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T.C. Douglas: politician

Tommy Douglas was the most influential politician never to be elected Prime Minister. He pursued his radical ideas relentlessly until they became so mainstream rival politicians claimed them as their own. Called a communist and threatened by in-party fighting, Douglas battled hard to bring the New Democratic Party to legitimacy in its first ten years. He was often criticized for his singular idealism but through it all Douglas was undeterred, convinced that he was helping to create a better, more humane society. In 2004, Douglas was voted number one in CBC's The Greatest Canadian contest.

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In 1955, Saskatchewan celebrates its golden jubilee. Beloved Premier Tommy Douglas speaks to his province about the past and future, as heard in this CBC Radio address. Under Douglas's leadership, Saskatchewan enjoyed a series of progressive reforms including auto insurance, medicare and a slew of public works projects. "We shall so conduct ourselves that with divine guidance we may make this province so grow and prosper in a diversity of enterprises and opportunities that we may in the morrow write the finest pages of Saskatchewan's history," he says proudly in this CBC Radio address.
• Thomas Clement Douglas was born on Oct. 20, 1904, in Falkirk, Scotland. His family immigrated to Winnipeg, in 1910.

• At age six Douglas fell against a large stone and struck his right knee which caused osteomyelitis, an infection of the bone. For a while, doctors thought that Douglas' leg would have to be amputated. His family couldn't afford specialized care but a kindly doctor took an interest in young Tommy and offered to operate for free. The doctor's only condition was that he be allowed to use the procedure as a teaching demonstration. Douglas felt indebted and often cited this as the inspiration behind his fight for medicare.

• Douglas married Irma Dempsey, a music student at Brandon College, in 1930. They had one daughter Shirley and they later adopted a second daughter Joan.

• In 1944, Douglas led the CCF to victory in Saskatchewan's provincial election. At age 39, he became the head of North America's first democratic socialist government. Douglas' newly elected 1944 CCF government plans ushered in a host of new reforms including auto insurance, medicare and many public works projects.

• Douglas ran in a total of six provincial and 10 federal elections. He won 11 of his 16 electoral races.

• On Feb. 24, 1986, Tommy Douglas died at the age of 81, of cancer. In 2005, Douglas was voted the Greatest Canadian in a CBC Television special.

Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio Special
Broadcast Date: Sept. 1, 1955
Guest(s): Tommy Douglas
Duration: 3:13

Last updated: April 22, 2013

Page consulted on April 25, 2014

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