Tommy Douglas: The Greatest Canadian… EVER!
Back in 2004, the CBC decided to undertake the process of determining ‘The Greatest Canadian’. Since the CBC is quintessentially Canadian, they seem to be the best people for the job. They conducted a survey via email, telephone, website and mail to figure out the top fifty Canadians. They then took the top ten and those individuals all faced off head to head to determine which was the ‘Greatest’. The list was a mix of politicians, athletes, and personalities who have been well known in Canada. Each individual on the list was assigned a ‘celebrity’ who argued for their case, as to why they were the ‘Greatest Canadian’. The final vote was conducted and the winner was… Tommy Douglas. Huh?
On a list that included Prime Ministers Macdonald, Pearson, and Trudeau, hockey personalities Wayne Gretzky and Don Cherry, national hero Terry Fox, inventor Alexander Graham Bell, environmentalist David Suzuki, Nobel Prize winner Sir Frederick Banting and Douglas, he somehow came out on top. I for one was surprised. Now obviously, this was not a serious, scientific poll. Only those who actually watched the CBC and furthermore watched the show, would have voted. There was no input from French Canada, and the ‘celebrities’ who argued for each person easily could have influenced voting one way or another. It doesn’t take an academic genius to know this was not going to be a perfect decision.
I personally thought Douglas would be lucky to place in the top five. Knowing Canada’s love for hockey, I figured Gretzky or Cherry was a lock. Or surely Terry Fox would tug at enough hearts to propel him to the top spot. But somehow Douglas won the competition. Did the CBC rig it? Not likely, but it’s still odd. Canada has never had a strong love for the NDP, which Douglas was the first federal leader of (it had existed previously as the CCF). He had been a premier of Saskatchewan, which as we all know, is not one of Canada’s most populous provinces. It was obviously not the NDP crowd or support from Saskatchewan that propelled him to the top. So what was it?
Well I believe it was Douglas’ legacy as the father of medicare. Canadians are extremely proud of their healthcare system, which (despite its problems) is touted around the world. There is no doubt in my mind that this fact played significantly into Douglas’ victory. The only other reason I can come up with would be that Douglas was simply a very nice man. He was well loved, in Saskatchewan, and throughout the country. Even though Canadians have never been in love with the NDP, they did love Douglas quite a bit more. Had Douglas run for the Liberal party, we might see his name in the history books as a Prime Minister. But all speculation aside, he was a genuinely kind man, and that was evident no matter which party you belonged to.
So all thanks to the CBC, we can now rest easy knowing the ‘Greatest Canadian’ has been determined (regardless of the criteria they used to determine it). I am sure there are many out there that would beg to differ. What I would like to know is who do you think is the ‘Greatest Canadian’? Is it Douglas, or someone else on the list? Or is it someone else all together? Is it possible to determine the ‘Greatest’ Canadian? What does that even mean?
All of the Greatest Canadian videos can be seen here.