Ajax mourns 35-year public servant, former MPP Joe Dickson

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Published April 8, 2022 at 2:53 pm

Ajax mourns MPP Joe Dickson
Joe Dickson and Donna Dickson. Joe died on April 7 after a 35-years career as an Ajax public servant and will be memorialized with a park named in his honour.

The town of Ajax is mourning one of its most committed public servants today after the death of Joe Dickson, known as Mr. Ajax, a longtime town councillor who made the jump to Queen’s Park as Ajax-Pickering MPP.

Dickson, born and raised in Ajax, founded Dickson Printing Ltd in 1969 and ran the business until he entered the political arena.

Dickson Printing mostly launched printed business cards, but has grown into a full printing operation including digital print using Xerox printers. The business Dickson built won 17 straight Reader’s Choice awards for Best Printing Company.

Through his business, Dickson sponsored 22 little league sports teams and “countless” local organizations.

After first serving as a Catholic District School Board trustee, Dickson ran for town council in 1983. He went on to serve two consecutive terms until 1990. A two-year break later, Dickson returned to town hall from 1992 to 2006.

Following an unsuccessful run in 1995, Dickson again tried his hand at provincial politics and ran for the then-newly created Ajax-Pickering seat in 2007 as a Liberal. This time he swept into office with nearly 50 per cent of the vote.

The riding maintained its support for Dickson through two more elections in 2011 and 2014. Dickson’s vote share stayed level throughout at around 50 per cent.

In addition to representing Ajax, Dickson served as Deputy Government Whip from 2007 to 2011. He went on to serve in the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration from 2013 to 2014, and the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines from 2014 to 2018 as a parliamentary assistant.

For his service, Canada’s Governor General honoured Dickson with both the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002 and the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. The Jubilee Medals are awarded “for outstanding achievement or public service in Canada.”

As the town’s population grew, Ajax was separated into its own riding for the 2018 election. Ontarians had tired of 15 years of Liberal domination of Queen’s Park, and a Progressive Conservative majority swept into office.

Not even Mr. Ajax could withstand the incoming blue wave. Only seven of his Liberal colleagues managed to hold their seats, losing official party status. In Durham Region, the only PC loss was in Oshawa.

Without Dickson at the helm, the Ajax seat at Queen’s Park was soon marred by controversy.

His successor, Rod Phillips, emerged as a rising star in the Ford Government serving as Environment Minister and Finance Minister. However, controversy erupted when Philips travelled abroad during the COVID-19 lockdown. Philips went on to resign two different cabinet portfolios and finally his seat at Queen’s Park.

Filled for over ten years by Dickson and a little over three by Phillips, the town’s seat is now empty.

 

Meanwhile, Dickson returned to Dickson Printing as President, spending his time with his wife Donna, two children and five grandchildren. He died on April 7 at age 82.

The town now mourns the man who served it for 35 years. A book of condolence rests in town hall for residents to sign in memory of Dickson. The flags of the building Dickson worked in for over two decades will fly at half-mast to honor his funeral.

Mayor Shaun Collier, served on town council alongside Dickson from 2003 to 2006, said, “On behalf of Ajax Council, I want to express the deepest condolences to Joe’s wife Donna, their children, grandchildren, and many friends.”

“Joe was passionate about public service, politics, and the success of the community he loved.” Collier concluded, “He will be well remembered for his many contributions to our town.”

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