Prairie Giant

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Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story is a CBC Television miniseries first aired in two consecutive parts on March 12 and March 13, 2006. It dramatizes and fictionalizes the life and career of Tommy Douglas, the Canadian politician who oversaw the legislation of Canada's first public healthcare program as Premier of Saskatchewan. The production is directed by John N. Smith and produced by Kevin DeWalt. Prairie Giant is distributed in the United States by Invincible Pictures.



The CBC promoted Prairie Giant as a "real story about real people" but the series was subjected to widespread commentary on the fallacies present in the story line. Historical fallacies and omissions concerning Canada's public healthcare system and its history, Douglas's personal life and career, and the mischaracterization of the Rt. Hon. James Garfield Gardiner were identified.

On March 16, 2006, Saskatoon StarPhoenix political columnist Randy Burton, among other things, wrote "It was wonderful television but abysmal history" and "On almost every score, scriptwriter Bruce Smith got Gardiner wrong. Significant historical events were either twisted beyond recognition or worse, drawn out of thin air."[1] Burton identified specific instances of historical error and highlighted the Estevan coal miner’s strike as "probably the most egregious error in Prairie Giant... [Gardiner's] speech is broadcast live to the entire province and leaves the clear impression that Gardiner was the premier of the day... This whole scene is false... Worse, to suggest the Liberal Gardiner would publicly attack immigrants in such a manner belies his history of fighting the Ku Klux Klan... On the television show, Gardiner is almost always shown with a drink in his hand but, in real life, he was a teetotaler... to suggest that he was nothing but a thuggish strongman, who put political squabbles ahead of the welfare of his province’s interests, is nothing but character assassination."

Burton quoted Saskatchewan political scientist David Smith as saying "it was really a travesty to do what they did."

On March 17, 2006, Regina Leader-Post political columnist Murray Mandryk stated “But the third critical aspect for a project like this has to be some level of historical accuracy and it is in the script itself where the movie fails. The most egregious example of this was clearly the Estevan Riot, where any sense of historical accuracy began and ended with the death of the miners. Simply put, the bodies were not left in the street to rot for all to see. Gardiner was not the premier of the day and he didn’t give a province-wide radio address attacking the strikers as communists and undesirable immigrants.” Mandryk states that former NDP Premier Allan Blakeney described the movie as “seriously flawed” and quotes Blakeney as saying “But he was not Saint Tommy and nor was Jimmy Gardiner the epitome of evil”.[2]

On July 9, 2006, former CCF MP and well-known journalist Douglas Fisher described the film as “A Shoddy Portrait of another Prairie Giant”.[3] Fisher stated “I was taken aback... by the low sleazy way Jimmy Gardiner was depicted... He was a very moral, judgmental man, abstemious, work-absorbed and politically courageous.” Referring to 1957, Fisher adds “I soon realised that the CCF’s horror stories about Jimmy’s 'machine' and its vile patronage were an attempt to make a devil of him for what was, in fact, simply well-organised partisanship.”

The producers initially claimed that the film was well researched. On June 12, 2006, the CBC, through Executive Vice-President Richard Stursberg, stated "I regret the mischaracterization of James Garfield Gardiner in the mini-series 'Prairie Giant: The Tommy Douglas Story' that we aired earlier this season". He further stated "The criticisms... expressed about the credibility of this portrayal concerned us greatly even as we came to its defence. To help us address the criticisms, we engaged an outside third-party historian... to assess the way in which Mr. Gardiner was depicted. I regret to say that his conclusion was that the character created for the film does not reflect the accepted historical record... the characterization in the mini-series is significantly different from Mr. Gardiner's true personality and behaviour." The CBC pulled Prairie Giant from future scheduled broadcasts, stating that it would return if they find a solution to address the historical fallacies.[4] On 10 September 2007, it was announced that the controversial CBC mini-series would be rebroadcast with no changes on another channel, Vision TV, (on September 25 and 27).[5] Several times, for instance in late 2007 and again in April 2008, the Hallmark Channel broadcast the series in Asia.

Attention has also been drawn to the funding provided to the film by the Government of Saskatchewan.[6][7]


Below is a general breakdown of the direct funding the film received:[8]

Funding Source Amount (CDN$)
CBC - Broadcast licence $1,204,500
Telefilm Canada - Equity Investment Program $2,480,000
Canadian Television Fund - Licence Fee Top-Up Program $1,520,000
Government of Saskatchewan - Saskatchewan Centennial 2005 $614,000
Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit[9] $471,494
Saskatchewan Film Employment Tax Credit[10] $1,589,606
CanWest Western Independent Producers Fund $110,000


Prairie Giant was nominated for a total of nine Genie Awards, including:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Prairie Giant fraught with fiction". 2006-03-16. Retrieved 2013-08-19. 
  2. ^ "Historical inaccuracies spoiled Douglas movie". 2006-03-17. Retrieved 2013-08-19. 
  3. ^ [1][dead link]
  4. ^ [2].
  5. ^ "Tommy Douglas mini-series returning to airwaves", (Monday, September 10, 2007 | 12:28 PM CT)
  6. ^ Leader-Post: CBC yanks Douglas movie. James Wood. June 13, 2006. pg. A.1.Fro
  7. ^ "CBCwatch — A critical eye on Canada's state-owned, socialism-reliant media". Retrieved 2013-08-19. 
  8. ^ Email with Janine Stener, Associate Producer, Mouseland Productions Inc. June 22, 2006.
  9. ^ "Canadian Film or Video Production Tax Credit (CPTC) - Arts and Cultural Industries - Topics". 2010-03-16. Retrieved 2013-08-19. 
  10. ^ "News Releases - Government of Saskatchewan". Retrieved 2013-08-19. 

Other sources[edit]

  • For the love of Tommy; Dave Margoshes. The Globe and Mail. Toronto, Ont.: May 10, 2005. pg. R.3
  • Moose Jaw Times Herald. Moose Jaw, Sask.: March 21, 2006. pg. 2

External links[edit]