The Honourable Thomas Clement Douglas in 1945Tommy Douglas-The legendary 'Father' of Canadian Healthcare System
Thomas Clement "Tommy" Douglas, PC, CC, SOM (20 October 1904 – 24 February 1986)
was a Scottish-born Baptist minister who became a prominent Canadian social-democratic politician. As leader of the Saskatchewan Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) from 1942 and the seventh Premier of Saskatchewan from 1944 to 1961, he led the first social-democratic government in North America and introduced single-payer health care
to Canada.Military stint
After the outbreak of World War II, Douglas enlisted in the wartime Canadian Army. He had volunteered for overseas service and was on a draft of men headed for the Winnipeg Grenadiers when a medical examination turned up his old leg problems. Douglas stayed in Canada and the Grenadiers headed for Hong Kong. If not for that ailment, he would have been with the regiment when its members were killed or captured at Hong Kong in December 1941.Medicare
Douglas's number one concern was the creation of Medicare. 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.
Douglas is widely hailed as the father of Medicare, and took the opportunity to take his cause to the federal stage. Thus, in 1961, he retired from his position as Saskatchewan's premier and turned over this job Woodrow Lloyd, taking leadership of the federal New Democratic Party.
The Saskatchewan program was finally launched by his successor, Woodrow Lloyd, in 1962. 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 the 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. So, the adoption of healthcare across Canada ended up being the work of three men with diverse political ideals - Tommy Douglas, John Diefenbaker and Lester Pearson.The beginning of coverage
It was not until 1946 that the first Canadian province introduced near universal
health coverage. Saskatchewan had long suffered a shortage of doctors, leading to the creation of municipal doctor programs in the early twentieth century in which a town would subsidize a doctor to practice there.
Soon after, groups of communities joined to open union hospitals under a similar model. There had thus been a long history of government involvement in Saskatchewan health care, and a significant section of it was already controlled and paid for by the government. In 1946, Tommy Douglas' Co-operative Commonwealth Federation government in Saskatchewan passed the "Saskatchewan Hospitalization Act", which guaranteed free hospital care for much of the population. Douglas had hoped to provide universal health care, but the province did not have the money.
In 1950, Alberta created a program similar to Saskatchewan's. Alberta, however, created Medical Services (Alberta) Incorporated (MS(A)I) in 1948 to provide prepaid health services. This scheme eventually provided medical coverage to over 90% of the population.
In 1957, the Diefenbaker federal government passed the Hospital Insurance and Diagnostic Services Act' to fund 50% of the cost of such programs for any provincial government that adopted them. The HIDS Act outlined five conditions: public administration, comprehensiveness, universality, portability, and accessibility. These remain the pillars of the Canada Health Act.
By 1961, all ten provinces had agreed to start HIDS Act programs. In Saskatchewan, the act meant that half of their current program would now be paid for by the federal government. Premier Woodrow Lloyd decided to use this freed money to extend the health coverage to also include physicians. Despite the sharp disagreement of the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons, Lloyd introduced the law in 1962 after defeating the Saskatchewan Doctors' Strike in July.Medical Care Act
The Saskatchewan program proved a success and the federal government of Lester B. Pearson, pressured by the New Democratic Party (NDP) who held the balance of power, introduced the "Medical Care Act" in 1966 that extended the HIDS Act cost-sharing to allow each province to establish a universal health care plan. It also set up the Medicare system.
In 1984, the Canada Health Act was passed, which prohibited
user fees and extra billing by doctors. In 1999, the prime minister and most premiers reaffirmed in the Social Union Framework Agreement that they are committed to health care that has "comprehensiveness, universality, portability, public administration and accessibility."His legacy
- He became a member of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada on 30 November 1984.
- In 1998, he was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame.
- Douglas was voted "The Greatest Canadian" of all time in a nationally televised contest organized by the CBC in 2004.
- Douglas was also the subject of a 1986 National Film Board of Canada documentary "Tommy Douglas: Keeper of the Flame", which received the Gemini Award for Best Writing in a Documentary Program or Series.
- In 1985, he was awarded the Saskatchewan Order of Merit.
- In 1980, Brandon University created a students' union building in honour of Douglas and his old friend, Stanley Knowles.
- Douglas died of cancer on 24 February 1986 at the age of 81 in Ottawa... still an active member of the Douglas-Coldwell FoundationOrder of Canada
Douglas was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada on 22 June 1981. His citation reads:"When in 1934 a young Baptist minister entered Saskatchewan politics, a trend began which was to place Tommy Douglas at the head of the first social democratic government in Canada. This led to new initiatives in the arts, health, industry, road building, energy, and justice. Later, as federal leader of the New Democratic Party, he continued his strivings in the wider arena. He is now president of the Douglas-Coldwell Foundation, dedicated to the study of government.Uh, what a man - what a legend !Qorax