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20th Century Canadian History

A significant Canadian

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Tommy Douglas

Tommy Douglas is a very significant Canadian, he’s the father of Medicare, and gave all Canadians no matter what race, or how much money they has equal opportunity to health care. In 1930 at the beginning of The Depression Tommy was a minister at Calvary Baptist Church, he started a job and food distribution center, and became very involved in politics.  In 1934 he ran for Prime Minister under the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) but lost. In 1935 Tommy Douglas ran again, this time he won and spent two terms in Ottawa. He served as Saskatchewan’s premier until 1961, followed by 10 years as leader of NDP.

 

  Tommy Douglas grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His entire family were Socialists after Douglas was diagnosed with a bone infection at age 10 their beliefs were solidified. The Douglas family didn’t make enough money for a specialist so they were going to have to amputate his leg, so the infection wouldn’t spread to the rest of his body. That was until a doctor had offered to do the operation that was needed for free as long as his students were allowed to watch. This surgery saved Tommy’s leg and maybe even his life. This started his dream for universally accessible Medicare.  Not long after Tommy witnessed the violent end of Canada’s first general strike known as “Bloody Sunday” when officers shot down on the general strike and killed two people. This also inspired him.

 

Later in life Tommy Douglas became a Minister, he made the move to politics in 1935 when he was elected as an MP in the CCF. After nine years of fiery public speaking he was elected leader of the provincial CCF in Saskatchewan. The party won in a landslide victory in 1944 and Douglas was an instant leader as the head of North America’s first ever socialist government. Premier Douglas mobilized and passed more then 100 bills in his first term, he introduced paved roads, sewage systems, and reduced the provincial tax by $20 million. Over the next 18 years he started communist fear campaigns and a province wide doctor’s strike. By the time Tommy was elected to the leadership of the newly formed NDP and ready to move to national politics in 1961 most of his ideas had already been adapted to the rest of Canada diluting his campaign. That combined with many people who didn’t believe in Medicare, gave him his first defeat when NDP only got 19 seats. He continued to promote his beliefs through the 1960’s. The adoption of national Medicare, and a pension plan adopted by Lester .B. Pearson gave him hope.

 

He resigned his seat in parliament and retired to a place just outside of Ottawa, where he spent most of his time reforesting the land. He continued to make speeches at NDP functions. He died in 1986 of cancer. Tommy Douglas was a very important person to Canada because he originated the ideas of Universal Medicare, social welfare and Pension plans. He stuck to his ideas no matter what people told him he was wrong, or didn’t believe in him, and now his ideas are accepted all over the world. Tommy Douglas makes me proud to be Canadian.