John Napier Turner

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The Rt. Hon. John Napier Turner
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Rank: 17th
Term: June 30 - September 17, 1984
Predecessor: Pierre Elliott Trudeau
Successor: Brian Mulroney
Date of Birth: June 7, 1929
Place of Birth: Richmond, Surrey, England
Spouse: Geills McCrae Kilgour
Children one daughter, three sons
Profession: lawyer
Political Party: Liberal

The Right Honourable John Napier Turner ,CC,PC (born June 7, 1929) was the seventeenth Prime Minister of Canada from June 30, 1984 to September 17, 1984. He is the oldest living former Prime Minister.

He was born in Richmond, Surrey, England, and emigrated to Canada as a baby in 1932. He was educated at the University of British Columbia (B.A. Honours), Oxford University, (Rhodes Scholar, B.A., Bachelor of Civil Law), and the University of Paris (the Sorbonne).

He was married in 1963 to Geills McCrae Kilgour (b. 1937) and has one daughter and three sons. He practiced law in Toronto, Ontario, and was elected as a member of Parliament in 1962. He served in the Cabinet of Prime Minister Lester Pearson in various capacities, most notably as Minister of Consumer and Corporate Affairs. When Pearson retired Turner ran in the race to succeed him, finishing third at the 1968 Liberal leadership convention behind the winner Pierre Trudeau. Turner served in Trudeau's cabinet as Minister of Justice during the October Crisis and then served as Minister of Finance until 1975 when he resigned to protest the implementation of wage and price controls.

From 1975 to 1984, Turner worked as a corporate lawyer on Bay Street, but occasionally made speeches on political issues. When Pierre Trudeau resigned as Liberal leader in 1979, Turner announced that he would not be a candidate for the Liberal leadership.

Trudeau was talked into rescinding his resignation after the government of Joe Clark was defeated by a Motion of No Confidence, and returned to serve as Prime Minister until 1984.

When Prime Minister Trudeau retired, John Turner re-entered politics and was elected leader of his party and became Prime Minister, defeating Jean Chrétien at the June 1984 Liberal leadership convention.

John Turner served as Prime Minister of Canada for only a few months. Plagued by controversy over a series of patronage appointments he made shortly after taking office in fulfilment of an agreement he had made with Trudeau, he was defeated by Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservative Party in the 1984 federal election. The Liberal campaign was damaged by Turner's poor debate performences, voter fatigue of the Liberal government, and charges that Turner appeared "serially insincere" during press scrums and public speeches. His period in office was thus almost entirely consumed by the election, and Turner's government did not have time to implement any serious legislative initiatives.

He remained leader of the opposition, and lost to Mulroney again in the election of 1988. In that election, Turner campaigned vigorously against the (then) proposed Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, arguing that its adoption would equate the entire abandonment of Canada's political sovereignty to the United States.

Jean Chrétien resigned from Parliament in 1985, but led a long and bitter backroom struggle to depose Turner. This succeeded in 1990 when Turner resigned as party leader. The ongoing and often open unpopularity of Turner within his own party led to many Canadian editorial cartoonists to always draw him with a back stabbed full of knives.

After politics

Turner is a member of several Boards of Directors for several large Canadian companies. In late 2004 Turner headed the delegation of Canadian election monitors to Ukraine who helped monitor the Ukrainian presidential runoff vote of December 26. The monitoring was the first mission of the new Canada Corps.


Turner's changes to the Liberal Party's ideology, policies and membership during his years as party leader may be his legacy, rather than his brief months as Prime Minister. While Turner painted himself as a protectionist and anti-Free Trade crusader in 1988, he was largely pro-business and favoured smaller government and tax cuts for corporations during his 6 years as Liberal Party leader.

Following Chretien's thirteen years as party leader, the fiscal right-wing element of the Liberal Party returned to its position of influence under current Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin (although Paul Martin had also wielded considerable influence during the Chrétien years). The philosophically left-wing elements of the party, who despised Turner and embraced Pierre Trudeau and Jean Chretien, have been moved into the party's periphery.

Turner is the most recent Canadian Prime Minister who was born in England. Prior to Turner, the last British-born PM was the equally unpopular Mackenzie Bowell, who served for two tumultuous years as PM in the 1890s. Turner is the oldest living former Canadian Prime Minister.

In 1994, he was made a Companion of the Order of Canada.

Preceded by:
Pierre Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada
Succeeded by:
Brian Mulroney
Preceded by:
Brian Mulroney
Leader of the Opposition in the Canadian House of Commons
Succeeded by:
Herb Gray
Preceded by:
Pierre Trudeau
Liberal Leaders
Succeeded by:
Herb Gray
Preceded by:
Bill Clarke, PC
Member of Parliament for Vancouver Quadra
Succeeded by:
Ted McWhinney, Liberal
Preceded by:
federal riding created in 1966
Member of Parliament for Ottawa—Carleton
Succeeded by:
Jean Pigott, PC
Preceded by:
Egan Chambers, PC
Member of Parliament for St. Lawrence—St. George
Succeeded by:
federal riding abolished in 1966

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