Beyond Politics - John Turner





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Published on Jul 2, 2013

John Turner served as Canada's 17th prime minister from June 30 to Sept. 17, 1984.

Born in England, Turner came to Canada when he was only three after his mother, a native of Rossland, BC, was left widowed by her husband's untimely death to malaria and was unable to find work in Depression-era London.

By all accounts his mother was a remarkable woman: Phyllis Ross was an economist, a civil servant and the first woman chancellor of the University of British Columbia.

Turner attended private schools in Ottawa, earned a BA from UBC, an MA from Oxford and did post-graduate work at the Sorbonne. Turner was first elected in the downtown Montreal riding of St. Lawrence--St. George in 1962 and in 1965 Lester Pearson named him to cabinet as minister without portfolio.

After Pierre Elliott Trudeau was elected leader in 1968, Turner was appointed justice minister and later finance minister. It was as finance minister that Turner faced his greatest political challenge. A dispute over wage and price controls compelled Turner to quit and for the next nine years Turner led a very successful and lucrative career as a Bay Street lawyer.

Lured back to politics by Trudeau's resignation and the possibility of becoming leader, Turner offered his candidacy to the Liberal party. Turner defeated Jean Chretien on the second ballot to become the 17th prime minister of Canada despite not having a seat in the Commons or the Senate.

Less than three months later, Turner was thumped in an election that saw the Liberal Party reduced to 40 seats. Four years later, the Liberals lost again, and despite having doubled the party's seat total to 83, Turner's position as leader was untenable. He stepped down as leader but continued to sit as an MP for Vancouver Quadra until 1993.

Turner returned to the private sector and only recently retired from the law firm Miller Thomson. Catherine Clark spoke to Turner about his life Beyond Politics.


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