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John Turner - Making a Difference

By Roderick Benns

When former Prime Minister John Turner reflects on the years he spent as a progressive minister under both Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau, he is satisfied he made important social changes for all Canadians.

Asked to consider a time in politics when he knew he was making a difference in Canadians’ lives, Mr. Turner says he “had a lot to do with a number of situations that affected people directly.”

Mr. Turner pointed out he was involved with legislation and departments that had many direct connections to Canadians under both Prime Ministers Pearson and Trudeau.

“For instance, I always believed in balancing individual rights against those of corporations,” says Mr. Turner.

That’s why the former leader says he was proud to introduce the bill in the House of Commons in 1967 that created the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs – and then he led it.

“I headed up the Department of Consumer and Corporate Affairs which gave a balance in the legal rights between consumers and corporations,” Mr. Turner says.

As John Turner biographer, Paul Litt writes, this “fit with his concern for the rights of the average Canadian in the face of impersonal bureaucracy…”

Litt notes that for Mr. Turner it was “also a matter of social justice; the poor…commonly paid more because they lacked access to consumer choice and got stuck with the highest interest rates.”

Under former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, Mr. Turner was appointed minister of justice in 1968 – a post he held for four years. It was during this time that Mr. Turner sponsored Criminal Code reform.

“At the justice department, I established the federal court of Canada,” where trials and hearings were heard across Canada, he says. The court also strengthened the rights of individual defendants on trial. Mr. Turner also got rid of the tradition of party patronage in the appointment of judges. He also set up the Law Reform Commission.

During a key time in Canada’s history, Mr. Turner would also direct the Justice Department under the War Measures Act. He was also minister of finance from 1972-1975.

After years as a successful lawyer, Mr. Turner was convinced to seek the leadership of the Liberal Party in 1984. Mr. Turner won and became prime minister when Mr.  Trudeau left office. Losing to Brian Mulroney in 1984, he nonetheless doubled the Liberal seat count in the next election, in 1988.  He remained Liberal leader and leader of the opposition until 1990. He then retired from politics once again to resume his legal career.

Did You Know?

John Turner is known as Canada’s ‘fastest prime minister,’ for his distinguished athletic record while in university. In the late 1940s, Turner was one of Canada’s top sprinters. In fact, he set the Canadian record in the 100-yard dash, running it in 9.8 seconds in 1947.

The University of British Columbia sprinter also dominated the 100-and-200-yard events. He even qualified for the 1948 London Olympics, but a car accident closed this window of opportunity.

Mr. Turner, a Rhodes Scholar, studied law at Oxford and in 1954 was called to the Quebec Bar.

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2014 Federal Budget: Economic Action Plan

Wednesday, February 12, 2014 @ 01:02 PM

“Implementing policies focused on raising Canada’s economic potential and creating stable, well-paying jobs continues to be the Government’s top priority. Economic Action Plan 2014 takes additional steps to achieve these objectives, especially returning to budget balance in 2015. Maintaining focus on these priorities is the best way to ensure that Canada is prepared to weather any future economic storm that may arrive from outside our borders. It is also the best way to ensure that Canada’s future is a prosperous one, with a healthy, competitive economy fuelled by low taxes, and government services that are sustainable for generations to come.”

Click here for the 2014 Federal Budget



By Roderick Benns

Canada’s 17th prime minister says he is in favour of a formal prime ministers’ club that could concentrate on national and international issues.

Former Prime Minister John Turner says the idea of a club where former leaders gather to meet doesn’t have to be in the American tradition.

“We don’t seem to have that tradition here, like the Americans do. If we did it, we could be a little more formal and less haphazard,” he says.

In the U.S., the presidents’ club was established at Dwight Eisenhower’s inauguration by Harry Truman and Herbert Hoover.

According to the book The Presidents Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity, by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, “Truman enacted one Hoover recommendation after another, and sent the 71-year-old former President on a 50,000-mile mission around the world: with Truman’s encouragement (he)…met with seven kings, 36 Prime Ministers and the Pope. When he was in Cairo in April of 1946, he and Truman did a joint radio broadcast exhorting Americans to conserve food…And it worked; by the end of that summer, Truman could announce that America had shipped five and a half million tons of grain to the ravaged regions of Europe, thereby keeping the nation’s promise and forestalling a humanitarian catastrophe.”

However, after this auspicious beginning the cooperation level of the presidents would stall and occasionally be revived depending on circumstances.

After Nelson Mandela’s death, Canadians were recently surprised to see Prime Minister Stephen Harper aboard Royal Canadian Air Force 001, flying to the funeral with three of his predecessors — Kim Campbell, Jean Chrétien and Brian Mulroney. Former Prime Minister Joe Clark met the three in South Africa.

Even public photo ops among former PMs are rare. However, Mr. Turner tells Leaders and Legacies that it’s logical for former leaders to meet and discuss issues.

“Overall it makes some sense to discuss international and national concerns.”

In a previous interview with Leaders and Legacies, former Prime Minister Paul Martin said he will soon be working on an initiative that will involve one former prime minister — Joe Clark. He said it has something to do with Aboriginal Canada, the cause closest to Mr. Martin’s heart.

When asked who else he might like to work with and on what issue or cause, Mr. Martin singled out former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney as someone who “is very interested in Aboriginal issues.”

Mr. Martin says that working with former leaders for Aboriginal Canada and Aboriginal education would be something he would be interested in.

“I would welcome any involvement that helps with this.”

Click here for original article.