Dream No Little Dreams
A Biography of the Douglas Government of Saskatchewan, 1944-1961

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Award Winner - Canadian Political Science Association Donald Smiley Prize 2005

"This is an intensely personal account of a remarkable government. Al Johnson was present at the creation, and for nearly two decades after, as the Douglas Government set about not just reforming but revolutionizing Canadian understanding of the meaning of modern government. The Douglas years marked a political transformation in three respects: the creation of an expert bureaucracy, the introduction of universal social policies and the establishment of active and, on balance, profitable federal-provincial fiscal relations.

Reading Dream No Little Dreams creates the sensation that Harold Carter and Lord Carnarvon must have experienced when they broke through into the tomb of Tutankhamon . ‘So this is what it was like!’ Intimate, knowledgeable and scholarly, Johnson’s account of how populist or protest movements evolve when suddenly confronted with the rigours of governing has timeless relevance. In addition, there are insights about the mechanics of provincial politics and policy-making. Mesmeric as the leader was, Johnson makes clear that the Douglas Government was by no means a one-man operation.

Even the story of how this book came to be published is unique, with a senior civil servant going back to rework his forty-year-old dissertation to document a government and movement that has been woefully understudied."

 

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Comments about Dream No Little Dreams

"A.W. Johnson has written an excellent and hugely detailed study of the trailblazing government of Tommy Douglas. Dream No Little Dreams is the best book I have read on how governments translate their goals into effectively administered policies. ...It is a massive contribution to understanding government in Canada, and destined to become a classic."

Allan E. Blakeney, Premier of Saskatchewan (1971-82) and Visiting Scholar, College of Law, University of Saskatchewan

 

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Description of the book:

In 1944, the people of Saskatchewan elected the first socialist government in North America. Dream No Little Dreams is the biography of that government, led by the great Tommy Douglas of the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation (CCF, later the New Democratic Party). It is a history of the life of the CCF and a case study in the art and practice of governing; partly a study in the policy decisions of the government, and partly an insider's view. A.W. Johnson - a senior public servant in Saskatchewan during most of the Douglas years - begins by introducing the government's central mission - the transformation of the role of the state - and describes how it achieved this goal over some seventeen years.

Johnson analyses the roots of the CCF in Saskatchewan history and prairie politics, and its philosophy as it prepared to govern. He describes the policies and programs introduced by the Douglas government, the changes to the machinery of government and the processes of governing, and the creation of a professional public service.

Medicare is viewed by many as the greatest achievement of the Douglas government. Dream No Little Dreams offers rich insight into the initial planning stages of Medicare and details the protracted struggle with the medical profession that followed as Douglas fought to implement it. Johnson also addresses the question of how socialists were going to pay for all their ambitions, and situates the answer in the context of developments in national policy and in federal-provincial fiscal arrangements from the war years through to the 1960s.

Courtesy of the University of Toronto Press