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 Céline 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.”