Tommy Douglas crowned 'Greatest Canadian'

The former Saskatchewan premier was chosen by CBC viewers as the Canadian who has had the most impact on this county's history.

Tommy Douglas, the former Saskatchewan premier who is credited with being the founding father of Canada's health-care system, was named Monday night as the winner in the CBC's Greatest Canadian contest.

The socialist politician was chosen by CBC viewers as the Canadian who has had the most profound impact on the country's history.

Marathon of Hope runner Terry Fox placed second in the voting.

Behind Fox was former Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau.

Douglas was the leading vote-getter going into Monday's finale. In all, 1.2 million votes were cast during The Greatest Canadian's six-week run.

The show debuted in October using a format borrowed from a BBC series. It began with a list of ten finalists, drawn from the more than 140,000 names that were submitted to the show's producers.

Each finalist had an advocate – a celebrity who tried to convince viewers that his or her nominee was worthy of being chosen as the winner.

Viewers then voted by phone, text message or e-mail.

The celebrity who stumped on behalf of Douglas was George Stroumboulopoulos, the MuchMusic personality who will soon join the staff of the CBC.

"I feel like Tommy Douglas is getting the recognition he deserves," he said when his nominee was named the winner.

Fourth place in the voting went to Frederick Banting.

The rest of the top ten, in order, are: (5) David Suzuki, (6) Lester Pearson, (7) Don Cherry, (8) John A. Macdonald, (9) Alexander Graham Bell and (10) Wayne Gretzky.

CBC host Evan Solomon was the celebrity advocate for Bell, the inventor of the telephone.

"I'm shocked that so few Bell supporters knew how to use the phone to vote," Solomon quipped earlier in the show when his nominee placed ninth.

The final episode of The Greatest Canadian, titled The Greatest Canadian of Them All, was hosted by CBC correspondent Wendy Mesley and This Hour Has 22 Minutes cast member Shaun Majumder.

Monday's broadcast began with a recap of the Sunday edition of the show.

That instalment was memorable for the barbs traded by the advocates.

At one point, CBC commentator Rex Murphy – who championed Trudeau – got into a heated verbal tussle with George Stroumboulopoulos, who argued that Douglas was the source of Trudeau's ideas.

"There is a difference between the fertilizer and the tree," Murphy said pointedly.

Douglas, born in Scotland in 1904, spent his early years in Winnipeg.

After a stint as a Baptist minister, he served as a federal MP from 1935 to 1944. He then became premier of Saskatchewan as leader of the CCF, the predecessor to today's NDP.

It was in Saskatchewan that Douglas introduced Medicare, a concept that was later adopted at the federal level by the Liberal Party.

He died in 1986.

According to the CBC, The Greatest Canadian has averaged between 500,000 to 700,000 viewers per episode.

The program's Oct. 17 debut drew more than one million viewers.

The series is arguably the public broadcaster's most talked-about show in recent years. After it debuted, Canadians from across the country joined in the debate, arguing passionately for different candidates.

The Greatest Canadian was also criticized for its methodology, with some observers noting the paucity of female nominees.

"How can this be said to represent the nation's choice of 'Greatest Canadian' when it isn't even being shown in French?" asked columnist Andrew Coyne, writing in the National Post.

Mesley and Majumder did not reveal on Monday how many votes each nominee garnered.