Tommy Douglas' big dreams
Wed 24 Mar 2010By Jack Layton, as published in the Mark
When Canadians voted Tommy Douglas our “Greatest Canadian” in 2004, we honoured a man whose example sets the highest bar for today’s political leaders. A portrait of the preacher from Weyburn hangs in my Centre Block office, watching over every meeting with every delegation from every corner of this country. A momentary meeting of the eyes often brings to mind Tommy’s essential teachings.
“Dream no little dreams,” Tommy would say – then show us how. Medicare is impossible, the world cried out. You’ll never balance Saskatchewan’s budget. The medical establishment won’t allow it. It can’t be done. Then he got it done, through a dramatic team effort sparked by his courage to dream big. That same courage lowered Saskatchewan’s voting age to 18, pioneered public-sector bargaining rights, prototyped public auto insurance, launched a public air ambulance service, and issued a bill of rights – all in Tommy’s first term as our party’s first provincial premier.
When he came to Ottawa as the NDP’s first federal leader, Tommy set to work building bridges with Lester Pearson’s minority government. Persistently. Pragmatically. The results became defining aspects of Canadian society – national medicare, the Canada Pension Plan, a world-class affordable housing strategy. That’s why older Canadians aren’t surprised to see today’s New Democrats making minority Parliaments work. We’re learning from the very best.
Dream big. Be pragmatic. Stick to your principles. That’s Tommy’s distinguished example. There’s none better for aspiring young leaders looking to make a positive mark on their country.