Jack Horner (politician)

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The Honourable
Jack Horner
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Acadia
In office
March 31, 1958 – June 24, 1968
Preceded by Victor Quelch
Succeeded by District was abolished in 1966
Member of the Canadian Parliament
for Crowfoot
In office
June 25, 1968 – May 22, 1979
Preceded by District was created in 1966
Succeeded by Arnold Malone
Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce
In office
September 16, 1977 – June 3, 1979
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau
Preceded by Jean Chrétien
Succeeded by Robert de Cotret
Minister Without Portfolio
In office
April 21, 1977 – September 16, 1977
Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau
Personal details
Born (1927-07-20)July 20, 1927
Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan
Died November 18, 2004(2004-11-18) (aged 77)
Calgary, Alberta
Nationality Canadian
Political party Liberal (1977-2004)
Other political
Progressive Conservative (1958-1977)
Spouse(s) Leola Horner
Relations Hugh Horner (Brother)
Norval Horner (Brother)
Albert Horner (Cousin)
Children Brent Horner
Craig Horner
Parents Ralph Horner
Profession Farmer, Rancher

John Henry "Jack" Horner, PC (July 20, 1927 – November 18, 2004) was a rancher and former Canadian politician and Cabinet minister.

Nicknamed "Cactus Jack", Horner was born in Saskatchewan, the fifth child in a family of six boys and three girls. His mother's uncle had been a prisoner of Louis Riel's provisional government. His father, Ralph Horner was a failed Conservative candidate who was appointed to the board of directors of Canadian National Railways by the government of R.B. Bennett in 1931, and then to the Canadian Senate in 1933.

Jack Horner moved to Alberta at the age of 18 to manage a ranch purchased by his father and then bought his own ranch in 1947.

He was first elected to the Canadian House of Commons in the 1958 federal election from the rural central Alberta riding of Acadia, when the Progressive Conservative Party of which he was a member was swept to power with a huge majority. Horner was an avid supporter of PC leader John Diefenbaker. Also elected to the Parliament of Canada as Tories were his older brother, Hugh Horner and cousin Albert Horner. With Jack Horner's father, Ralph, still sitting as a Senator, four Horners were sitting in the two chambers of Parliament simultaneously. Another brother, Norval Horner, was elected to the House in 1972. When Acadia was abolished in 1968, the bulk of it was absorbed into the new riding of Crowfoot, and Horner ran from this riding and won.

According to Jack Horner's obituary in the Globe and Mail newspaper:

He presented himself as a friend of farmers, a foe of railways, an advocate of capital punishment, a critic of generous unemployment payments, an opponent of the right to strike in essential services, and at all times a staunch free enterpriser. He railed against any changes to the Crow's Nest Pass rate that might hurt farmers. He was alert to any threat of socialism, whether from the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, Opposition Liberals, or the Red Tories in his own party.

Horner developed a reputation as a right winger and outspoken advocate for the rights of farmers and ranchers. He remained one of "Diefenbaker's cowboys" during the 1960s, backing his leader against the ultimately successful attempts to unseat him. At the 1966 Tory convention which changed the rules to allow a challenge to a sitting leader, Horner threw a punch at Dalton Camp supporter Roy McMurtry, and accosted Brian Mulroney in a hallway. He resented the leadership of Diefenbaker's successor, Robert Stanfield, describing him as "a very, very sad choice". Horner worked to undermine Stanfield's leadership through manoeuvers such as leading a revolt against the party's support for the Official Languages Act.

He was a candidate for the PC Party leadership at the 1976 convention. At one point during the convention, he knocked over an eavesdropping reporter. He finished fourth in the contest, and threw his support to Claude Wagner, who lost on the final ballot to Joe Clark.

Horner had even less respect for fellow Albertan Clark than he had for Stanfield, regarding him as a city slicker, and once giving him the ultimate rancher's insult by describing him as a "sheep herder".

On April 20, 1977, Horner shocked his constituents and many political observers by crossing the floor to join the Liberal Party, which was at the time deeply unpopular in Alberta. The next day, he joined Pierre Trudeau's Cabinet as minister without portfolio, and was promoted in September 1977 to the position of Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce. Diefenbaker described the defection by saying "the sheriff has joined the rustlers."

Despite his Cabinet position, Horner's floor-crossing was extremely unpopular in his strongly conservative riding. Even by rural Alberta standards, Crowfoot was a particularly strong bastion of conservatism. Most of its living residents had never been represented by a Liberal, and the bulk of its territory had been represented by centre-right MPs since 1935. He was not helped by the redistribution ahead of the 1979 federal election, which pushed him into a riding that was almost two-thirds new to him. Although it retained the name of Crowfoot, most of its constituents came from neighboring Battle River, represented by Tory incumbent Arnold Malone.

Many critics argued that Horner's floor crossing was motivated by opportunism as opposed to ideology and ultimately provoked by the pending electoral redistribution. Had Horner remained with the Progressive Conservatives, the redistribution meant he would have had to face Malone for the PC nomination. Since Malone was favoured by Clark and the PC establishment, Horner's prospects for securing the PC nomination in the redistributed Crowfoot constituency were poor. Other than leaving federal politics altogether, Horner's only other options were to run as an independent or run for another party. Running as an independent would have likely been more popular with Horner's constituents than running for the Liberals. However, Horner had not previously represented the constituents of the redistributed Crowfoot constituency so his prospects of getting elected as an independent, while probably better than his chances of being elected as a Liberal, were still slim. On the other hand, serving as a government member from Alberta virtually guaranteed Horner a cabinet post for the remainder of the 30th Parliament, on account of the fact that the Liberals had not elected any candidates under their own banner from Alberta in the 1974 election. Serving as a Liberal also gave Horner the prospect of securing patronage appointments under future Liberal governments after leaving Parliament, a prospect that Horner considered quite likely given his low opinion of Clark's leadership.

In any event, Horner ran for reelection even though polling indicated Horner faced almost certain defeat (one poll showed him getting only 15 percent of the vote, down from 75 percent in 1974).[1] As expected, Horner was badly defeated in the 1979 election that unseated the Liberal government. His vote share collapsed to 18 percent, and he finished more than 20,000 votes behind Malone. Horner attempted a comeback in the 1980 federal election, but despite the return of a Liberal government nationally, Horner again placed a poor second in Crowfoot, winning only 4,761 votes, 1,000 votes fewer than he'd managed in 1979.

The Liberal government appointed him to the board of Canadian National Railways, where he served as chairman from 1982 to 1984. From 1984 to 1988, he was Administrator (Federal Deputy Minister equivalent) of the Western Grain Transportation Agency, reporting to Parliament through the Minister of Transport.

He died at a Calgary hospital, leaving his wife, Leola, and two sons, Brent and Craig.


External links[edit]

Parliament of Canada
Preceded by
Victor Quelch
Member of Parliament Acadia
Succeeded by
District Abolished
Preceded by
New District
Member of Parliament Crowfoot
Succeeded by
Arnold Malone
20th Ministry – First cabinet of Pierre Trudeau
Cabinet Post (1)
Predecessor Office Successor
Jean Chretien Minister of Industry, Trade and Commerce
1977 - 1979
Robert de Cotret