douglastommy_cp_1402026

The RCMP's file on Tommy Douglas, shown here after re-election in November 1965, contains articles noting Douglas's concern about rumours of RCMP surveillance of Canadians. ((Canadian Press))

Saskatchewan New Democrats hoping to push Ottawa to release classified documents on Tommy Douglas were rebuffed by members of the governing Saskatchewan Party on Wednesday.

NDP Leader Dwain Lingenfelter was hoping all MLAs could support a motion calling on the federal government to open its files on Douglas, but the proposal didn't receive unanimous support in the provincial legislature.

When the matter came up, several Saskatchewan Party MLAs shouted "No," and the motion was stopped in its tracks.

However, the motion could still be debated at a later date.

Government house leader Dan D'Autremont said it's an issue they'll consider, but it's not an urgent one.

Douglas was the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation and NDP politician who was premier of Saskatchewan from 1944 to 1961. Known to many Canadians as the father of medicare, Douglas was also leader of the federal NDP from 1961 to 1971.

Documents requested by The Canadian Press and released over the past five years showed that spies with the now-defunct RCMP Security Service shadowed Douglas for more than three decades, attending his speeches, analyzing his writings and eavesdropping on private conversations.

However, the federal government has refused to release many more documents relating to Douglas, saying they would reveal security secrets.

Lingenfelter said that after more than 50 years, there's no reason to keep the documents private anymore.   

"I think the bigger thing is the curiosity of the public and historians, who want to know what was going on, why there was this kind of shadowing and investigation of a politician — not about his habits, but his ideas," he said.

It's also important for the public to know the history behind the creation of medicare, Lingenfelter said.

With files from The Canadian Press