Happy Birthday, John Turner

Posted by Daniel on Jun 7, 2009

Congratulations to John Turner who turns 80 years old today.

Turner, of course, holds a "first" in BC political history. When he became prime minister in June 1984, succeeding Pierre Trudeau, he was the first person with a connection to BC to take on the top job. (Let's agree to discount John A. Macdonald who represented a Vancouver Island riding for a time but strictly as a matter of political convenience and hardly ever visited the province.) Turner moved to Vancouver as a teenager following World War II with his mother Phyllis and stepfather, Frank Ross, who later became lieutenant governor of the province. John attended UBC where he was a champion sprinter and won a Rhodes scholarship.

Following university Turner established his legal, and then political, career back East. First elected to the House of Commons as a Liberal in 1962, he held prominent cabinet positions in the governments of Lester Pearson and Pierre Trudeau. In the federal election of September 1984, his first as prime minister, he returned to BC to run in the riding of Vancouver Quadra. He won the seat but the Liberals lost the election, thus ending his brief tenure as PM. He went on to represent Quadra in Parliament for the next nine years until his retirement in 1993. Political trivialists will know that Turner was born in England and thus was not the first native of British Columbia to be PM. That honour belongs to Port Alberni-born Kim Campbell, prime minister for five months in 1993. Since Campbell was chosen PM by the Conservative Party in convention, and lost the subsequent election, it remains the case that no British Columbian has ever been elected to the top job in Canada.