Born in Neville, Saskatchewan, Wilbert Ross Thatcher (1917–1971) was a businessman and politician. He became involved in politics by joining the Young Liberal Association in 1938 and was elected as a Moose Jaw city alderman. In 1941, he joined the national Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and was elected to Parliament in 1945, 1949 and 1953, but he left the CCF in 1955 and sat first as an independent and then as a Liberal until his defeat in the 1957 election. That year, Thatcher, who was extremely critical of Tommy Douglas’s Crown corporations, famously participated in a radio debate with him in Mossbank, Saskatchewan, where Thatcher’s wit greatly impressed the electorate. After failing to win a seat in the 1958 federal election, Thatcher entered provincial politics, winning the leadership of the provincial Liberal Party in 1959.
During the 1960 election, Thatcher vigorously campaigned against the CCF in over 250 political meetings across the province, denouncing the CCF’s introduction of medicare and calling for a plebiscite. Although Thatcher opposed the CCF’s introduction of provincial medicare, he stated in the Saskatchewan legislature in 1961: “No matter which party is elected then, it would seem that in the very near future a national prepaid medical scheme will be introduced right across Canada” (Malcolm G. Taylor, Health Insurance and Canadian Public Policy: The Seven Decisions That Created the Canadian Health Insurance System and Their Outcomes [Montréal and Kingston: McGill–Queen’s University Press, 1987], p. 270). Thatcher’s remark proved prophetic, since he did not eliminate medicare during his premiership from 1964 to 1971 and, by then, a national medicare agreement was in place.