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In memoriam: Railway Association of Canada leader, transportation industry champion Cliff Mackay


Cliff Mackay, president and chief executive officer of the Railway Association of Canada (RAC) and a long-time transportation industry champion in Canada, died on Jan. 26 after “a brave battle with cancer,” the association announced. He was 63.

Mackay assumed RAC’s top post in 2006. Under his leadership, the Canadian rail industry worked in close partnership with various government and regulatory agencies to score many benefits, including a successful review of the Railway Safety Act, increased capital cost allowances for Canadian railroads that generated significant savings and investment for the industry, and new infrastructure support for short lines, RAC officials said in a prepared statement.

“The board wishes to acknowledge Cliff's valuable contribution to the leadership of the association and our industry, and wishes to express its sincere condolences to his family,” said Claude Mongeau, RAC’s chairman, and president and CEO of CN. “His spirit and wise counsel will be sorely missed by the board, employees and members of the RAC.”

One of Mackay's many contributions “during a time of considerable change and challenges for the transportation sector” was to open up public discussion on rail issues, whether highlighting the critical importance of rail to the Canadian economy, or supporting development and innovation in the rail sector, said Canadian Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities Denis Lebel in a prepared statement.

“Whatever new challenges the rail industry faced, whether economic, environmental or security-related, Mr. Mackay pursued them with enthusiasm and became an advocate for positive change,” he said. “Mr. Mackay made an extraordinary contribution to the development of the transportation industry in Canada across all modes.”

Prior to joining the RAC, Mackay held key positions in the aerospace industry and with the federal government. He was president and CEO of the Air Transport Association of Canada, a board member of NAV CANADA, senior vice president of Spar Aerospace, chairman of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada, and senior assistant deputy minister of industry and regional operations for Industry Canada.

Mackay is survived by his wife Joan, two children, seven grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
“RAC staff was inspired by the way he dealt with his illness with no complaint, a fighting spirit and endless optimism,” said RAC Vice President of Public and Corporate Affairs Bruce Burrows. “He was a fine leader, a valued colleague and a good friend. We will miss him profoundly.”

The RAC appointed Burrows to serve as interim President and CEO while the association searches for Mackay’s successor.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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