|Birth Day:||June 7, 1929|
|Birth Place:||Richmond, Surrey, England, Canada|
|#3||David James Turner||Children||N/A||N/A||N/A|
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Turner was born on June 7, 1929, in Richmond, Surrey, England (now a part of London), to Leonard Hugh Turner, an English journalist, and Phyllis Gregory, a Canadian economist. He had a brother, Michael, born in 1930 (who died shortly after birth), and a sister, Brenda, born in 1931. When Turner's father died in 1932, he and his sister moved to Canada with their Canadian-born mother. The family settled in her childhood home in Rossland, British Columbia, and later moved to Ottawa, Ontario.
Turner's mother was loving but demanding of her two children. The family was not wealthy. His mother remarried in 1945 to Frank Mackenzie Ross, who later served as Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia, and the family relocated to Vancouver, British Columbia.
Turner was educated at Ashbury College and St Patrick's College, Ottawa (senior matriculation). He enrolled at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 1945 at age 16, and was among Canada's outstanding track sprinters in the late 1940s, qualifying for the 1948 Olympic team. He held the Canadian record for the men's 100-yard dash, but a bad knee kept him from competing in the 1948 London Olympics. He graduated from UBC with a BA (Honours) in 1949.
On May 19, 1959, at a party hosted by his stepfather, as Lieutenant Governor, to celebrate the opening of the new British Columbia Government House, Turner danced with Princess Margaret, one year his junior. This was the first time that Turner received significant press attention in Canada; there was considerable speculation about whether the two would become a serious couple. According to letters by Margaret obtained by the Daily Mail, the relationship was more serious than previously thought with the princess writing in one letter, seven years later, that she "nearly married him". According to contemporary press reports, the relationship caused serious consternation at Buckingham Palace as Turner was a Roman Catholic, and Margaret would have had to forfeit her place in the line of succession to the British throne to marry him.
Brenda confirmed a "very definite attraction" between her brother and the princess, but said that Turner was uninterested in royalty and would not have given up Catholicism. After meeting Margaret again during her Canadian tour, Turner attended her party at Balmoral Castle in August 1959 where his roommate was Margaret's future husband Antony Armstrong-Jones, and was the only Canadian unofficial guest at their wedding in May 1960. Turner remained friends with Margaret, he and his wife often meeting the princess in Britain or during official visits to Canada. They attended Margaret's 2002 private funeral and were Canada's official representatives at the memorial service.
Turner practised law, initially with the firm of Stikeman Elliott in Montreal, Quebec. He was elected as Member of Parliament for St. Lawrence—St. George in 1962 and until the riding's dissolution in 1968. He was the Member of Parliament for Ottawa—Carleton from 1968 to 1976.
Turner was married on May 11, 1963, to Geills McCrae Kilgour (b. 1937) who was then a systems engineer with IBM, and the great niece of Canadian Army doctor John McCrae, the author of what is probably the best-known First World War poem, "In Flanders Fields" and sister of David Kilgour, a long-time Canadian Member of Parliament. The Turners have a daughter named Elizabeth and three sons: David, Michael and Andrew. The Turner children attended Rockcliffe Park Public School, in Ottawa, Ontario. All three sons attended Upper Canada College, in Toronto, Ontario.
In 1965, while vacationing in Barbados, Turner noticed that former prime minister and Leader of the Opposition John Diefenbaker, staying at the same hotel, was struggling in the strong surf and undertow and Turner, being a competitive swimmer during university days, jumped in and pulled Diefenbaker to shore.
Turner served in Trudeau's cabinet as Minister of Justice for four years. Litt argues that Turner was a hard-working, well-informed minister whose success was assured by his warm relationship with his peers. His achievements, say Litt, included strengthening the rights of individual defendants on trial, greater efficiency in the justice system, creation of the influential Law Reform Commission, selecting highly professional judges, and bringing a policy perspective to the Justice Department. He led the government's position in the highly controversial Official Languages Act, and he took control during the October Crisis in 1970.
Turner then served as Minister of Finance from 1972 until 1975. His challenges were severe in the face of global financial issues such as the 1973 oil crisis, the collapse of the postwar Bretton Woods trading system, slowing economic growth combined with soaring inflation (stagflation), and growing deficits. His positions were more conservative than Trudeau's and they drew apart. In 1975 Turner surprisingly resigned from cabinet. The Liberals had won the 1974 election by attacking Robert Stanfield's Progressive Conservatives over their platform involving wage and price controls. However, Trudeau decided to implement the wage and price controls in late 1975, so some have suggested that Turner quit rather than carry out that proposal. In a 2013 interview with Catherine Clark on CPAC Turner confirmed his resignation from cabinet was a direct result of refusing to implement wage and price controls, after campaigning against them in 1974.
In his memoirs, Trudeau wrote that Turner said he resigned as Finance Minister in 1975 because he was tired of politics, after 13 years in Ottawa, and wanted to move on to a better-paying job as a lawyer in Toronto, to better support his family and to be with them more, as his children were growing up. Trudeau also suggested that Turner's years as finance minister were very difficult because of turbulent and unusual conditions in the world economy, characterized as stagflation, largely caused by enormous increases in the price of oil.
From 1975 to 1984, Turner worked as a corporate lawyer at the Bay Street law firm McMillan Binch. When Pierre Trudeau resigned as Liberal leader in 1979 following an election loss, 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 contest and win the 1980 federal election. Trudeau then served as Prime Minister until 1984.
Turner discovered late in the campaign that the Liberals' electoral hopes were poor in their traditional stronghold of Quebec. The party had heretofore relied on Trudeau's appeal, patronage, and traditional dislike of the Progressive Conservatives for victory in recent previous elections. Turner had surrounded himself with Trudeau's factional opponents and Trudeau himself did not endorse Turner. In a last-minute turnaround, Turner rehired much of Trudeau's staff during the final weeks, but this had little effect. Quebec's disaffection with the federal Liberals regarding patriation in 1982 further contributed to their defeat. Mulroney, a native Quebecker, was able to harness that discontent to the Progressive Conservatives' advantage by promising a new constitutional agreement.
In 1984, Turner managed to defeat the Tory incumbent in Vancouver Quadra, Bill Clarke by 3,200 votes, a surprising result given the size of the Tory wave, and became leader of the opposition. He was the only Liberal MP from British Columbia, and one of only two from west of Ontario. The Liberals, amid their worst showing in party history and led by an unpopular Turner, were said by some pundits to be following the British Liberals into oblivion. Though the Liberals had not fared much better in the 1958 election, they had clearly emerged as the main opposition party back then. After the 1984 election, however, the NDP were not far behind with 30 seats. Their leader Ed Broadbent consistently outpolled Turner and even Mulroney, except in Quebec.
The election loss seemed to confirm Turner's fate; he announced he was standing down from the party leadership in May 1989, officially resigning in June 1990. Turner resigned as Official Opposition leader, while still holding the Liberal leadership, so Herb Gray became the caucus leader in the interim. Chrétien won that year's leadership convention over Paul Martin. Although not officially endorsed by Turner himself, Martin was widely the favourite of Turner's supporters.
Turner continued to represent Vancouver Quadra in the House of Commons before retiring from politics in the 1993 election.
Turner was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada on October 19, 1994, and was invested on May 3, 1995. His citation reads:
Turner was ranked 18th out of the first 20 Prime Ministers of Canada (through Jean Chrétien) by a survey of Canadian historians in 1999. The survey was used in the book Prime Ministers: Ranking Canada's Leaders by J. L. Granatstein and Norman Hillmer.
In 2017, he was awarded the Gold Medal of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society. Turner lived in the Deer Park neighbourhood of Toronto.
Turner died on September 19, 2020, at the age of 91. A state funeral was held for Turner on October 6, 2020, at St. Michael's Cathedral Basilica. Turner was buried in a private service at Mount Pleasant Cemetery. Turner and Mackenzie King are two former Prime Minister interred at Mount Pleasant.
Currently, John Turner is 93 years, 3 months and 18 days old. John Turner will celebrate 94th birthday on a Wednesday 7th of June 2023.
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