The Greatest Canadians
By Sherry & Terry on September 20, 2009 at 2:08 PM
In 2004, Canada's national TV broadcaster, the CBC, staged a contest allowing Canadians to vote for "The Greatest Canadian." Canadian TV and radio personality, George Stroumboulopoulos nominated Tommy Douglas. There were many wonderful choices with David Suzuki being amongst them.
Tommy Douglas was a Baptist minister in Weyburn, Saskatchewan during the Great Depression and the Dustbowl of the Prairies. With 50% of the population without work, he rallied citizens to help each other by delivering goods and food to neighbouring towns.
He was a Member of Parliament in Saskatchewan from 1935 - 1940 and was elected Premier of Saskatchewan from 1944 to 1961 leading the socialist Cooperative Commonwealth Federation party. He also became a member of the House of Commons in Ottawa during the 60's and 70's.
It was during his political career as Premier of Saskatchewan that his government passed legislation creating North America's first universal health care program. In November 2004, I, along with my fellow Canadians voted Tommy Douglas, "The Greatest Canadian."
Aside from his ground-breaking health care reforms, he was also was instrumental in bring many changes that we often take for granted such as:
First small claims court in North America
First Bill of Rights in Canada
Full medical, dental and drug coverage for those needing social assistance
Establishing equality of education for all
Introduced free air ambulance service which was especially important for the Northern regions of Canada
First to provide universal coverage for hospital stays
First to introduce a budget bureau to provide his government's long-term planning
First to introduce government insurance
Paved roads, set up sewage systems, got power to farmers
First government to allow collective bargaining for all workers including civil servants
First Arts Board of Canada
First to introduce Farm Security Act in North America
First to grant the right to vote to 18 year olds
First to introduce the 8-hour work day, the 5-day work week and paid holidays for workers
I feel thankful for these important contributions that have made our lives better and easier. When I was growing up, farming was way down the list of desired professions. Most people looked upon farmers as simpletons with no desire to better themselves. But now, having gardened for over 30 years, I have come to enjoy and appreciate Nature's willingness to feed and nurture us and I feel a deep debt of gratitude to the good people of Saskatchewan; those farmers who came from foreign lands to settle Canada's prairies, who had the heart, the courage and the intelligence to choose a man and his government who cared about it's people. May we remember and honour these folks.