By Pamela Collins

Anyone who knows John MacKenzie knows that, as the saying goes, “the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.” John is a personable and dedicated family man and currently the CEO for the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA). He is the only child of Gail and “Big Al” MacKenzie who are active members of the Centennial community.

John joined the Centennial community in 1988 when he moved here from the Wexford area with his parents. He attended Mowat Collegiate where he graduated in 1991. It was there that he met his wife, Julie. While attending Mowat, John developed an interest in protecting and restoring the environment.

“I remember my parents taking me down to explore the Bluffs, and Rouge Beach Park to fish in the marsh,” he fondly recalls. “I was influenced  by so many people involved with CCRA, Save the Rouge, and Rouge Valley Foundation, such as Bill Dempsey, Lois James, Murray Johnston, Elizabeth Claire, Bill Lewis, Glenn De Baeremaeker to name a few.”

During that time, John led plant rescues, cleanups, invasive species removals, tree plantings and conducted research for the Ontario Municipal Board. He wrote funding proposals for stream restoration and habitat projects in the Rouge watershed.  

After graduating from Mowat, John attended Brock University and left with a degree in Urban and Environmental studies. He then worked abroad in South Korea for a year with UNESCO on environmentally related projects.

When he returned to Canada, he completed a Master of Science degree in planning at the University of Toronto. John said that he was fortunate enough to be mentored by Bill Dempsey. At one planning event, they joked that Bill was the oldest alumni representative and John was the youngest.

For over a decade, he worked at the provincial level and then the federal level, including  serving as an advisor to Premier Dalton McGuinty on the creation of the Greenbelt Plan, serving as Commissioner of Planning and Deputy City Manager in Vaughan, and working with David Crombie while appointed as part of the Coordinated Plan Review, which reviewed and made recommendations on all major provincial land use plans.

“I feel it is amazing that the work I do can make an impact in places where I grew up and really make them a better place to live,” he said. Currently in East Scarborough, John has been working with officials to implement the Scarborough Waterfront Project and the Meadoway Project. He is also addressing erosion and high lake level issues with the City of Toronto and supporting Parks Canada’s efforts to restore and implement new infrastructure within the Rouge National Urban Park.

“My motto is to think and act locally. We all must take an active part in the care of our local environment,” John said. He continues to work with all levels of government on projects to connect and restore the waterfront and ravines within this community.  

During a recent podcast with John McKay, MP for Scarborough – Guildwood, he said, “I have a personal passion and commitment to making our waterfront a resilient and accessible trail for all of its residents.”

John is an energetic whirling dervish of a man who can still find time to come home to Centennial and visit with his parents and old school buddies. Don’t blink or you will miss him! John currently resides in Bronte with his wife, Julie, and three equally busy daughters, Jenna, Keira and Brooke.