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Cyril MacDonald was born in 1928. He attended high school in Saskatoon and at Notre Dame College in Wilcox, Saskatchewan. While at Notre Dame College he completed his Bachelor of Arts degree and taught there for a year. He received a Bachelor of Education degree at St. Francis Xavier University in Nova Scotia. In 1951 he married Ann Sullivan in Regina. He taught school in Yorkton and later returned to teach at Wilcox from 1953 to 1965. Cyril MacDonald became politically active in the late 1950's and served on the Executive of the Provincial Liberal Party. MacDonald ran in the 1960 provincial election and was defeated. He ran again four years later and was elected to the Legislative Assembly.
MacDonald was a Liberal Party member of the Saskatchewan Legislative Assembly from 1964 to 1978. He represented the constituency of Milestone from 1964 to 1975 and the constituency of Indian Head-Wolseley from 1975 to 1978. His first cabinet posting occurred with the Thatcher government when he became Minister of Industry and Commerce in August 1966. In October 1966 he was appointed Minister of Welfare, a posting he held until June 1971.