John Turner: 1929-2020
CBJ — Former Prime Minister John Turner has died at the age of 91.
It was confirmed Canada’s 17th prime minister passed away surrounded by family members.
Turner’s time as head of the country was very brief. In fact, at 79 days his was the second-shortest in history. It was the summer of 1984 when he took over from Pierre Trudeau, who abruptly resigned as prime minister. With the Liberal government’s fortunes sagging badly Trudeau saw the writing on the wall and didn’t want to go through the embarrassment of a humiliating election loss, so he retired from politics. It was evident the Canadian public wanted political change and as such Turner was essentially thrown in as the sacrificial lamb as the Liberals were handed a resounding defeat at the hands of Brian Mulroney and the Conservatives. Only Charles Tupper held the country’s top job for less time than Turner — 68 days in 1896.
Turner began a career in federal politics back in the mid 1960s, first serving in Trudeau’s government along with other young up and comers such as Jean Chretien, who also would go on to serve as prime minister. Turner had challenged Trudeau for the Liberal leadership in 1967, finishing second. In those early days, many strategists within the Liberal party viewed Turner as the man who would lead the party for many years after Trudeau’s tenure was done, but of course that never came to fruition as the likes of Chretien and Paul Martin would go on to have far more high-profile prime ministerial careers.
Turner held the position of federal justice minister when the government decriminalized homosexuality and he suspended civil liberties during the October Crisis in 1970. He was also the finance minister during a very tumultuous time as Ottawa struggled to control deficit spending and inflation during the oil crisis.
Turner retained his seat as a Member of Parliament in the House until 1993, but largely retreated from public life after stepping down as Liberal leader. In 1994, he was named a companion of the Order of Canada.
The following statement was released by current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
“A gifted politician, lawyer, and athlete, Mr. Turner became Canada’s 17th Prime Minister after having served in numerous other capacities, including as Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, Minister of Finance, and Leader of the Opposition. He was deeply committed to the law and democratic process, bringing about much needed reforms to the Criminal Code.
“Mr. Turner was a humble man with a strong social conscience. He supported many charitable organizations, including Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. He was also an honorary director of World Wildlife Fund Canada and an ardent advocate for the protection of Canada’s lakes and rivers.
“Over the years, he was awarded numerous honours. He was appointed to the Companion of the Order of Canada in 1995, and received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for Canada in 2012.
“On behalf of all Canadians, Sophie and I offer our deepest condolences to Mr. Turner’s family and friends. His contributions to Canada will not be forgotten.”