Tommy Douglas: The Father of Medicare
The Future of Medicare
By Tommy Douglas
Tommy Douglas and the Spies Ottawa Citizen (March 4, 2011)
Who would have thought that Tommy Douglas, the prairie socialist, Saskatchewan premier, founding spirit of the NDP, father of Canadian health care legislation and so much more during a long and momentous political career, would have one more arrow to his bow?
Douglas died in 1986. Twentyfive years later he is set to do one more good deed, from beyond the grave. Among the many political battles that Douglas fought was one dedicated to the idea that Canadians needed to be informed by their government of the nature of security threats and that the apparatus of security needed to be held accountable to Parliament and the people.
In a memorable speech in the House of Commons in 1963, Douglas called for the creation of a parliamentary committee to “look into the whole procedure for dealing with subversion and maintaining the security of this nation.” Using language that should resonate with all Canadians in a post-9/11 age, Douglas went on to say, “I admit that in the kind of world in which we live today, security is important. However, I contend that, equally important with maintaining security, is the maintenance of those basic democratic institutions upon which this country is built.” We are, incidentally, still waiting for that parliamentary committee and still searching for the right equilibrium between security and rights.
New Book on Tommy Douglas
Once voted the greatest Canadian of all time, Tommy Douglas was a prairie politician who believed in democratic socialism, the crucial role of civil rights, and the great potential of cooperation for the common good. He is best known as the “Father of Medicare.” Born in 1904, Douglas was a championship boxer and a Baptist minister who later exchanged his pulpit for a political platform. A powerful orator and tireless activist, he sat first as a federal MP and then served for 17 years as premier of Saskatchewan, where he introduced the universal health-insurance system that would eventually be adopted across Canada. As leader of the national NDP, he was a staunch advocate of programs such as the Canada Pension Plan and was often the conscience of Parliament on matters of civil liberties. In the process, he made democratic socialism a part of mainstream Canadian political life. Giller Prize-winning author Vincent Lam, an emergency physician who works on the front lines of the health-care system, brings a novelist’s eye to the life of one of Canada’s greats.
About the Author
Drr. Vincent Lam is from the expatriate Chinese community of Vietnam. Trained in Toronto, he is an emergency physician and a lecturer at the University of Toronto. His first book, Bloodletting and Miraculous Cures, won the 2006 Scotiabank Giller Prize. Lam is the co-author of The Flu Pandemic and You, which received an award from the American Medical Writers Association in 2007. He and his family live in Toronto.
GET THE BOOK: Extraordinary Canadians: Tommy Douglas
Tommy Douglas Speech
Speech to the 50th Anniversary Convention of the CCF/NDP
(Regina, July 2, 1983)
CBC Website Special on Tommy Douglas
Tommy Douglas: The Father of Medicare [View]
Shirley Douglas presentation to the 1998 CAW Political Action Conference
Video Clip from the last speech given by Tommy Douglas
Speeches of Tommy Douglas