Tommy Douglas

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The Honourable Thomas Clement Douglas in 1945

Thomas Clement Douglas PC MP CC SOM MA LL.D (hc) (20 October 190424 February 1986) was a Scottish-born Canadian Baptist minister who became a democratic socialist politician. As leader of the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) from 1942 and the seventh Premier of Saskatchewan from 1944 to 1961, he led the first socialist government in North America. Douglas was voted "The Greatest Canadian" of all time in a nationally televised contest organized by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 2004.


  • The speech from the throne speaks about maintaining peace - peace today, when Canadian nickel is being indirectly shipped to Ethiopia. Peace today, when Italian aeroplanes are being flown with British oil! Peace! Mr. Speaker, if this be peace it must be like the peace of the Lord - it passeth all understanding.
    • Maiden speech, House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, February 11, 1936.
  • I am sure that hon. members will realize that I am not drawing on my imagination when I state that last fall there were children going to school in Saskatchewan with only sacking wrapped around their feet. We have gone into homes and found mothers and children lying on piles of bedding in the corner; they did not have the proper bedding equipment or the proper clothing to meet the rigours of a very cold winter.
    • Maiden speech, House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, February 11, 1936.
  • Will it be a great source of comfort to certain Canadian boys to know that the bullet that maimed them for life was made from Canadian nickel sold by the International Nickel Company?
    • Debate, House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, April 3, 1939.
  • At this season of the year we draw close to Good Friday. All the eyes of the world will turn back to "a green hill far away, without a city wall," where the founder of Christianity was crucified by those forces of selfishness, greed, and lust for gain that are still at work in the world. It seems to me that unless we do something in Canada about the question of the export of war materials there will be another crucifixion - the crucifixion of a generation of young men, crucified upon a cross of nickel.
    • Debate, House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, April 3, 1939.
  • I suggest that the hon. gentleman may be a good corporation lawyer, but he is slipping badly in his history. The capitalist system did not produce the machine age; the machine age produced the capitalist system. The material prosperity that the world has enjoyed for the last seventy-five years or one hundred years has been due to the introduction of power; steam power, then electric power and the internal combustion engine. The capitalist system or the free enterprise system - the terms are synonymous and interchangeable - was the product of the power age. The capitalist system did not produce the power age.
    • Budget Debate, House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, March 22, 1943.
  • What is this free enterprise system? It is the law of the jungle applied to economics. It is the law of every man for himself, as the elephant said when he was dancing among the chickens. That is not a bad philosophy if, like the hon. member for York - Sunbury, you happen to be in the elephant class, but it is likely to be depressing if you are a farmer or worker, and belong in the chicken group. Free enterprise means unrestricted competition; the race to the swift and the battle to the strong; nature red in tooth and claw.
    • Budget Debate, House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, March 22, 1943.
  • When the war came we were shocked to find, as Mr. Thorson, the then Minister of National War Services said, that forty-six per cent of the men called were rejected because that depression had left physical and psychological scars which will never be erased from that generation.
    • Budget Debate, House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, March 22, 1943.
  • We agree with the statement contained in the encyclical Quadragesimo Anno, written by Pope Leo XIII, that "anything which dominates the life of the community should be owned by the community." That is the basis upon which we believe there should be government ownership of monopolistic enterprises.
    • Budget Debate, House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, March 22, 1943.
  • We believe that no nation can survive politically free but economically enslaved.
    • Budget Debate, House of Commons, Ottawa, Ontario, March 22, 1943.
  • Houdini used to pull rabbits out of a hat, but he never tried to make a living out of selling them when he had pulled them out of the hat
    • Budget Debate, Saskatchewan Legislature, March 18, 1947.
  • I am still a little fellow. Mr. Tucker is big enough to swallow me, but if he did, he would be the strangest man in the world. He would have more brains in his stomach than he does in his head.
    • To Liberal leader of the time Walter Tucker, quoted "Star Phoenix" July 14 1947.
  • 'My dream is for people around the world to look up and to see Canada like a little jewel sitting at the top of the continent.' To his daughter Shirley Douglas, 1951[citation needed]
  • The greatest way to defend democracy is to make it work.
    • Address, Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities, Saskatoon, March 13, 1951.
  • The inescapable fact is that when we build a society based on greed, selfishness, and ruthless competition, the fruits we can expect to reap are economic insecurity at home and international discord abroad.
    • Annual Convention of the Saskatchewan CCF, Regina, July 1951.
  • We must never underestimate our opponents; nor should we forget that the closer we come to reaching our objectives, the more vicious and forthright will their opposition become.
    • Address, Provincial Convention, July 16, 1952.
  • Those who want to burn books are either afraid of the ideas contained within the covers or they haven't the courage to stand up for the views which they themselves profess to hold.
    • Speech, Saskatchewan Legislature, February 17, 1954.
  • "My friends, watch out for the little fellow with an idea." - Tommy Douglas 1961. [1]
    • Mes amis, surveillez bien les petites gens qui ont des idées [2].
  • I felt something like the man on the resurrection morning who was reading his own tombstone and said either someone is an awful liar or I'm in the wrong hole.
    • August 3,1961, NDP Leadership Convention [3].
  • In Washington they have their hawks and doves and in Ottawa we have our parrots.
    • In response to Canadians policy on the Vietnam War, House of Commons, "Debates", 13 February 1967.
  • I am proud that my daughter believes, as I do, that hungry children should be fed whether they are Black Panthers or White Republicans"
    • Ottawa Journal, 5 October 1969.
Tommy Douglas, circa 1971
  • We are not anti-American. we do not dislike Americans though we abhor American imperialism in all its manifestations. But then, so do many Americans. Many of them have said that even more forthrightly than we have, and many of them have suffered more than any of us for their plain speaking.
    • April 21, 1971, NDP National Convention, Ottawa, Ontario.
  • To accept the principal that "all power proceeds from the barrel of a gun" is to accept a society which will be dominated by those with the biggest guns.
    • Speech delivered at Luther College, Regina, Saskatchewan, March 16, 1973.
  • I went around to the little schoolhouses, talking like a professor, explaining our platform. We were lucky if the collection gave us enough for gas to get to the next place. We encouraged questions, and people asked us if it was true we were going to take their farms, like the Soviets in Russia, and did we believe in God.
    • On his earliest political campaigning, quoted in Tommy Douglas (1983) by Doris French Shackleton, p. 68.

"It's the story of a place called Mouseland. Mouseland was a place where all the little mice lived and played, were born and died. And they lived much the same as you and I do. They even had a Parliament. And every four years they had an election. Used to walk to the polls and cast their ballots. Some of them even got a ride to the polls. And got a ride for the next four years afterwards too. Just like you and me. And every time on election day all the little mice used to go to the ballot box and they used to elect a government. A government made up of big, fat, black cats. Now if you think it strange that mice should elect a government made up of cats, you just look at the history of Canada for last 90 years and maybe you'll see that they weren't any stupider than we are. Now I'm not saying anything against the cats. They were nice fellows. They conducted their government with dignity. They passed good laws--that is, laws that were good for cats. But the laws that were good for cats weren't very good for mice. One of the laws said that mouseholes had to be big enough so a cat could get his paw in. Another law said that mice could only travel at certain speeds--so that a cat could get his breakfast without too much physical effort. All the laws were good laws. For cats. But, oh, they were hard on the mice. And life was getting harder and harder. And when the mice couldn't put up with it any more, they decided something had to be done about it. So they went en masse to the polls. They voted the black cats out. They put in the white cats. Now the white cats had put up a terrific campaign. They said: "All that Mouseland needs is more vision." They said:"The trouble with Mouseland is those round mouseholes we got. If you put us in we'll establish square mouseholes." And they did. And the square mouseholes were twice as big as the round mouseholes, and now the cat could get both his paws in. And life was tougher than ever. And when they couldn't take that anymore, they voted the white cats out and put the black ones in again. Then they went back to the white cats. Then to the black cats. They even tried half black cats and half white cats. And they called that coalition. They even got one government made up of cats with spots on them: they were cats that tried to make a noise like a mouse but ate like a cat. You see, my friends, the trouble wasn't with the colour of the cat. The trouble was that they were cats. And because they were cats, they naturally looked after cats instead of mice. Presently there came along one little mouse who had an idea. My friends, watch out for the little fellow with an idea. And he said to the other mice, "Look fellows, why do we keep on electing a government made up of cats? Why don't we elect a government made up of mice?" "Oh," they said, "he's a Bolshevik. Lock him up!" So they put him in jail. But I want to remind you: that you can lock up a mouse or a man but you can't lock up an idea!"[1]


  • Tommy Douglas Speaks, Edited by L.D. Lovick, Douglas & McIntyre Vancouver, 1979, ISBN 0-88894-262-1.

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