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Tommy Douglas

Premier of Saskatchewan, Leader of the NDP and the Father of Medicare

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Tommy Douglas Speaks In Britain
Express Newspapers/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

About Tommy Douglas

A small man with a huge personality, Tommy Douglas was gregarious, witty, feisty and kind. The leader of the first socialist government in North America, Tommy Douglas brought massive change to the province of Saskatchewan and led the way for many social reforms in the rest of Canada. Tommy Douglas is considered the Canadian "father of medicare." In 1947 Tommy Douglas introduced universal hospitalization in Saskatchewan and in 1959 announced a Medicare plan for Saskatchewan.

Premier of Saskatchewan

1944-61

Leader of the Federal NDP

1961-71

Career Highlights of Tommy Douglas

Introduced universal hospitalization in Saskatchewan in 1949 and a Medicare plan for Saskatchewan in 1959.

Crown Corporation Act led to the establishment of provincial air and bus lines, SaskPower and SaskTel.

Labour legislation included the Trade Union Act, the improvement of workers compensation and minimum wage, and a labour relations board.

Industrial development reduced the province's dependence on agriculture.

Introduced the first public automobile insurance in Canada.

Birth

October 20, 1904 in Falkirk Scotland. Family emigrated to Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1910. They returned to Glasgow during World War I, but came back to settle in Winnipeg in 1919.

Death

February 24, 1986 in Ottawa. Ontario

Education

  • BA - Brandon College, Manitoba
  • MA - McMaster University, Ontario

Professional Background

  • Printer
  • Baptist Minister. Moved to Weyburn, Saskatchewan after ordination in 1930.

Political Affiliation

  • CCF 1935-61
  • NDP 1961-79

Political Career of Tommy Douglas

  • Tommy Douglas first moved into active politics with the Independent Labour Party and became President of the Weyburn Independent Labour Party in 1932.

  • He ran for the first time in the 1934 Saskatchewan general election as a Farmer-Labour candidate, but was defeated.

  • Tommy Douglas was first elected to the House of Commons when he ran in the riding of Weyburn for the CCF in the federal general election of 1935.

  • While he was a federal member of parliament, Tommy Douglas was elected president of the Saskatchewan provincial CCF in 1940, and then elected leader of the provincial CCF in 1942.

  • Tommy Douglas resigned his federal seat to run in the Saskatchewan general election of 1944. He led the Saskatchewan CCF to a massive victory, winning 47 of 53 seats. It was the first democratic socialist government elected in North America.

  • Tommy Douglas was sworn in as Premier of Saskatchewan in 1944.

  • Through 17 years as Premier of Saskatchewan, Tommy Douglas pioneered major social and economic reforms.

  • In 1961, Tommy Douglas resigned as Premier of Saskatchewan to lead the federal New Democratic Party, formed as an alliance between the CCF and the Canadian Labour Congress.

  • Tommy Douglas was defeated in the federal election of 1962 when he ran in the riding of Regina City mainly because of a backlash towards the Saskatchewan government's introduction of Medicare.

  • Later in 1962, Tommy Douglas won a seat in the British Columbia riding of Burnaby-Coquitlam in a by-election.

  • Defeated in 1968, Tommy Douglas won the riding of Nanaimo-Cowichan-The Islands in 1969 and held it until his retirement.

  • In 1970, Tommy Douglas took a stand against the adoption of the War Measures Act during the October Crisis. It seriously affected his popularity.

  • Tommy Douglas stepped down as leader of the New Democratic Party in 1971. He was followed by David Lewis as NDP leader.

  • Tommy Douglas took on the role of NDP energy critic until he retired from politics in 1979.

  • Tommy Douglas died of cancer in 1986.

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