On June 18, the Rt. Hon. John Turner is scheduled to speak at the Economic Club in Montreal, marking the 50th anniversary of his first election as the Member of Parliament, in the Montreal riding of Saint-Laurent-Saint Georges. It is a notable anniversary for Mr. Turner, and some of his original campaign team will be on hand. But it is likely to be more than just a nostalgic reflection on a remarkable parliamentary career. Five decades on, Mr. Turner still has something important to say.
The facts of Mr. Turner's life and career are well known. He represented ridings in three provinces, Quebec, Ontario and British Columbia. He held some of the most important cabinet portfolios, including Justice and Finance. He was the 17th Prime Minister of Canada. He was also Leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, a vital job in our parliamentary democracy.
But June 18 will be more than just an occasion to reminisce, as Mr. Turner is expected to expand on his brief remarks at a recent Public Policy Forum dinner where he was scathing about the state of Canada's Parliament.
He lamented the centralization of power in the Prime Minister's Office, and the erosion of the importance and independence of standing committees "that used to be a real element of democracy in the House of Commons." He condemned the Conservative's omnibus budget bill, reminding the audience that "the budget used to be related to taxation," and arguing the government's strategy is to hamper debate. He also cited the inheritance of Magna Carta, the charter of liberties, that a ruler's will is not arbitrary, and that the privileges of parliamentarians need to be protected.
"What we have in this country didn't happen by accident, democracy doesn't happen by accident," said Mr. Turner. "Let's fight for the restoration of the supremacy of Parliament in our democratic life."
It was more than partisanship, it was a heart-felt defence of Canada's parliamentary democracy by a great Canadian parliamentarian. June 18 promises to be interesting.
Editor's note: an earlier online version of this story incorrectly stated that John Turner is the only Canadian to have represented ridings in three provinces. He isn't - at least one other prime minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King, also achieved the feat.