Tommy Douglas and Nanaimo

Tommy DouglasIt’s not well known that the person voted the Greatest Canadian, Tommy Douglas (1904-1986), represented the riding of Nanaimo/Cowichan/The Islands in the House of Commons until his retirement in 1979. Fellow New Democrat Jean Crowder presently holds the seat. Tommy was first elected to parliament in 1935 under the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) banner. In 1944 he resigned his federal seat to become Premier of Saskatchewan, a post he held until 1961. When the CCF became the New Democratic Party that year, Douglas was elected it’s first leader. His most significant achievement as premier was North America’s first system of publicly funded health care. However, in 1962 when Douglas attempted to win a parliamentary seat from Regina, he lost due to a backlash against medicare by reactionary doctors. So he moved to British Columbia and Saskatchewan’s loss became our gain. Tommy represented Burnaby/Coquitlam in parliament from 1962 to 1968, then Nanaimo/Cowichan/The Islands from 1968 to 1979. While in Nanaimo, Douglas lived at Seacrest Apartments, Chapel and Front streets, Vancouver Island's tallest building at the time.

As Premier of Saskatchewan, Tommy Douglas balanced the provincial books every year and left the province debt free when he switched to federal politics in 1961. This social democrat was a true fiscal conservative, unlike borrow and spend politicians who put their grandchildren in debt to enrich cronies while calling themselves “conservatives”. Over the years Douglas fought tenaciously for universal health insurance, old age security, and many other social programs which Canadians take for granted today. He consistently defended Canadian interests against profit-hungry corporations and foreign profiteers. This tradition is currently upheld by Jack Layton and our other NDP representatives in the federal and provincial legislatures.

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