areas. All of them failed. The most successful undertaking was in Vancouver where he ran an insurance agency, but this was abandoned on the grounds that it was too parochial. When the Depression struck, the family was living in Montreal and soon destitute. Rescued by relatives once again, they returned to Winnipeg in 1931. Sholem would not work much afterwards, leaving Rose to hold the family together. [2]

David Golden’s youth was thus spent in various parts of the country. Born in Sinclair (in the extreme southwest corner of Manitoba), then raised in Vancouver and Montreal, he landed back in Winnipeg at the age of eleven. Despite the family’s extreme financial hardship, education was highly valued and like many of the children in the neighbourhood, Golden was sent to a Jewish parochial school. He attended the famous I. L. Peretz Folk School for an hour each day after public school ended, where he would study Yiddish language, culture and history. [3] The school reflected the secular, left-wing culture of the Jewish community in the north end—this was, after all, the neighbourhood that elected Bill Ross (Cecil Zuken) to the local school board, Jacob Penner and Joseph Zuken to Winnipeg City Council, and James Litterick and W. A. Kardash to the Manitoba legislature—all members of the Communist Party of Canada. [4]

To pay for Grade 12 (then the equivalent of first-year university Arts), Golden had a paper route, worked at the race track and sold the Daily Racing Form to local punters. From this he saved the $50 tuition to attend a private school in a rented second floor of a house in the north end run by two women who were unable to get jobs in the public school system. In order to meet the greater cost of university, he borrowed $200 from his uncle, Samuel Perlman, a legendary figure in the north end. Perlman was a gifted athlete and talented writer who sought a career as a sports journalist. In 1923 he approached the Winnipeg Free Press to offer his services as a reporter on the New York Yankees-New York Giants World Series in return for a press pass to the Polo Grounds. This led to a regular job as a sports writer for the Free Press until he decided to start the Winnipeg Sports and Turf Digest. When the Daily Racing Form noticed the decline in its Winnipeg sales figures, it offered Perlman a job and he would in short order become its editor and a leading figure in the North American thoroughbred racing industry. [5]

With his uncle’s financial support, Golden enrolled in Law School at the University of Manitoba which, unlike the Medical School, had no quota on the number of Jewish students. [6] He graduated in 1941—claiming a Rhodes Scholarship to go along with his law degree—at the precocious age of twenty-one.

The Long Road to Ottawa

Due to the war, attending Oxford was out of the question; but rather than embarking on a career as a lawyer, Golden enlisted in the Canadian army. He was sent to Brockville to train, then back to Winnipeg to join the Winnipeg Grenadiers as “intelligence officer” (a term he politely describes as an oxymoron where the army was concerned) and eventually rose to the rank of Captain. After another brief training stint in Jamaica, he expected to be sent to England as part of the Fourth Canadian Expeditionary Force, but ended up in the ill-conceived and ill-fated mission to Hong Kong designed to “bluff” the Japanese into not invading. Larry Zolf recalls the day in December 1941 when the entire Winnipeg regiment was captured and “my father in tears when he learned that his prized pupil at the Peretz School … had become a Japanese prisoner of war in Hong Kong.” After surviving three years and eight months in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp, “a starved, skeletal David Golden finally returned to Winnipeg [and] my father told me to never forget David Golden’s suffering.” [7]

Golden wasted no time in putting his future in order. He immediately arranged to be admitted to the bar and received a flattering offer from Samuel Freedman to enter into a partnership. (Freedman, also a Rhodes Scholar, had been practising since 1933. He would be appointed to the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench in 1942, the Court of Appeal in 1960 and would serve as its Chief Justice from 1971 until his retirement in 1983.) Golden accepted the offer on the condition that he first take up his scholarship at Oxford. Then he met and wooed Molly Berger, and the two were married in July 1946. The firm of Freedman and Golden would prove to be short-lived, but the partnership of Golden and Berger has endured for nearly 65 years.

Deciding to take up the scholarship at Oxford, the newlyweds eventually settled into a cottage in a new A. A. Milne-inspired housing development near Botley. Located on the small laneway of “Third Acre Rise”, to their amusement the cottage was named “Winnipeg” after the owner’s two daughters, Winnie and Peg. Golden “went through the motions” at Queen’s College but, as a practising lawyer, felt somewhat out of place as a student. At the suggestion of Dick Hunter, he decided to sit the Canadian civil service examination for External Affairs in London. Posting top of the class, he drew the attention and praise of Norman Robertson and Douglas LePan and promptly received a telegram directing him to report for duty forthwith to London as a Foreign Service Officer, Grade 3. He deferred but never declined the appointment, thus allowing him to later boast to his colleagues in Ottawa that he was the senior ranking official in External Affairs.

After eight months in England, Golden grew impatient and the couple returned to Winnipeg in 1947. They bought a house on Queenston Street and Molly gave birth to their first child, Mark. Two other children would follow, Peter born in 1952 and Sari in 1954. Golden settled into what he expected to be a long and fruitful career as a lawyer, practising with Freedman and teaching at the University of Manitoba Law School.

In 1951, however, a friend of Freedman dropped by the office and asked if Golden would be interested in joining the newly-formed Department of Defence Production (DDP) as the head of a small legal branch. Golden deemed the idea of disrupting his family in order to move to Ottawa as “ridiculous” but was surprised when upon consulting Molly, she said, “Why not?” Invited to Ottawa to discuss the matter he was told by C. D. Howe that young men who worked for him “do pretty well” and Golden was persuaded to try things for a year. Howe was not wrong, and Golden would extend his stay in Ottawa for 55 years.

Officers of the Winnipeg Grenadiers are photographed aboard a ship returning them to Canada after their release after 3½ years in Japanese prison camps. Front row (L- R): Major E. Hodkinson; Lt.-Col. G. Trist, Major J. A. Bailie. Back Row (L- R): Capt. R. W. Philip, Lt. L. B. Corrigan, Captain D. A. Golden, Captain T. A. Blackwood, YMCA Supervisor George Porteous.
Source: University of Winnipeg Archives, Western Canada Pictorial Index, A0592, 18620.

Civil Servant

The 1950s were busy times in the Canadian defence industry with the large procurements for re-armament in the climate of the Cold War and in the wake of the formation of NATO and later NORAD. The DDP was charged with inspecting and building defence projects, buying supplies on behalf of the Department of National Defence, coordinating all economic and industrial facilities necessary for military and civil defence, and assuming responsibility for five Crown Corporations (including Eldorado Mining and Refining and Polymer Corporation). Its mandate also extended to the supervision of the production and sale of essential commodities, such as steel and uranium. Golden learned on the job, meeting daily with Howe to draft defence contracts, to issue certificates for accelerated depreciation to private firms, and to approve the use of controlled materials for the construction of everything from a warehouse to a railway line. He found himself rapidly promoted from Director of the Legal Branch to General Counsel, and to Assistant Deputy Minister. Then, in September 1954, just three years after arriving in Ottawa and at the age of 34, he became the youngest Deputy Minister in Ottawa. [8]

The senior civil service in Ottawa at the time was dominated by Anglophone, Oxbridge- or Harvard-educated, Protestant men. [9] Golden qualified on the basis of language, education and gender; however, knowledge of Yiddish was hardly a common attribute. Indeed, he was only the second Jew to be appointed a Deputy Minister in Canada (preceded by Charles Gavsie in 1951). It proved not to be an important barrier, either in work or in social life, but it is notable that institutions such as the Rideau Club still had a restricted membership. It was not until 1964 that Golden, Louis Rasminsky (Governor of the Bank of Canada), Bernard Alexander (a prominent lawyer), and Lawrence Freiman (head of Ottawa’s largest department store and patron of the arts) were asked to apply for membership. [10]

After the defeat of the Liberal Government in 1957, C. D. Howe was succeeded by two weak ministers. The first was Howard Green, who Golden found to be remarkably ill-informed about the defence industry, often seeking to place contracts with British suppliers when technical expertise in the field had long since passed to the United States. Despite their strained relations, Green was astute enough to follow the advice received and boasted to a Cabinet colleague that he had the ideal man in place: “He shouts and screams and rants and bangs the table and tells me exactly what to do. And after I’ve made a decision, he says ‘Yes sir,’ and goes out and does exactly what I asked him to do.” Golden deserves much credit for what Peter C. Newman describes as Green’s “remarkably good record” in DDP, “particularly in fending off backbenchers seeking pork-barrel contracts.” [11]

Green was followed after a year by the amiable but ill-equipped J. Raymond O’Hurley. Picked by Duplessis to run in the Federal Quebec riding of Lotbinière, O’Hurley was the mayor of a small town and the woods manager for an absentee seigneury owner. By his own admission, “There is a vast difference between the outdoor life I knew and my job now which forces me to remain long hours cooped up in an office.” [12] But with few francophone ministers from whom to choose, Prime Minister Diefenbaker appointed him as Minister of DDP. Richard Bell, a Cabinet minister from Ontario, recalls that Diefenbaker’s appointments from Quebec were “disastrous … O’Hurley was one of the most genial, delightful men I have ever known in my life, but way out of his depth in Defence Production trying to deal with the business community.” [13]

This was the source of some amusement and much frustration for his Deputy Minister. Because O’Hurley’s former employer was a military officer, he would salute everyone in Ottawa above the rank of Major; and when taken on a trip to France, it took the distinguished Parisian woman seated beside him at a formal dinner several minutes to realize that he was conversing with her in his own version of French. The frustration came from the fact that, according to Golden, his knowledge of the defence industry was even less than Green’s: “He knew nothing!” With O’Hurley expecting to award contracts purely on the basis of political patronage, Golden was obliged to school him on the nature of the tendering process and, on a few occasions, to save him from awarding contracts to obvious crooks and charlatans who happened to hold the correct party affiliation. When Golden resigned his post, O’Hurley, with tears in his eyes, spoke in a heart-felt manner as to how his Deputy Minister had kept him out of trouble.

Despite the trials and tribulations, Golden contributed to many important accomplishments, including the Defence Production Sharing Agreement signed in 1956. Canadian industry was at a clear disadvantage in competing for North American military contracts: Canada relied upon American firms for most end products, but the reverse was untrue. With significant effort, he convinced the Americans that a special arrangement was necessary to allow Canadian primary contractors, but more frequently sub-contractors, to gain access to US military contracts under the veiled threat that if the US did not do so, it might risk losing an important ally to the north. After undertaking this initiative, Golden politely asked the Cabinet secretary to relay to the Cabinet what he was up to.

It was the cancellation of the contract for the Avro Arrow, however, that generated the most controversy during his tenure at the DDP. Many of the myths, misrepresentations and obfuscations surrounding the event still perplex him to this day. Golden applauds the “gutsy” decision of the Canadian armed forces to “go it alone” in seeking to create its own manned interceptor that entailed a new aircraft, a new engine, and a new weapons system. But according to technical advice in the military, despite the good engineering that went into the effort, A. V. Roe could not meet the design requirements. The aircraft was heavier than planned and thus did not have the necessary range for northern Canada where there was limited ground control; the new engine was not operational; and the fire-control system had yet to be built. It was on these grounds that Golden uttered his famous statement to a CBC reporter: “As a fighting instrument of war, which must include an aircraft, an engine and a sophisticated fire-control system, then of course there never was an Arrow.” [14]

The more compelling argument against the Arrow was that even if the design problems were overcome, it would simply cost too much: to build and deploy several would have, within existing budget appropriations, left virtually no money for the army and navy. Crawford Gordon’s last-minute offer to sell the Arrow at a fixed price was, according to Golden, “not worth the paper it was written on.”

It was left to Robert Bryce (Clerk of the Privy Council and Cabinet Secretary) and Golden (since the DDP was the contracting agency) to draft Diefenbaker’s speech in the House of Commons cancelling the contract. Diefenbaker delivered it in his inimitable style—getting several pages mixed up but thinking quickly on his feet in order to get across the gist of the argument that the age of the manned interceptor was over. When DDP informed A. V. Roe that the contract was cancelled, the company immediately fired some 11,800 workers at its Malton plant in order to extract the greatest political punishment. The Conservatives elected no members from the greater Toronto area in the next election, even though Golden suggests the previous Liberal Government would also have abandoned the project.

The confusion and chaos that reigned within the Diefenbaker Cabinet at times reached extraordinary proportions. In cancelling the Arrow project, Diefenbaker announced that Canada would accept the installation of American Bomarc ground-to-air missiles at two locations to defend against possible Soviet aggression, but he deferred the decision on whether or not to accept nuclear warheads. In the early stages of the critical debate on whether or not to allow nuclear weapons on Canadian soil, many ministers were not speaking to each other. The rift between External Affairs (where Green, having taken over after the sudden death of Sidney Smith, was opposed to nuclear warheads) and National Defence (where George Pearkes and then Douglas Harkness insisted that they were necessary to meet Canada’s NATO and NORAD commitments) was particularly deep. In a private conversation with E. Davie Fulton, Minister of Justice, it became apparent to Golden that Fulton and other Cabinet members were debating the issue without understanding that the Bomarc missile was of no use unless equipped with a nuclear payload.

Golden credits Bryce with holding the Conservative government together during its darkest days. Bryce epitomized the dedicated civil servant. Sylvia Ostry recounts a representative story: One day when he received a telephone call from a minister complaining of his threadbare carpet, Bryce simply directed his secretary to roll up his own carpet and deliver it to the Minister’s office. During normal times, it was commonplace for Deputy Ministers to seek Bryce’s advice on how to proceed on a particular matter; Bryce would respond by suggesting the appropriate course of action, whether it be for the minister to place the issue before Cabinet or carrying the message himself. Golden and Bryce developed a close friendship, often spending the last hour of the workday sharing a drink of Scotch and solving their problems in Bryce’s office. With Diefenbaker’s growing paranoia leading him to inveigh against “those people” hatching plots against him and ministers not speaking to each other, Bryce was, more than ever before, the critical conduit through which important decisions were relayed.

After eight years as Deputy Minister, Golden was looking for a change but it had been intimated to him that he was not likely to be moved to another portfolio because a weak minister in a department required a strong and experienced Deputy. In 1961, therefore, Golden informed his minister of his intention to resign and arranged a five-minute appointment with the Prime Minister. “I’m glad you came in,” Diefenbaker greeted him. “I’ve been meaning to call you and tell you what good work you were doing. Now what did you want to see me about?” When told of his intention to resign, Diefenbaker expressed his disappointment and then stated: “Dave, there is nothing political about you leaving. You know that, I know that, but …” Golden quickly sensed the predicament and interrupted. “Prime Minister, would you rather that I withdraw my resignation and bring it back after the election?” Diefenbaker was extremely grateful for this suggestion and, when the resignation was re-tendered after the election, he spent several minutes in Cabinet praising the work of his departing Deputy Minister.

Two weeks after his departure from the civil service, Golden received a tempting, but belated, offer from Walter Gordon. Upon entering the Cabinet, Gordon had to relinquish the presidency of Canadian Corporate Management, the company he formed in 1948 to purchase controlling interest in a range of Canadian firms. He suggested that Golden join the management team but, having already committed himself to assume the presidency of the Air Industries Association of Canada (AIAC), Golden “waved goodbye to his chances to become a tycoon.”

After one year at AIAC, Golden would return temporarily to the civil service upon Bud Drury’s personal appeal to have him serve as Deputy Minister in the newly-created Department of Industry. Golden agreed to do so for one year (at a hefty pay cut) and put in place the machinery for a new department designed to encourage secondary manufacturing in Canada. Unable to convince Drury that he was leaving after his year was up, Golden hastily scribbled out a resignation letter and again arranged a five-minute appointment with the Prime Minister. This time it was Lester Pearson who expressed his gratitude for services rendered. In response, it was playfully suggested that if the Prime Minister was so grateful an appointment to the Senate might be in order.

When Simon Reisman took over as Deputy Minister of Industry, the Globe and Mail declared the passing of the guard to a “new generation” of civil servants. [15] Curiously, Reisman was 45 years of age, while Golden was only 44. But there was an important sense in which the civil service had changed. As Golden would argue five years later, it no longer offered enough salary, challenge or excitement to attract the same level of talent (Reisman proving the exception). [16] Golden, indeed, was looking for new challenges.

Industry Advocate

Golden was appointed the first President of the AIAC on 1 July 1962 and, after his year with the Department of Industry, returned as its President for another six years. The AIAC was formed when the Air Industries and Transportation Association of Canada was split into two separate organizations. Its objective was to provide assistance to manufacturing firms in the aerospace and aviation industries in the areas of research, development, engineering, production and service. The Canadian industry had experienced many ups—highlighted by the production of some 16,000 aircraft during the Second World War—but was in the midst of one of the downs following the “traumatic” demise of the Arrow. Ironically, one of the first public meetings of the AIAC with industry representatives was held in the cafeteria of the old Avro plant in Malton. [17]

Golden’s move to the private sector was a logical progression in his efforts to enhance Canada’s technological capacity. Although he had complained during his tenure with the Department of Industry that the management of research and development in Canada is in “shocking condition”—with no coordination of Government research agencies, such as NRC, Defence Research Board and the research branches of mines and agriculture—there were areas in which government policy had opened up opportunities for private firms. The industry in Canada was depicted by one observer as “a shrewd mixture of realism and native ingenuity”: the former an acknowledgement of the dominance of larger British- and American-owned firms, and the latter due to the niche carved out by firms such as de Havilland with its short take-off and landing (STOL) designed aircraft. Golden’s efforts on behalf of the industry reflected his own combination of realism and native ingenuity. He recognized that the industry relied heavily on maintaining the goodwill of the American military in order to gain sub-contract work under the Defence Planning Sharing Agreement, while new opportunities were to be found in greater exports to Europe. Freed from the strictures imposed on civil servants, Golden advocated freer trade based on bilateral or multilateral agreements, but rejected the auto pact model of managed trade as inappropriate for the aviation industry. [18] He was convinced that only by relaxing trade barriers would the Canadian industry achieve the economies of scale necessary to compete internationally. To one observer, he was to be counted among Canada’s “foot soldiers of multilateralism” in the post-Second World War period. [19]

Golden was equally outspoken on Canadian defence policy. In front of the House of Commons External Affairs committee he had the temerity to argue that Canada should, at times, bow to American pressures in terms of joint defence planning. With European reconstruction and re-armament, Canada needed to place less priority on its NATO commitments in favour of NORAD and this implied acknowledging American leadership. “Canada should play a role in defensive measures considered important by the U.S., even if our assessment of the necessity of such measures should be at variance with rather than made by the U.S. I do not mean by this that Canada should surrender her right to make an objective appraisal of each situation as it comes up—what I mean is that Canada, in making such an appraisal, should consider the role played and the responsibility borne by the U.S. … No power the size of the United States and exercising its leadership and responsibility will ordinarily be prepared to permit its security to be adversely affected by the action or inaction of a close neighbour.” He added, however, that “In many cases, it would be unthinkable of us to yield.” [20]

Under Golden’s watch, the industry enjoyed robust expansion. By 1967, employment had risen to 50,000 and production reached over $800 million, with exports accounting for over two-thirds of the total. [21] He could boast that the Canadian aircraft industry was “one of the six in the world having a broad-based competence in all fields of aerospace.” [22]

Space Man

In 1969, a new opportunity presented itself when the Liberal Government decided to create the first domestic space communications satellite system in the world. After considering the possibility of a Crown Corporation with responsibility for it placed under the Department of Communication or, alternatively, of subsidizing the private and public telephone companies, the Government opted to form Telesat Canada as a joint venture between the Federal Government and a consortium of telephone and broadcast firms. [23] With his mix of public- and private-sector experience, Golden was the obvious choice—first suggested to Pearson by Allan Gotlieb who was Deputy Minister of Communications at the time—to head the new venture and he was ready for a new challenge. His appointment by Pierre Trudeau was announced by the Globe and Mail under the headline “Old Pro Named to Head Telesat.” Golden had reached the ripe age of 49.

It is hard to overstate the importance attached to satellite communication in 1969. The launch of Canada’s first satellites was expected to bring television and modern electronic communications to the north as well as to extend French language broadcasting throughout Canada. Indeed, one newspaper account described Golden as a latter day Lord Strathcona, doing through telecommunications what the railway had done a century earlier in contributing to national unity. But when asked in the parlance of the day if he would be the overseer of a new “cool” medium of communication, he responded in his inimitable style. “I’m not sure that the medium is the message, because I’m not sure I understand McLuhan. But we have nothing to do with any message carried on Telesat. We will have nothing to do with the origination of ideas; rather we will operate a different way of carrying the message. We may turn on the tap, but we don’t fill the reservoir.” [24]

Cognizant of the unique corporate structure of Telesat Canada, Golden told the Globe and Mail that “I am a pragmatist who thinks most things are workable. There is nothing to say in past experience that this isn’t workable.” But he could not have anticipated just how challenging the job would be. With a mandate to develop Telesat Canada as a for-profit commercial venture, he found himself continually fending off the government’s efforts to use it as a short-term policy tool to incubate Canadian technology firms. Most notable, when the primary contract to build the first three satellites was awarded to Hughes Aircraft of California rather than RCA’s Montreal subsidiary, there was intense political pressure to favour the Canadian-based firm. As Eric Kierans, the Minister of Communications, stated, “RCA had 27 friends in a Cabinet of 28.” Newspaper columnists, such as Jeffrey Simpson (who laboured under the misimpression that Telesat was a Crown Corporation), also entered the fray on behalf of RCA. As Golden recalls the situation, “Kierans wanted RCA; we wanted RCA. The problem was that RCA couldn’t give us a firm price or a firm delivery.” Kierans thus supported the Hughes proposal on the grounds that the overriding public interest was to get Telesat’s satellites into operation as quickly, reliably and cheaply as possible. He was not prepared to favour the more expensive RCA bid on the grounds that it would create jobs in Canada immediately, especially given Hughes’ willingness to transfer technology to Canadian sub-contractors. [25] It was only by intervening directly with Prime Minister Trudeau that Kierans and Golden were able to convince the Cabinet that the long-term interest of both Telesat Canada and the Canadian aerospace industry was best served by relying upon the best available technology.

Golden also encountered difficulty with the private consortium. Even before Telesat Canada was formed, the telephone and broadcast companies threatened to withdraw from the agreement unless granted exclusive rental rights to its satellite services. This issue was resolved only by effectively requiring Telesat to be a “carrier’s carrier” since non-carrier customers were prevented from sub-leasing or sharing capacity. [26] This left Golden in the unenviable position of having to negotiate rental agreements when Telesat’s ultimate customers were the very telephone companies and broadcasters whose representatives sat on its Board of Directors.

The launch of the Anik A1 satellite, by NASA at Cape Kennedy, went off without a hitch in November 1972, although a $30-million insurance policy was purchased just in case. Golden would receive the first long-distance telephone call carried by satellite in Canada, from Resolute to Ottawa. With the successful launch of Anik A2 in April 1973, Anik A3 in May 1975, and the completion of 24 ground stations, the initial program was complete. By 1975, Telesat was generating enough cash flow to meet its ambitious capital expenditure program for replacement satellites without relying upon the previously planned issue of public shares. But with its existing capacity underutilized and the telephone companies showing little desire to expand its use of satellites to compete with their own land-based transmission systems, Telesat faced an uncertain future. Its only remedy was to join the Trans-Canada Telephone System—the association of major telephone companies—that assured it of a profitable future at the expense of limiting its independence in leasing capacity to customers outside the TCTS. When the CRTC ruled the move to be contrary to the public interest, Cabinet acted to overturn the CRTC decision. [27]

Dealing with the government, the most powerful private firms in the country, Crown Corporations such as the CBC, as well as the CRTC and public opinion to boot, Golden would steer Telesat Canada onto a profitable path. Golden stepped down as President in 1981, but remained as Chairman of the Board and a full-time employee until he reached the age of 65. He then served as part-time Chairman of the Board until Telesat Canada was sold to Bell Canada in 1990. [28] History would vindicate his vigorous defence of Telesat’s mandate as a commercial venture. Not only did it become a highly-successful firm that, without government subsidy, developed pioneering technology in satellite communications, it also contributed to the growth of a vibrant Canadian industry that was able to compete and benefit from secondary supply contracts. Eventually, SPAR Aerospace (which Golden likened to a junior Crown Corporation by virtue of its dependence on government contracts) would develop the technical and commercial capability to build a satellite on Canadian soil.

D. A. Golden (left) with Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, circa 1970.
Source: Golden family

An Astute Ottawa Player

Throughout his tenure in Ottawa, Golden was engaged in a range of community service. He was the Chairman of the Parliamentary Centre for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, [29] President of the Canadian Institute for International Affairs (succeeded by former Governor General Roland Michener in 1974), Chairman of the Board of Governors of Carleton University, and served on the board of the United Jewish Appeal, the Ottawa General Hospital, the Elizabeth Bruyère Health Centre, and the National Arts Centre. The latter organization was a pet project, as he was a driving force in obtaining the initial federal funding commitment and a “feisty” board member. Joining the NAC board in 1971, at a time when he was overseeing a $90-million-dollar satellite program during his day job, he was equally attentive to the affairs of the NAC, from worrying over cost overruns by the opera to registering his dismay with “how much money you could lose running a restaurant.” [30]


Why Winnipeg’s north end was such fertile ground for the emergence of a generation of overachievers is open to speculation. Whether it was a desire to escape from the extreme poverty of the Depression, or the value placed on education and “high culture,” many individuals were determined to make a difference and they did so in a variety of pursuits.

In Golden’s case it led to several careers—as a soldier, lawyer, civil servant and corporate executive—in which his commitment to public service remained paramount. He found himself at the fulcrum of important national and international issues, whether it be Canada’s re-armament in the Cold War period, the integration of North American defence planning, debates over the Avro Arrow and the acceptance of nuclear weapons on Canadian soil, the growth of Canadian secondary industry, or Canada’s entry into the world of satellite communications. To each he brought to bear the same pragmatic approach, and it was of secondary importance if national objectives were achieved through the public or private sector.

In the various roles that Golden played, his personal integrity was beyond reproach. In an article in the Globe and Mail entitled “The Danger of Conflicting Loyalties”, Vaughan Lyon drew attention to Golden’s rapid movement between the civil service and the private sector: “During the 1960s people meeting Mr. Golden in Ottawa could justifiably have been confused about what ‘hat’ he was wearing at a particular time.” But he hastened to point out that “The bureaucratic career of David Golden is an unusual one. It is a tribute to his personal reputation that his shifts between government and private industry, heavily dependent on government support, have not been attacked.” [31]

David Golden has been duly honoured with the Testimonial Award from the Public Policy Forum, the C. D. Howe Award from the Canadian Aeronautics and Space Institute, the University of Manitoba Distinguished Alumni Award, an appointment as an Officer of the Order of Canada, honorary degrees from the University of Manitoba and Carleton University and, most recently, the Canadian Space Agency’s John H. Chapman Award of Excellence. Yet he remains a self-effacing, modest man. Looking back on his life, he simply states that “I didn’t plan it that way, it just happened.” Perhaps so, but happenstance tends to befall individuals whose talents are widely recognized and whose wise counsel is highly prized.


This paper draws upon a series of four interviews with David Golden conducted by Charlotte Bell, Mark Golden and Darcy Golden in Vancouver in December 2009.

1. The reflections of Zolf and Ludwig on growing up in Winnipeg are captured in John Parr. ed., Speaking of Winnipeg. Winnipeg: Queenston House, 1974. Engaging portraits of Hall, Ludwig, Waddington, Wiseman, Cohen, Samuel Freedman, Sylvia Ostry and Bernard Ostry are provided in Harry Gutkin, The Worst of Times, the Best of Times. Toronto: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 1987. A semi-fictional account of life in the north end is provided in Sondra Gotlieb, True Confections, Or How My Family Arranged My Marriage. Toronto: Musson, 1978.

2. Sholem was listed as an insurance agent as late as 1947. He would lose his legs to a circulatory disorder and die in 1970.

3. On the Peretz school, see Harvey Herstein, “The Evolution of Jewish Schools in Winnipeg,” Jewish Life and Times, 1983, 1:7-21, and Allan Levine, Coming of Age: A History of the Jewish People of Manitoba. Winnipeg: Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada and Heartland Associates, 2009.

4. For an account of Jewish radicalism in the north end, see Henry Trachtenberg, “The Winnipeg Jewish Community and Politics: the Inter-War Years, 1919–1939,” Transactions of the Manitoba Historical Society, series 3, no. 35, 1978–1979. Doug Smith, Joe Zuken: Citizen and Socialist. Toronto: Lorimer, 1990; and Daniel Stone, ed., Jewish Radicalism in Winnipeg, 1905–1960. Winnipeg: Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada, 2003.

5. Among his early athletic feats, Perlman captained the all-Jewish YMCA basketball team that captured the city championship in 1919 (the YMHA was not created until 1919), and was the much vaunted catcher on the Transcona baseball team, see Leible Hershfield, “The Contribution of Jews to Sports in Winnipeg and Western Canada”, Jewish Life and Times, 1983, 1:84-89.

6. On the Manitoba Medical College’s quota on women, Jews and other ethnic groups between 1932 and 1944, see Percy Barsky, “How ‘Numerus Clausus’ was ended in the Manitoba Medical School”, Jewish Life and Times, 1983, 1:123-27.

7. Larry Zolf, “Casualties of War” and “My September 11th Loss”, CBC News Viewpoint, (11 September 2001, 12 September 2002). Without diminishing the significance of his reminiscences, Zolf gets the date of the surrender of the Canadian troops wrong: it was on 25 December not 7 December 1941.; zolf/20020912.html.

8. “Former War Prisoner Deputy Minister at 34,” Globe and Mail, 15 September 1954, p. 3. For good measure, two years later he added to his resume the position of President of the Crown-owned Northern Ontario Pipeline Corporation.

9. Jack Granatstein, Ottawa Men: The Civil Service Mandarins, 1935–1957. Toronto: Oxford, University Press, 1982.

10. “Rideau Club to Vote on Jewish Nominees”, Globe and Mail, 24 July, 1964, p. 43. Although the Rideau Club had no formal rules barring Jews, admission was decided by secret ballot and required a 90% “yes” vote. To circumvent nominees being “blackballed” by a few members, a special admissions committee was established. The change was initiated by Arnold Davidson “Davy” Dunton, President of Carleton University, after Freiman had been declined membership on two previous occasions.

11. Peter C. Newman, Renegade in Power: The Diefenbaker Years. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1963, p. 253.

12. Cited in Newman, Renegade in Power, p. 286.

13. Cited in Peter Stursberg, Diefenbaker: Leadership Gained, 1956–62. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1975, pp. 197-198. Pierre Sevigny echoed these sentiments: “Ray O’Hurley was a good man but he was a man who, because of his education and background, was limited.” (198). According to another account, when the Cabinet appointments were announced in 1958, “strong men in the Conservative Party in Quebec broke down in tears, as they analyzed ruefully what Diefenbaker had done to their province” Patrick Nicholson, Vision and Indecision. Toronto: Longmans, 1968, p. 101.

14. CBC, “Dateline – There Never was an Arrow”, 1980.

15. Globe and Mail, 31 July 1964, p. B05.

16. Globe and Mail, 22 February 1967, p. B06.

17. Globe and Mail, 4 October 1962, p. 45.

18. Globe and Mail, 26 March 1965, p. B01.

19. Dimitry Anastakis, “Multilateralism, Nationalism, and Bilateral Free Trade: Competing Visions of Canadian Economic and Trade Policy, 1945–70”, in Magdalena Fahrni, ed., Creating Postwar Canada: Community, Diversity, and Dissent, 1945–75. Vancouver: UBC Press, 2007.

20. Globe and Mail, 21 February 1969, p. B03.

21. Humphrey Winn, “Canada’s Aviation Industry: A Study in Realistic Independence”, Flight International, 3 April 1969, pp. 517-524.

22. Flight International, 18 January 1968, p. 74.

23. On the evolution of Canadian space policy, see Andrew B. Godefroy, “Canada’s early space policy development 1958–1974”, Space Policy, 2003 19:137–41.

24. Globe and Mail, 13 August 1969, p. B01.

25. John N. McDougall, The Politics and Economics of Eric Kierans: A Man for All Canadas. Kingston-Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1993, ch. 7.

26. Robert E. Babe, Telecommunications in Canada, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990, pp. 224-225.

27. Bade, Telecommunications, p. 228.

28. After retiring from Telesat, Golden served on the Board of Directors of several companies, including Atomic Energy of Canada, MITEL, Pratt & Whitney Aircraft of Canada, Provigo, and the Conference Board of Canada.

29. The Parliamentary Centre for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade was established in 1968 to enhance the level of professional advice and staff support to members of parliament, senators and parliamentary committees dealing with foreign policy issues. Jane Boulden, “Independent Policy Research and the Canadian Foreign Policy Community”, International Journal, 1999, 54: 625-647.

30. Sarah Jennings, Art and Politics: The History of the National Arts Centre. Toronto: Dundurn Press, 1989, pp. 22, 23, 126-127.

31. Globe and Mail, 2 July 1970, p. 7. Lyon cautioned that “there is a real danger that a precedent created for a good man may become a practice which will allow more questionable appointments to be made later.”

Page revised: 9 April 2022

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