Tommy Douglas

Last updated

Tommy Douglas

Douglas in 1945
Leader of the New Democratic Party
In office
3 August 1961 24 April 1971
Preceded byPosition established
Succeeded by David Lewis
7th Premier of Saskatchewan
In office
10 July 1944 7 November 1961
Monarch George VI
Elizabeth II
Lieutenant Governor Archibald Peter McNab
Thomas Miller
Reginald J. M. Parker
John M. Uhrich
William J. Patterson
Frank Lindsay Bastedo
Preceded by William John Patterson
Succeeded by Woodrow Lloyd
Member of the House of Commons of Canada
In office
10 February 1969 22 May 1979
Preceded by Colin Cameron
Succeeded byRiding dissolved
Constituency Nanaimo—Cowichan—The Islands
In office
22 October 1962 25 June 1968
Preceded by Erhart Regier
Succeeded byRiding dissolved
Constituency Burnaby—Coquitlam
In office
14 October 1935 15 June 1944
Preceded by Edward James Young
Succeeded by Eric Bowness McKay
Constituency Weyburn
Member of the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan
In office
15 June 1944 7 November 1961
Preceded by George Crane
Succeeded byJunior Staveley
Constituency Weyburn
Personal details
Thomas Clement Douglas

(1904-10-20)20 October 1904
Camelon, Falkirk, Scotland
Died24 February 1986(1986-02-24) (aged 81)
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Resting place Beechwood Cemetery, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
Political party CCF (1935–1961)
NDP (1961–1986)
Irma Dempsey(m. 1930)
Alma mater
Profession Baptist minister
Signature Tommy Douglas Signature.svg

Thomas Clement Douglas PC CC SOM (20 October 1904 – 24 February 1986) was a Canadian politician who served as Premier of Saskatchewan from 1944 to 1961 and Leader of the New Democratic Party from 1961 to 1971. A Baptist minister, he was elected to the House of Commons of Canada in 1935 as a member of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF). He left federal politics to become Leader of the Saskatchewan Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and then the seventh Premier of Saskatchewan. His cabinet was the first social democrat government in North America and it introduced the continent's first single-payer, universal health care program.

Queens Privy Council for Canada

The Queen's Privy Council for Canada, sometimes called Her Majesty's Privy Council for Canada or simply the Privy Council, is the full group of personal consultants to the monarch of Canada on state and constitutional affairs. Responsible government, though, requires the sovereign or her viceroy, the Governor General of Canada, to almost always follow only that advice tendered by the Cabinet: a committee within the Privy Council composed usually of elected Members of Parliament. Those summoned to the QPC are appointed for life by the governor general as directed by the Prime Minister of Canada, meaning that the group is composed predominantly of former cabinet ministers, with some others having been inducted as an honorary gesture. Those in the council are accorded the use of an honorific style and post-nominal letters, as well as various signifiers of precedence.

Order of Canada order

The Order of Canada is a Canadian national order and the second highest honour for merit in the system of orders, decorations, and medals of Canada. It comes second only to membership in the Order of Merit, which is the personal gift of Canada's monarch.

The Saskatchewan Order of Merit is a civilian honour for merit in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. Instituted in 1985 by Lieutenant Governor Frederick Johnson, on the advice of the Cabinet under Premier Grant Devine, the order is administered by the Governor-in-Council and is intended to honour current or former Saskatchewan residents for conspicuous achievements in any field, being thus described in law as the highest honour amongst all others conferred by the Saskatchewan Crown.


After setting up Saskatchewan's medicare program, Douglas stepped down and ran to lead the newly formed federal New Democratic Party (NDP), the successor party of the national CCF. He was elected as its first federal leader in 1961. Although Douglas never led the party to government, through much of his tenure the party held the balance of power in the House of Commons. He was noted as being the main opposition to the imposition of the War Measures Act during the 1970 October Crisis. He resigned as leader the next year, but remained as a Member of Parliament until 1979.

The New Democratic Party is a social democratic federal political party in Canada. The party was founded in 1961 out of the merger of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC). On the Canadian political scene, the party sits to the left of the Liberal Party. Since 2017, the NDP has been led by Jagmeet Singh. The federal and provincial level NDPs are more integrated than other political parties in Canada, and have shared membership.

<i>War Measures Act</i>

The War Measures Act was a statute of the Parliament of Canada that provided for the declaration of war, invasion, or insurrection, and the types of emergency measures that could thereby be taken. The Act was brought into force three times in Canadian history: during the First World War, Second World War and 1970 October Crisis.

October Crisis 1970 series of events in Quebec, Canada

The October Crisis occurred in October 1970 in the province of Quebec in Canada, mainly in the Montreal metropolitan area. Members of the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) kidnapped the provincial Deputy Premier Pierre Laporte and British diplomat James Cross. In response, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau invoked the only peacetime use of the War Measures Act. The kidnappers murdered Laporte and negotiations led to Cross's release and the kidnappers' exile to Cuba.

Douglas was awarded many honorary degrees, and a foundation was named for him and his political mentor M. J. Coldwell in 1971. In 1981, he was invested into the Order of Canada, and he became a member of Canada's Privy Council in 1984, two years before his death. In 2004, a CBC Television program named Tommy Douglas "The Greatest Canadian", based on a Canada-wide, viewer-supported survey.

CBC Television Canadian television network

CBC Television is a Canadian English-language broadcast television network that is owned by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the national public broadcaster. The network began operations on September 6, 1952. Its French-language counterpart is Ici Radio-Canada Télé.

<i>The Greatest Canadian</i>

The Greatest Canadian was a 2004 television program series by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) to determine who is considered to be the greatest Canadian of all time, at least according to those who watched and participated in the program. The project was inspired by the BBC series Great Britons.

Early life

Thomas Clement Douglas was born in 1904 in Camelon, Falkirk, Scotland, the son of Annie (née Clement) and Thomas Douglas, an iron moulder who fought in the Boer War. [1] In 1910, his family immigrated to Canada, where they settled in Winnipeg. [2] Shortly before he left Scotland, Douglas fell and injured his right knee. Osteomyelitis set in and he underwent a number of operations in Scotland in an attempt to cure the condition. Later in Winnipeg, however, the osteomyelitis flared up again, and Douglas was sent to hospital. Doctors there told his parents his leg would have to be amputated, a well-known orthopedic surgeon took interest and agreed to treat him for free if his parents allowed medical students to observe. After several operations, Douglas's leg was saved. This experience convinced him that health care should be free to all. Many years later, Douglas told an interviewer: "I felt that no boy should have to depend either for his leg or his life upon the ability of his parents to raise enough money to bring a first-class surgeon to his bedside." [3]

Camelon village in the United Kingdom

Camelon is a large settlement within the Falkirk council area, Scotland. The village is in the Forth Valley, 1.3 miles (2.1 km) west of Falkirk, 1.3 miles (2.1 km) south of Larbert and 2.6 miles (4.2 km) east of Bonnybridge. The main road through Camelon is the A803 road which links the village to Falkirk. At the time of the 2001 census, Camelon had a population of 4,508.

Falkirk town in Scotland

Falkirk is a large town in the Central Lowlands of Scotland, historically within the county of Stirlingshire. It lies in the Forth Valley, 23.3 miles (37.5 km) north-west of Edinburgh and 20.5 miles (33.0 km) north-east of Glasgow.

A moldmaker or molder is a skilled tradesperson who fabricates moulds for use in casting metal products.

During World War I, the family returned to Glasgow in Scotland. [4] They returned to Winnipeg in late 1918, in time for Douglas to witness the Winnipeg general strike. [5] From a rooftop vantage point on Main Street, he witnessed the police charging the strikers with clubs and guns, and a streetcar being overturned and set on fire. He also witnessed the RCMP shoot and kill one of the workers. This incident influenced Douglas later in life by cementing his commitment to protect fundamental freedoms in a Bill of Rights when he was Premier of Saskatchewan. [6]

World War I 1914–1918 global war originating in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

Glasgow City and council area in Scotland

Glasgow is the most populous city in Scotland, and the third most populous city in the United Kingdom, as of the 2017 estimated city population of 621,020. Historically part of Lanarkshire, the city now forms the Glasgow City council area, one of the 32 council areas of Scotland; the local authority is Glasgow City Council. Glasgow is situated on the River Clyde in the country's West Central Lowlands. Inhabitants of the city are referred to as "Glaswegians" or "Weegies". It is the fourth most visited city in the UK. Glasgow is also known for the Glasgow patter, a distinct dialect of the Scots language that is noted for being difficult to understand by those from outside the city.

Winnipeg general strike general strike

The Winnipeg General Strike of 1919 was one of the most famous and influential strikes in Canadian history. For six weeks, May 15 to June 26, more than 30,000 strikers brought economic activity to a standstill in Winnipeg, Manitoba, which at the time was Canada's third largest city. In the short term, the strike ended in arrests, bloodshed and defeat, but in the long run it contributed to the development of a stronger labour movement and the tradition of social democratic politics in Canada.

In 1920, at the age of 15, Douglas began an amateur career in boxing at the One Big Union gym in Winnipeg. [7] Weighing 135 pounds (61 kg), Douglas fought in 1922 for the Lightweight Championship of Manitoba, and won the title after a six-round fight. [7] Douglas sustained a broken nose, a loss of some teeth, and a strained hand and thumb. [7] He held the title the following year. [7]

Boxing combat sport

Boxing is a combat sport in which two people, usually wearing protective gloves, throw punches at each other for a predetermined amount of time in a boxing ring.

The One Big Union (OBU) was a Canadian syndicalist trade union active primarily in the western part of the country. It was initiated formally in Calgary on June 4, 1919 but lost most of its members by 1922. It finally merged into the Canadian Labour Congress during 1956.

In 1930, Douglas married Irma Dempsey, a music student at Brandon College. They had one daughter, actress Shirley Douglas, and they later adopted a second daughter, Joan, who became a nurse. His grandson is actor Kiefer Sutherland, son of daughter Shirley and actor Donald Sutherland. [8]


Douglas started elementary school in Winnipeg. He completed his elementary education after returning to Glasgow. He worked as a soap boy in a barber shop, rubbing lather into tough whiskers, then dropped out of high school at 13 after landing a job in a cork factory. The owner offered to pay Douglas's way through night school so that he could learn Portuguese and Spanish, languages that would enable him to become a cork buyer. However, the family returned to Winnipeg when the war ended and Douglas entered the printing trades. He served a five-year apprenticeship and worked as a Linotype operator finally acquiring his journeyman's papers, but decided to return to school to pursue his ambition to become an ordained minister. [9]

Brandon University

In 1924, the 19-year-old Douglas enrolled at Brandon College, a Baptist school affiliated with McMaster University, to finish high school and study theology. During his six years at the college, he was influenced by the Social Gospel movement, which combined Christian principles with social reform. Liberal-minded professors at Brandon encouraged students to question their fundamentalist religious beliefs. Christianity, they suggested, was just as concerned with the pursuit of social justice as it was with the struggle for individual salvation. Douglas took a course in socialism at Brandon and studied Greek philosophy. [10] He came first in his class during his first three years, then competed for gold medals in his last three with a newly arrived student named Stanley Knowles. Both later became ministers of religion and prominent left-wing politicians. [11] Douglas was extremely active in extracurricular activities. Among other things, he became a champion debater, wrote for the school newspaper and participated in student government winning election as Senior Stick, or president of the student body, in his final year. [12]

Douglas financed his education at Brandon College by conducting Sunday services at several rural churches for 15 dollars a week. A shortage of ordained clergy forced smaller congregations to rely on student ministers. Douglas reported later that he preached sermons advocating social reform and helping the poor: "[T]he Bible is like a bull fiddle  ... you can play almost any tune you want on it." He added that his interest in social and economic questions led him to preach about "building a society and building institutions that would uplift mankind". [10] He also earned money delivering entertaining monologues and poetry recitations at church suppers and service club meetings for five dollars a performance. [13] During his second and third years at the college, he preached at a Presbyterian church in Carberry, Manitoba. There he met a farmer's daughter named Irma Dempsey who would later become his wife. [14]

MA thesis on eugenics

Douglas graduated from Brandon College in 1930, and completed his Master of Arts degree in sociology at McMaster University in 1933. His thesis, entitled The Problems of the Subnormal Family, endorsed eugenics. [15] The thesis proposed a system that would have required couples seeking to marry to be certified as mentally and morally fit. Those deemed to be "subnormal", because of low intelligence, moral laxity, or venereal disease would be sent to state farms or camps; while those judged to be mentally defective or incurably diseased would be sterilized. [16]

Douglas rarely mentioned his thesis later in his life, and his government never enacted eugenics policies, even though two official reviews of Saskatchewan's mental health system recommended such a program when he became Premier and Minister of Health. As Premier, Douglas opposed the adoption of eugenics laws. [16] By the time Douglas took office in 1944, many people questioned eugenics due to Nazi Germany's embrace of it in its effort to create a "master race". [17] Instead, Douglas implemented vocational training for the mentally handicapped and therapy for those suffering from mental disorders. [18] [lower-alpha 1]

PhD research in Chicago

In the summer of 1931, Douglas continued his studies in sociology at the University of Chicago. He never completed his PhD thesis, but was deeply disturbed by his field work in the Depression-era "jungles" or hobo camps where about 75,000 transients sheltered in lean-tos venturing out by day to beg or to steal. Douglas interviewed men who once belonged to the American middle class—despondent bank clerks, lawyers and doctors. Douglas said later: "There were little soup kitchens run by the Salvation Army and the churches ... In the first half-hour they'd be cleaned out. After that there was nothing ... It was impossible to describe the hopelessness." [22] Douglas was equally disturbed that members of the Socialist Party sat around quoting Marx and Lenin, waiting for a revolution while refusing to help the destitute. Douglas said: "That experience soured me with absolutists ... I've no patience with people who want to sit back and talk about a blueprint for society and do nothing about it." [23]

From pulpit to politics

Two months after Douglas graduated from Brandon College, he married Irma Dempsey and the two moved to the small town of Weyburn, Saskatchewan, where he became an ordained minister at the Calvary Baptist Church. [24] Irma was 19, while Douglas was 25. [25] With the onset of the Depression, Douglas became a social activist in Weyburn, and joined the new Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) political party. He was elected to the House of Commons of Canada in the 1935 federal election. [26]

During the September 1939 special House of Commons debate on entering the war, Douglas, who had visited Nazi Germany in 1936 and was disgusted by what he saw, supported going to war against Hitler. [27] He was not a pacifist and stated his reasons:

If you accept the completely absolutist position of the pacifist, then you are saying that you are prepared to allow someone else who has no such scruples to destroy all the values you've built up. This is what I used to argue with Mr. Woodworth ... if you came to a choice between losing freedom of speech, religion, association, thought, and all the things that make life worth living, and resorting to force, you'd used force. What you have internationally is what you have within a nation. You must have law and order, and you must have the necessary military means to enforce that law and order. [28]

Douglas and Coldwell's position was eventually adopted by the CCF National Council, but they also did not admonish Woodworth's pacifist stand, and allowed him to put it forward in the House. [28] Douglas assisted Woodsworth, during his leader's speech, by holding up the pages and turning them for him, even though he disagreed with him. [29] Woodsworth had suffered a stroke earlier in the year and he needed someone to hold his notes, and Douglas still held him in very high regard, and dutifully assisted his leader. [29]

After the outbreak of World War II, Douglas enlisted in the wartime Canadian Army. [30] He had volunteered for overseas service when a medical examination turned up his old leg problems. [30] Douglas stayed in Canada and the Grenadiers headed for Hong Kong. If not for that ailment, he would likely have been with the regiment when its members were killed or captured at Hong Kong in December 1941. [30]

Premier of Saskatchewan

The Leader-Post announces the CCF victory, 1944 Leader Post Cover.jpg
The Leader-Post announces the CCF victory, 1944

Despite being a federal Member of Parliament and not yet an MLA, Douglas was elected the leader of the Saskatchewan CCF in 1942 after successfully challenging the incumbent leader, George Hara Williams, but did not resign from the House of Commons until 1 June 1944. [31] He led the CCF to power in the 1944 provincial election, winning 47 of 53 seats in the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan, and thus forming the first democratic socialist government in not only Canada, but all of North America. As premier, Douglas attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in June 1953. [32]

Douglas and the Saskatchewan CCF then went on to win five straight majority victories in all subsequent Saskatchewan provincial elections up to 1960. Most of his government's pioneering innovations came about during its first term, including:

Douglas was the first head of any government in Canada to call for a constitutional bill of rights. This he did at a federal-provincial conference in Quebec City in January 1950. No one in attendance at the conference supported him in this. Ten years later, Premier Jean Lesage of Quebec joined with Douglas at a First Ministers' Conference in July 1960 in advocating for a constitutional bill of rights. Thus, respectable momentum was given to the idea that finally came to fruition, on 17 April 1982, with the proclamation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. [33]

Thanks to a booming postwar economy and the prudent financial management of provincial treasurer Clarence Fines, the Douglas government slowly paid off the huge public debt left by the previous Liberal government, and created a budget surplus for the Saskatchewan government. Coupled with a federal government promise in 1959 to give even more money for medical care, this paved the way for Douglas's most notable achievement, the introduction of universal health care legislation in 1961.


Douglas's number one concern was the creation of Medicare. He introduced medical insurance reform in his first term, and gradually moved the province towards universal medicare near the end of his last term. 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. [34]

Douglas is widely known as the father of Medicare, but the Saskatchewan universal program was finally launched by his successor, Woodrow Lloyd, in 1962. Douglas stepped down as premier and as a member of the legislature the previous year, to lead the newly formed federal successor to the CCF, the New Democratic Party of Canada (NDP). [35]

The success of the province's public health care program was not lost on the federal government. Another Saskatchewan politician, newly elected Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, decreed in 1958 that any province seeking to introduce a hospital plan would receive 50 cents on the dollar from the federal government. In 1962, Diefenbaker appointed Justice Emmett Hall—also of Saskatchewan, a noted jurist and Supreme Court Justice—to Chair a Royal Commission on the national health system—the Royal Commission on Health Services. In 1964, Justice Hall recommended a 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. The adoption of public health care across Canada ended up being the work of three men with diverse political ideals Douglas of the CCF, Diefenbaker of the Progressive Conservatives, and Pearson of the Liberals.

Federal NDP leader


Tommy Douglas, c. 1971 TommyDouglas-c1971-crop.jpg
Tommy Douglas, c.1971

The 1958 Canadian general election was a disaster for the CCF; [36] its caucus was reduced to eight, and party leader M. J. Coldwell lost his own seat. The CCF executive knew that their party was dying and needed radical change. [37] The executive persuaded Colwell to remain as leader, [38] but the party also needed a leader in the House of Commons to replace him, because he obviously was no longer a Member of Parliament. The CCF parliamentary caucus chose Hazen Argue as its new leader in the House. [38] During the lead-up to the 1960 CCF convention, Argue was pressing Coldwell to step down; this leadership challenge jeopardized plans for an orderly transition to the new party that was being planned by the CCF and the Canadian Labour Congress. CCF national president David Lewis – who succeeded Coldwell as president in 1958, when the national chairman and national president positions were merged – and the rest of the new party's organizers opposed Argue's manoeuvres and wanted Douglas to be the new party's first leader. [39] To prevent their plans from being derailed, Lewis unsuccessfully attempted to persuade Argue not to force a vote at the convention on the question of the party's leadership, and there was a split between the parliamentary caucus and the party executive on the convention floor. [40] Coldwell stepped down as leader, and Argue replaced him, becoming the party's final national leader. [40]

As far back as 1941, Coldwell wanted Douglas to succeed him in leading the National CCF (at that time, it was obvious that Coldwell would be assuming the national leadership in the near future). [41] When the time came for the "New Party" to form, in 1961, Coldwell pressured Douglas to run for the leadership. [41] Coldwell did not trust Argue, and many in the CCF leadership thought that he was already having secret meetings with the Liberals with a view to a party merger. [41] Also, Coldwell and Douglas thought Lewis would not be a viable alternative to Argue because Lewis was not likely to defeat Argue; this was partly due to Lewis' lack of a parliamentary seat but also, and likely more importantly, because his role as party disciplinarian over the years had made him many enemies, enough to potentially prevent him from winning the leadership. [41] Douglas, after much consultation with Coldwell, Lewis, and his caucus, decided in June 1961 to reluctantly contest the leadership of the New Party. [41] He handily defeated Argue on 3 August 1961 at the first NDP leadership convention in Ottawa, and became the new party's first leader. [42] Six months later, Argue crossed the floor and became a Liberal. [43] [44]

House of Commons, Act II

Douglas resigned from provincial politics and sought election to the House of Commons in the riding of Regina City in 1962, but was defeated by Ken More. He was later elected in a by-election in the riding of Burnaby—Coquitlam, British Columbia.

Re-elected as MP for that riding in the 1963 and 1965 elections, Douglas lost the redistricted seat of Burnaby—Seymour in the 1968 federal election. He won a seat again in a 1969 by-election in the riding of Nanaimo—Cowichan—The Islands, following the death of Colin Cameron in 1968, and represented it until his retirement from electoral politics in 1979.

While the NDP did better in elections than its CCF predecessor, the party did not experience the breakthrough it had hoped for. Despite this, Douglas was greatly respected by party members and Canadians at large as the party wielded considerable influence during Lester Pearson's minority governments in the mid-1960s.

The War Measures Act, 1970

The October 1970 Quebec FLQ Crisis put Douglas and David Lewis—now a Member of Parliament—on the "hotseat", with Lewis being the only NDP MP with any roots in Quebec. [45] He and Lewis were opposed to 16 October implementation of the War Measures Act. [46] The act, enacted previously only for wartime purposes, imposed extreme limitations on civil liberties, and gave the police and military vastly expanded powers for arresting and detaining suspects, usually with little to no evidence required. [46] Although it was only meant to be used in Quebec, since it was federal legislation, it was in force throughout Canada. Some police services, from outside of Quebec, took advantage of it for their own purposes, which mostly had nothing even remotely related to the Quebec situation, as Lewis and Douglas suspected. During a second vote on 19 October, sixteen of the twenty members of the NDP parliamentary caucus voted against the implementation of the War Measures Act in the House of Commons and four voted with the Liberal government. [47]

They took much grief for being the only parliamentarians to vote against it, [46] dropping to an approval rating of seven per cent in public opinion polls. [48] Lewis, speaking for the party at a press scrum that day: "The information we do have, showed a situation of criminal acts and criminal conspiracy in Quebec. But, there is no information that there was unintended, or apprehended, or planned insurrection, which alone, would justify invoking the War Measures Act." [49] Douglas voiced similar criticism: "The government, I submit, is using a sledgehammer to crack a peanut." [48]

About five years later, many of the MPs who voted to implement it regretted doing so, and belatedly honoured Douglas and Lewis for their stand against it. [46] Progressive Conservative leader Robert Stanfield went so far as to say that, "Quite frankly, I've admired Tommy Douglas and David Lewis, and those fellows in the NDP for having the courage to vote against that, although they took a lot of abuse at the time ... I don't brood about it. I'm not proud of it." [46]

Late career and retirement

Douglas resigned as NDP leader in 1971, but retained his seat in the House of Commons. Around the same time as the leadership convention held to replace him, he asked the party not to buy him an elaborate parting gift. [50] Instead, he and his friend and political mentor M. J. Coldwell were honoured by the party with the creation of the Douglas–Coldwell Foundation in 1971. He served as the NDP's energy critic under the new leader, David Lewis. He was re-elected in the riding of Nanaimo–Cowichan–The Islands in the 1972 and 1974 elections. [26] He retired from politics in 1979 and served on the board of directors of Husky Oil, an Alberta oil and gas exploration company that had holdings in Saskatchewan.

In 1980, Douglas was awarded a Doctor of Laws degree honoris causa by Carleton University in Ottawa. On 22 June 1981, Douglas was appointed to the Order of Canada as a Companion for his service as a political leader, and innovator in public policy. [51] In 1985, he was appointed to the Saskatchewan Order of Merit [52] and Brandon University created a students' union building in honour of Douglas and his old friend, Stanley Knowles. [53]

In June 1984, Douglas was injured when he was struck by a bus, but he quickly recovered and on his 80th birthday he claimed to The Globe and Mail that he usually walked up to five miles a day. [54] By this point in his life his memory was beginning to slow down and he stopped accepting speaking engagements but remained active in the Douglas–Coldwell Foundation. Later that year, on 30 November, he became a member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada. [55] [56]

Douglas died of cancer on 24 February 1986, at the age of 81 in Ottawa and was buried at Beechwood Cemetery. [53] [57] [58] [59]

In a national TV contest, conducted by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in 2004, he was crowned "Greatest Canadian" by viewers in an online vote, almost 18 years after his death. [60]


Douglas Provincial Park near Saskatchewan's Lake Diefenbaker and Qu'Appelle River Dam was named after him. A statue of him, created by Lea Vivot, was erected in his hometown of Weyburn in October 2010. Several schools have been named after him, including Tommy Douglas Collegiate in Saskatoon, and a student housing co-op in Toronto, Campus Co-operative Residences, named one of their houses after him as well. [61] The Tommy Douglas Secondary School in Vaughan, Ontario, Canada named in his honour opened in February 2015. [62] Internationally the former National Labor College in Silver Spring, Maryland, was renamed the Tommy Douglas Center after its purchase by the Amalgamated Transit Union in 2014. [63] In March 2019, a plaque commemorating Douglas as the "Father of Medicare" was revealed in Regina, Saskatchewan. [64]

Artistic depiction

In the two CBC Television mini-series about Pierre Trudeau, Trudeau and Trudeau II: Maverick in the Making, Douglas is portrayed by Eric Peterson. In the biography mini-series, Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story , which aired on 12 and 13 March 2006, also on CBC, Douglas was played by Michael Therriault. The movie was widely derided by critics as being historically inaccurate. Particularly, the movie's portrayal of James Gardiner, premier of Saskatchewan from the late 1920s to mid-1930s, was objected to by political historians and the Gardiner family itself. In response, the CBC consulted a "third party historian" to review the film and pulled it from future broadcasts, including halting all home and educational sales. [65] Prairie Giant was shown in Asia on the Hallmark Channel on 11 and 12 June 2007. [65] [66]

Douglas was also the subject of a 1986 National Film Board of Canada documentary Tommy Douglas: Keeper of the Flame, [67] which received the Gemini Award for Best Writing in a Documentary Program or Series. Douglas was mentioned in the Michael Moore documentary Sicko , which compared the health care system in the United States with that of Canada and other countries.


"The Cream Separator" is a fable, written by Douglas, which aims to explain the inherent injustices of the capitalist system as it relates to the agricultural sector by making the analogy that the upper class gets the cream, the middle class gets the whole milk, and the farmers and industrial workers get a watery substance that barely resembles milk. [68] [69]

He was also known for his retelling of the fable of "Mouseland", which likens the majority of voters to mice, and how they either elect black or white cats as their politicians, but never their own mice: meaning that workers and their general interests were not being served by electing wealthy politicians from the Liberal or Conservative parties (black and white cats), and that only a party from their class (mice), originally the CCF, later the NDP, could serve their interests (mice). [70] Years later, his grandson, television actor Kiefer Sutherland, provided the introduction to a Mouseland animated video that used a Douglas Mouseland speech as its narration. [71]

Honorary degrees

Douglas received honorary degrees from several universities, including


  1. It may be noted that two Canadian provinces, Alberta and British Columbia, had eugenics legislation that imposed forced sterilization. Alberta's law was first passed in 1928 while B.C. enacted its legislation in 1933. [19] It was not until 1972 that both provinces repealed the legislation. (See Compulsory sterilization in Canada) [20] [21]

Related Research Articles

Co-operative Commonwealth Federation former political party in Canada

The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) was a social-democratic and democratic socialist political party in Canada. The CCF was founded in 1932 in Calgary, Alberta, by a number of socialist, agrarian, co-operative, and labour groups, and the League for Social Reconstruction. In 1944, the CCF formed the first social-democratic government in North America when it was elected to form the provincial government in Saskatchewan. In 1961, the CCF was succeeded by the New Democratic Party (NDP). The full, but little used, name of the party was Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (Farmer-Labour-Socialist).

David Lewis (politician) Canadian labour lawyer and social democratic politician

David Lewis was a Canadian labour lawyer and social democratic politician. He was national secretary of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) from 1936 to 1950, and one of the key architects of the New Democratic Party (NDP) in 1961. In 1962, he was elected as the Member of Parliament (MP), in the House of Commons of Canada, for the York South electoral district. While an MP, he was elected the NDP's national leader, and served from 1971 until 1975. After his defeat in the 1974 federal election, he stepped down as leader and retired from politics. He spent his last years as a university professor at Carleton University, and as a travel correspondent for the Toronto Star. In retirement, he was named to the Order of Canada for his political service. After suffering from cancer for a long time, he died in Ottawa in 1981.

Hazen Argue Canadian politician

Hazen Robert Argue, was a Canadian politician who served in the House of Commons and the Senate. He was first elected as a Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) Member of Parliament (MP) in 1945 and was the last leader of the party, from 1960 to 1961. He crossed the floor to the Liberal Party in 1962 and was defeated in 1963. In 1966 he was appointed to the Senate. He entered the federal cabinet in 1980, as the only Saskatchewan representative, with responsibilities for the Canadian Wheat Board. He was the first senator ever to have been charged with fraud, in 1989. The charges were eventually dropped as he had been suffering from cancer for a year; he died shortly thereafter in 1991.

The Saskatchewan New Democratic Party (NDP) is a social-democratic political party in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. It currently forms the official opposition, but has been a dominant force in Saskatchewan politics since the 1940s. The party is the successor to the Saskatchewan section of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF), and is affiliated with the federal New Democratic Party.

Stephen Lewis Canadian politician

Stephen Henry Lewis is a Canadian politician, public speaker, broadcaster and diplomat. He was the leader of the social democratic Ontario New Democratic Party for most of the 1970s.

Major James Coldwell Canadian politician

Major James William Coldwell, usually known as M. J. Coldwell, was a Canadian democratic socialist politician, and leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) party from 1942 to 1960.

New Party was the interim name used by the new political party being established in Canada from 1958 to 1961 by the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), which eventually defined itself as a social democratic party. In 1958 a joint CCF-CLC committee, the National Committee for the New Party (NCNP), was formed and spent the next three years laying down the foundations of the "New Party". During the process of founding the party, the New Party name was used in the October 1960 Peterborough, Canadian federal by-election; which was won by its candidate, Walter Pitman. In August 1961, at the end of a five-day-long convention, the New Democratic Party (NDP) was born and Tommy Douglas was elected its first leader. Once the NDP was formed, the New Party clubs, and affiliates automatically ceased, and became part of newly formed party.

Woodrow Lloyd Canadian politician, noted as the Premier of Saskatchewan that formally instituted Canadas first Medicare program.

Woodrow Stanley Lloyd was a Canadian politician and educator. Born in Saskatchewan in 1913, he became a teacher in the early 1930s. He worked as a teacher and school principal until 1944, and was involved with the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation, eventually becoming its president.

Allan Blakeney premier of Saskatchewan

Allan Emrys Blakeney was the tenth Premier of Saskatchewan from 1971 to 1982, and leader of the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party (NDP).

New Democratic Party leadership elections, more commonly known as leadership conventions, are the process by which the Canadian New Democratic Party elects its leader.

This page shows the results of leadership elections in the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party. Prior to 2001, the leader was elected via a delegated convention. Following the resignation of Roy Romanow, the leader was chosen through a One Member One Vote election.

Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story is a CBC Television miniseries first aired in two consecutive parts on March 12 and March 13, 2006. It dramatizes and fictionalizes the life and career of Tommy Douglas, the Canadian politician who oversaw the legislation of Canada's first public healthcare program as Premier of Saskatchewan. The production is directed by John N. Smith and produced by Kevin DeWalt. Prairie Giant is distributed in the United States by Invincible Pictures.

Clarence Melvin Fines was a Canadian politician, teacher and union leader. He was provincial treasurer of the province of Saskatchewan during the Tommy Douglas era, and also served as Deputy Premier.

Socialism in Canada has a long history and is, along with conservatism and liberalism, a political force in Canada.

The Politics of Saskatchewan are part of the Canadian federal political system along with the other Canadian provinces. Saskatchewan has a Lieutenant-Governor, Vaughn Solomon Schofield, who is the representative of the Crown in Right of Saskatchewan, a premier, Scott Moe, leading the Cabinet, and a unicameral legislature.

Cam Broten Canadian politician

Cameron Paul "Cam" Broten is a Canadian politician. He represented the constituency of Saskatoon Massey Place in the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan from 2007 to 2016. He was selected as the leader of the Saskatchewan New Democratic Party in the 2013 leadership election on March 9, 2013. Broten announced his resignation as leader on April 11, 2016, several days after losing the seat he contested in the Saskatchewan general election. Trent Wotherspoon was appointed interim party leader in April 2016.

Erin Weir Canadian economist

Erin Weir is a Canadian politician from Saskatchewan. He was elected a Member of Parliament in the 2015 federal election as Member of Parliament for the riding of Regina—Lewvan. Weir initially sat as a member of the federal New Democratic Party (NDP) and was appointed the party's critic for Public Services and Procurement Canada. Before entering federal politics, Weir ran in the 2013 Saskatchewan New Democratic Party leadership election and was an economist with the Canadian section of the United Steelworkers union.

1961 New Democratic Party leadership election

The 1961 New Democratic Party founding convention was held in Ottawa from July 31 to August 4 to elect a leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP) of Canada. This convention formally closed down the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) party, the New Party clubs, and merged them with the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC) to form the NDP. It is also known for the divisive leadership vote in which Saskatchewan Premier Tommy Douglas was elected over national CCF leader Hazen Argue. Over 2000 delegates attended the five-day convention held at the Ottawa Coliseum.

Walter Kenneth (Ken) Bryden was a Co-operative Commonwealth Federation/NDP member of the Ontario legislature from 1959 to 1967, an economist, academic, civil servant and author.



  1. "Encyclopedia of World Biography on Thomas Clement Douglas". Bookrags. Spokane, Washington: Bookrags Inc. 2011. Archived from the original on 7 December 2011.
  2. Stewart 2003, p. 23.
  3. Thomas 1982, pp. 6–7.
  4. McLeod & McLeod 2004, pp. 17–18.
  5. McLeod & McLeod 2004, pp. 18–19.
  6. Norman, Ken (2005). "Saskatchewan Bill of Rights". The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan. Regina, Saskatchewan: Canadian Plains Research Center. Archived from the original on 7 December 2011.
  7. 1 2 3 4 Stewart 2003, p. 50.
  8. "Shirley Douglas 2004 Inductee". Canada's Walk of Fame. Archived from the original on 10 February 2009.
  9. Shackleton 1975, pp. 18–30.
  10. 1 2 Shackleton 1975, pp. 30–32.
  11. Margoshes 1999, p. 34.
  12. Margoshes 1999, p. 36.
  13. Stewart 2003, p. 54.
  14. Margoshes 1999, pp. 32–33.
  15. McLaren 1990, pp. 8–9.
  16. 1 2 Stewart 2003, p. 80.
  17. Margoshes 1999, p. 78.
  18. Stewart 2003, p. 81.
  19. McLaren 1990, pp. 100, 105.
  20. McLaren 1990, p. 169.
  21. Black 2003, p. 242.
  22. Shackleton 1975, p. 50; Stewart 2003, p. 75.
  23. Shackleton 1975, p. 51.
  24. Stewart 2003, pp. 67–68.
  25. Shackleton 1975, p. 46.
  26. 1 2 "Parliamentarian file: DOUGLAS, Thomas Clement (Tommy), C.C., B.A., M.A., LL.D.(Hon.)". Parliament of Canada. Ottawa: Queen's Printer for Canada. 2011. Archived from the original on 7 December 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  27. Stewart 2003, p. 141.
  28. 1 2 Stewart 2003, p. 140.
  29. 1 2 Stewart 2000, p. 142.
  30. 1 2 3 McLeod & McLeod 2004, p. 111.
  31. Quiring, Brett, "Douglas, Thomas Clement (1904–86)", Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan. Retrieved 12 February 2008.
  32. "Coronation of Queen Elizabeth". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2 June 1953. Archived from the original on 7 December 2011. Retrieved 30 June 2009.
  33. Strayer, Barry L. "Patriation of the Constitution and the Charter: 25 years after", The Timlin Lecture, 20 February 2007, University of Saskatchewan, p. 14.
  34. "Sask. Doctors 'Blackmailers' Lewis Tells Pharmacists". Toronto Daily Star. 4 May 1962. p. 57.
  35. Neville, William (3 August 1961). "Douglas Leads New Party, 'Democratic' Tag in Name". The Vancouver Sun. UPI. p. 1. Retrieved 22 August 2011.
  36. Peacock, Don (1 April 1958). "Avalanche of Votes Sweeps PCs Into Most One-sided Victory Since Confederation". Star-Phoenix. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. p. 1. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  37. Fisher, Doug (28 August 1974). "M.J. Coldwell: Tribute to a true politician". Montreal Gazette. Toronto Sun. p. 9. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  38. 1 2 Stewart 2003, p. 211.
  39. McLeod & McLeod 2004, pp. 271, 275.
  40. 1 2 Stewart 2003, pp. 211–212.
  41. 1 2 3 4 5 Shackleton 1975, pp. 253–256.
  42. Sears, Val (4 August 1961). "New Democratic Party Hails Douglas as Leader". Toronto Daily Star. pp. 1, 4.
  43. Loran, Tom (22 January 1962). "Speculation Rife Argue To Desert New Party Ranks". The Star-Phoenix. Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. p. 3. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
  44. King, Charles (24 February 1962). "'I Will Be Loyal' Argue Promises Liberals". The Ottawa Citizen (813). p. 1. Retrieved 17 December 2011.
  45. Smith 1989, p. 476.
  46. 1 2 3 4 5 Janigan, Mary (1 November 1975). "Some MPs say they regret voting for War Measures". Toronto Star. p. 3.
  47. McLeod & McLeod 2004, p. 336.
  48. 1 2 "Top Ten Greatest Canadians – Tommy Douglas". Archived from the original on 25 April 2008. Retrieved 13 April 2008.
  49. Spry 1973, 55:55–56:08.
  50. Eisler, Dale (5 August 1981). "Douglas-Coldwell Foundation has come a long way in 10 years". The Leader-Post. Regina, Saskatchewan. p. 4. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  51. "Order of Canada". 30 April 2009. Retrieved 21 February 2011.
  52. Jackson 2008, p. 26; Margoshes 1999, p. 199.
  53. 1 2 Clark, Darci (2005). "Tommy Douglas, the Greatest Canadian: All Roads Lead Back to Brandon College" (PDF). Brandon University Alumni News. Vol. 106 no. 1. Brandon, Manitoba: Brandon University. pp. 8–11. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
  54. "Douglas is well after accident". Globe and Mail. 26 October 1984. p. 8. ISSN   0319-0714.
  55. UPIC (30 November 1984). "Douglas Named to Privy Council". Toronto Star. p. D14.
  56. "Historical Alphabetical List since 1867 of Members of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada A–E". Government of Canada Privy Council Office. Ottawa: Queen's Printers for Canada. 2011. Archived from the original on 7 December 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  57. "Former NDP Leader Douglas dead at 81". Montreal Gazette. Canadian Press. 25 February 1986. pp. A1, B1. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  58. "MPs mourn Douglas in Commons tribute". Montreal Gazette. Canadian Press. 25 February 1986. p. B1. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  59. "Prentice designates Beechwood a 'national' cemetery". CTV News. 5 March 2009. Retrieved 25 February 2014.
  60. "The Greatest Canadians from the CBC Archives". CBC Archives. Toronto: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 2011. Archived from the original on 7 December 2011. Retrieved 8 December 2011.
  61. "146 Howland Ave (T.C. Douglas House)". Toronto: Campus Co-operative Residences. 2011. Archived from the original on 7 December 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  62. "Our School". York Region District School Board . Retrieved 10 September 2014.
  63. "Transit Union names new training center in honor of Rosa Parks and Tommy Douglas". ATU Media Center. Retrieved 20 February 2017.
  64. 7 Mar, Bryan Eneas · CBC News · Posted:; March 8, 2019 9:31 PM CT | Last Updated:. "Tommy Douglas honoured as person of national historic significance | CBC News". CBC. Retrieved 19 March 2019.
  65. 1 2 "CBC pulls Tommy Douglas movie". CBC. 12 June 2006. Retrieved 2 December 2008.
  66. Wood, James (12 June 2006). "CBC pulls Tommy Douglas movie". Edmonton Journal. Archived from the original on 12 March 2007. Retrieved 30 April 2007.
  67. Swerhone 1986.
  68. "The Cream Separator". Senior's Voice September 1999 Newsletter. Regina, Saskatchewan: Senior's Voice. 2 September 1999. Archived from the original on 7 December 2011.
  69. Sears 2005.
  70. "The story of Mouseland: A political allegory". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. 1 January 1961. Archived from the original on 7 December 2011. Retrieved 8 December 2011.
  71. "Mouseland". Youtube. UFCW & NDP. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  72. "The Honorable Thomas Clement Douglas, BA, M.A." University History Honorary degree recipients. Regina, Saskatchewan: University of Saskatewan. Archived from the original on 7 December 2011. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  73. "Recipients" (PDF). Retrieved 28 July 2010.
  74. "Honorary Doctorate for Tommy Douglas". Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle. Ladysmith, British Columbia. 24 May 1972. p. 3. Retrieved 7 December 2011.
  75. "University of Regina Honorary Degree Recipients" (PDF).
  76. "Honorary Degrees Awarded Since 1954". Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  77. "Honorary Degree Recipients 1850 - 2016" (PDF). University of Toronto. Retrieved 2 October 2016.
  78. "UBC Archives - Honorary Degree Citations 1981-1988". Retrieved 12 November 2018.
  79. "Recipients of Honorary/Degrees" (PDF). Trent University. Retrieved 28 July 2010.


Black, Edwin (2003). War Against the Weak: Eugenics and America's Campaign to Create a Master Race. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows. ISBN   978-1-56858-258-0.
Jackson, D. Michael (2008). "The Crown in Saskatchewan: An Institution Renewed". In Leeson, Howard A. (ed.). Saskatchewan Politics: Crowding the Centre. Regina, Saskatchewan: University of Regina Press. ISBN   978-0-88977-234-2.
Margoshes, Dave (1999). Tommy Douglas: Building the New Society. Lantzville, British Columbia: XYZ Publishing. ISBN   978-0-9683601-4-9.
McLeod, Thomas H.; McLeod, Ian (2004). The Road to Jerusalem (2nd ed.). Calgary: Fifth House. ISBN   978-1-894856-48-5.
McLaren, Angus (1990). Our Own Master Race: Eugenics in Canada, 1885–1945. Toronto: Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-0-19-541365-6.
Sears, Robin V. (2005). "The Left: From Hope to Sneers in 25 Years" (PDF). Policy Options. 26 (3): 19–26. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 April 2005. Retrieved 8 December 2011.
Shackleton, Doris French (1975). Tommy Douglas. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart. ISBN   978-0-7710-8116-3.
Smith, Cameron (1989). Unfinished Journey: The Lewis Family. Toronto: Summerhill Press. ISBN   978-0-929091-04-4.
Spry, Robin (1973). Action: The October Crisis of 1970 (motion picture). National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 11 December 2009.
Stewart, Walter (2000). M.J.: The Life and Times of M.J. Coldwell. Toronto: Stoddart Publishing. ISBN   978-0-7737-3232-2.
 ———  (2003). Tommy: The Life and Politics of Tommy Douglas. Toronto: McArthur & Company. ISBN   978-1-55278-382-5.
Swerhone, Elise (1986). Tommy Douglas: Keeper of the Flame (motion picture). National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 22 October 2009.
Thomas, Lewis, ed. (1982). The Making of a Socialist: The Recollections of T.C. Douglas. Edmonton: The University of Alberta Press. ISBN   978-0-88864-070-3.
Young, Walter D. (1969). The Anatomy of a Party: The National CCF, 1932–61. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN   978-0-8020-5221-6.

Further reading

Horowitz, Gad (1968). Canadian Labour in Politics. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. ISBN   978-0-8020-1902-8.
Johnson, A. W. (2004). Dream No Little Dreams: A Biography of the Douglas Government of Saskatchewan, 1944–1961. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. doi:10.3138/j.ctt1287srz. ISBN   978-0-8020-8954-0.
Lam, Vincent (2011). Tommy Douglas. Extraordinary Canadians. Toronto: Penguin Group. ISBN   978-0-670-06851-7.
McHenry, Dean Eugene (1950). The Third Force in Canada: The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation, 1932–1948. Berkeley, California: University of California Press.
Shevell, Michael (2012). "A Canadian Paradox: Tommy Douglas and Eugenics". Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences. 39 (1): 35–39. doi:10.1017/S0317167100012658. ISSN   2057-0155.
Smith, Cameron (1992). Love & Solidarity. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart. ISBN   978-0-7710-8209-2.
Thomas, Lewis (1981). "The CCF Victory in Saskatchewan, 1944". Saskatchewan History. 34 (1): 1–16. ISSN   0036-4908.