Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Who Was Tommy Douglas?

You learn somethin' everyday!

Officially launched on April 5, 2004, The Greatest Canadian was a television program series by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) to determine who is considered to be the greatest Canadian of all time, at least among those who watched and participated in the program. More than 1.2 million votes were cast. Wayne Gretzky was not selected.


The top 10 finishers were:
  1. Tommy Douglas (yeah! Who was he?)
  2. Terry Fox (athlete, activist, humanitarian)
  3. Pierre Trudeau (Prime Minister)
  4. Sir Frederick Banting (medical scientist, co-discoverer of insulin)
  5. David Suzuki (geneticist, environmentalist, broadcaster, activist)
  6. Lester Bowles Pearson (Prime Minister, former United Nations General Assembly President, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate)
  7. Don Cherry (hockey coach, commentator)
  8. Sir John A. Macdonald (First post-Confederation Prime Minister)
  9. Alexander Graham Bell (Scottish-born scientist, inventor, founder of the Bell Telephone Company, which later became the American Telephone and Telegraph Company)
  10. Wayne Gretzky (hockey player)
Tommy Douglas, was not just the Premier of Saskatchewan, but the father of Canadian Medicare. Jerome Doolittle of Bad Attitudes informs me:
For more than 50 years, his staunch devotion to social causes, rousing powers of speech and pugnacious charm made Tommy C. Douglas an unstoppable political force. From his first foray into public office politics in 1934 to his post-retirement years in the 1970s, Canada’s ‘father of Medicare’ stayed true to his socialist beliefs — often at the cost of his own political fortune — and earned himself the respect of millions of Canadians in the process…

Tommy Douglas’s legacy as a social policy innovator lives on. Social welfare, universal Medicare, old age pensions and mothers’ allowances — Douglas helped keep these ideas current, watching as more established political parties eventually came to accept these once-radical ideas as their own.
You learn something every day....

30 comments:

  1. Michael M. Rachlis is a physician, health policy analyst and author in Toronto. Monday he published in the L.A. Times that,

    The caricature of 'socialized medicine' is used by corporate interests to confuse Americans and maintain their bottom lines instead of patients' health.

    ..... On coverage, all Canadians have insurance for hospital and physician services. There are no deductibles or co-pays. Most provinces also provide coverage for programs for home care, long-term care, pharmaceuticals and durable medical equipment, although there are co-pays.

    On the U.S. side, 46 million people have no insurance, millions are underinsured and healthcare bills bankrupt more than 1 million Americans every year.

    Lesson No. 1: A single-payer system would eliminate most U.S. coverage problems .....

    Lessons No. 2 and 3: Single-payer systems reduce duplicative administrative costs and can negotiate lower prices.

    Lesson No. 4: Single-payer plans can deliver the goods because their funding goes to services, not overhead.

    Lesson No. 5: Canadian healthcare delivery problems have nothing to do with our single-payer system and can be fixed by re-engineering for quality.

    U.S. health policy would be miles ahead if policymakers could learn these lessons. But they seem less interested in Canada's, or any other nation's, experience than ever. Why?

    American democracy runs on money. Pharmaceutical and insurance companies have the fuel. Analysts see hundreds of billions of premiums wasted on overhead that could fund care for the uninsured. But industry executives and shareholders see bonuses and dividends.

    Compounding the confusion is traditional American ignorance of what happens north of the border, which makes it easy to mislead people. Boilerplate anti-government rhetoric does the same. The U.S. media, legislators and even presidents have claimed that our "socialized" system doesn't let us choose our own doctors. In fact, Canadians have free choice of physicians. It's Americans these days who are restricted to "in-plan" doctors.

    Unfortunately, many Americans won't get to hear the straight goods because vested interests are promoting a caricature of the Canadian experience.

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  2. One of my fave Canucks, that's for sure. He endured persistent, angry and sometimes racist scare tactics to bring universal health care to Saskatchewan residents. One tactic was that doctors appeared at pickets dressed as stereotypical "Chinamen" (hat, black ponytail, small beard, often buck teeth) to hammer home their message that the Douglas plan would mean unqualified foreigners delivering health care.

    On a lighter note, he was also quite a wit. In one famous exchange, at an election rally, a voter called him a "pipsqueak" (he was small of frame, but also a former Manitoba lightweight boxing champ) and said "I could swallow you in one bite." To which Douglas replied: "And if you did, my friend, you'd have more brains in your belly than you have in your head."

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  3. Emily: Thanks for sharing that gem.

    Stimpson you had me rolling!

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  4. These are folks I want to know. I got a new hero.

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  5. Education should be a 'daily do'. Ta for the education today!

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  6. Hey Mac Daddy, speaking about heroes, what about Steve Kagen?

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  7. Perhaps some of our current politicians should get some lessons on wit from Jon Stewart or Bill Maher and they would develop more spine. Of course everyone knows the recently elected Al Franken has plenty of wit if he chooses to use it. It takes courage to use one's wit.

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  8. Today's local paper's "Letters to the Editor", contains the following "Choice Words":

    "No matter what your views on health care reform, it is telling that all plans before Congress exempt them from participating in what they consider good enough for you and me."

    Extremely telling, INDEED!

    Clearly, Congress loves its very own ("Socialized") Health-Care Benefits!

    Who wouldn't love to have almost three-quarters of the costs of their health-care coverage paid for by we, the taxpayers!

    My admiration and appreciation of Steve Kagen's principled refusal to accept the taxpayer-subsidized Health-care coverage that every other member of Congress accepts as their "Rightful Due", increases exponentially with every passing day.

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  9. This is a must see cartoon-enhanced video you-tube of Tommy Douglas' "Mouseland" speech introduced by Douglas' grandson, Kieffer Sutherland: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WxGyPTndqms

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  10. The well funded, cleverly orchestrated disruptive tactics of intimidation being shouted out by the "Republi-can't" Right Wing (in conjunction with the health-care and pharmeceutical industries), are undemocratic, and in fact, are precisely the tactics employed by Hitler to subdue and conquer the populace. Those responsible for this attempt to destroy our democracy are s---ting on everything our Founding Fathers and Mothers bequeathed to us.

    The "Republi-can'ts" have clearly stated their unitary goal: to ensure that Obama and his administration FAIL.

    Instructions found on the web, describe the tactics with which to verbally assault the Congress person and/or any citizen attempting to have a civil dialogue about our current dysfunctional health-care system.

    To include the word "Care" when identifying the For-Profit insurance and drug companies, makes my stomach churn. The only "Care" that concerns these comapnies is "care" about their bottom line.

    They care deeply that they make an ever inceasing profit - off of ill and dying Americans, whom they dis-enroll as rapidly as they can, in order to give dividends to their stockholders, and obscene salaries and bonuses to their CEOs and CFOs.

    How shall members of Congress deal with the ear-splitting theatrics employed by Dick Army's "True Believers"?

    Perhaps large, open-to-the-public meetings need to be replaced with smaller gatherings of neighbors called together by word-of-mouth.

    Thom Hartman, during today's program on Air America, suggested that the web-posted Instructions for Intimidtion and Disruption be read aloud at the beginning of any gathering, so that attendees all understand the true purpose of the disruptors: to fear-monger and to silence opposing views in order to destroy Obama. What they fail to acknowledge is that if Obama fails, we all lose.

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  11. Amazingly the propaganda has worked. I have neighbors who are liberals. Even they believe that if we got singlepayer, there would be rationing and long waits for surgeries like in Canada. I had to show them the Youtube piece about the two US women exiled in Canada due to illness that would never be covered here in the states and if it were covered their out of pocket expenses would make the treatments prohibitive. Finally I converted someone to expanding their brainwashed minds.

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  12. Colleen thanks for the youtube link. You just gave me the perfect post for today.

    And Emily, thanks for the great post. I needed that. I'm starting to think the only way to get away from the idiots that are swallowing the crap the fat cats are dishing out is to sell my house and move to Canada. The loads of crap we're being dished up is about to give me a heart attack.

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  13. Great post vigil.

    Unfortunately, many Americans won't get to hear the straight goods because vested interests are promoting a caricature of the Canadian experience.

    Yeah, I agree about the vested interests but even with them the day a large group of Americans find the strength and curiosity to look beyond a caricature they have firmly in place in their head Hell will have frozen over.

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  14. Thanks for the comments, all!

    Especially to you, Coleen for the You Tube link. There are quite a few recordings of this Canadian hero speaking, but you picked out the very best!

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  15. Well Vig,

    As a Canadian, all I'll say is both sides make me vomit about how they depict the Canadian system. I don't think you guys are doing your homework in any sober manner.

    The system has major problems here.

    The partisan barking is ridiculous and the right make some valid points about our problems though not as bad either. The left are simply being rhetorical about it. At best, when all things are considered and weighed I'd say it's mediocre maybe (and that's a big maybe) slightly above average.

    It's not propaganda but fact. I can provide you with all sorts if you request them plus some sources to read about us. We don't particularly perform well in the OECD and for the amount we pay into it I submit we don't get as much back as we should.

    As for Tommy Douglas, whatever. I'm a history major and we Canadians don't have much use for it. Canadians are apathetic and these CBC surveys are shallow at best. He's not the greatest Canadian. Don't ask me who is but he isn't.

    Gretzky is spelled with a "Z" by the way!

    Dodgers looking great.

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  16. Thanks for your comments, Commissioner. I'll accept with gratitude your spelling corrections. As for your other caveats, I'll refer you to portions of Dr. Rachlis's column which were omitted in Emily's comment.

    As for the Dodgers? Manny went 2 for 4 tonight, homered and doubled. LA can win without Manny, but if Manny is allowed to be Manny, the Dodgers can contend in October.

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  17. Vig, I appreciate you according me time and space to speak on this matter.

    Dr. Rachlis is BUT ONE voice and ONE position among several. For one year, I was in the middle of this debate and let me tell you there's far more to it than Dr. Rachlis.

    Duh. The system of choice is not necessarily a problem. How we apply it is the problem. And we've been talking about improving quality of care for over 25 years and nothing is ever done.

    My advice is don't rely on just Rachlis. Doing so only suggests people are willing to listen to but one side of the coin.

    Start with the Canadian Medical Association. Another great site is the CIMCA.ca. Here, you'll hear it straight from the mouths of the professionals who know and are willing to question the system free of mumbo-jumbo rhetoric. There's a difference between what's being said and actually happening. Heck, you just have to read and listen to personal stories to learn about the system.

    Then read the Fraser Institute - they do a great job of analyzing public health systems.

    In case you're wondering, Canada doesn't generally perform well in the OECD.

    From what I've heard, some of your politicians are being responsible in asking certain questions I feel are valid. Some call it scare-tactics, I think it's prudent.

    By the way, I wouldn't be surprised if many of the concerns doctors had with the Douglas initiative have come true today. A couple did and happened rapidly.

    Always remember, anything run by government is massively inefficient and costs MUCH MORE than they claim. The Democrats HAVE NO MECHANISM to control costs. I don't need to even read about it. A system on itself won't save you money.

    I know, I live in Canada. We basically live for the state and watch much of our money go to waste or in the hands of corrupt individuals.

    I wish you luck. I'm merely being a devil's advocate because I don't think people are taking seriously the short comings of our system.

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  18. By the way, it's interesting to note that while you guys are moving towards a socialized system (and it is) we're considering opening ourselves more to private clinics.

    My American friends and family ask what system I would prefer. I can't answer this. Canada is good because it's available to all but expensive and the question becomes access and quality. As far as I can tell, in the U.S. it's the opposite. You have access and care but is it affordable?

    It would be nice to find a way to merge both!

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  19. More affordable than Iraq and Afghanistan. Better investment, too!

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  20. Another Canadian, Stimpson, is more impressed with Dr. Rachlis's statement than is The Commentator.

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  21. "Always remember, anything run by government is massively inefficient ..."
    That's quite an assertion, and it doesn't jibe with what I learned in poli sci and pulic admin courses. (You're a history major? Well, I have a degree in poli sci and one in journalism.)

    Check out the independent medical clinics association and the Fraser Institute for the real story? For the sake of full disclosure, our U.S. friends should know that the Fraser Institute is a right-wing "think tank" akin to the Cato Institute. The self-interests of independent clinic operators requires no explanation.

    Canada doesn't "perform well" in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development? Well, um, OK. On the topic of health care, the big-picture results are pretty good compared to the U.S. Considerably higher life expectancy, lower infant mortality rate. (The latter is higher than in many other countries, granted, but still lower than in the U.S.) Surely that should tell you the medical system isn't failing Canadians.

    Nobody is saying the Canadian system is perfect, Commentator. No system is perfect. But I'd say the Canadian system is performing well.

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  22. Hello Stimpson.

    Government inefficiencies: It happens. Move on. What are they teaching you in school these days? :<) Nice try with the history jab.

    Yes, yes. I was waiting for someone to point out that the Fraser is a conservative think-tank and that somehow this invalidates their work.

    Are you interested in finding solutions or playing partisanship? There's ample research in favor of the public system. We're all aware of it. Not enough, though, critical analysis. Do you people not read? It's happening across Europe too this reassessment - some fear they may not be able to keep up with costs. I cite them as a means to explore another point of view. Alas, we can't have that in Canada! How dare C.D. Howe have an opinion! Jack Layton forever!

    Please.

    The CIMC exist therefore they think. I think they know more than you and I put together. They have a right to their positions. Quite frankly, their story jives more with what our data shows in terms of what people have gone through and demand. They're FAR MORE RESPONSIVE to the needs of the people than the government bureaucracy is. I know. Hard to believe for a Canuck to hear this. Responsible democracy that's responsive to the people? Wha?

    I don't know where this thing about if you're conservative ergo you're an idiot mentality came from. It's lame.

    My (former) website gets 35 000 hits a month. We get hundreds of email. Care to come and read some of them? Get some popcorn and get ready to have your hair curl. I can assure you what I know you can't possibly imagine and you don't seem prepared to hear.

    It's only appropriate to say, because I fear I know where this is going, we're not partisan. We just calling it out as it is. We've voted both liberal and conservative. We could care less either way. We just feel the system is increasingly not providing timely services. We just want the public system to improve. I'm arguing the fact the system needs some work and that since Americans are flirting with this they should be aware of EVERYTHING that comes with it.

    If that means more private clinics and the people are happy with a tightly-regulated one, so be it.

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  23. I had to do this in two spurts.

    You're not analyzing the figures and you haven't explored the topic enough regarding the OECD. Go and do that and then come back to me.

    Sure, relatively speaking, we're alright. But we haven't explored the parts that lead to serious problems; for example, lack of quick care for serious ailments. We pay roughly $5000 per person now and that expenditure is rising yet the system continues to be over stressed. That's second to the U.S. now and more than any EU member with less bang for buck. And stop measuring against the U.S.

    -We have less equipment available - MRIs, CatScans etc. - than most nations in the OECD. We have to scramble for them or go private.
    -Millions of Canadians have no access to a GP (anywhere between 1.5 million and 4). Without a GP you don't get to see a specialist. It takes months to see both.
    -We have the lowest number of doctors per 100 000.
    -We have, in Quebec anyway, doctor shortages and nurses. The system always tries to find ways, naturally, to cost cut. The system is not patient-centric. It's cost-oriented.
    -Wait times, while improving slowly, vary from province to province and depending on ailment but overall, our wait times are way too high and explains, in part, why findprivatclinics.ca is doing very well. Canadians don't want to wait anymore.
    -What the Canadian system can't provide, Canadians must go to the States to get - sometimes paid for by the government.
    -Labour costs account for 75% of all costs and RISING.
    -Mismanagement is not even up for debate. Doctors who leave the public sector and come on the private side know this all too well. Waste does happen, S.

    These are all valid concerns that merit immediate attention and action.

    If you feel "hey, at least we have it so be glad" then by all means...you're entitled to it.

    But if you're gonna come here and tell me I have to accept mediocrity when I know we can do more then I will choose to debate because based on both personal and professional experiences we need to.

    I'm done with this. Back to la-la land. ;<)

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  24. Hi, Commentator.

    1. "Anyting run by government is massively inefficient" is a far cry from "inefficiencies happen." The former is over-the-top rhetoric and unprovable.

    2. Anecdotal evidence doesn't demonstrate that a system is horribly broken. It just proves mistakes happen.

    3. Again, nobody is saying the Canadian system is perfect. It seems I must repeat that.

    4. Yes, the Canadian system has less of some kinds of equipment than other systems have. But again, what are the big-picture outcomes? Longer lives, lower infant mortality, etc.

    5. The FI's and the CIMCA's backgrounds were mentioned for the sake of full disclosure, not to smear them. It is relevant information to know when reading their work.

    6. Brevity is your friend. You've basically hijacked a discussion with comments much longer than the original post. Not courteous, and not effective communication.

    7. Lastly, you really should lighten up. I wasn't attacking you with my reply to your original comments, so there was no need for you to take things so personally and insult me.

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  25. Tommy Douglas should be re-named "The Greatest North American." I wonder how long it will take U.S. citizens bankrupted by high insurance premiums, high drug costs, and exclusion or recission from insurance plans to flood across the northern border to become "illegal aliens" in Canada for better and more affordable health care?

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  26. Sozadee readers might be interested in this website addressing the popular notion that government is always bad and inefficient (or "massively inefficient" as some might say): Government is Good

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  27. Wow. This is better than "fight night."

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  28. Fight night? Yeah. I noticed that when Canadians scrap and fight over health care, Americans run for the tall grass.

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