Thursday, February 23, 2012

Three Weeks in July: The Response of the Press to the 1962 Doctors’ Strike in Saskatchewan

By Murray McEachen

"...the three weeks in July 1962, in Saskatchewan, were truly a turning point in Canadian history"

For three weeks in July 1962, the attention of Canadians and the nation’s press was focused on Saskatchewan, for it was there that the province’s doctors were going to collectively withdraw their services. In effect, they were going to go “on strike.” William Thompson, who was Managing Editor of the Regina Leader-Post in the summer of 1962, said that the dispute was voted by the wire editors of Canada as the top story of the year, and Woodrow Lloyd’s biographer called the doctors’ strike the news event of the decade. As such, it drew media from across Canada to Saskatchewan at its peak.

The doctors, represented by the Saskatchewan College of Physicians and Surgeons, led by Dr. Harold Dalgleish were protesting the enactment of the Saskatchewan Medical Care Insurance Act by the provincial government, led by Premier Woodrow S. Lloyd. Successful implementation of the Act would mean that a socialist government had put in place a comprehensive medical care plan for the first time in North America.

Many, therefore, viewed it as a test by fire for the Canadian left. The federal government had been pondering the issue of medicare since the 1940s and had established the Royal Commission on Health Services headed by Justice Emmett Hall in 1961. Ottawa would no doubt maintain a weather eye, through the looking glass of the press, at the events as they unfolded in Saskatchewan. The question put forth in this paper is how did the story, as reflected in the editorial pages of Canada’s daily newspapers, affect the medicare debate at a national level?

Read this paper HERE.

Review press clippings from Saskatchewan HERE.

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