When he was twenty-six years of age, Winfield George McKay was “Chief Clerk” of the customs brokerage firm of C.W. Irwin in downtown Toronto. Recently passed over for a promotion he felt he had earned, he was about to depart for the customs house when he overheard a senior executive chastising a young lad for attempting to sell raffle tickets at the counter for a charitable cause. Feeling sorry for the boy, he bought a ticket outside on the sidewalk. That ticket, of course, won the prize, a prototype Gray-Dort automobile.
The car was presented to him on the steps of what is now the Old City Hall by the mayor of Toronto.
W. G. McKay, unable to drive, had his brother James drive the car to the family home. He immediately sold it, which provided the needed capital for him to open his own customs brokerage business in 1914.
Success followed and in 1924 he located larger offices at Bay and Front Streets. Expansion forced a move to University Avenue in 1977, and again in 1981 to 40 University Avenue, the company’s current Head Office address.
W. G. McKay operated the company until his untimely death in 1953, but it continued to flourish for the next forty-three years under the guidance of his son, Winfield Cleland McKay, the current company Chairman.
Win McKay, as he is best known, has also been active in a civic role. In 1968 he was a Federal PC candidate for Toronto’s High Park riding, finishing a strong second to a Liberal in the Trudeau landslide. From 1972 to 1982 he served as a Metropolitan Toronto Police Commissioner and from 1985 to 1988, as an Ontario Police Commission member. He is a past chairman of the Ontario Chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization and is past president of the downtown Kiwanis Club. For many years he was a director of the Ontario division of the Canadian Automobile Association.
In late 1996 Winfield Laing McKay, the founder’s grandson, was appointed President of the company. After graduating from Queen’s University he joined the company in 1984. He has served in many different departments and offices of the company learning the business from the ground up. He is a member of the Toronto Chapter of the Young Presidents’ Organization.
Today, W.G. McKay Limited, operates branch offices across Ontario from Sarnia in the west to Lansdowne in the east, deals with customs brokerage, customs and traffic consulting, and international freight forwarding. The company was one of the first in the industry to engage in electronic release of goods from customs (ACROSS) and was the first broker in Canada to effect payment of duties and taxes to the Government totally by EDI. Accounts range from large national corporations to little shops around the corner.
W.L. McKay points out that it is because of good management and close personal attention to its’ customers needs that the company has continued to grow. The company “did not outgrow itself, was financed carefully, and only took business it could handle” he observed. For 100 years W. G. McKay Limited has prospered by providing consistent, dependable services to Canadian importers and exporters.