Born In: Richmond, Surrey, England
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 from his position. He remained away from politics and returned only when Trudeau exited, to successfully contest the Liberal leadership. Turner held the office of the Prime Minister for 79 days (the second shortest tenure in Canadian history). He dissolved the Parliament immediately after being sworn in as the 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 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 practised law.
Also Known As: John Napier Wyndham Turner
Died At Age: 91
Spouse/Ex-: Geills Turner
father: Leonard Turner
mother: Phyllis Gregory
Born Country: Canada
political ideology: Liberal Party of Canada
place of death: Toronto, Canada
Notable Alumni: Magdalen College, Oxford, University Of British Columbia
education: University of British Columbia, Magdalen College, Oxford, University of Paris
John 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.
John Turner 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.
At Oxford, Roger Bannister, who first broke the four-minute barrier in the mile, was his track and field teammate, while future Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser was his class mate.
John Turner academic brilliance continued as he pursued doctoral studies at the University of Paris, from 1952 to 1953. While attending the University of British Columbia (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.
In 1957, the Liberals were looking for young people to help regenerate the party and C.D. Howe, the Liberal M.P, recruited John 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, John 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.
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.
John Turner 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 did 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.
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.
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.
When he became the 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 was 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 were 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.
In 1963, John Turner married Geills and they had four children - three sons and a daughter. Geills campaigned for him in the federal election and “brought computers into Turner's campaign.
John Turner died at the age of 91, on September 19, 2020.
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.