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And the Greatest Canadian of all time is…

The Story


In early 2004, CBC Television put out a call to all people in Canada to nominate their greatest Canadian. Months later the top ten finalists were revealed. Canadians from coast to coast were asked to vote for their greatest Canadian. After weeks of debates and passionate arguments by advocates for the 10 finalists, Canadians chose Tommy Douglas, known as the father of medicare as The Greatest Canadian of all time. 

Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Nov. 29, 2004
Guests: Shirley Douglas, George Stromboulopoulous
Host: Peter Mansbridge
Reporter: Heather Hiscox
Duration: 2:18

Did You know?


• The Greatest Canadian series was adopted from the BBC program Great Britons. Great Britons originally aired in August 2000. Winston Churchill was voted as the Greatest Briton of them all.
• The German version of the Great series voted Konrad Adenauerm - the German statesman who revitalized Germany in the 1950's into an world economic powerhouse, as the Greatest German.
• Other Greats series in the works in 2004 were: Great Portuguese, Great Russians, Great Czechs, and Great Belgians.
The Greatest Canadian premiered Oct. 17, 2004. During this episode, Canada's top 50 nominees were revealed. Some of the noteworthy top 50 nominees were:
• #36 Ernie Coombs (Mr. Dressup).
• #35 The Unknown Soldier
• #20 Mike Myers
• #18 Shania Twain - the highest-ranking woman nominee on the list.
• #11 Louis Riel
• Canadians also nominated hundreds of moms, dads and grandparents. None of them made it on to the top 100 list.
• The Greatest Canadian was co-executive produced by Mark Starowicz. Starowicz is also credited with creating CBC Radio's As It Happens and CBC Television's The Journal. In 2000, Starowicz produced the groundbreaking CBC documentary series Canada: A People's History. Starowicz was also named as an Officer of the Order of Canada in May 2004.
• While The Greatest Canadian was in production, the show's producers did not want to reveal the nomination list. The nominee list was kept top-secret - even from the CBC's top executives. According to Mark Starowicz, the list was kept confidential in order to prevent gerrymandering.
• All staff involved in the series had to sign confidentiality agreements.
• Producers of The Greatest Canadian had created fake finalist lists as part of a contingency plan. If the real list had been revealed before the show aired, producers would "accidentally" leak the fake lists. Fortunately, this never happened.
• Producers gave each of the finalist nominees aliases to prevent the public from knowing their real identities.
• Terry Fox's alias was Gordon - as in superhero Flash Gordon.
• Tommy Douglas was known as Cork because he worked in a Scottish Cork Factory when he was young.
• Producers lied about the content of the documentaries they were filming. Production dates were also fudged. During the filming of the Don Cherry documentary in Kingston, Ontario, the CBC told city officials they were taping a Canada Day special.
• Producers disguised filming The Greatest Canadian as other CBC documentary series including Life & Times and The Canadian Experience.
• In a National Post article, reporter Bruce Garvey wrote that he was convinced the public's voting would have no impact on the show. Garvey claimed that Pierre Trudeau would win, and that the CBC had pre-determined the winner of The Greatest Canadian. Pierre Trudeau placed third, behind Terry Fox and the winner, Tommy Douglas.
• By the conclusion of the series, Tommy Douglas had a margin of 50,000 votes over second-place Terry Fox.


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