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Tommy Douglas’s CCF victory in Saskatchewan

The Story

It's a new era in Saskatchewan. A triumphant Tommy Douglas is carried through the torch-lit streets of Weyburn. At age 39, he has become the head of North America's first democratic socialist government. Douglas' newly elected 1944 CCF government plans to usher in a host of new reforms including auto insurance, medicare and a slew of public works projects. But will Douglas be able to institute these changes with an empty treasury and a reticent private sector? In this CBC Radio interview, Douglas looks back on the challenges he faced in spreading his brand of social gospel politics.

Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio News Special
Broadcast Date: Jan. 23, 1966
Guest(s): Tommy Douglas
Duration: 16:09

Did You know?

• Tommy Douglas first ran as a provincial candidate in 1934, representing the Saskatchewan Farmer-Labour Party. He was unsuccessful in his bid but he returned again the following year to run in the federal race as a CCF candidate. He was triumphant and served as Weyburn's MP for nine years.

• The CCF was often accused of being communist or Bolshevik because of its leftist politics. The day before the 1944 election, a Regina Leader Post editorial warned that the election result would "affect vitally the way of living of every individual, will affect the right to own and use property and would decide whether a stultifying dictatorial system would be imposed."

• During his first term, Douglas' government passed more than 100 bills, the majority of which were targeted at reforming social and economic issues. After spending two years in power the CCF had reduced the provincial debt by $20 million.

• Under the Douglas government, the CCF also established a cluster of new departments including the Department of Co-operatives and the Department of Social Welfare. To offset the financial burden of these new initiatives, CCF cabinet ministers accepted a 28 per cent pay cut.

• In 1944 the Douglas government unveiled a program which would prove to be the precursor to medicare. Under the plan, pensioners were provided with free medical, hospital and dental services. Three years later the CCF adopted a universal hospitalization plan in which each citizen paid into the program for a fee of five dollars per year.

• In 1959 Douglas announced his plan of medical insurance. Entitled medicare, the program, which would eventually be replicated across the country, provided for universal, prepaid public health care.

• While Douglas is widely regarded as the Father of Medicare, Matt Anderson initiated the first health care program in the municipality of McKillop, Sask. Anderson's plan, which was later passed as the "Matt Anderson Bill" in 1939, allowed for access to a municipal doctor, 21 days of hospital care, and prescription drugs for an annual fee of five dollars.

• Douglas also ushered the province into the modern era by establishing the Saskatchewan Power Corporation and SaskTel. By 1964, 65,000 farm households had access to electrical power and nearly all the homes in Saskatchewan had access to affordable phone service.

• In terms of the labour market, the Douglas administration enacted the Trade Union Act which rendered collective bargaining compulsory. The CCF also ushered in improvements to worker's compensation and minimum wage standards.

• Douglas was premier of Saskatchewan for 17 years from 1944 to 1961. He subsequently led the federal New Democratic Party from 1961 to 1971. After stepping down as leader, he sat in Parliament as the party's energy critic until his retirement in 1979.


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