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Often called the best premier that Ontario never had, Donald C. MacDonald, former leader of the CCF and the New Democratic Parties in Ontario, died Saturday night of heart failure at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. He was 94.

Mr. MacDonald, who was born in Cranbrook, B.C., on Dec. 7, 1913, earned a bachelor's and a master's degree from Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., and then served in the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War.

After working as treasurer and organizer of the federal Co-operative Commonwealth Federation Party, he represented the Ontario provincial riding of York South for the CCF for nearly 30 years, from 1955 until 1982 (when he resigned his seat to make way for Bob Rae's switch from federal to provincial politics).

"His great quality, his essence was his indefatigable optimism," Mr. Rae said yesterday. Mr. Rae is now running for the Liberals in the federal by-election of Toronto-Centre on March 17. "Every cloud had a silver lining, every setback a way to jump ahead. He lived and fought for what he believed in, and touched all of us with his ebullient determination."

Mr. MacDonald served as provincial party leader from 1951 to 1961. When the CCF became the New Democratic Party in 1961, Mr. MacDonald continued as leader until 1970 when he was succeeded by Stephen Lewis.

A journalist and university lecturer, he wrote his memoirs, The Happy Warrior, in 1988.

He leaves his wife Simone, two daughters, a son and his extended family. At his request, there will be no funeral. A public celebration of his life is being planned for a later date.