Tommy Douglas - Voted the "Greatest Canadian"
In 2004, nearly twenty years after his death, Tommy Douglas was voted “The Greatest Canadian” in a national CBC Television contest. Among the nominees who Douglas edged out for the title were Lester Pearson, Pierre Trudeau and Terry Fox.
Tommy Douglas has been called many things: the father of medicare in Canada, a little man with a big heart and even a hero. Throughout his long political career, he built a reputation as a charismatic public speaker with shocking wit, and universal respect for always standing by what he believed, no matter how unpopular.
Douglas was born on October 20, 1904, in Falkirk, Scotland. His family emigrated to Canada in 1910, settling in Winnipeg, Manitoba. They returned to Glasgow during the first world war, and once again moved to Winnipeg when Douglas was 14.
Tommy Douglas began his political career as a Member of Parliament from 1935-1940. In 1944 he became premier of Saskatchewan, the first socialist regional government in North America. Most of his MLAs (Members of the Legislative Assembly) represented rural and small-town ridings. Under his Cooperative Commonwealth Federation government, Saskatchewan became the first province to have Medicare, billed at the time as government-funded mandatory universal medical insurance. In 1961, Douglas left provincial politics to become the first leader of the federal New Democratic Party. He died on February 24, 1986, at the age of 81.
List of Accomplishments
Under Tommy Douglas, the government of Saskatchewan brought about the following groundbreaking measures:
Provided full medical, dental and drug coverage to those needing state assistance.
Established equality of education for all.
Introduced free air ambulance service which was essential to the north.
First to provide universal coverage for hospitalization.
First to introduce a budget bureau to provide long-term planning.
First to introduce government insurance.
First government to allow collective bargaining for all workers including civil servants.
First Arts Board in Canada.
First to introduce a Farm Security Act in North America.
First to grant the right to vote at age 18.
First to introduce the 8-hour work day, the 5-day work week, and paid holidays for workers.
First Small Claims Court in North America.
First Bill of Rights in Canada.
First universal Medicare plan in North America.