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Rt. Hon. John N. Turner recently celebrated his 90th birthday.
Photo: Jean-Marc Carisse
Source: The Niagara Independent

Niagara is a big part of the legacy of former Prime Minister John Napier Turner – he has helped grow her fortunes by attracting major international business while in private practice as a  lawyer and in his public role as MP; he’s been a prominent voice for her cultural and agricultural attractions like the Shaw Festival and many, many wineries.  More importantly John Turner has many friends and associates from Niagara.  Most especially he is a stalwart champion for water – the most famous attraction in Canada being Niagara.

In June of this year, Canada’s 17th Prime Minister and one of her most prolific elected politicians celebrated his 90th birthday.  In the case of John Turner, most of what he’s accomplished in the nine decades of his extraordinary life is significance beyond the pale.  His 90th birthday party, co-chaired by the writer and Lisa Haley  (both Lisa and I were staffers for Turner on Parliament Hill 1984-1990). Those years was the era of free trade, of constitutional debate and when Confederation became mature –  most importantly it was widely hailed as the last and best times known in Canadian politics.

Given the run up to the federal election this fall, Mr. Turner’s birthday celebration marked an occasion of civility and bi-partisanship that heretofore had not been seen in Canada for years.  In fact, the occasion was marked by the presence and participation of every former Prime Minister of Canada and the current Prime Minster – the first time in the history of Canada.  At no other time in Canadian history have every and all living former Prime Ministers attended the same event.  But then again, it’s John Turner – he’s the dean of all former Prime Ministers and, without hyperbole, the most celebrated.

Rhodes scholar, Olympic athlete, accomplished lawyer and politician.  He once dated royalty, advised Popes, played touch football with the Kennedy’s and negotiated with Presidents and other world leaders in a spectacular political career that spanned 50 years.

And he’s still going. He’s 90 years old in 2019 and even when he was in his mid-80’s he continued to paddle Canada’s lakes and rivers in every corner of the country. The public John Turner is known for his accomplishments as an elected official having been elected in three provinces – a first in Canada and never repeated.  He was first elected in a Montreal riding in Quebec in 1962 – was re-elected in an Ottawa riding in Ontario in 1968 and was again re-elected in a Vancouver riding in BC in 1984.  He served in the Cabinets of Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson and Prime Minster Pierre Trudeau in the 1960’s and 70’s.  He ran to be Leader of his Party in 1968 losing to Trudeau yet replaced him as Leader when he ran and successfully won the leadership in 1984. Of course, the election outcome in 1984 saw the rise of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, but Turner and Mulroney were worthy advocates fighting two elections at a time when Canada was punching way above its weight. The debates of the 1980’s on Free Trade and constitutional oversight for Canada were legendary – Turner characterized them as the fights of his life.  Books have been written about that political era as the “last best”.

What many don’t know is that the private John Turner is equally as accomplished.  And he’s been quietly effective. He is known by many in Lake of the Woods (Kenora) where his family’s summer retreat is located as its best steward of the waterways in that area.  In fact, it was John Turner who encouraged the International Joint Commission(IJC) , a US/Canada treaty organization mandated to oversee inland waterways between Canada and the United States, to commit the Lake of the Woods waterway to jurisdiction of the IJC thereby ensuring appropriate funding for its clean-up and protection.

Water is his passion – he is the only Canadian to have paddled every lake and river in Canada – an accomplishment that has been recognized by the Royal Geographic Society.  He is the architect of the most recent treaty on the Columbia River signed in the late 1960’s.  He and then Senator Hillary Clinton (his close friend)  signed the 100th anniversary charter for the IJC in 2012 on the bridge that spans the Niagara River in Niagara Falls.  He was appointed by then Prime Minister Portia Simpson of Jamaica as the Chairman of the Jamaica-Canada Disaster Relief and Resilience Initiative recognizing his expertise on resilience in the face of disasters that may befall the Caribbean.  It was that initiative that set the staging area for Canada’s effective role in managing the first response after the earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010.

In more recent years, Prime Minister Turner has lent his name and caché to an award for students at Brock University and Niagara College studying and demonstrating leadership for water.  That award grant continues to this day and will likely growing with the establishment of a permanent institute of water proposed in Niagara Region.

Most of these exploits were recounted at his birthday celebration in Ottawa this month. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau led the evening off with candid remarks to the politically awesome assembly of well over 200 invited guests about his personal and lifelong friendship of Mr. Turner.  The Speaker of the House of Commons, the Hon. Geoff Regan, introduced Mr. Turner while Turner’s daughter,  Elizabeth, offered poignant words on behalf of the Turner family.  Former PM’s Joe Clark, Paul Martin and Jean Chretien provided extraordinary oratories on their relationship Mr. Turner, while former PM’s Mulroney, Campbell and Harper all provided wonderful video tributes.  Media greats Lloyd Robertson, Peter Mansbridge, Guy Gendron and Don Newman were on-hand to introduce the former PM’s and the evening ended with special introductions of noted Canadians attending like Ed Broadbent, Irwin Cotler, former Premiers David Peterson and Frank McKenna.   Of special note was the reading of a personal note from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth – welcoming her good friend John Turner (who once dated her sister Margaret) to the 90’s club.

Social media has been abuzz characterizing his 90th birthday party as one of the best political events Ottawa had ever witnessed.  Media reports in major dailies by those reporters in attendance were equally as effusive.  A befitting tribute to a great Canadian who is a living witness to some of the best of Canada – and more to come.

- Marc Kealey
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Notes for Remarks

Rt. Hon. John N. Turner P.C., C.C., Q.C.

90th Birthday Celebration

June 10, 2019

Ottawa, Ontario

 

 

Check against delivery

 

 

Thank you, Merci , Speaker Regan, for your comments and best  wishes.

 

At 90 years old – I’m probably the oldest person in this room and, as such,  I’m allowed the chance to say whatever the hell I want!

 

Permettez-moi de commencer par vous remercier tous d’être venus ici pour célébrer cette étape avec moi.  Vous tous dans cette salle ont été une partie de ma vie publique et privée depuis des décennies et je vous remercie tous d’être ici

 

I’m particularly happy that Prime Ministers Trudeau, Clark, Chretien and Martin have come tonight to honour this milestone.  Your presence here means a lot to me, but more importantly the roles each of you have played in making Canada what she is today –

 

le monde connaît le Canada plus intimement grâce à vos réalisations personnelles et collectives. Je vous suis reconnaissant.

 

Encore, je voudrais dire merci Monsieur le president, Speaker of the House of Commons –

the Honourable Geoff Regan

for being here this evening and making the venue available for us to celebrate.  I also want to thank Speaker of the Senate the Honourable Chuck Furey for his support of this event as well.

 

I want to acknowledge and thank my daughter Elizabeth for being here tonight to celebrate with me and her own daughter – my grand-daughter – Fiona.  Your love and support are appreciated.

 

I also want to thank and recognize the Co-Chairs for tonight – Lisa Haley and Marc Kealey.  Both have worked for me for many years and their efforts to make this event so memorable for all of us does not go unnoticed.  I especially want to recognize that today is Marc’s birthday and I wish you the very best, my friend!

 

I’m delighted that so many former and current Cabinet Ministers are here this evening – many of whom I served with in Cabinet in the 60’s, 70’s and my own in the 80’s. 

 

Vous avez tous été une partie importante de la croissance de ce pays et j’apprécie que vous soyez ici pour célébrer avec moi.

 

I want to thank the High Commissioner for Jamaica -her Excellency Janice Miller for being here.  I know Jamaica is in mourning over the recent passing of my friend – former Prime Minister Seaga, which is why the Prime Minister of Jamaica could not attend tonight.  Many of you don’t know that Marc Kealey and I sit on the Board of the Jamaica Canada Disaster Relief and Resilience Initiative that Howard Shearer – who is here tonight – Chairs. 

 

The initiative was set up because Canada is recognized as a leader for disaster resilience and response and I’m proud of the work we have accomplished so far to set a staging area in Jamaica for the entire Caribbean to prepare IF any disaster should befall that region.  I will be returning to Jamaica in the fall for meetings to follow up with the Prime Minister on the initiative.

 

I want to recognize Carolyn Bennett, my MP – she is a strong member of parliament and an even stronger woman.  I look forward to campaigning with her this fall.  That’s my small way to give back!

 

Il est important de redonner. 

 

Il est important aussi, que nous reconnaissons la force.

 

force de caractère et

 

la force de l’action.

 

As a young man, I actually grew up here in Ottawa around strong women – particularly my mother Phyllis. She was an extraordinarily strong woman -she was senior advisor to the Minister of Finance.  She was actually the focus of a cover of Maclean’s Magazine years ago noted as Canada’s highest- ranking female civil servant.  It was she who instilled in me a commitment to democracy!

 

The point I’m making is that involvement in democracy does not happen by accident.  My mother’s career offered me and my sister, Brenda, the opportunity to have a lot.  We were engaged as young children in political society in Ottawa – we’d often times spend quality time with Cabinet Ministers, the Prime Minster and very senior government people from around the world. My mother instilled in me the St. Augustin principle.   I have always tried to govern myself as outlined by St. Augustin “to him (or her) who has been given talent let him (or her) give some of it back.

That means become involved in our community.

Volunteer for work.

Attend meetings.

Discuss ideas for action.

Share in accomplishing a project.

Stay involved.

 

At the local level, neighbourhood, town, or city communicate with city councilors, provincial MLA’s and federal MP’s.

 

Help make things happen.

 

Run for office if that becomes possible.

Make it possible!

Democracy does not happen by accident!

 

 

Je continue à lutter durement pour la démocratie au Canada.  Je vois comment l’accès et les droits et libertés peuvent être compromis et je continue à travailler pour essayer de changer cela. 

 

Let me give a very real example.  When I was practicing law as a junior associate at the law firm I was working at the time in Montreal (Stikeman Elliot), I was invited to the Kingston Conference – 1960.  At that conference, I delivered a paper on the necessity to provide access for all Canadians to Canada’s justice system.  I said that as a democracy we should ensure that no one despite their cultural or economic circumstance should fall victim to a lapse in access to the justice system.

 

My paper clearly garnered some attention because two years later, Lester Pearson who was the Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada asked me to run for his Party. 

 

I won that election because our campaign had a terrific groundswell of support from young people across Montreal/St. Lawrence – I believe the ability of all those young people to rally behind our cause was the reason we did. 

 

People like Jim Robb and Sharon Gray who are here tonight. 

 

My wife, Geills, was involved in the campaign and because she was one of the first people in Canada to have a degree in computer science she prepared the database for our campaign and we used THAT kind of innovative technology to out gun our opponents.  We could easily track voters and their preference and prepared faster than the other party candidates.  

When I went to Ottawa as a rookie MP, I was involved from day one in some of the more important issues of the day and became a Cabinet Minister in Mr. Pearson’s government.  In 1968, I ran for Leader of the Liberal Party of Canada when Prime Minister Pearson resigned and we all know the history. 

 

When I was honoured by Justin’s dad, Pierre, to be his Minister of Justice one of the first things I did was implement my paper from 1960 – to create a system where access for all Canadians to the justice system was paramount and THAT was the start of Legal Aid in Canada.

 

Je dois également dire qu’au cours des années qui ont suivi, j’ai participé à un dialogue de plus en plus éclairé sur l’avenir de la démocratie dans le monde. Le Canada a toujours été considéré comme un pays responsable lorsqu’il s’agit de stabilité et c’est une bonne chose. 

 

 But, there are still opportunities for improvement.  I don’t like the use of the term BACK BENCHER when describing MPs.  It is the MP who holds a prominent position in the House of Commons.  My thinking on this is honed from the Magna Carta – one of the greatest pieces of democracy ever.  Written in 1215, it laid out the essence of democracy in Great Britain and became the template for democracy worldwide. 

 

Even at that time, the Magna Carta spelled out how citizen involvement through the casting of a ballot created the opportunity for a House of Common people (the Commons) to collect at Westminster to govern the people who voted them to attend there.  Once there, did they choose what group would be government by virtue of the number of “seats” their group had in the House and only then did THAT group nominate the person who would become Prime Minister.  It’s  so different today, where Prime Ministers act in a manner that I can only describe as unilateral. 

 

The most important part of democracy in my view is that ‘people govern people’.  We have to hold that principle sacred… where debate and opinion of people matter.  In fact throughout the world they call it parliament from the French word ‘parler’ to speak.  To disallow MPs to speak their mind and offer their opinion compromises the very essence of democracy.

 

Over my political career I have had and still maintain good working and personal relationships with several US Presidents – Bill Clinton (and Hillary of course) remain good friends as well as the Bush Family. Many of you here know of my friendship with the Kennedy family and for the short time I worked with both John and Bobby Kennedy, we worked well together.

I had a particularly better working relationship with President Richard Nixon. I was often sent to Washington to manage issues between our two countries. And we worked them out and I did all that on a handshake.

 

 

I recall a time when I was Minister of Finance, that I went to Washington, had meetings with then Secretary of State George Shultz, who was a good friend of mine, we’d play tennis at the White House, then get ready for dinner with the President.   We’d have a few scotches beforehand as well.    The President once said to me ‘Turner, you’re taking a risk coming here alone – you have no witnesses’. I said ‘Mr. President, if I thought I needed witnesses, I wouldn’t be here ‘.

 

And he gave me a huge bear hug. THAT was the way we resolved issues to determine a course of action.

 

On this issue of democracy I continue to watch THIS closely.  I believe that young people are critical and even today every time Marc Kealey and I travel anywhere in Canada or globally – we visit schools –

 

where I can talk to young people about the need to get involved in the political process.

 

Je pense qu’il est important qu’ils apprennent les subtilités du gouvernement d’un point de vue politique.  J’ai confiance en moi.

 

If I had any advice for young people or those of you in this room, it  would be to get involved.  You know, I tell people all the time that the outcome of doing nothing to impact public policy is impactful! 

 

Nos normes en matière d’éducation et de soins de santé sont sans égales et le fait que nous puissions fournir des services dans les deux langues officielles est un avantage distinct ET que nous devrions célébrer.

 

Wilfrid Laurier said in early 1900’s that the 20th century belongs to Canada. I think, that with the kind of talent that I see around this room and from the constant travel I do today across this country and interaction I have with young people –I’m more than convinced that the 21st century also belongs to Canada.

 

Now that I’m 90, I learned that good relationships keep us healthy and happy.

 

Social connections like this one tonight help us to live longer.  And to that end, it’s not just the number of friends – but the quality of those relationships.  They help to protect our brains and keep our memories sharp.

 

Again, I want to thank each and every one of you for being here to celebrate this event with me – and as they say –

 

a la prochaine!!

 

Merci beaucoup a tous!!!!

 

-30-

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Celebrating Jim Flaherty

Wednesday, April 10, 2019 @ 08:04 PM


Jim’s untimely death five years ago today shocked many in Canada. For those of us who worked with and for him as a politician, we knew a person of unparalleled intelligence and ethics. We also knew him as a person of extraordinary grace!

For those of us who knew him well from Whitby, we were all so very anxious to see how well he performed while in politics and most especially for what he would do in life after politics. That’s why it’s so hard to comprehend a life so large cut so short.

I recall when I was a hospital administrator in Whitby and going through a particularly difficult time in 1997 because of a government mandated restructuring. The town was in a foul mood over the prospect of potentially losing its acute care services at the hospital. Jim came to my office and sat in the one chair I had for visitors and folded his arms, “Kealey”, he said, “hold fast! What you’re going through is the scourge of leadership. If you can’t handle this, you should get out! But I think you can handle this!” That advice has stuck with me throughout my career and I heed it often. Life can be difficult at times, but when the world has the benefit of advice like that from Jim Flaherty it makes things that are tough seem possible – and it’s simply a better place!

I had the opportunity in 2011 to host Jim for a fundraiser at my home in Mississauga. It was an interesting start to the evening because some trouble-making people in Mississauga had alerted media that the Minister of Finance was coming to my home and they assembled at the end of my driveway. When his car drove up, he stepped out, greeted them warmly and invited them into my home. As if knowing that they were intruding, they politely declined. Vintage Jim Flaherty – he was simply a better man!

 
- Marc Kealey

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Responding to Bullying – A Perspective

Wednesday, April 10, 2019 @ 12:04 PM

In recognition of Pink Shirt Day – here is my perspective on anti-bullying that I co-authored in 2016. Sadly not much has happened in the way of any government legislation or regulation against bullying since then.

- Marc Kealey

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TVO: The Agenda with Steve Paikin

Tuesday, June 5, 2018 @ 01:06 PM

Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario
The Agenda: June 4, 2018



The Ontario Liberal Party has been in power at Queen’s Park for 15 years and Kathleen Wynne has been the premier for last 5, until now. Over the weekend, just days before the election, Wynne gave a concession speech and encouraged voters to elect either a PC or NDP minority government. The Agenda welcomes Kathleen Wynne to discuss that decision and why voters should still consider the Liberal platform.

_ _ _

 

Premier Wynne Admits Defeat
The Agenda: June 4, 2018



This weekend, Liberal leader Kathleen Wynne, stepping ahead of her abysmal poll numbers, admitted defeat in Ontario’s 42nd general election. Wynne said that she would not be leading the province once the votes were tallied, but that party supporters should remain steadfast to prevent a PC or NDP majority government.

The Agenda gathers a panel to discuss what this surprise announcement means for an election only days away and the future of the Ontario Liberal Party.

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Political analyst Marc Kealey says the Liberals
will do better next week than anyone thinks

 

 
source: CP24 News
(click to open video in new window)
 

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CP24: Emotions drive vote

Saturday, April 21, 2018 @ 03:04 PM

Political analyst Marc Kealey says research suggests people already know who they want to vote for based on their emotions


 
source: CP24 News
(click to open video in new window)
 

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