In order to create suspense in the weeks before he announced his leadership intentions, John Turner was careful, almost up to the last minute, to avoid giving any indication that he was building a campaign team. As a result, by last week only an inner nucleus of organizers and advisers had been picked for the team that will gain strength and numbers in the weeks ahead. Among the key players:
Heather Peterson: As national director of Turner’s leadership campaign, the attractive and outgoing Peterson brings energy, brains and an extensive network of Liberal party connections to the Turner cause. A native of London, Ont., and an honors graduate in history from the University of Western Ontario, Peterson, 42, learned constituency politics as a volunteer for her husband, Liberal MP James Peterson, first during his unsuccessful bid for a seat in 1979 and in the federal election a year later when Peterson won Toronto’s Willowdale riding. A sister-in-law of Ontario Liberal Leader David Peterson, she served as the party’s Ontario campaign vicechairman in the 1979 federal election and went on to become party liaison officer in the Prime Minister’s Office in Ottawa. Politics are not the Petersons’ only passion: in 1974, because of their love of ballet, Heather and James helped Soviet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov defect in Toronto. Peterson hopes Turner’s campaign will attract “a large and efficient team of volunteers. But we are just beginning and we have a lot of catching up to do.”
John Swift: A 35-year-old Vancouver lawyer who served as Turner’s executive assistant between 1973 and 1975 and has helped build support on the West Coast, Swift is expected to serve as a campaign organizer and convention strategist in Turner’s drive for the leadership. As a University of British Columbia law student in 1973, Swift first met Turner after he won a grant from a foundation that Turner worked for. Soft-spoken but persuasive, Swift has been a Turner insider ever since. Married with two children, Swift is president of the Liberal riding association in Vancouver Quadra, in which, it has been speculated, Turner might run. So far, he says, the Turner organization has been “a group of five or 10 people without titles. But now it’s really going to take off.”
Bill Lee: The well-connected head of an Ottawa consulting firm, Executive Consultants, Lee is expected to play a key role as one of Turner’s personal advisers and strategy planners during the campaign. An astute and highly experienced political organizer—the late Liberal cabinet minister Judy LaMarsh called him “the best of the backroom boys”—Lee ran former defence minister Paul Hellyer’s campaign for the Liberal leadership in 1968 and, when Pierre Trudeau won out instead, landed on his feet as organizer of the new Prime Minister’s first national tour. Toughminded and self-assured, Lee in recent years has become a close friend and adviser to Turner, who calls him at least once a week.
Dennis Baxter: A veteran radio and television reporter, Baxter, 44, resigned from the CBC to become Turner’s communications director a week before his new boss officially entered the leadership race. Born in Ottawa, Baxter took degrees in commerce and political science from the University of Ottawa before joining the CBC in 1964. He was the CBC’s Moscow correspondent from 1977 to 1980 and he helped cover the 1980 Moscow Olympics. Married with two sons, Baxter has an expert knowledge of the electronic media and a thorough grasp of federal politics. Turner’s campaign, says Baxter, will go “flat out, at 100 m.p.h. Turner is taking nothing for granted, wants nothing left to chance.” John deB. Payne: A Montreal consultant and political analyst, longtime Quebec Liberal insider and Turner confidant, deB. (for deBurgh) Payne worked for the CBC’s English-language newsroom in Montreal and supervised the network’s coverage at the United Nations in the 1940s. Loaned out by the CBC as a consultant, he served with the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization and later was an executive assistant to Prime Minister Lester Pearson. From 1958 to 1972 he was a member of the Liberal party’s national executive and chairman of its communications committee. Payne left the executive in 1972 but he has never stopped waving the Turner banner. As a close friend and longtime Turner adviser, Payne is expected to play a major role in policy formulation in the coming months.
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