T.C. Douglas remembered: dinner and a book

Two events in Saskatoon mark the anniversary of the birth of Tommy Douglas: a celebratory dinner and the launch of a critical book.

Two views of Douglas on the anniversary of his birth

Two events in Saskatoon attracted people interested in the life of Tommy Douglas on the anniversary of his birth: a roast beef dinner celebration and the launch of a critical book.

The dinner, at St. Paul's United Church, marked Tommy Douglas Day. Oct. 20 was the birthday of the man known as the father of medicare — he was born in 1904 in Scotland and died in 1986 in Ottawa — and is an official day in the province "in appreciation of the work and contributions" of the former premier and longtime leader of the CCF and the NDP.

The Tommy Douglas Day Act was passed by the Saskatchewan legislature in 2005.

Author Bill Waiser was a featured speaker at a Tommy Douglas Day dinner in Saskatoon. ((CBC))
Wednesday evening's meal attracted about 150 people and included a presentation by author Bill Waiser who, with Stuart Houston, recently published Tommy's Team, a book on some of the people connected to Douglas.

Waiser said Douglas's tenure as premier, from 1944 to 1961, was an exciting era. "In the '40s and '50s you had a very creative, innovative bureaucracy," Waiser told CBC News on Wednesday. "It's something that perhaps this country should be looking back to and trying to emulate today. I think we've lost some of that spirit, that ingenuity, and the Douglas government exemplified that."

Six kilometres away, at the McNally Robinson bookstore, radio host and author John Gormley was providing a very different take on Douglas and his brand of socialism.

Saskatoon radio host and author John Gormley launched a book critical of Douglas and the NDP. ((CBC))
Gormley was signing books at the launch of his volume Left Out: Saskatchewan's NDP and the Relentless Pursuit of Mediocrity.

As the title suggests, Gormley is critical of the policies of the Douglas regime, the first socialist government in North America. He told CBC News that the Douglas legacy was not altogether positive for Saskatchewan.

"Tommy Douglas did wonderful things for health care," Gormley acknowledged. "But in terms of holding Saskatchewan's resource development back, our private investment back, Tommy Douglas is not a man to be made an icon — a patron saint for Saskatchewan."