John N.W. Turner (born June 7, 1929) is a former Canadian Communist official who served as General Secretary of the Worker's Party of Canada and as Premier of Canada from January 1984 until free elections were held in 1989, after which he peacefully transferred power to the center-right government which succeeded him. As Premier, Turner dismantled much of the Canadian communist state, openly endorsing the policies of "New Openness" and other pieces of the reform packages introduced by British Union leader Margaret Thatcher. Turner also resigned in June of 1989 as General Secretary, giving way to the Provisional Head of State to Paul David Manson, who would serve in that capacity until Joe Clark was elected President in November of 1991.
Despite his policy of economic reform, until 1987 Turner remained committed to perpetuating the WPC's control over Canada and famously refused to release jailed PAC leader Brian Mulroney and was Premier during the Champlain Bridge massacre in 1985, which irreperably damaged his government and hastened the decline of Canadian communism. However, Turner did not order a crack down on the 1987 Montreal protests as his predecessor Pierre Trudeau had done in 1976 in Vancouver and as a result simultaneously legitimized Quebec sovereigntism and anti-Communism in one fell swoop. As Mulroney later commented, "the events of the fall of 1987 inevitably led to Canadian democracy." In 1988, Turner released Clark and Mulroney from prison and committed to open elections within two years, the first British Bloc nation to do so. For this reason, Turner was very nearly offered the 1991 Nobel Peace Prize in conjunction with Mulroney and Clark, and it is often said that "the Cold War ended in Canada first."
Criticisms of Turner remain. Unlike senior Trudeau officials and Trudeau himself, Turner was absolved of human rights abuses by Mulroney's government despite overwhelming evidence that he had ordered six men tortured for information on the Front Quebec in 1985 and his inferred culpability for the Champlain Bridge massacre that same year.