Saskatchewan

Tommy Douglas honoured as person of national historic significance

One of Saskatchewan’s most well-known political figures is set to be permanently recognized as a person of national historic significance.

Former Premier Roy Romanow among those in attendance for plaque ceremony

Roy Romanow, Ralph Goodale, Ryan Meili and Ron Wormsbecker unveil the plaque dedicated to Tommy Douglas, who was honoured as a person of national historical significance on March 7 in Regina. (Bryan Eneas/CBC News)

One of Saskatchewan's best-known political figures is set to be permanently recognized as a person of national historic significance.

On Thursday, a plaque was unveiled in Regina dedicated to Thomas Clement "Tommy" Douglas.

The former CCF premier and former leader of the federal NDP is often known as the father of medicare.

"He was involved in so many public policy issues that truly made a difference in people's lives," Regina MP Ralph Goodale said.

Goodale noted that in his early political days, he served a constituency that included Weyburn, a city that Douglas himself served during his time in provincial politics.

"His rhetorical style was powerful. He used humour to devastating effect. He could tell you where to go and how quickly, and you would enjoy the trip," said Ralph Goodale, the MP for Regina-Wascana.

Goodale noted that Douglas' commitment to human rights, social justice and "making things better for ordinary citizens" was an inspiration to many people in Sask. and across the country.

Ralph Goodale spoke on behalf of Minister of Parks Canada Catherine McKenna at Thursday's unveiling ceremony. (Bryan Eneas/CBC News)

Bill Waiser, the Saskatchewan representative of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, acted as master of ceremonies for the unveiling.

He called it a privilege to be present and celebrate Douglas' life.

"Tommy Douglas dedicated his life to service for others," Waiser said. "He spent almost 45 years as an elected official in public office and affected social and political change on a scale not witnessed in Canada before, or since."

The life and legacy of Tommy Douglas will be permanently remembered through this plaque that was unveiled on March 7, 2019. (Bryan Eneas/CBC News)

Provincial NDP Leader Ryan Meili noted that Douglas was a role model for his own career choices.

"The legacy of Tommy, in particular in medicare, was something that inspired me to practise medicine," Meili said.

"I really loved the fact that, in Canada, if someone comes to see me, I ask how they're feeling, not how they're paying and that's very much a legacy of Tommy Douglas."

Former Sask. Premier Roy Romanow spoke on behalf of Douglas' living family who were unable to attend.

Romanow offered one small anecdote from his personal memories of Douglas.

Former Saskatchewan Premier Roy Romanow read messages on behalf of Douglas' family members, who were unable to attend the ceremony. (Bryan Eneas/CBC News)

He said one day, the pair were on a flight home from China and Romanow asked Douglas what accomplishment he was most proud of.

"He pointed out the window and said, 'Roy, look at what you see.' At first, I couldn't appreciate what he was asking me to see," Romanow said, adding all he could see were the stars above, and lights from farms below.

"Suddenly, it dawned on me: it was his government's development of rural electrification," Romanow said.

"Tommy said 'Roy, what could mean more to a farm family, alone in the dark of night, than the power to turn on the light?'"

Fittingly enough, the plaque honouring Douglas is located at Regina's T.C. Douglas Building.

Waiser noted the T.C. Douglas Calvary Centre in Weyburn Sask. nominated Douglas to be considered as a person of national historic significance. (Bryan Eneas/CBC News)