Tommy Douglas


So much of what Canada has become is owed to Tommy Douglas. Born in Scotland in 1904, Tommy’s family immigrated to Canada when he was 14. They settled in Winnipeg; it was 1919 the year of the Winnipeg general strike. Tommy left school and became a printer’s apprentice. In 1924 he decided to become a Baptist Minister. He believed in a Social Gospel – the belief that Christianity had an obligation to care for people in life, and not simply focus on the afterlife.

Douglas found his political bone when he moved to Weyburn, Saskatchewan in 1930. A dust bowl, hard hit by the depression; his socialist views took shape. He started a local independent labour party, a few years later attending the first national convention of the Co-Operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF). In 1934 he ran for provincial office in Saskatchewan and was defeated. In 1935 he tried again as a CCF candidate in the federal election, winning a seat in parliament. Re-elected for a second term, in 1944 he resigned returning to provincial politics in Saskatchewan. As Premier of the province for the next 17 years, Douglas laid the ground work for Medicare, pension, and social service programs that are now standard in Canada.

In 1961 Douglas quit provincial politics to run federally as leader of the New Democratic Party. A fusion of the CCF and Labour parties. He was defeated in the 1962 election. Many credit his defeat to the backlash caused by Sask. doctors striking after he introduced Medicare to the province. A 1971 by-election gave Douglas a federal seat in parliament until he retired in 1979. Douglas was awarded Companion of the Order of Canada in 1980. He passed away in 1986.

Whatever political view you might take, Tommy Douglas is the man responsible for the social programs at the heart of Canada ( He also happens to be Keifer Sutherlands grandfather ). His Social Gospel would go a long way these days. Something a lot more people should be pondering.

photo