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Alone at the Top
The Path to Power
Leading Canada
Private Life
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John Napier Turner.


A future prime minister rescues a former prime minister

The winter of 1965: a young Liberal M.P. and his wife are vacationing in Barbados. Staying at the same hotel is a venerable Progressive Conservative politician who is leader of the Opposition and a former prime minister of Canada. While on the beach one morning, the M.P.'s wife notices that the Opposition leader has gone out for a swim, but appears to be in trouble. The surf is rough that day; there is a strong undertow and the elderly leader is not a strong swimmer. She anxiously alerts her husband to the situation.

The young M.P. was a competitive swimmer in his university days and without hesitation, he plunges into the surf. Grasping the leader in a life-saving hold, he struggles against the undertow and finally makes it back to shore. Once on the beach, the Liberal is about to start artificial respiration on the Opposition leader, when the rescued man comes round.

The rescued Progressive Conservative leader and former prime minister was John Diefenbaker. The life-saver and Liberal M.P was John Turner; nineteen years later he too became prime minister of Canada. Had events turned out otherwise that day in Barbados, Canada's history might have been drastically different!

Source: Canada's Prime Ministers, 1867 - 1994: Biographies and Anecdotes. [Ottawa]: National Archives of Canada, [1994]. 40 p.

Turner: main page

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