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Monday, November 29, 2004

At least it wasn't Trudeau

Tommy Douglas has won that "Greatest Canadian" poll, proving that maintaining a feeling of smug superiority over those uncouth Yanks is our one and only national characteristic.  (P.E.T. came third.  Don Cherry was seventh.)

T.C. (Tommy) Douglas, former Saskatchewan premier, former leader of the federal New Democratic Party and touted as the father of the country's universal health-care system, has been voted The Greatest Canadian.


Speaking prior to learning the outcome of the voting, Jeffrey said if Douglas won it was because of the symbolism of his chief accomplishment in health care.

"He gets the visionary side of this, of coming up with the idea, at least at a political level," said Jeffrey. "You can't blame Tommy Douglas for the health-care crisis."

She said that was expressed when, during the Sunday debate, the late politician's official advocate, George Stroumboulopoulos, whipped out his red-and-white plastic health card and waved it about.

To delirious cheers, Stroumboulopoulos dramatically argued that if Douglas, who died in 1986, were removed from the national equation "you remove the caring, sharing legacy of everything that we value . . . you remove this, and this is our most treasured, treasured national characteristic!"


[Executive producer Mark Starowicz] said that as far as he was concerned, it didn't matter in the slightest who won, that what was important was that Canadians got engaged on the issue of what values they wished to treasure in their country.

"Unity, diversity, compassion, caring for each other. I mean this is not an American list. There's nothing Darwinian in this room. I was a very generous list."

The best response to this self-righteous nonsense came in the Washington Post article linked immediately below:

Part of what's irksome about Canadian anti-Americanism and the obsession with the United States is that it seems so corrosive to Canada. Any country that defines itself through a negative ("Canada: We're not the United States") is doomed to an endless and repetitive cycle of hand-wringing and angst. For example, Canadians often point to their system of universal health care as the best example of what it means to be Canadian (because the United States doesn't provide it), but this means that any effort to adjust or reform that system (which is not perfect) precipitates a national identity crisis: To wit, instituting co-payments or private MRI clinics will make Canada too much like the United States.

Posted by Damian Penny on November 29, 2004 in Media | Permalink


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Douglas is a good choice. At least he did something that benefitted the people as a whole.
Banting would have been a good second but for some reason he is less well regarded.

Calling Trudeau the Greatest Canadian is like calling Mussolini the greatest Italian, or Pinochet the greatest Chilean. It conveniently omits the bad things he did. In fact, he should be rated as the worst Canadian.

Posted by: Scott | 2004-11-29 8:06:02 PM

I'd be OK with Tommy Douglas if he was being celebrated as the Prairie populist who believed in mutual aid, not as the father of the Liberal version of it which is both a bureaucratic nightmare and stick to beat the nation into a social engineering nightmare.

Of course my first vote would have been for Louis Riel. :)

Posted by: m0nkyman | 2004-11-29 10:13:05 PM

I seem to recall that Tommy Douglas wrote his Masters thesis on Eugenics, a popular theme of that era particularly in Germany where it really caught on. I wonder how many of the politically correct left who voted for him would think him worthy if they could observe him defending his thesis or if they had to read it!

Posted by: John Chittick | 2004-11-29 10:52:29 PM

CBC have chosen their man. But come on, it's not like Douglas invented health care. Just the waiting lists. But the formula doesn't allow room for rebuttal of misstatements made by the advocates.

But CBC should give the full breakdown of votes (and now by numbers rather than just percentages), as they were doing in piecework during the run of the show: age, gender, etc. As of a couple weeks ago, Terry Fox was leading Mr. Douglas among all age groups under the age of 50. (And was second to Douglas among those 50-64.) Which raises the question of just how many internet users there really *are* over the age of 50.

Posted by: Paul | 2004-11-30 3:37:30 AM

I sat through the show (with difficulty) and was also struck by the obsession with "Canadian-ness". Mary Walsh said, "I know this isn't very Canadian of me, but I really wanted to win." And so forth.

What was really Canadian about it were the dorky production values, corny jokes (hey, aren't we supposed to be the funny ones?) and how butch the women looked, auf de Maur excepted. (It'll be a week before I get over that lady MP's ugly black loafers...)

It just made me want to leave even more. Very depressing.

Posted by: Kathy | 2004-11-30 3:51:51 AM

And another thing: I lost track of how often everyone, including his own son, described Trudeau as "passionate". Er, wasn't he the guy whose motto was "Reason over Passion." Didn't Margaret make him a macrame wall hanging with those words on it?

Of course, I'm not part of the media elite, so what do I know?

Posted by: Kathy | 2004-11-30 4:29:50 AM

Simple rule about the CBC: you get what you pay for.

It should be eliminated to free more money for medicare. How's that for a tribute to the "Greatest Canadian".

I stopped watching it a decade ago after it praised the Nazis as the heros of WWII in "The Valor and the Horror". I don't know which is worse: that they have a revisionist agenda, or they use my tax money to fund it.

A right-wing government should make it a priority to disband the CBC on the first day of a new administration. In the meantime, as an opposition party, it should boycott it by refusing to grant interviews and barring its reporters from press conferences.

Right now, Alberta should shut it down completely. No one would miss it out here.

Incidentally, of those 10 "panellists", I couldn't identify 8 of them. Only Deborah Grey and Bret Hart were familiar. I guess I should be fortunate to be out of touch with "Canadian culture".

Posted by: Scott | 2004-11-30 5:00:51 AM

John Chittick mentions a connection between Tommy Douglas and the Eugenics movement. I recall several years ago reading in a broadsheet newspaper one female reporter's dismay in discovering Nellie McClung's leadership in advocating Eugenics policies. News to me too.

I await a new Heritage Minute. Strange how that was never mentioned in the current one.

Posted by: DAMNYOURLOUSYEXCUSES | 2004-11-30 10:02:04 AM

"You can't blame Tommy Douglas for the health-care crisis."

I wonder how long people are going to keep insisting, "It's a good system it just needs more money/standards/regulations/oversight/nurses/MRIs/unions/..."

Universal free health care is a socialist fantasy. Absent oil revenues, it has not been implemented sustainably in any jurisdiction.

Posted by: Justzumgai | 2004-11-30 11:21:22 AM

I let you in on a little secret. I know who the Greatest Canadian is. It's you, the audience. You're the greatest of all!

("Applause" sign flashes, but it isn't necessary. Everyone is clapping like mad.)

Posted by: Kevin Steel | 2004-11-30 1:41:37 PM

In 1947 or 1948, when I was a naive farm boy, I attended a political meeting while attending high school in Lloydminster Sask/Alta. Tommy Douglas was the featured speaker. When going into the hall I remember thinking that as a minister of the church, I should have respect for what he had to say. After his speech, I realized I simply could not be that naive. This feeling was strongly reinforced when an elder of the town, and a Barr Colonist, Mr. H. C Messum, asked a very pertinent question. Tommy Douglas, using his silver tongued oratory, completely and unnecessarily humiliated him. I lost all respect for the man and all he stood for. As I am about to turn 75, I still marvel at my perception at that tender age. I can only give thanks to my parents who must have taught me to value honesty ahead of glib rhetoric.

Posted by: Bob Wood | 2004-11-30 3:23:16 PM

Forget about Tommy Douglas as the father of modern socialized medicine Where was Sir. William Osler - The Father of modern medicine period! His inovations have literally saved billion of lives. Every modern medical textbook is just a rehash of " The Principals and Practice of Medicine" He didn't even make the top 100 !!

• Born in Bond Head (Ontario, Canada) on July 12, 1849 
• Entered medical school at Trinity College (Toronto) in 1868
• Received medical degree from McGill University (1872)
• First person to discover platelets  in the blood     (1873)
• Became professor of medicine at McGill Medical School 
• Invited to London, England to lecture on disease and the role of bacteria (1888)
• Professor of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (1884)
• Became the first professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Hospital (1889)
• Published " The Principals and Practice of Medicine" in 1892 and revised the book over the next 30 years
• Appointed Regius Professor at Oxford University in England (1905)
• Knighted in 1911
• Donated his medical books to McGill University before his death
• Died on December 29, 1919  in England
• His ashes rest in the Osler Library, Montreal

Posted by: Nbob | 2004-11-30 5:07:55 PM

Tommy Douglas did "outgrow" his fondness of eugenics:

"In Britain, Churchill, HG Wells and GB Shaw were said to be eugenicists. In Canada, WS Woodsworth and Tommy Douglas (Fathers of Canadian Medicare) and Charlotte Whitton were believers. So, ultimately was Hitler. Hitler and Whitton, did not outgrow the fad; the others presumably did."


Posted by: John Newcomb | 2004-12-08 11:40:53 AM

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