June 27, 2011 – In today’s issue of The Hill Times, Brian Lee Crowley discusses the legacy of Tommy Douglas and how “those who call down the former Saskatchewan premier’s name in defence of their policy hardly seem to know whom they are talking about. For if the NDP were truly the party of T.C. Douglas, it would be a different animal today.”
On social welfare, Crowley writes:
When he (Tommy Douglas) came to power he created Saskatchewan’s first social welfare department, which many New Democrats believe links the modern right-to-welfare state to Tommy’s legacy. Not a bit of it…It was not the job of the state to indulge, for example, the human tendency to want something for nothing, to live off the efforts of others: “We were not interested in paying able-bodied merely because they were unable to work,” he said. That would damage people’s character.
On public finances, Crowley writes that while “the federal NDP was one of the last apologists for the deficit in the ’90s and one of the loudest voices calling for a return to deficit financing in the face of the recent recession,” Tommy was of a different view:
Tommy was of a different view, influenced again by his roots in the same Scottish Protestantism that gave us Adam Smith. He believed that if you borrowed money to run your government that the bankers called the shots, whereas when you paid your own way, you were master of your fate. As premier of Saskatchewan he presided over an unbroken string of 16 balanced budgets, including during the economic slowdown of the Diefenbaker years.
On health care, Crowley writes of his past discussions with Tommy Douglas back in the mid-seventies:
Imagine my surprise when he told me how disturbed he was at the direction that medicare had taken since the days when he laid that program’s foundations in Saskatchewan. He had never intended, he told me, that the taxpayer be obliged to pay for every hang nail.
His object was that no one should be ruined financially due to serious illness, a completely different proposition. As premier, he spoke in the Saskatchewan Legislature about how terribly important it was that every individual be expected to make some direct financial contribution to the cost of their own health care—a policy that is anathema to the party that today cheers his name to the skies.
Crowley concludes, “New Democrats are right to celebrate the legacy of Tommy Douglas. Maybe they should consider adopting it.”