Inside the mind of Munk
Peter Munk

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​When Peter Munk donated $5-million to Toronto General Hospital for heart-related research in 1993, the legendary Canadian businessman never thought he’d need to avail the services of the cardiac centre that now bears his name. But there he was, in November 2014, at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (PMCC), undergoing a procedure to unblock the main valve in his heart. If this were a few years ago, Mr. Munk would have had to have open heart surgery and stay in the hospital for weeks, but, thanks to the $65-million or so he’s donated to the centre over the last 22 years, a new procedure was developed that allowed him to leave the hospital within three days. The founder and chairman emeritus of Barrick Gold Corporation shares his perspective on philanthropy, heart disease and what will happen to his donations after he dies.

In this Q&A, the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre’s namesake talks about why he’s given so much to cardiac research, his own heart surgery and how his support for the centre will continue after he’s gone

Why is philanthropy so important to you?

Once you’ve made money, you have to make a decision within yourself around what you intend to do with that money. I didn’t want to create a bunch of rich and spoiled children and grandchildren with lots of cars and big homes. It gives you more satisfaction when you look back at the end of your life and see what you accomplished in the community and in society.

As well, I came here as an immigrant. I went through the war and was taken in by Canada. I have enormous appreciation for what Canada as a country has to offer the world. Canadians are respected as human beings, mostly because we have a tradition of self-help and civic responsibility to a much greater extent than any other community. I came here, and I was given it all, with all of the fantastic benefits and inclusiveness and opportunities to create a fulfilled life. So I want to try and reciprocate.

Why did you make health care, and specifically cardiac medicine, a focus of your giving?

When I made money, I selected three priorities [for giving], but No. 1 was the one I thought would be most universally helpful to Canadians, regardless of nationality, ethnicity, age, religion and culture. That’s health. We all have health issues, so this is something really meaningful. In the early 1990s, I sat down with the chair of the hospital and the board and I looked at various options, and I was told that cardiac issues were the largest cause of death. They felt that with new facilities and new equipment – and funds that could attract global talent – that they could make a major improvement. It remains an issue today.

What’s your opinion of Canada’s health-care system?

You may think I’m just saying this, but the more you travel, and the more you meet friends from Europe and from America and Latin America – and in my business and in my life I do an awful lot of travel – the more you appreciate how spectacular the health system is in Canada. So that became my main motivating force – to contribute to the health-care system. Before 1993, there was no cardiac centre, so my initial gift helped establish it.