John Turner Biography

John Turner is a Canadian politician who served as the 17th Prime Minister of Canada. This biography gives details of his childhood, early life, career, major works, awards, personal life, legacy and trivia.

Quick Facts

Birthday: June 7, 1929

Nationality: Canadian

Famous: Prime Ministers Political Leaders

Age: 91 Years, 91 Year Old Males

Sun Sign: Gemini

Also Known As: John Napier Wyndham Turner

Born in: Richmond, Surrey, England

Famous as: Former Prime Minister of Canada

Height: 6'0" (183 cm), 6'0" Males

political ideology: Liberal Party of Canada


Spouse/Ex-: Geills Turner

father: Leonard Turner

mother: Phyllis Gregory

More Facts

education: University of British Columbia, University of Oxford, University of Paris, Ashbury College

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John Napier Wyndham Turner served as the 17th Prime Minister of Canada. From track star to Rhodes Scholar, born with good looks and possessing a natural charisma, he entered politics in the 1960s, and was often compared to John F. Kennedy. He was first inducted into the cabinet by PM Pearson and went on to hold several prominent Cabinet posts, including minister of justice and minister of finance under Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. Amid a world recession and the prospect of having to implement the unpopular wage and price controls, Turner surprisingly resigned his position. He remained away from politics and returned only when Trudeau exited to successfully contest the Liberal leadership. Turner held the office of Prime Minister for 79 days (the second shortest tenure in Canadian history), as he dissolved Parliament immediately after being sworn in as Prime Minister, and went on to lose the election that followed. He was in office for too short a time and could not achieve much. But as a cabinet minister, he had made far-reaching changes in the legal system of the country. He headed the Official Opposition for the next six years, leading his party to a modest recovery in the campaign. He retired from politics in 1993 and is presently practicing law.

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Childhood & Early Life
  • Turner was born on June 7, 1929 in Surrey, England, to Leonard Turner and Phyllis Gregory. When his father died in 1932, he moved to Canada with his Canadian-born mother, and settled in British Columbia.
  • His mother remarried in 1945 to Frank Mackenzie Ross, who later served as Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia, and the family relocated to Vancouver. Turner was educated at Ashbury College and St Patrick's College, Ottawa.
  • He enrolled at the University of British Columbia in 1945. A terrific track sprinter, he held the Canadian 100 meters record, but a bad knee kept him out of the 1948 London Olympics.
  • He graduated from UBC becoming a Rhodes Scholar. He went on to Magdalen College at the University of Oxford, and earned Bachelors degrees in Jurisprudence, Civil Law and an M.A
  • At Oxford, Roger Bannister, who first broke the four-minute barrier in the mile, was his track and field teammate and future Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser his class mate.
  • His academic brilliance continued as he pursued doctoral studies at the University of Paris from 1952 to 1953. While attending UBC, he had become a member of the fraternity, Beta Theta Pi.
  • He returned to Canada to study for his bar exam and in 1954 joined the Montreal law firm of Stikeman and Elliott after passing his Quebec bar.
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  • In 1957 the Liberals were looking for young people to help regenerate the party and C.D. Howe, the Liberal M.P, recruited Turner to work in the party machine during the election.
  • By 1962 he was ready to run for office himself and chose the riding of St-Laurent-St-Georges in Quebec He was nominated as a candidate and won the election in June.
  • As one of “The Young Turks" advocating reforms in party policy, he joined PM Pearson’s cabinet and was initially not given a portfolio but in 1967, he was made the Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs.
  • When Pearson retired, Turner ran to succeed him at the 1968 leadership convention. He was the youngest of the dozen leadership candidates, and finished the ballot third behind Pierre Trudeau and Robert Winters.
  • He served as Minister of Finance from 1972 until 1975. He had to tackle global financial issues including the explosive increase in the price of oil, slow economic growth, soaring inflation, and growing deficits.
  • In 1975, he resigned from cabinet due to personality conflicts with Trudeau who reversed his election promise and wanted to implement wage and price controls. Turner would rather quit than carry out that proposal.
  • He re-entered politics in 1984 when he was appointed Prime Minister in place of Jean Chretien. He announced that he would not run in a by-election to get into the Commons.
  • During this brief tenure as a still unelected PM, he did not distance himself from Trudeau’s policy, regarding appointments to various governmental boards and would not make public the agreement between him and Trudeau.
  • During the election campaign in 1984, he was criticized for the patronage appointments and shown weak and indecisive and his party lost to the Tories under Brian Mulroney.
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  • The upcoming Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement and Meech Lake Accord threatened to divide the party. Turner was pro-Accord and anti FTA and asked his senators to stall any legislation until the next elections.
  • Following another electoral loss in 1988, he resigned from the party leadership but continued to represent Vancouver Quadra in the House of Commons for another few years as a backbencher
  • Retiring from politics in the 1993, he joined as a lawyer at Miller Thomson LLP, headed scholarships program for talented young people and became member of Boards of Directors for several Canadian companies.
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Major Works
  • Turner served in Trudeau’s cabinet as Minister of Justice between 1968 and 1972, updated the department, abandoned the tradition of party patronage in the appointment of judges, and oversaw numerous Criminal Code reforms.
  • Upon his becoming PM, an election was immediately called, and he spent the summer campaigning for an election. During his brief, 79 day administration, Canada earned its highest ever Olympic medal haul.
  • As a former prime minister, Turner is styled The Right Honorable for life. He was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1994 for a distinguished parliamentary and legal career
  • Many honorary degrees have been conferred upon him between 1968 and 2002. He was conferred Doctor of Laws by the universities of New Brunswick, York, Mount Allison, British Columbia, Toronto and Assumption.
Personal Life & Legacy
  • In 1963, Turner married Geills and they have four children including three sons and a daughter. Geills campaigned for him in the federal election and “brought computers into Turner's campaign.
  • This incumbent prime minister of Canada attacked his rival over the impending free trade agreement thus, “I'm not going to let Mr. Mulroney destroy a great 120 year old dream called Canada."
  • While vacationing in Barbados, he noticed Leader of the Opposition John Diefenbaker, staying at the same hotel, was struggling in the strong surf and jumped in and pulled Diefenbaker to shore.

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John Turner

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