When I first met John in 1961 I disliked him almost instantly. I was a 19-year-old McGill University student who knew everything that was worth knowing. He was a 32-year-old tax lawyer wearing a dark pinstripe three-piece suit. Sitting behind his large desk on the upper floors of a downtown Montréal office tower, to me he was Mr. Establishment.
John was also the President of the Young Liberals. As a member of the McGill Liberal Club, my debating partner and I needed his permission to engage in a public debate with two Russian students touring universities across North America. It was at the height of the Cold War, with Russia being the first country to send a cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, into space to orbit the Earth. For reasons he never explained, John just said “No, Liberals don’t debate Russians.” End of discussion. As I was also a McGill Debating Union member, my team did debate the Russians, but without the Liberal Club sponsorship.
Fast-forward some 28 years for our next meeting. After 16 years of practising public interest law, in July 1989 I joined Miller Thomson, then a relatively small Toronto-based full-service law firm. A few months later John Turner joined our firm as a rainmaker, to bring in business. As I had no clients of my own at the time, I looked forward to John making some rain for me. He did that very well, for me and the entire firm.Continue reading “RIP JOHN TURNER: MY PERSONAL MEMOIR”