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John Alexander MacDonald was born in 1874 in Tracadie, Prince Edward Island, the son of Charles John and Elizabeth MacDonald. He married Marie Josephine, daughter of Captain Joseph MacDonald of Cardigan in 1905. By this time he had operated a general mercantile business since 1891 and had organized John A. MacDonald & Co. Ltd. Besides this major company, he had an interest in several other businesses such as Cardigan Dairying Co., Cardigan Silver Black Fox Co., Cardigan Electric Co., and Cardigan Shipbuilding Co. In addition he organized Associated Shipbuilders of PEI in 1932 and served as director of Island Foods, Inc.
He entered politics in 1908 as a Conservative Member of the House of Assembly for Cardigan and served as Minister- Without-Portfolio in the PEI Government from 1911 to 1916. He was Director of National Service for PEI in 1916- 1917 and Fuel Control Administrator in 1918-1919. From 1923 to 1925, he was PEI's Minister of Public Works and Highways. As the Member for King's County in the House of Commons from 1925-1935, he served as Minister- Without-Portfolio in 1926 and again from 1930-1935. In 1935 he was appointed to the Senate.
He died 15 November 1948 in Cardigan.