How a Baptist Pastor Developed Canada’s Single-Payer System | Sojourners

How a Baptist Pastor Developed Canada’s Single-Payer System

To Tommy Douglas, universal health care was an essential part of the kingdom of God.
Tommy Douglas, Canada's "Father of Medicare."

THANKS TO CANADA'S universal health-care system, most Canadians have never had to worry about paying medical bills. Everyone gets the care they need, at a cost far below the hit-or-miss U.S. health-care system. It’s little wonder that 94 percent of Canadians boast proudly about their national health care—even more than they hoot about hockey.

Tommy Douglas, the architect of the Canadian single-payer system, rolled out the plan while serving as a five-term premier of Saskatchewan. But Douglas’ drive to ensure health care for all didn’t originate from his politics. It was developed from his faith and his pre-political life as a Baptist minister.

In 1930, when Douglas became pastor at Calvary Baptist Church in Weyburn, Saskatchewan, he joined an agricultural community brutally impacted by drought and economic depression. At first, Douglas focused on intensive relief efforts. Soon he embraced advocacy as well.

As Douglas put it, “You’re never going to step out of the front door into the kingdom of God. What you’re going to do is slowly and painfully change society until it has more of the values that emanate from the teachings of Jesus or from other great religious leaders.”

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