Monday, December 18, 2006

Why did the Mounties keep a file on Tommy Douglas

Here's a pleasant way to start the morning: The Mounties hated Tommy Douglas. So much so that they kept a dossier on him dating back to 1939, five years before he became Saskatchewan's first socialist Premier, and kept it up until he died in 1986. Why? They thought he was a closet Communist.

I'm not entirely surprised but pretty disappointed as well. Like most democracies, we keep a deliberate distance between the permanent police and the transient polticians. This ensures law enforcement can act independently and enforce the law and not the whims of whoever happens to be inhabiting the corner office. It's only fair and appropriate that the cops keep a dossier on potential security threats. But it's another thing to keep a file on someone who wants to change the system through entirely democratic means.

Tommy Douglas was no angel, but his advocacy for nationalized heath care was just part of who he was. As Premier of Saskachewan, he actually ran a pro-business government, contrary to expectations -- vastly improving the roads and communications networks, for example. He was hardly a bleeding heart either, he actually believed that a government had to be both tough on crime as well as on the causes of crime. Later in his life, he stood up for the refusniks, the Jewish dissidents who were consistently refused exit visas from the Soviet Union. So why would the Red Serge find him a menace?

He stood up for the common person. Just like the Mounties are supposed to do. What were they afraid of -- he was going to disband them if he had ever become Prime Minister? No way that would have happened, given just much importance the RCMP has out West. He would have made sure they had the money to do their job and do it right.

The NDP is no more of a threat to Canadian values than most other parties, except for the Conservatives. Douglas deserved better than that. The Mounties owe his daughter Shirley Douglas and her son Kiefer Sutherland, an apology.

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