Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Canadian Prime Ministers VII: John Turner, Brian Mulroney, and Kim Campbell

22.  John Turner (1984) Liberal Party.

John Turner was born in Richmond, Surrey, England in 1929.  After his father's death his Canadian born mother and he moved back to Canada and lived in Rossland, BC.  He went to the University of British Columbia where he was a star in track and field, graduated with honors and became a Rhodes scholar.  He studied at Magdalen College at Oxford and at the University of Paris, where he earned several law degrees.  In 1959 he was even romantically linked with Princess Margaret.  Turner practiced law in Quebec and entered parliament as a Liberal in 1962.   Once when vacationing in Barbados he happened to notice the former PM John Diefenbaker was in danger of drowning, and he pulled him to safety. 

In Parliament he became a cabinet minister for Lester Pearson and for Pierre Trudeau.  When Pearson retired he ran for the position of party leader but lost to Trudeau.  Like Trudeau before him with Pearson,  Turner served as minister of justice in Trudeau's cabinet.  Later he served as Finance minister but resigned in 1975 owing to differences with Trudeau and left the government to practice law, which was much more remunerative.  

When Trudeau finally decided to hang it up in 1984, Turner entered politics once more and defeated John Chretien to replace Trudeau as party leader and head of government. 

His tenure as Prime Minister was one of the shortest in Canadian History, less than 3 months.  While things looked good for the Liberals when elections were called, the mass patronage appointments by Trudeau, and other political miscalculations led to a massive victory by the Progressive Conservatives in the election that same year.

23.  Brian Mulroney (1984-1993)

Progressive Conservative Party.
Brian Mulroney was born in 1939 in Baie-Comieu in eastern Quebec on the Gulf of St. Lawrence.  His parents were of Irish Catholic background and his father was a paper mill electrician.  Baie-Comieu, was a company town supplying paper for the newspaper business, specifically for Robert McCormick's conservative American newspaper, The Chicago Tribune.  

Mulroney went to Catholic boarding school in New Brunswick,  there being no English language schools in the immediate area near his home and grew up fluent in both English and French.  He went to St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, NS.   While a student there he became involved in Progressive Conservative politics and helped to elect PC candidate Robert Stansfield to a position as premier in the province.  Stansfield would later become national PC party opposition leader during the early Trudeau years. 

Mulroney graduated from St. Francis Xavier in 1959 and entered law school at Dalhousie, but neglected his studies there while working to re-elect Stansfield as premier.  His subsequent illness caused him to flunk out of Dalhousie and he began law school later at Laval University in Quebec City. He received his law degree there in 1964 and passed the Quebec bar exam after the third try, subsequently joining a large law firm in Montreal where he specialized in labor relations.   He became a partner in the firm in 1971.   His stature in Quebec politics was enhanced by his participation in the Cliche Commission, a body set up by Quebec Premier Bourassa to investigate organized crime infiltration into labor unions in James Bay where major hydroelectric projects provide electricity to much of Eastern Canada and Northeastern US.

In 1976 he waged an expensive and unsuccessful campaign to become the leader of the Progressive Conservatives, a struggle in which Joe Clark was the winner.  In 1977 he became executive vice president of the Iron Ore Company of Canada where his experience as a labor lawyer was very useful.    

In 1984 he won the position of PC party leader over Joe Clark and went on to demolish John Turner's Liberal party at the polls becoming the Prime Minister.    While Mulroney had a large majority in the House of Commons, the Senate was a different matter, since it was primarily Liberal owing to the years of Liberal dominance in Canadian politics.   

As the PC PM he did a number of things in his nine years.  He privatized 26 of the 61 crown corporations then in existence, including Air Canada, and Petro Canada.  Although the new constitution following the patriation of Canada took place took effect, it did not get the blessing of the Quebec Provincial government, which has long requested and in some cases received special consideration and veto power in national matters.  The Meech Lake accord was an attempt to mollify the French Canadiens as a "distinct people" within Canada. It was a constitutional change requiring approval by all the provincial premiers.  This proved not to please anyone and the effort died. 

The idea and issue of free trade with the United States had long been a thorny issue.  At the time it appeared that the proponents and opponents had switched sides, with the PC's in favor and the Liberals (formerly in favor) opposed.  Before such an issue was resolved, an election was called in 1988, which returned the Progressive Conservatives to power if with a smaller majority. 

After the election a recession set in, in Canada as well as in the US.  A new "Goods and Services Tax" or GST was instituted, which, though said to be a shift of taxation from the old Manufacturer's Sales Tax to a consumer tax, was not popular.    A free trade agreement was made with the US in which all trade barriers would be eliminated by 1998, and which became NAFTA when the agreement was extended to include Mexico too.  This of course was the agreement that Ross Perot famously criticised as the "giant sucking sound" and Canadians and Mexicans were in retrospect divided as to its benefits.  

The cumulation of the unpopularity of the GST, the trade agreements, the economic downturn of the early 1990s, foreign entanglements,  and the demise of the cod fishery led to a rout of the PC of unprecedented size.  The number of Progressive Conservatives in parliament dropped from 150 to 2.   Prior to the election he decided to retire, leaving his justice minister, Kim Campbell to face the music.  She in turn only had a couple of months before the statutory end to the PC government in 1993. 

24.  Kim Campbell (1993) Progressive Conservative Party.

Avril Phædra Douglas "Kim" Campbell  was born in 1947 in Port Alberni, BC.   She attended the University of British Columbia, graduating with a degree in Political Science in 1969.  She then proceeded to the London School of Economics, where she worked on a doctorate in Soviet Government, but left before acquiring her Ph.D.  She then went back to the UBC and earned her law degree in 1972.  Her first foray into politics was for a seat in the BC provincial parliament as a Social Credit Party candidate.  She finally won a seat in 1976.  She served as Minister of Justice from 1990 -1993.   She became prime minister in a contest for party leadership where she defeated Jean Charest and then, as Prime Minister called for new elections, which would have had to have been held anyway since the default election date was fast approaching.  In the few months when she was prime minister she took the Progressive Conservatives to as thorough a defeat in national elections as any major party had experienced up to that time,  leaving the conservatives with enough members in parliament to hold a caucus in a phone booth.

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