Saturday, October 1, 2011

T.C. Douglas' December 1959 Speech

Medicare: A People's Issue

“If we can do this – and I feel we can – then I would like to hazard the prophecy that before 1970 almost every other province in Canada will follow the lead of Saskatchewan.”
- Tommy Clement Douglas, Provincial Affairs radio broadcast, 16 December 1959

As the 1950s drew to a close, Saskatchewan stood at a crossroad. Funding of medical care was a mixture of direct patient physician payment, public programs or voluntary and commercial plans. The CCF, first elected in 1944, had consistently advocated universal health care, yet only one of the province’s health regions had successfully implemented such a plan. They would soon be looking for their fifth mandate from the people and felt the time was right to make the final push.

On 16 December 1959, Premier Douglas speaking in a dramatic provincial affairs radio broadcast, outlined his party’s health care policy. Douglas outlined the five principles on which CCF medical care would be based:

  • A portion of the cost of the program would be paid directly by the people on a prepayment basis.
  • There would be universal coverage-everyone would have to join.
  • There must be high quality of service.
  • This must be a government-sponsored program administered by a public body responsible to legislature.
  • The plan must be in a form acceptable both to those providing the service and those receiving it.

Douglas also announced the creation of a ten-member Advisory Planning Committee on Medical Care. Three persons would represent the medical profession, three the government, three the public and one the University of Saskatchewan College of Medicine.

The health care issue would dominate Saskatchewan politics for the next two years. The CCF would win the election and pass the Medical Care Act which would create a crisis culminating in the “Doctor’s Strike” of 1962.

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