After the Trudeau-Chretien wing of the occasion turned on him, a proposal of assist got here from an unlikely supply – Brian Mulroney
My earlier column was prompted by Steve Paikin’s new ebook – John Turner: An Intimate Biography of Canada’s seventeenth Prime Minister. However there’s extra to Turner than I used to be in a position to handle in a single column. So, drawing once more from Paikin’s ebook, one other is so as.
Understanding Turner implies understanding his view of Parliament. He thought it ought to be fairly totally different from the way in which it has advanced in latest many years.
Turner noticed Parliament as greater than a repository of votes to help regardless of the prime minister’s workplace demanded. It must also be a nationwide discussion board totally free debate and particular person members ought to have a big voice in what transpired. They shouldn’t simply be a part of a legislative machine with the prime minister’s workplace controlling the levers.
And Turner had loads of private expertise in making Parliament work. As justice minister, he shepherded probably the most “far-reaching and controversial authorized reforms since Confederation” via the Home. This was Invoice C-150, which launched main adjustments with respect to the authorized remedy of abortion, divorce and homosexuality. Handed in Might 1969, it was thought of very superior for its day.
Though these reforms are usually related to Pierre Trudeau, Liberal eminence Jerry Grafstein provides Turner a lot of the credit score. To cite: “If you happen to have a look at the Simply Society, the man that put via the Simply Society was John Turner. Trudeau couldn’t get it via Parliament. John Turner was nice in Parliament.”
Getting together with the Individuals
Turner’s greatest second as Liberal chief was his all-out battle in opposition to the North American Free Commerce Settlement. Whereas he misplaced that one, it was one of many few management events the place he was the political powerhouse Liberals had been anticipating.
It will, nevertheless, be a mistake to deduce anti-Americanism from this. In contrast to a few of his Liberal colleagues, instinctive antipathy to the US wasn’t a part of his make-up. Turner, actually, acquired together with all kinds of Individuals – even Republicans!
True, he was nearer to Democrats and really a lot in thrall of the Kennedy legend. Certainly, he wasn’t above exaggerating his private Kennedy connections.
However, as finance minister, Turner additionally developed a wonderful private relationship with Richard Nixon’s treasury secretary, George Shultz. Within the curiosity of selling wholesome and amicable relations with the Individuals, he would repeatedly go to Washington to play tennis and have dinner with Shultz, thereby starting a friendship that lasted the remainder of his life.
In Turner’s later telling, he undertook this at Trudeau’s behest. As a result of Trudeau and Nixon didn’t get alongside, one thing wanted to be carried out. So the “Scotch and tennis” initiative was duly launched and achieved its goal: “We had a five-point agenda and we solved each level.”
Apparently, too, Turner’s tackle Nixon was extra beneficiant than what you’d anticipate from a Liberal. Somewhat than denigrating the president, Turner later remarked how Nixon “impressed me enormously along with his mind.”
The kindness of Brian Mulroney
When Turner left politics for the second and ultimate time, he will need to have been dissatisfied – even shocked – on the reception awaiting him. In contrast to the mid-Seventies, Bay Avenue companies didn’t fall over themselves to recruit him. He was not the golden boy, the prize catch, the prime minister in ready.
Paikin ascribes a lot of the negativity to the battle over the Free Commerce Settlement. One quoted observer places it this manner: “He betrayed his earlier friendships by opposing free commerce. Everybody minimize him off after that. He acquired no first rate boards. He knew it. And his pals knew that’s what had occurred to him.”
For a proud man who’d taken “one thing within the order of an 80 per cent pay minimize” to return to politics in 1984, this could’ve stung. Add “his damage at what he noticed because the stunning disloyalty he skilled from the Trudeau-Chretien wing of the occasion” and you’ve got a scenario that Paikin doubts Turner ever absolutely recovered from.
A suggestion of assist got here from an unlikely supply – Brian Mulroney.
Mulroney and Turner might have fought one another in two brutal election campaigns, however mutual respect nonetheless prevailed. And on turning into conscious of the issue Turner was experiencing in his job search, Mulroney made a proposal. Turner may turn into ambassador to Italy. It will be a snug appointment the place there’d be ample time to write down his memoirs.
When Turner graciously turned it down, Mulroney sweetened the provide by including the Vatican to the proposed posting. Turner once more declined, preferring to take his possibilities in Toronto.
Nonetheless, it was a beneficiant gesture. Typically your ostensible enemies are kinder than your nominal allies.
Pat Murphy casts a historical past buff’s eye on the goings-on in our world. By no means cynical – properly, maybe a bit bit.
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