On today’s date in 1944, Tommy Douglas won the Saskatchewan general election of 1944 in a landslide, taking 47 of 55 seats and defeating William Patterson’s Liberals, who take only five seats. The Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) formed Canada’s first socialist government, which Douglas would lead as premier of Saskatchewan for the next 17 years before resigning to become first leader of the New Democratic Party (NDP).
In 1998, Canada Post featured Douglas on a 45-cent multi-coloured stamp (CS Scott # 1709d) as part of its 10-stamp Provincial Premiers issue. Printed by the Canadian Bank Note Company on Tullis Russell coated paper, the stamp has general tagging along each side.
More recently, in 2012, Canada Post issued a stamp to honour Tommy Douglas, the father of universal medicare in Canada. The stamp also marked the 50th anniversary of the passing of Saskatchewan’s 1962 Medical Care Insurance Act.
Douglas – who was born in Scotland in 1904 and came to Canada with his family in 1910, when they settled in Winnipeg – grew up poor and developed an infection that would’ve cost him his leg had his father not met a generous surgeon who agreed to treat the young boy for free, provided his students could observe. Through this experience, he realized the need for all to have access to medical care.
“As Canadians we take many things for granted, including universal health care,” said Jim Phillips, director of stamp services for Canada Post. “It’s an honour to recognize the 50th anniversary of Saskatchewan’s Medical Care Insurance Act and the man who made it all possible.”
The leader of the first socialist government in North America, Douglas brought massive change to the province of Saskatchewan and led the way for many social reforms in the rest of Canada. In 1947, he introduced universal hospitalization in Saskatchewan, and in 1959, he announced a province-wide medicare plan. He died in 1986, and in 2004, CBC viewers voted him as “the Greatest Canadian.”
Stamp designer Derwyn Goodall honoured Yousuf Karsh’s classic portrait of Douglas while providing a modern backdrop showcasing the complexity and humane aspect of Canada’s medical profession.
The stamp measure 40 mm x 32 mm (horizontal) with 13-plus perforations. Printed by Lowe-Martin on Tullis Russell paper using seven-colour lithography plus varnish, the stamps are tagged along each side. The official first-day cover was cancelled in Weyburn, Sask., which was Douglas’ constituency for much of his career.