Former Canadian Prime Minister John Turner Dies At 91

Former Canadian Prime Minister John Turner has died at age 91.

Turner was dubbed "Canada's Kennedy" when he first arrived in Ottawa in the 1960s and served in several cabinet roles under then Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau. But Turner failed to live up to the expectations of his early career, governing for just 79 days himself as prime minister in 1984 before losing a general election to Conservative rival Brian Mulroney.

Despite losing the election to Mulroney, Turner guided the Liberals through some of their darkest days in the 1980s. His right-of-centre contribution to party policy paved the way for other Liberal Prime Ministers Jean Chretien and Paul Martin who came after him.

Turner's life and career often contradicted each other. He was a jock who studied at Oxford and the Sorbonne, a staunch Catholic who defended the decriminalization of abortion and a Bay Street lawyer who campaigned against free trade in 1988 – calling it the "fight of his life."

As justice minister in Trudeau's cabinet between 1968 and 1972, Turner proposed a national legal aid system and created the Federal Court. He also defended martial law and the suspension of civil liberties during the October Crisis of 1970, as well as the decriminalization of abortion.

Turner was named finance minister in 1972 and held the job for three turbulent years, marked by high unemployment and high rates of inflation. He eventually won the 1984 Liberal leadership race after Pierre Trudeau stepped down and left politics.

Turner triggered an election just nine days after being sworn into office as prime minister in 1984. The campaign was a disaster. The party wasn't prepared to run a campaign and was mired in organizational problems.

Turner led the Opposition Liberals for six more years. He lost the 1988 election to Mulroney when free trade was the central issue in the campaign. He stepped down as Liberal leader in 1990 and left politics in 1993. Turner spent the remainder of his professional life at a Toronto law firm.