Thomas (Tommy) Clement Douglas
Tommy Douglas was born on October 20, 1904. He was born in Falkirk, Scotland. He died when he was 82 on February 24, 1986. Tommy Douglas is responsible for many of the great benefits we have today. He introduced paved roads, sewage systems and power to most farmers. He somehow managed to reduce the provincial debt by $20 million. He later introduced Saskatchewan residents to car insurance and labour improvement. He is most famous for his long-standing dream of universal Medicare. He supported many and provided hope for the people of Saskatchewan. He won the respect of millions of Canadians due to his excellent debating and speaking skills. It was only after his death when he was voted "The Greatest Canadian" in a national CBC Television contest by his advocate George Stromboulopoulos.
The Douglas family emigrated to Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1910. The family then returned to Glasgow, Scotland, during World War I, but came back to settle in Winnipeg in 1919. He was the child of Scottish immigrants. As a youth, Tommy experienced a bone infection in his leg. The doctors recommended he had his leg amputated. His parents had no money for a specialist. This happened not long before a specialist offered to perform a surgery on his leg, as long as his students were able to witness it. This surgery saved his life, and was his inspiration for universally accessible medical care.
As a child Tommy Douglas' behavior and characteristics revealed the personality traits that he would be greatly admired and approved of in the future. During Douglas' life, he experienced many different types of professions, such as an amateur actor, boxer and apprentice printer.
Then he found his true calling when he enrolled in a liberal arts college organized by a Baptist church and was a pastor in Weyburn in 1924. This happened during the Depression in 1924 prior to entering the life of politics as an MP for the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF). After he spent nine years in the House of Commons, he was then elected the leader of the provincial CCF in Saskatchewan on June 25, 1944. He formed the first socialist government in North America.
Some people saw him as someone who ranked human rights and needs above the pursuit of profits and power, a democratic socialist. Others saw Tommy Douglas as a man with a great sense of humor. He was recognized as a great politician whose natural speaking skills caught the attention of his crowd by using his jokes and stories. One of his famous stories was titled Mouseland. "They conducted their government with dignity. They passed good laws--that is, laws that were good for cats. But the laws that were good for cats weren't very good for mice. One of the laws said that mouse holes had to be big enough so a cat could get his paw in. Another law said that mice could only travel at certain speeds--so that a cat could get his breakfast without too much effort. All the laws were good laws. For cats. But, oh, they were hard on the mice. And life was getting harder and harder. And when the mice couldn't put up with it any more, they decided something had to be done about it. So they went en masse to the polls. They voted the black cats out. They put in the white cats." This was a political fable originally told by a friend of his - Clare Gillis - to show how Canadians fail to recognize that neither the Liberals nor Conservatives are truly interested in what matters to ordinary citizens, and yet Canadians carry on voting for them. This changed the attitudes of many of the voters and opened their eyes.
Tommy Douglas knew what was going on in the economy. He knew how to state his opinions and beliefs to benefit the people. He was a man who could not only do this, but also get others to change their minds and support him. Whenever he introduced something, it was introduced with passion. He knew what he was talking about
In 1944-1948, Douglas took on the role of Health Minister during the first term of his government, during which time the first steps towards Medicare were taken. Major advances included: free health care for pensioners, free psychiatric hospital treatment for the mentally ill, as well as the construction of Mental Health Clinics, free cancer treatment for those in need, the creation of the first comprehensive health services region, construction of new health care facilities, the creation of the College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan, and Air Ambulance to transport those in rural areas to central or regional hospitals. On January 1, 1947, Douglas created Canada's first universal and necessary hospital insurance program - the Universal Hospital Services plan. It was the first program in North America to provide complete benefits to all residents. The legislation proposed: Expanded hospital facilities (21 new hospitals over 4 years), X-rays and lab services, Common drugs and other hospital services, Compensation for a share of out of province medical costs, with payment for the insurance at a rate of $5 per person to a maximum of $30 per family.
In 1947, Douglas' government created and put into place Canada's first Bill of Rights. It included protections for the freedoms of religion, speech, assembly and elections, while also legally forbidding both racial and religious discrimination. Douglas and the CCF also invited Japanese Canadians, who had been locked up during the Second World War, to resettle in Saskatchewan. In 1946-1948 he was one of the first Canadian leaders of government to consult his party's advisory committee during the process of choosing his cabinet ministers. Douglas and the CCF made significant adjustments in provincial administration, including: departmental and interdepartmental reorganization, departmental and interdepartmental reorganization, reforms to the civil service, reforms to the civil service, and the forming of the Economic Advisory and Planning Board, a central cabinet committee, to manage budgetary decisions.
Also, The Social Welfare Department, created during the early years of the Douglas government made the following adjustments: increased old age pension dramatically, increased and extended mothers' allowances, increased welfare benefits, legislated that free medical and hospital care be provided to welfare recipients. Also, the Social Welfare Department made improvement to the Child Welfare Act: the Social Welfare ministry assumed wardship of orphaned children from the unregulated private organizations that had been providing care before, qualified social workers were hired to supervise the program, a better adoption system was created, and the Department took responsibility for youth corrections.
Tommy Douglas was a compassionate man. He was deeply affected by the living condition that families lived in and the suffering he witnessed in his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba. Especially during the Depression, he felt their pain and misery. He set up a food distribution centre at the church and provided many people with the necessities they required.
I NEED MORE TO WRITE AFTER THIS
THEN MY CONCLUDING SENTENCE IS :
Tommy Douglas remains a resource of inspiration for social minded people everywhere.