Canada Media and Liberal Party, As Justice Minister, Finance Minister, Liberal Leader, Prime Minister, and as a committed citizen, John Turner dedicated his life to building a better Canada and to the values that make our democracy strong.
Former Canada PM John Turner, who was in office for just 11 weeks, dies aged 91. John Turner resigned as Liberal leader in 1990 and was replaced by Jean Chretien, who led the Liberals to victory in 1993.
Former Canadian Prime Minister John Turner, who was in office for just 11 weeks and led his Liberal Party to a massive electoral defeat in 1984, died on Saturday aged 91.
Turner died in his sleep at home, according to long-serving staffer and friend of the Turner family Marc Kealey.
“He was even better looking than Kennedy,” longtime aid and friend Ray Heard said Saturday.
When Turner entered the political world in 1962, his dashing good looks saw comparisons made to Kennedy. As for that romance with royalty, that happened in 1958 when Princess Margaret toured Canada and visited Vancouver.
“Princess Margaret sat in the moonlight last night in an intimate tête-à-tête with a young bachelor-lawyer … at a secluded table on the lawn of the HMCS Discovery naval base,” the Toronto Telegram reported about their meeting.
The romance was stopped by order of Buckingham Palace, perhaps in part due to Turner’s Catholicism.
In 1963, Turner would marry the love of his life, Geills McCrae Kilgour, and went on to have four children — Elizabeth, David, Michael and James.
Turner was a student athlete, Rhodes scholar who ran track with Sir Roger Bannister at Oxford, and worked at a prestigious Montreal law firm before entering politics in the 1962 election. He entered cabinet immediately and never left until he exited politics for the first time in 1975.
Under Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau, Turner served as minister of corporate and consumer affairs, minister of justice and minister of finance. He spearheaded the push for a national legal aid system across the country, oversaw the suspension of civil liberties during the 1970 October Crisis and was minister of finance during the 1973 oil crisis.
He resigned from cabinet and politics after Pierre Trudeau’s Liberals had run against wage and price controls during the 1974 election and then tried to institute them in 1975.
As for his brief time as prime minister, Heard said there was one major strategic mistake Turner made after taking over from Pierre Trudeau.
“Like the hero of a Greek tragedy, his greatest error was calling an early election. He should have re-introduced himself to the Canadian people,” Heard said.
Heard said that Turner, who became prime minister in June 1984, should have held on and used tours of Canada by the Pope and Queen Elizabeth later that year as tools to raise his profile. Turner lost the September 1984 election to Brian Mulroney and the Progressive Conservatives.
He would fight against Mulroney in the 1988 election staking his campaign on opposition to the free trade deal Mulroney had struck with American president Ronald Reagan.
“He always used to say, ‘Ray, I’m not against free trade, I’m against the Mulroney trade deal,’” Heard told me.
In the end, Mulroney won, Turner lost and stepped down as leader of the Liberal Party and Leader of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition in June 1990.
“It was John Turner who rebuilt the Liberal Party that set the stage for Chretien to be prime minister for 10 years,” Kealey said.