John Napier Turner, politician, lawyer, prime minister (b at Richmond, Eng 7 June 1929).
John Napier Turner, politician, lawyer, prime minister (b at Richmond, Eng 7 June 1929). Following the death of his father, Turner accompanied his Canadian-born mother to Canada in 1932. Educated in Ottawa private schools, Turner went west with his mother and stepfather, Frank Ross, at the end of WWII. After studies at UBC, Oxford and U of Paris, Turner joined a Montréal law firm, qualifying as a lawyer in Québec in 1954. Recruited by Lester Pearson as a Liberal candidate in Montréal, Turner was elected to the Commons in 1962 (re-elected 1963, 1965). When redistribution abolished his seat, he moved in 1968 to an Ottawa constituency. He first entered the Cabinet as part of a post-election shuffle by Pearson in Dec 1965 and served in minor offices until becoming minister of consumer and corporate affairs in Dec 1967. In 1968 Turner ran for the Liberal leadership, won by Pierre Trudeau, making a respectable showing as an "anti-establishment" candidate and as the most prominent younger English-language minister. Trudeau appointed him minister of justice in July 1968, a position he held until Jan 1972. In this capacity Turner sponsored Criminal Code reform and special legislation that followed the 1970 October Crisis.
In 1972 Trudeau transferred Turner to the Department of finance. When the Trudeau government lost its majority in Nov 1972 Turner found it necessary to tailor policy to the demands of popularity, and tax reductions and pension increases followed. The government still ran a surplus, both in 1973 and 1974, but the overall effect of its policy was to stimulate inflation. Once the Trudeau government regained its majority in an election caused by the defeat of Turner's May 1974 budget in the Commons, Turner concentrated on restraining inflation, but policies had not yet been decided when, in Sept 1975, he suddenly resigned from Cabinet without explanation, quitting politics altogether in Feb 1976 to join a large Toronto law firm. He declined to contest the Liberal leadership in 1979 (a contest which was never held) after Trudeau's first resignation, but with the announcement of Trudeau's resignation in Feb 1984 Turner decided to try for the leadership, which he won on the second ballot on 16 June 1984, defeating Jean Chrétien. Becoming prime minister on June 30, Turner dissolved parliament on July 9. In the election that followed in early Sept, Turner directed a disorganized campaign which failed to recoup the Liberals' already massive unpopularity and they suffered a disastrous defeat, winning only 40 seats in the Commons. However, Turner, who was not able to convince voters that he represented innovation or decisive leadership, won his own seat in Vancouver Quadra. He left office 17 Sept 1984 and became Leader of the Opposition. This was the beginning of 2 years of discord in his own party, which was only temporarily quieted after the reconfirmation of Turner's leadership at a Liberal convention in Ottawa in Nov 1986. While Turner still faced the challenge of gaining wider acceptance of his leadership, his party rose to lead the polls through 1987. Turner led a revitalized party in the 1988 election, campaigning effectively against the Conservative's free-trade policy. The party doubled its number of seats from 40 to 82 but fell far short of the Conservatives. Turner resigned as leader in 1990, replaced by Jean Chrétien, but he kept his seat until dissolution in 1993. He returned to private law practise.