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CBC crowns 'Greatest Canadian'
11/30/2004

 
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TORONTO - Tommy Douglas, the former Saskatchewan premier who is credited with being the founding father of Canada's health-care system, was named Monday night as the winner in the CBC's Greatest Canadian contest.

The socialist politician was chosen by CBC viewers as the Canadian who has had the most profound impact on the country's history. Marathon of Hope runner Terry Fox placed second in the voting. Behind Fox was former Liberal prime minister Pierre Trudeau. Fourth place in the voting went to Frederick Banting.

Douglas was the leading vote-getter going into Monday's finale. In all, 1.2 million votes were cast during The Greatest Canadian's six-week run.

The show debuted in October using a format borrowed from a BBC series. It began with a list of ten finalists, drawn from the more than 140,000 names that were submitted to the show's producers.

Each finalist had an advocate - a celebrity who tried to convince viewers that his or her nominee was worthy of being chosen as the winner. Viewers then voted by phone, text message or e-mail.

The rest of the top ten, in order, are: (5) David Suzuki, (6) Lester Pearson, (7) Don Cherry, (8) John A. Macdonald, (9) Alexander Graham Bell and (10) Wayne Gretzky.

Douglas, born in Scotland in 1904, spent his early years in Winnipeg. After a stint as a Baptist minister, he served as a federal MP from 1935 to 1944. He then became premier of Saskatchewan as leader of the CCF, the predecessor to today's NDP.

It was in Saskatchewan that Douglas introduced Medicare, a concept that was later adopted at the federal level by the Liberal Party. He died in 1986.

According to the CBC, The Greatest Canadian has averaged between 500,000 to 700,000 viewers per episode. The program's Oct. 17 debut drew more than one million viewers.

The series is arguably the public broadcaster's most talked-about show in recent years. After it debuted, Canadians from across the country joined in the debate, arguing passionately for different candidates.
 
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