Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Greatest Canadian

Thomas Clement Douglas was voted "The Greatest Canadian" of all time in a nationally televised contest organized by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 2004. Tommy Douglas started his career as a lightweight boxer, and in 1922 he won the title of Lightweight Champion of Manitoba. He won the title again the following year. He had a Master's Degree in Sociology from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and later continued his graduate studies in Chicago. Following his studies, he became a Baptist minister in Saskatchewan, and in 1935 he was elected to the Federal Canadian House of Commons. He then went on to become the Premier of the Province of Saskatchewan.

"Well ... *Yawn* ... you say. So far, pretty dull".

Well, okay, yes. But wait ... there's more.

Many of you may not recognize his name, but Tommy Douglas was Donald Sutherland's father-in-law, and Keifer Sutherland's ("24") grandfather, and I'm sure you have all heard of Donald and Keifer Sutherland. Keifer bears more than a passing resemblance to his grandfather, Tommy Douglas. And yes, Donald and Keifer Sutherland are both good old Canadian boys, kind of like Bob and Doug McKenzie. My father was a big fan of Donald Sutherland, and he was an even bigger fan of Tommy Douglas. He used to call him "the tough little bantam chicken".

During Tommy Douglas' first term in office, his government enacted innovative legislation, most of which I will not bore you with here, except for passage of the Saskatchewan Bill of Rights, which preceded the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations by 18 months.

In the summer of 1962, Saskatchewan became the centre of a hard-fought struggle between the provincial government, the North American medical establishment, and the province's physicians, who brought things to a halt with the 1962 Saskatchewan Doctors' Strike. The doctors believed their best interests were not being met and feared a significant loss of income as well as government interference in medical care decisions even though Douglas agreed that his government would pay the going rate for service that doctors charged. The medical establishment claimed that Douglas would import foreign doctors to make his plan work and used racist images to try to scare the public. In 1964, Supreme Court Justice Emmett Hall, Chair of a Royal Commission on the national health system, recommended the nationwide adoption of Saskatchewan's model of public health insurance. In 1966, the Liberal minority government of Lester B. Pearson created such a program, with the federal government paying 50% of the costs and the provinces the other half. ... Wikipedia

It is for this that Canadians voted Tommy Douglas "The Greatest Canadian". Given all the choices, and there were hundreds initially, which were whittled down to 50 and then to ten, Tommy Douglas was chosen by Canadians over all the other contestants as "The Greatest Canadian" for his establishment of socialized health care in Canada.

The top ten were:

1. Tommy Douglas (father of socialized health care, Premier of Saskatchewan)
2. Terry Fox (athlete, activist, humanitarian)
3. Pierre Trudeau (Prime Minister)
4. Sir Frederick Banting (medical scientist, co-discoverer of insulin, Nobel Medicine Prize Laureate)
5. David Suzuki (geneticist, environmentalist, broadcaster, activist)
6. Lester Bowles Pearson (Prime Minister, former United Nations General Assembly President, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate)
7. Don Cherry (hockey coach, commentator)
8. Sir John A. Macdonald (First post-Confederation Prime Minister)
9. Alexander Graham Bell (Scottish-born scientist, inventor, founder of the Bell Telephone Company, which later became the American Telephone and Telegraph Company)
10.Wayne Gretzky (hockey player)

Neither CĂ©line Dion (thank God) nor Jim Carrey even made the top ten. You will notice that the list contains two Nobel Laureates, however.

Tommy Douglas one famously said, "I don't mind being a symbol but I don't want to become a monument. There are monuments all over the Parliament Buildings and I've seen what the pigeons do to them."

He also said, “Courage my friends, it’s never too late to make the world a better place.”


Lone Grey Squirrel said...

My, my. Thank you for this very interesting post. Although being a great fan of Donald Sutherland (and to a lesser extant, Kiefer), I have never heard of Tommy Douglas but i can understand his popularity after reading your post.

My thoughts on the top 10 were;

1. Tommy Douglas (Who? oh! I get it)
2. Terry Fox (a little surprised that he is so high on the list but he definitely is an inspiration to many. I've taken part in two Terry Fox runs)
3. Pierre Trudeau (I am a big fan and I generally dislike politicians)
4. Sir Frederick Banting (just think of how many lives have been saved by his discovery....what a legacy)
5. David Suzuki (I have had an opportunity to hear his speak 3 times and I have goosebumps. I admire his science, humanity and spirituality)
6. Lester Bowles Pearson (Don't really know much about him but a leader who uses soldiers for peace and not war is clearly a special person)
7. Don Cherry (I wouldn't have him on the list but I am not surprise that hockey mad Canada thinks he ought to be)
8. Sir John A. Macdonald (I guess he put Canada on good foundations)
9. Alexander Graham Bell (The man who started the telecommunications age - good which led to the Blackberry - bad)
10.Wayne Gretzky (The GREAT ONE! No doubt placed lower in the list for the unforgiveable sin of marrying an American and playing for the LA Kings)

11. Jo for promoting Canada and defending its national health system.

the walking man said...

And here I was thinking from all of the stores, that Tim Horton was the greatest Canadian. He didn't even make the top 10!?! I am so sad now I have to go have a coffee and a donut.

Avril Fleur said...

Thanks for doing a wonderful post on my personal favourite Canadian icon. I believe he rightfully is the Greatest Canadian and that his movement for national health-care is the single greatest accomplishment by any Canadian politician. We need more Tommy Douglases. Here's hoping Obama can do for the US what Tommy did for us.


Luckily, I'd been doing some research on various health care programs in different countries, and came across the Wikipedia story also.

And being a die-hard Red Wings' fan, I know that my entire family (also Wings' fans), we mention Wayne with great admiration, and probably secretly wish he'd played for the Wings, instead of the LA Kings (smile).

Let's hope Obama has read up on all the successful health-plans that have worked well for other countries; that he and his staff have really researched everything, and can be remembered for accomplishing something as rewarding to the USA citizens.

His speech was stunning last night; he did say he wasn't the first president to resolve the health-care issue in the U.S., but he wants to be the last - I liked that; he's passionate about this, and my fingers are crossed so that so many who now suffer without insurance and proper care, will come to enjoy it as both my husband and I do.

The Bug said...

Why wasn't Red Green on the list? Heh.

I think it's really cool that the "father of Canadian healthcare" should be prized so highly. I'm sure that if we ever come up with a system that works, its author will be right up there with Jon & Kate Gosselin (sp?) in popularity.

Nicole said...

Last night I saw a commercial with a survivor of breast cancer speaking. No problem...a reminder to get ourselves checked out. BUT then she went on to say England has government run health care and their survival rate for breast cancer is nowhere near ours. So if we manage to pull together and get health care for everyone then women with breast cancer are going to die! It upset me that the "other side" would take such an important topic and use it to scare people to their side.

Jo said...

LGS, thank you...! *heh* You know, there is so much about Canada that people don't know. I love surprising them. But you have been to Canada, so you know how fabulous it is!

Mark, LOL. I think he actually did make the top 50, believe it or not!

Avril, yes, if Obama can pull it off in the States, I will definitely have a renewed respect for him.

Diane, I heard on CNN this morning that almost 47,000,000 people in the US have absolutely no health coverage at all. That is greater than the whole population of Canada, and it's dreadful. I'll keep my fingers crossed. :-)

The Bug, omigawd, yes. Jon and Kate!!?? Who are they!!?? I watched an interview on ABC with Jon the other night, and I thought, "How did that man get to be a celebrity!?"

Nicole, but unfortunately other stats for the US are down, including infant mortality and overall longevity of the population. So, I guess it's all relative. :-)

Land of shimp said...

The Gosselins are celebrities because they make others feel more comfortable with their own failings. "Yes, compared to them? I'm doing quite well, thank you very much."

What a lethargic lump of man he is, yet he still manages to be reprehensible.

Onwards to great Canadians! I did know about many on the list, but can honestly say that I don't know the name of any hockey coaches, regardless of nationality!

I wish there were more women on that list. There are three I can think of within the space of ten seconds that helped bring the greatness of Canada to the rest of the world, but that isn't quite the same as being great within Canada (although, I think an argument can be made for the first two, if not the third): Margaret Atwood, Emily Carr, and Lucy Maud Montgomery.

LMM was more "the name most outsiders will know of as being from Canada, and the writer most young women encountered who told those same young women their first stories set in Canada."

Here's hoping they were in the top fifty, there's a lot of worthy competition for the ton ten, clearly.

By the way? I think my mother would say, in response to the inclusion of Alexander Graham Bell, "Here now, perhaps we could share him!"

Nicole said...

Since I have been on the fence governement run health care I found the breast cancer commercial in bad taste. they are implying that anyone who gets it will die because England has a much lower survival rate.
Do to my husband's new job falling through we are on state run medicaid. Yesterday I tried to pick our health plans only to find out that the one we wanted was no longer available even though it was listed. The woman told me I would just have to find a new doctor. I am five and a half weeks from a repeat doctor is going to take me now I am too much of a risk.
Granted this is just one state's bull s$!t but I wonder if the same would happen with government health care.
I have to say I appreciate reading about all the actual good things about Canada's health care. I just wonder if lawmakers here can be level headed enough to take a look at other countries. Right now it seems to be all about scare tactics.

Katy said...

I have to say, everytime you write about Canda, it makes me want to move there. I can only fathom what kind of "Top 10" list Americans would come up with.

Miranda said...

You know what is terrible and I've said this to people before but, I live only 3 or 4 hours from the border of Canada and yet have never visited. I have a couple friends from Gonzaga who are from Canada, and never have I visted. I'm a horrible friend. I'm afraid though if I visit, I might not come back. The lure of good medical care and well just better things all around might just keep me there! Unfortunatly, your list showed me that I know NOTHING of Canada, and before I defect maybe I should start reading up on the country. On the surface I say "YAY CANADA!"
I did know Jim Carey was from Canada though, and yes blushingly I am a fan. I love goofball comedy though.
Oh and a big By The Way, THANKS for following my blog! Four followers now! I'm on my way!

PhilipH said...

“Courage my friends, it’s never too late to make the world a better place.”

I hope he's right, especially with regard to climate change and global warming.

It's looking grimmer as time seems so short now.

TomCat said...

Josie, he sounds like a thoroughly interesting fellow. I wish we had more like him here.

ivan said...


That is apposite, especially with the American situation today.

TC said...

You always have educational or @ the very least entertaining posts. This one is both.
Donald and Keifer I might have known about, Tommy Douglas? nope. I didn't know or remember Jim Carrey was a surprise.
You make the health care plan sound so simple, lets hope our government can find something equally simple and effective?

Canarybird said...

Another good post Jo! As an absent Canadian I can only be grateful for the wonderful health care my family in Canada have received over the years, with never a worry of how to pay for the hospital or after-care bills.

I always enjoy reading how you stand up for the truth about Canadian medical care. And of course I love following your blog with my morning coffee every day. Cheers, Sharon.

Jo said...

Alane, I will find the top 50 list and let you know how many women are on it, but I am almost positive the three you mentioned are on it. One day I should post my list of famous Canadians that no one knows is Canadian. People are always surprised. :-)

Nicole, omigawd...! I can't believe what you are telling me. That would never happen in Canada, and you don't even want to KNOW the wonderful benefits you would get -- free -- if you were in France. You are the reason your country needs health care reform!

Katy, oh, gosh, you should at least come up for a visit. You would love Canada.

Miranda, I love Jim Carrey too. Did you know some of the best comedians are from Canada? Oh, yes. You really must make that four-hour journey, and visit Canada. You would love it!

Philip, oh, yes. We are in for another El Nino here, just in time for the Winter Olympics. *sigh*

TomCat, yes, he was a tough little guy, and he did not back down.

TC, actually a good health care system is quite simple. Folks there are making it sound complicated, but it's really not. And good luck to you. I hope everyone gets what they need. :-)

Sharon, yes, it's amazing what we have taken for granted here in Canada, isn't it? And then when you travel to other places, you can see how fortunate we are.

I'm so glad you enjoy my little blog!

Jo said...

Alane, you will be happy to know that Margaret Atwood, Lucy Maud Montgomery, and Emily Carr were on the list, as was Pamela Anderson, Celine Dion, Avril Lavigne, Sarah McLachlan and Joni Mitchell.

Land of shimp said...

Jo, it is nice to know that they all made it into the top fifty. All due respect to Joni Mitchell, I can't help but hope that Atwood, Carr, and Montgomery were rather closer to the top than some of the others. To be ranked below Pamela Anderson would be a bit of blow ;-)

Land of shimp said...

Gah, I'm sorry, it's late. I completely forgot to say thank you!

Thank you for adding that, Jo :-)

Lydia said...

Wow. What a timely post for Americans to read and ponder! Really interesting stuff.

Paula Slade said...

What an interesting man and even more interesting that he was chosen #1. I must say Canadians have their priorities spot on!