'A great public servant': Outpouring of tributes following John Turner's death
TORONTO -- Canadians far and wide are sharing touching tributes following the death of John Turner, Canada’s 17th prime minister.
Turner died peacefully in his sleep at home in Toronto on Saturday, according to a family representative.
“A terrific public servant, he believed really strongly in parliament,” long-time politician Bob Rae told CTV News on Saturday. “One of his most eloquent speeches I heard was on his 90th birthday where he talked about the importance of parliamentary life, about politics and about public service. It’s something that he believed in very, very intensely.”
Turner served as a Liberal prime minister for just 79 days over the summer of 1984 – the second-shortest tenure in Canadian history – after losing the general election that year to then-Progressive Conservative Leader Brian Mulroney.
Mulroney said that, even after Turner went from prime minister to MP, he retained his sense of dignity and fairness.
“John Turner was a gentleman in politics,” Mulroney told CTV News on Saturday. “I found him to be a very tough opponent and very vigorous opponent, but a gentleman in Canadian politics at all times.”
Turner was first elected to the House of Commons in 1962 and held many high-profile positions in former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau’s caucus, including stints as justice and finance minister.
“Today we mourn the passing of a great Canadian, the Right Honourable John Turner, who served his country with distinction and pride. On behalf of all Canadians, I offer my deepest condolences to his family and his friends. May he rest in peace,” Governor General Julie Payette said in a tweet.
“John lived a life that was rich and accomplished, full and fulfilling. A Rhodes Scholar and Olympic-qualifying track and field star, he distinguished himself early in life, establishing a pattern of achievement that defined the rest of his days,” former prime minister Paul Martin said in a statement.
“He was an enormous source of support and advice to me during my years in office. But one of the moments that stands out most was when my Dad had just lost his campaign to become Liberal leader and Prime Minister – in a race that John had also unsuccessfully contested.
However, my father was at the end of his career and John's was only beginning. What John did was to invite our family to his home the day after the convention for brunch. The kindness, respect and generosity he exhibited with that invitation touched me deeply.”
Following the news of Turner’s death, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau released a statement saying, “I learned with great sadness today of the death of the Right Honourable John Turner [...] Mr. Turner was a humble man with a strong social conscience. He supported many charitable organizations, including Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. He was also an honorary director of World Wildlife Fund Canada and an ardent advocate for the protection of Canada’s lakes and rivers.”
Federal Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole issued a statement saying, “Track star, lawyer, parliamentarian, but most importantly father and patriot, his contributions to Canada are profound and his legacy assured. On behalf of Canada's Conservatives and the Official Opposition, I would like to express our sincere condolences to (Turner's wife) Geills and his entire family.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford took to Twitter to honour Turner, saying “he was a dedicated public servant who devoted decades of his life to making Canada a better place.”