The late Prime Minister John Turner was a rare kind of politician. His commitment, above all, was to democracy, public service, and to Canada. He was a man of steadfast values, and he lived them every day.
He’s often been described as the man who knew the most Canadians by first name. He was warm, often in the centre of a room with people coming up to say hello. He gave people his full attention and was interested in talking to and learning from other people, even late in his life.
Prime Minister Turner was generous with his time. I once had the privilege of spending a whole day with Prime Minister Turner in my riding of Scarborough-Guildwood. He wanted to visit a school so we had an assembly at Cedarbrae CI. He was witty, interesting, and captivated an auditorium full of teenagers, encouraging them to get involved in their communities and volunteer. He stressed the importance of volunteering, to show up, get involved, to love your neighbours as yourself, to build a strong community. His message resonated with the group of students.
While he was in the riding, we had an intimate dinner at the Scarborough Golf & Country Club. Prime Minister Turner talked to each and every person there, asking them about themselves and their lives. He inquired about the member of my staff with me. When she introduced herself, she mentioned that she was also a songwriter and singer. PM Turner was thrilled to learn this and asked her to play a song. She took out her guitar and played “Red is the Rose”, an Irish song that touched the Prime Minister. It was a magical moment.
John Turner understood that to lead was to lead by example, and he did: he inspired generations after him to be active citizens and neighbours. To put public service before self. His passing leaves an irreplaceable gap in our country.