article: Niagara and the political legacy of the Rt. Hon. John N. Turner

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.


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article: Canada’s Northern Light – John Turner at 90


source: Dan Donovan, Ottawa Life Magazine


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article: Rt. Hon. John N. Turner celebration


source: David Crane, The Hill Times


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Rt. Hon. John N. Turner 90th Birthday Celebration

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!

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Celebrating Jim Flaherty

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!

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Responding to Bullying – A Perspective

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

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Video: Health advocates pushing for e-cigarette crackdown amid surge in teen vaping

Source: Global News, Simon Little and Nadia Stewart on February 27, 2019

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Health advocates in B.C. are calling for a crackdown on e-cigarettes in a bid to keep the devices out of the hands of teens.

The group, which includes the B.C. Lung Association, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Heart and Stroke Foundation, says recent data shows a surge in teen vaping habits.

It points to the latest U.S. National Youth Tobacco Survey, which found that the number of young people who said they had vaped within a 30-day period was up 78 per cent in 2018 from 2017.

A 2016-17 Canadian study found that about 10 per cent of students in grades 7 to 12 had used an e-cigarette within the last 30 days.

“When you have flavours in e-cigarettes like chocolate cherry, piña colada, birthday cake, those are definitely not the kind of flavourings we think an adult who is trying to quit would be using,” said Jack Boomer, director of the Clean Air Coalition.

The group says the permit process for selling tobacco products in B.C. is too easy and that the process to be able to sell vaping products — which have nicotine but no tobacco — is even easier.

“There seems to be research coming out which indicates that youth are four times more likely to start smoking combustible cigarettes if they start using e-cigarettes,” added Boomer.

The coalition is calling on the province to require tobacco and vape product retailers to pay permit application fees and annual renewal fees and also to cap the number of tobacco and vaping retail stores in the province.

It also wants to see the sale of tobacco and vaping products banned near schools or youth-oriented facilities, as the province does with alcohol and cannabis, as well as in stores with pharmacies.

However, advocates for the vaping industry say they’re open to working with health groups to keep the products away from kids — but no one has asked.

“We have never, never received one phone call from those organizations to say, ‘How can you work with us?’” said Marc Kealey with the Canadian Vaping Association.

“We’ve been very bullish on this with governments across Canada, that there needs to be a certification program with a third party, that our industry would commit and submit to, that says if you want to be in this business, you must know these kinds of things.”

Kealey said the association has been working with Health Canada and the province, advising both on changes that could help to restrict access for teens, but that, overall, they believe the current system to be robust.

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Research and Analysis – Election Ontario 2018 (final summary)

Our final summary of Election 2018 Ontario:

Posted in Politics |

Has any other election been as strange as the 2018 Ontario General Election?

By Marc Kealey
Kealey & Associates

Given the run up to this election and the weirdness from each of the three main Party campaigns, I’d venture to say that there has not been an election this strange since the “Dooms Day Election” of 1917, when then Prime Minister Borden- fighting against Wilfrid Laurier tried to create a win by introducing the strangest of legislative initiatives. It backfired.

Sound familiar? In a sense, the Wynne Government took great pains to move the government so far to left with legislative and policies decisions that long-time Liberals scratched their heads wondering if this was really the Liberal Party anymore. The Budget in 2018 was likely the last straw for Wynne’s government, notwithstanding that her popularity had taken the biggest hit in polling history – the lowest at 12% – the promise of a balanced Budget was thrown to the curb so that the science experiment created by Wynne and her brain-trust to control the left of the political spectrum would pay dividends – they thought.

They could not have been further from reality.

Ontario is a centrist province. Always has been! The Party that controls the centre – or gravitates to it with policies invariably wins government and retains it.

voteSo, when Campaign 2018 in Ontario hit the hustings, the battle lines were drawn. The Wynne Liberals at the centre left – wallowing, the Horwath New Democrats at the far left and going even further left – shoring up their numbers, and the Ford Tories singularly holding the far right and staying there – in hope to swing the province back to some modicum of centrism.

Campaigns are about themes! Generally, few campaigns are won on the record of the government – they are always about hope and creating more hope. The Horwath campaign bounded out of the gates with a cheery, positive almost pitch perfect start and her polling numbers reflected that from the start. At the same time, the Ford campaign – if that’s what it could be called, was equally buoyant. The Progressive Conservatives chose not to have a campaign bus and focused most of the Party’s attention on Doug Ford and his “Help is on the way” slogan. It seemed to catch fire. That coupled with the “buck a beer” slogan seemed to generate support from voters looking for a break. Conversely, the Liberal campaign seemed to start off sluggishly. But at the debate – 2 weeks before election day, Wynne caught fire. She was stellar in the debate and won the contest – but her polling numbers didn’t move a bit. With the prospect of a pure blow out – meaning no seats – Wynne did the unimaginable – she quit the race! She did what no leader ever did in Ontario political history – retreated because she felt voters didn’t like her. When asked why the Party chose this course of action, pundits in her camp said it was designed to “free up” voters to vote their conscience – with the proviso that they vote strategically to ensure that Liberals (without Kathleen Wynne) would get elected and provide the kind of check and balance between the far-right Ford Tories and the far-left Horwath New Democrats.

The outcome, of course, is inevitable. The Liberals are excoriated and forced into political wilderness, the Tories assume Government and the New Democrats will form the Official Opposition. The next provincial election will be in 2022 – 4 years from today.

There are lessons to be learned for certain. Sorry – not sorry – doesn’t cut it! Voters demand authenticity and they want leaders who don’t operate in secret. The Liberals under Wynne may have started out as authentic but lost their appeal when they moved legislative initiatives that scared off even traditional Liberal supporters. She will go down in history as a very bad politician. The Progressive Conservative Party has a unique leader, but many talented people in the caucus from which the leader can choose to govern. The New Democrats may be Official Opposition and may need to take a lesson from their federal cousins on how best to stay there.

The new Government’s transition will be over the next month followed by a swearing in at Queen’s Park. It is the dawn of a new era in politics in Ontario and many more stories to follow. What a crazy campaign – what a strange time in Ontario politics. Stay tuned!

Click for a definitive analysis of Ontario’s election, or request at

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Video: The Agenda with Steve Paikin

Kathleen Wynne’s Ontario: Changing the Strategy

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.

Presented by Steve Paikin, The Agenda on June 4, 2018

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Premier Wynne Admits Defeat: The Thinking Behind It

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.

Presented by Steve Paikin, The Agenda on June 4, 2018

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