Former PM turns heads
By Caroline Greene
Canada's 23rd Prime Minister, the Right Honourable John Turner, addressed a room of Western students yesterday presenting the three most important challenges facing Canada as it enters the year 2000.
Sporting his characteristic liberal red tie, Turner discussed the future of Quebec, Canadian sovereignty and globalization from his perspective as both a lawyer and a former politician.
Turner said he believes the debate over the future of Quebec has lasted too long. "It's all about recognizing Quebec as a different part of Canada." Quebec, as the homeland of French-speaking people throughout North America, has its own common culture, history and sense of purpose, he said. "In subjective terms, [Quebec has] all the characteristics of nationhood."
He also discussed the historic recognition by the British parliament in 1774 of Quebec as a distinct society with different laws, property and matrimonial practices. He added the current distress over the wording of unique or distinct is just "playing games with vocabulary."
As leader of the opposition from 1984 to 1990, Turner is perhaps best remembered for his anti-free trade 1988 election campaign. He said he continues to believe that Canadian sovereignty is being eroded by free trade with the United States. "I would never have been stupid enough to bargain with someone 10 times as powerful as us."
Although Turner was the shortest serving Prime Minister this century, holding office for only 80 days, he is a veteran of Canadian politics as he served as a Member of Parliament for almost a quarter of a century.
He held a variety of positions under the Trudeau government including Minister of Justice and Finance. A Rhodes Scholar, Turner earned his law degree at Oxford University and currently practises law in Toronto.