My publisher Midtown Press was delighted when the Douglas Coldwell Layton Foundation generously gave a grant to fund their promotion of A Boy Named Tommy Douglas. The book, published in June, 2022, is for 5 - 10-year-olds but it tells the story appropriate to anyone who does not know his iconic past.
Tommy was born in Scotland in 1904 and his family immigrated to Winnipeg. As I researched Tommy’s life, he was seven years old when he badly injured his right knee. Because his parents could not afford medical care, his knee injury turned into osteoporosis. The doctors threatened to cut his leg off, but Tommy was saved because a specialist surgeon visiting the public ward offered to operate at no cost to save the leg. The operation was a success. Tommy never forgot that other children were not so fortunate.
He became a preacher and then a politician whose fiery speeches helped get him elected in Saskatchewan. (He was always called Tommy, never Tom.) He built hospitals and started a medical school, gave free dental and medical care for pregnant women and seniors. Finally in 1960 when he was 57 years old, full medical care arrived for every person in Saskatchewan. Tommy became the leader of the federal NDP and worked for six more years until 1968 when Medicare was available to every child and adult in Canada.
Tommy is known as the Father of Medicare and voted in a CBC poll to be named The Greatest Canadian, voted first over such icons as Terry Fox and Wayne Gretzky.
Tommy said, “I look back and think that a boy from a poor home on the wrong side of the tracks was given the privilege of being part of a movement that changed Canada.”
We are different from the people south of the border. Medicare is under threat. Canada has more people and an aging population and we need to protect it from struggling to catch up. A reminder that Tommy inspired us to say, “Courage my friends: it is not too late to build a better world.”
This book has an important message to share with our members, their children and grandchildren in our lives. It is available in English and French in your local bookstores.