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Newfoundland National Convention, 28 October 1946, Debates on Confederation with Canada

86 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1946

October 28, 1946

Mr. Chairman I received a telegram from Mr. Thompson, President of the Newfoundland Lumbermen's Association now in annual convention at Grand Falls, extending greetings to this Convention and I would ask the Secretary to kindly read the telegram to which I replied on your behalf.
Hon. Mr. Justice Fox Chairman of the National Convention, St. John's.
The Newfoundland Lumbermen's Association now in Annual Convention at October 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 87 Grand Falls wish to express to the members of the National Convention through your Honour their most loyal support and fullest cooperation in the great work in which you are now engaged stop we realise the task before you is not an easy one and therefore deserves the undivided support of the people of this country. Respectfully submitted
J.J. Thompson, President.
J.J. Thompson, Esq,
President, The Nfld. Lumbermen's Association,
Grand Falls.
On behalf of National Convention and personally I thank you and your association for your highly valued expressions of support and cooperation and the interest you thus manifest in our work stop we deeply appreciate your courtesy and reciprocate your sentiments of goodwill tender to you and the members of your association our best wishes for a most successful convention stop kindest regards.
Cyril J. Fox, Chairman National Convention.

Report of the Education Committee[1]

Mr. Hollett Mr. Chairman, and gentlemen of the National Convention, I should like to draw your attention to the copy of the report on education which you will find on your desks this afternoon. I might say that this report has been ready for some considerable time but it was held up because it was believed it would be wiser to await other reports which were nearing completion before we introduced the one on education, with the hope that the public sessions of the Convention might be enabled to continue. I might say that we experienced some little difficulty at the outset in making up our minds as to the proper approach of the committee on this question of education; the conception of education, as we all know, is changing from era to era and it is different in all parts of the world. We realised that education insofar as this country is concerned, is something the form of which is familiar to the whole of our people. Why then probe into the merits or demerits of the system of education? We felt therefore that it would be futile for us to raise that point in our report.
[Read first page of report]
We felt that we were approaching it in a right and proper sense. Even on our committee of ten men, there were various shades of opinion as to our present educational system. How useless would it therefore be to start this enquiry by introducing something which was already contentious. We feel that a system of education can only be introduced into any country when you have the majority of people favouring that system.
[Continued reading tables from the report]
We discovered in one place where there were two-room schools that there were 71 pupils in one of these schools; one denominational body, when its numbers reached 21, wanted its own school; it got the school, thereby reducing it to a one- room school with one teacher. If one particular denomination can take its pupils away from a school where there are two qualified teachers and can reduce it to a one-room school, that is not a move in the right direction.
[Continued reading report]
We have in our midst today people who criticise the amount of money paid teachers under salaries. Only recently I heard it said that they were not worth the money they were getting, I recently met two teachers, one of them a male, and he told me he receives $55 per month salary and for board in St. John's he pays $47. The other receives a salary of $50 and pays $45 for board.
[Continued reading report]
And then we come to paragraph 11, the conclusion, and it is here we expect to get criticism, and we welcome criticism.
This is the report, Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, which we place before you, and to which we would like you to give your attention in the next 24 hours. There are points which you are bound to bring out which we have not touched. That is correct and as it should be. We could have gone back into the history of education, gone back to the Chinese and Greek and Latin concepts, but we figured it out that it would do very little to enhance the cause of education in this country. We do feel that the economic and financial standard of any country is in very great 88 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1946 measure linked up with its educational concepts. With your permission, Mr. Chairman, I should like to give notice that on tomorrow I will move that the report of the Education Committee be discussed in a committee of the whole.
[On the advice of the Chairman, the Convention moved immediately into committee of the whole on the Education Report, which voted without debate to rise and report progress]

Report of the Forestry Committee[1]

Mr. Fudge Mr. Chairman, I have great pleasure in rising to move that the Forestry Report as tabled be received by the' Convention. Our committee has been meeting continuously three times weekly since appointed some four weeks ago, and have been able to get together some most interesting and valuable information relative to the forest industries of the island of Newfoundland and its possession, Labrador. All matters referred to in the report, which is covered under several headings, have received the closest attention of every member of the Committee and I am glad to be able to inform the Convention that our findings are definitely unanimous. I regret however, that owing to our friend Mr. K.M. Brown having been ill, he was unable to attend all meetings. I want to take this opportunity of paying special tribute to Messrs. MacDonald, Vincent, Dawe and Cashin, who were the subcommittee appointed to draft this report, and who have been instrumental in making the report of such general interest. I would now request Major Cashin to give a review of the entire report for the further enlightenment of the delegates...
[The Convention moved into committee of the whole]
Mr. Cashin Mr. Chairman, having been delegated by the members of the Forestry Committee to further explain this report, I feel that it will not be thought out of place if I make a few brief comments on its contents. I do this, so that those delegates who are not members of this particular committee may understand the background of our work and the objects which we had before us in compiling the report. As you will have noted, the various phases of the report cover a wide range, including pulp and paper industries both at Comer Brook and Grand Falls, the pit- prop industry both in Newfoundland and Labrador, the saw mill industry, reafforestation, etc. Our studies, which have extended over a period of several weeks have included a detailed examination of all available facts and statistics, and in addition we have availed of the knowledge and experience of those members of our committee who are particularly qualified to discuss matters relating to our forest industries.
As intimated in our report, we regret that we did not get all the information which we required from government sources, and in particular I refer to my request for the annual financial statement of Bowaters.[2] The government have also been unable to furnish us with any survey of standing timber on the Labrador. But, in all, we believe that we have managed to include in our report all pertinent facts and figures necessary for the making of a fairly accurate estimate of the present and future prospects of the forestry resources of our country. In some cases, as you will notice, we have deemed it advisable to furnish some historical background. We have thought this necessary, in order that the Convention may more clearly understand just how things are with us today. I might say, and I feel that I speak on behalf of the members of our committee, that irrespective of our individual political leanings, we have always kept in mind the necessity of our being as objectively factual and as impartial as possible. No attempt has been made to distort circumstances or exaggerate figures, and we have only criticised where we conscientiously felt that such criticism was fully justified and was in the best interest of the country....
The introductory section gives a general synopsis of the available and existing timber resources of our country, the amount of timberland under lease and the principal operators. It will be noted that by far the greater portion of our timberlands has been acquired by the two pulp and paper companies. Whether it was beneficial or otherwise to have given these two corporations such a virtual monopoly of our forest wealth, may be regarded by some as debatable. But certain it is that we cannot do much about it just now, and October 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 89 we must accept the position as we find it.
The birth of the pulp and paper industry in Newfoundland was when the government of the day under the premiership of Sir Robert Bond opened negotiations with the Harmsworth interests of London, England, for the purpose of developing the timber areas in the Exploits Valley.[1] From an original capacity of 200 tons per day, the intervening years have seen this industry increased to around 500 tons daily, and I have been reliably informed that this same company[2] has under consideration the further expansion of their operations, with the object of further increasing their production to 700 tons daily. This envisages a proposition which will distribute some $8 million dollars in earnings to our people annually. And so, in looking to the future of our country we see that we have in this Grand Falls project a reasonably sure and permanent asset, which will give the means of a decent livelihood to thousands of our people.
We now come to the other great industrial development at Corner Brook. This did not start until nearly 20 years later, and the details of this undertaking have been adequately outlined in the report. When the present expansion plans of this company are completed, it is estimated that the total annual earnings of Bowater employees will be in the vicinity of $11 million. We see, therefore, that in these two enterprises alone, New~ foundland can look to a total annual earning of around $18 million. This does not include profits tax paid the government by both companies. It is my opinion, therefore, that such a source of income can be regarded as a permanent plank in the future economic security of the country.
I now come to another matter which has never been, as far as I am aware, fully explained to the people since it first became a live issue some seven or eight years ago. 1 refer to what we know as the "Gander deal." This matter has been referred to briefly in the report itself. But, in order that the Convention may be in a position to properly appreciate it, I think it advisable to give you something of the background.
It begins in the year 1927, when the International Power and Paper Company acquired the Corner Brook project from the financially sick Newfoundland Power and Paper Co. Limited. At that time, the International Company was also interested in developing the Gander areas. As a result legislation was passed granting certain concessions to a corporation promoted by the Reid Newfoundland Company. This corporation was called the Gander Valley Power and Paper Co. Ltd., and the property was reputed to contain some 8 million cords of commercial timber. After an inspection and survey of the property and water powers, however, the International Company felt that it would not be a sound economic proposition to develop another pulp and paper mill at Gander. They were definitely interested, however, in acquiring the properties and incorporating them with the Comer Brook enterprise. The Reids were of the opinion that the promotion of another mill was a sound proposition and continued their efforts to interest other capital. Finally they succeeded in interesting the Hearst interests in the construction of a 1,000 ton mill on the Gander, and approached the Newfoundland government to guarantee the project to the extent of $20 million. In addition, they wanted to acquire further timber limits on the Labrador, as there was not sufficient wood on the Gander areas to feed such a mill as was proposed. This was in 1930. I was Minister of Finance at that time, and together with the late Prime Minister Squires and the late Sir William Coaker, had several conferences with the Hearst representatives and the Reids in New York and Montreal.
At that time the pulp and paper industry throughout Canada and the United States was beginning to experience reverses brought about by over-production. I want to point out that the Hearst interests were the largest consumers of newsprint in the world, their publications requiring some 600,000 tons annually. It is my firm conviction that Hearst had no sincere intention of building a paper mill, but was merely bluffing in order to drive down the price of newsprint further. In addition they were indebted to the Canadian newsprint producers for an amount of around $8-10 million, and incidentally, it has only been during the last couple of years that this indebtedness has been liquidated. The International Company, at this time, was still interested 90 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1946 in acquiring the Gander areas for Corner Brook and were prepared to expand that mill if the Reids would sell the properties. I was informed by one of the directors of the International Company that they had made a tentative offer to the Reids for the Gander areas amounting to some $6 million. The Reids, however, had faith that the Gander could be promoted and a mill established and refused this offer. Negotiations continued for some time between the Reids and other interests but nothing materialised. This placed the Reids in a very awkward position from a financial standpoint, and they had practically arrived at a position where they would be forced to sell their interests to the International Paper Company. The government of the day, of which Sir Richard Squires was Prime Minister and Minister of Justice, then took a most important step, they immediately placed writs against the properties and thus held the properties from being sacrificed to either the International Company or any other company.
During the early thirties the newsprint business was in a state of stagnation. Prices of newsprint were falling at an alarming rate because of the absence of any demand, and long established mills both in Canada and the United States were forced to suspend business. At Corner Brook, feeling the results of the widespread depression in the newsprint world, operations were severely curtailed and hundreds of employees were laid off. Operations continued on a very restricted scale. It was not until 1937 that there was any evidence of an increased demand in the newsprint world.
It was this same year that the Bowater people of London, England, sent their agents to Canada for the purpose of acquiring from the Quebec government timber areas from which to export raw wood for use in their English mills. Their advances, however, were turned down by the Quebec government, and as a result they came to Newfoundland and secured from the Commission government options on certain Labrador areas. They also acquired options on the Gander areas, with the distinct idea of constructing a pulp and sulphite mill in that territory. However, their principal purpose at that time was the export of raw wood to Britain. Their survey on the Labrador was completed in the autumn of 1937 and their options were never exercised, because in the meantime they had begun negotiations with the International Company for the acquisition of the mill at Corner Brook, and eventually closed a deal for the purchase of all the common stock of the Corner Brook company for a sum in the vicinity of $5 million, which was $3 million more than International had paid for this stock ten years previous.
Having acquired the Corner Brook mill, the Bowater people came back to the Commission government and intimated that it was not economic to build a mill on the Gander. But they countered with the proposition, that if they could acquire the Gander areas and incorporate them with the Corner Brook company, they would build a sulphite mill in Corner Brook and, further, they proposed to export some 130,000 cords of raw pulpwood annually to their mills in England. This, in effect, was the "Gander deal." Through the lifting of these writs, placed on the properties in 1930-31, Bowaters acquired the Gander areas, incorporating them with Corner Brook, and because of the fact that the Corner Brook company had a concession given them originally in 1923, and again in 1927, whereby the annual profits taxes amounted only to $150,000, we find that the operations on Gander result in no profits taxes and that thus the Newfoundland treasury has been deprived of not less than $750,000 a year in revenue.
Everyone here this afternoon knows that public indignation at the time of the passing of the Gander deal in 1938 was rampant. Meetings were held in various sections of the country protesting against the legislation. The Board of Trade passed resolutions condemning the enactment, but the Commission government with the approval of the Dominions Office ignored the protests and rights of the people, and this iniquitous legislation was passed into law. To show you that this was not an isolated case, let me give you one more example of the consistent threat to our country's resources while they remain under the control of our present form of government.
We now come to another phase of the story of the activities of the Bowater people in Newfoundland. In 1927, legislation was enacted whereby it was provided that before any dividends would be paid on the common stock of the company, a sum of at least $2.5 million would have to be available as a surplus in the company's October 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 91 treasury, which was made to provide additional security for the Newfoundland government on their original guarantee of Β£2 million given the company at the start of construction in 1923. However, in December 1943, influence was evidently brought to bear to secure an amendment of this legislation. This particular legislation and its object was published in the daily papers at that time but no objections were made by an apathetic public. The legislation was passed by the Commission government releasing this $2.5 million, and then we find that in August, 1944, Bowaters pay dividends to their parent company in England, and have continued to pay dividends since, and according to their annual report for September 30, 1945, they had paid a total in dividends to the parent company of some $1,676,250 or around 6% per annum. This dividend could not have been paid without releasing this security. Furthermore, Mr. Chairman, I want to draw the attention of this Convention to the fact that the original legislation which was passed in 1923, and again in 1927, provided for two Newfoundland directors on the board of this company for the purpose of guarding the financial interests of Newfoundland. At the present time there is no Newfoundlander on the directorate. The two directors are the Commissioner for Finance and a Montreal lawyer.
Under the provisions of the Gander deal in 1938, the Corner Brook company was permitted to export some 133,000 cords of wood annually, but it is compelled to export at least 50,000 cords on which they pay the treasury 30 cents per cord. Our report draws attention to the fact that during the present season 50,000 cords are being exported, whilst the sulphite mill at Corner Brook has been closed down for months because of a shortage of wood, and recently we are informed that owing to a "dry season" and because of insufficient wood from the western end of the island, the mill may have to go on short shift, thus depriving our men of much needed work. We show that at least 250 working days have been lost to the workers at Comer Brook, and that the total earning power will be reduced by at least $100,000. If the mill is forced into curtailing its operations because of shortage of wood, it will mean further reduction in earning power.
Mr. Chairman, I wish the Convention to distinctly understand that I am not one of those who would be a party to obstructing any progressive policy which had as its object the profitable development of our potential assets. But I say unhesitatingly that the concessions granted the Bowater corporation under the Gander deal are such as would indicate, to me at any rate, that the policy of the Commission government is to eventually pass over a wholly disproportionate control of Newfoundland to a private corporation. I was one of those who supported the original legislation which made this project possible, as was my fellow delegate Mr. Brown, and also you, Mr. Chairman. In viewing this Comer Brook development, it must be ever borne in mind that the treasury of Newfoundland, the assets of the people, is behind this proposition to the extent of some $8 million and until such time as that contingent liability is redeemed, the people of Newfoundland have a prior right as against those who have, in this instance, sacrificed our security.
We find as the result of our investigations that the Commission government is also open to censure in connection with this policy governing the export of raw pulpwood. It should not be necessary to emphasise that if we are to receive the benefit of our forestry resources, we must conserve them. As the report will show you, the Bowater people were given the right under the Gander deal to export up to 130,000 cords of raw pulpwood annually. I regard this as a reckless sacrifice of our resources and a deliberate depriving of our people of labour and earnings. As has been stated in this report, the sulphite mill at Corner Brook has been idle for several months and even the main plant has been forced to curtail operations because of shortage of wood. In the face of such a situation, which deprives our people of their normal earnings, it is tragic to know that at the same time the government is permitting thousands of cords of pulpwood to be exported out of the country to keep outsiders working, whilst our own men are forced to remain idle. I figure that we have exported out of the country during the present season sufficient raw wood to keep the Bowater sulphite mill in operation for 250 days, which would mean a resultant loss in labour to our own people of around $100,000.
In addition, I believe it high time that the government should introduce a comprehensive and vigorous programme of reafforestation, with 92 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1946 the object of perpetuating our forest wealth. We must remember that the future of this country may mean nothing to transients but we are the trustees, so to speak, of generations to come.
Now we come to saw mills, of which there are over 800 scattered all over the country, and which mills produce over 50 million feet of lumber annually. This industry may seem at first sight of no great importance, but when it is considered that they provide an earning power of from $1.5 to $2 million annually, they become worthy of real consideration. I am informed, however, that in connection with these mills there are many millions of feet of lumber sawn on which the government has not collected or is not collecting royalties, and I suggest that a more business~like system of enforcing these regulations should be inaugurated.
In the report we have been able to touch but lightly on the matter of Labrador from the standpoint of its forest wealth, and even now I cannot hope to do justice to the possibility of this possession. It would be well for those who can only conceive of our country in the terms of the 42,000 square miles of our schoolday geographies to let their eyes turn to the north β€” to that great unknown, unexplored 110,000 square miles awarded us by the decision of the Privy Council in 1927. As yet, we have only scratched the surface of this territory, but our search has brought to light what may one day be regarded as one of the greatest single deposits of high-grade iron ore in the western hemisphere. I am, and have always been convinced, that the potential riches of the Labrador are beyond our most optimistic dreams and that in that part of our territory alone we have the guarantee of a permanent national security. Although we have had this territory under our sovereignty since 1927, a large number of our people seem to act as if they were unaware of its existence. In view of this it is not surprising that my fellow delegate, Rev. Mr. Burry, has found it necessary to make us Labrador-conscious and to drive home the point that when we speak of Newfoundland we must include under that term Newfoundland- Labrador. But, in speaking of Labrador, there is a possibility that I may be regarded as being prejudiced or talking for political reasons. So then, let me tell you what outsiders and particularly the Canadians think of our Labrador. I quote from an article in the November issue of the Magazine Digest, which bears the following title: "America's Steel Mills Saved in Labrador". Then follows this sub-heading "The most Fabulous Iron Discovery on the North American Continent hasjust been made in the Frozen Wastes of Labrador." This article is too long for me to quote in full, but it indicates that both Canadian and American manufacturers will find new outlets for their products when Labrador construction and development get under way and the dead iron of Labrador will turn into gold, for exports of $350 million in iron ore annually are a distinct possibility.
As stated in the report, the quantity of timber available on the Labrador is as yet unknown. However, estimates give it as from 50 to 100 million cords. All this timber is suitable for either the manufacture of pulp and paper or for export as pit-props. It has been known for a long while that there are inviting possibilities for the construction of a sulphite mill on the southwest coast in the vicinity of Baie d'Espoir. If such a proposition should materialise the virgin forests of the Labrador would ensure a constant and steady supply of raw material and such a venture should give additional employment to at least 1,000 men and an annual payroll of another $1.5 million.
It is admitted that the timber areas of Labrador are the last available virgin forests on the east coast of North America, and for that reason it would be well if the present government would bear in mind the advisability of hesitating to make any further concessions, without a definite assurance that the areas would be developed to the benefit of the country and the people.
In concluding my comments on the report, I submit, Mr. Chairman, that the overall picture of our forest industry is one bright with hope and encouragement, and a clear denial to those who would say that our country is lacking in the fundamentals which go to the making of a rich and prosperous people. I am aware that we have other resources and industries which offer as bright or even a more promising future. As you will note from the summary of the report, there are at the present time some 14,000 people engaged in this industry, with a total earning power of some $16 million annually. These figures speak eloquently for themselves; and as pointed out the future expansion of the pulp and October 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 93 paper industry envisages an increase in annual earnings to a total of not less than $20 million.
If, Mr. Chairman, the outlook for our forest industries is any indication of the future economic security of the country, then that future is promising indeed.
[The commitee rose and reported progress]

Motion to Send a Delegation to Canada

Mr. Chairman Mr. Smallwood, you propose, with the consent of the Convention, to move a resolution of which you give notice today. Would you please frame your motion accordingly
Mr. Smallwood I move the following resolution:
Whereas it is desirable that the National Convention and the people of Newfoundland should be fully informed so far as possible of all facts having any bearing upon forms of government that might be submitted to the people in a national referendum; therefore be it
Resolved that the appropriate authorities be advised that the Convention desires to inform the Government of Canada of the Convention's wish to learn that government's attitude on the question of federal union of Newfoundland with Canada; and further wishes to ascertain the terms and conditions on the basis of which the Government of Canada consider that such federal union might be effected; and be it finally resolved that the delegation shall have no authority whatsoever to negotiate or conclude any agreement or in any manner to bind the Convention or the people of Newfoundland.
Mr. Chairman That is the motion of which notice has been given by Mr. Smallwood.... Is there any objection to the subject matter of the notice now being discussed by Mr. Smallwood? If not, I will assume you have given your unanimous assent to the waiver of notice.
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, the history of this island is an unbroken story of struggle. Our people's struggle to live commenced on the day they first landed here, four centuries and more ago, and has continued to this day. The struggle is more uneven now than it was then, and the people view the future now with more dread than they felt a century ago.
The newer conceptions of what life can be - of what life should be β€” have widened our horizons, and deepened our knowledge of the great gulf which separates what we have and are from what we feel we should have and be. We have been taught by newspapers, magazines, motion pictures, radios and visitors something of the higher standards of well-being of the mainland of North America; we have become uncomfortably aware of the low standards of our country; and we are driven irresistibly to wonder whether our attempt to persist in isolation is the root cause of our condition.
We have often felt in the past, when we learned something of the higher standards of the mainland, that such things belonged to another world, that they were not for us. But today we are not so sure that two yardsticks were designed by the Almighty to measure the standards of well- being; one yardstick for the mainland of the continent, another for this island which lies beside it. Today we are not so sure, not so ready to take it for granted, that we Newfoundlanders are destined to accept much lower standards of life than our neighbours of Canada and the United States. Today we are more disposed to feel that our very manhood, our very creation by God, entitles us to standards of life no lower than our brothers on the mainland.
Our Newfoundland is known to possess natural wealth of considerable value and variety. Without at all exaggerating their extent we know that our fisheries are in the front rank of the world's marine wealth. We have considerable forest, waterpower and mineral resources. Our Newfoundland people are industrious, hardworking, frugal, ingenious and sober. The combination of such natural resources and such people should spell a prosperous country enjoying high standards, western world standards of living. This combination should spell fine, modern, well-equipped homes; lots of health- giving food; ample clothing; the amenities of modern New World civilisation; good roads; good schools, good hospitals, high levels of public and private health; it should spell a vital, prosperous, progressive country.
It has not spelt any such things Compared with the mainland of North America we are 50 years, in some things 100 years, behind the times. We live more poorly, more shabbily, more meanly. Our life is more a struggle. Our struggle is tougher, more naked, more hopeless. In the North American family Newfoundland bears the reputation of having the lowest standards of life, of being the least progressive and advanced of the whole family.
We all love this land. It has a charm that warms our hearts, go where we will: a charm, a magic, a mystical tug on our emotion that never dies. With all her faults we love her. But a metamorphosis steals over us the moment we cross the border that separates us from other lands. As we leave Newfoundland our minds undergo a transformation. We expect, and we take for granted, a higher, a more modern way of life such as it would have seemed ridiculous or even avaricious to expect at home. And as we return to Newfoundland we leave that higher standard behind, and our minds undergo a reverse transformation. We have grown so accustomed to our own lower standards and more antiquated methods and old-fashioned conveniences that we readjust ourselves unconsciously to the meaner standards under which we grew up. We are so used to our railway and our coastal boats that we scarcely see them; so used to our settlements, and roads, and homes, and schools, and hospitals and hotels and everything else that we do not even see their inadequacy, their backwardness, their seaminess.
We have grown up in such an atmosphere of struggle, of adversity, of mean times that we are never surprised, certainly never shocked, when we learn that we have one of the highest rates of tuberculosis in the world; one of the highest infant mortality rates in the world; one of the highest maternity-mortality rates in the world; one of the highest rates of beri-beri and rickets in the world. We take these shocking facts for granted. We take for granted our lower standards, our poverty. We are not indignant about them: we save our indignation for those who publish such facts, for with all our complacency, with all our readiness to receive, to take for granted, and even to justify these things amongst ourselves, we are, strange to say, angry and hurt when these shocking facts become known to the outside world.
We are all very proud of our Newfoundland people. We all admire their strength, their skill, their adaptability, their resourcefulness, their industry, their frugality, their sobriety, and their warm-hearted, simple generosity. We are proud of them; but are we indignant, does our blood boil, when we see the lack of common justice with which they are treated? When we see how they live? When we witness the long, grinding struggle they have? When we see the standards of their life? Have we compassion in our hearts for them? Or are we so engrossed, so absorbed, in our own struggle to live, in this country, that our social conscience has become toughened, even case-hardened? Has our own hard struggle to realise a modest competence so blinded us that we have little or no tenderness of conscience left to spare for the fate of the tens of thousands of our brothers so very much worse off than ourselves?
Mr. Chairman, in the present and prospective world chaos, with all its terrible variety of uncertainty, it would be cruel and futile, not that the choice is ours, to influence the handful of people who inhabit this small island to attempt independent national existence. The earnings of our 65,000 families may be enough, in the years ahead, to support them half-decently and at the same time support the public services of a fair- size municipality. But will those earnings support independent national government on an expanding, or even the present scale? Except for a few years of this war and a few of the last, our people's earnings never supported them on a scale comparable with North American standards, and never maintained a government, even on the pre-war scale of service Our people never enjoyed a good standard of living, and never were able to yield enough taxes to maintain the government. The difference was made up by borrowing or grants-in-aid.
We can indeed reduce our people's standard of living; we can force them to eat and wear and use and have much less than they have; and we can deliberately lower the level of governmental services. Thus we might manage precariously to maintain independent national status. We can resolutely decide to be poor but proud. But if such a decision is made it must be made by the 60,000 families who would have to do the sacrificing, not the 5,000 families who are confident of getting along pretty well in any case.
We have, I say, a perfect right to decide that October 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 95 we will turn away from North American standards of living and from North American standards of public services, and condemn ourselves as a people and government deliberately to long years of struggle to maintain even the little that we have. We may, if we wish, turn our backs upon the North American continent beside which God placed us, and resign ourselves to the meaner outlook and shabbier standards of Europe, 2,000 miles across the ocean. We can do this, or we can face the fact that the very logic of our situation on the surface of the globe impels us to draw close to the progressive outlook and dynamic living standards of this continent.
Our danger, so it seems to me, is that of nursing delusions of grandeur. We remember the stories of small states that valiantly preserved their national independence and developed their own proud cultures, but we tend to overlook the fact that comparison of Newfoundland with them is ludicrous. We are not a nation. We are merely a medium size municipality, a mere miniature borough of a large city. Dr. Carson, Patrick Morris and John Kent were sound in the first decades of the 19th century when they advocated cutting the apron-strings that bound us to the government of the United Kingdom; but the same love of Newfoundland, the same Newfoundland patriotism, that inspired their agitation then, would now, if they lived, drive them to carry the agitation to its logical conclusion, to take the next step of linking Newfoundland closely to the democratic, developing mainland of the New World. There was indeed a time when tiny states lived gloriously. That time is now ancient European history. We are trying to live in the mid-20th century, post-Hitler New World, We are living in a world in which small countries have less chance than ever before of surviving.
We can, of course, persist in isolation, a dot on the shore of North America, the Funks[1] of the North American continent, struggling vainly to support ourselves and our greatly expanded public services. Reminded continually by radio, movie and visitor of greatly higher standards of living across the Gulf, we can shrug incredulously or dope ourselves into the hopeless belief that such things are not for us. By our isolation from the throbbing vitality and expansion of the continent we have been left far behind in the march of time, the "sport of historic misfortune", the "Cinderella of the Empire." Our choice now is to continue in blighting isolation or seize the opportunity that may beckon us to the wider horizons and higher standards of unity with the progressive mainland of America.
I am not one of those, if any such there be, who would welcome federal union with Canada at any price. There are prices which I as a Newfoundlander whose ancestry in this country reaches back for nearly two centuries am not willing that Newfoundland should pay, I am agreeable to the idea that our country should link itself federally with that great British nation, but I am not agreeable that we should ever be expected to forget that we are Newfoundlanders with a great history and a great tradition of our own. I agree that there may be much to gain from linking our fortunes with that great nation, but I insist that as a self-goveming province of the Dominion we should continue to enjoy the right to our own distinctive culture. I do not deny that once we affiliated with the Canadian federal union we should in all fairness be expected to extend the scope of our loyalty to embrace the federation as a whole. I do not deny this claim at all, but I insist that as a constituent part of the federation we should continue to be quite free to hold to our love of our own dear land.
Nor am I one of those, if there be any such, who would welcome union with Canada without regard for the price that the Dominion might be prepared to pay.
I pledge myself to this House and to this country that I will base my ultimate stand in this whole question of confederation upon the nature of the terms that are laid before the Convention and the country. If the terms are such as clearly to suggest a better Newfoundland for our people I shall support and maintain them. If they are not of such a nature I shall oppose them with all the means I can command. In the price we pay and the price we exact my only standard of measurement is the welfare of the people. This is my approach to the whole question of federal union with Canada. It is in this spirit that I move this resolution today.
Confederation I will support if it means a lower cost of living for our people. Confederation I will support if it means a higher standard of life 96 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1946 for our people. Confederation I will support if it means strength, stability and security for Newfoundland. I will support confederation if it gives us democratic government. I will support confederation if it rids us of Commission government. I will support confederation if it gives us responsible government under conditions that will give responsible government a real chance to succeed. Confederation I will support if it makes us a province enjoying privileges and rights no lower than any other province.
These, then, are the conditions of my support of confederation: that it must raise our people's standard of living, that it must give Newfoundlanders a better life, that it must give our country stability and security and that it must give us full, democratic responsible government under circumstances that will ensure its success.
Mr. Chairman, gentlemen, I have given a statement of my faith, but I do not expect members to support this motion for the reasons that impel me to do so. Members no doubt have a variety of reasons of their own, and their support of this resolution does not at all necessarily imply agreement with mine. There are many cases to be made for submitting and supporting this resolution quite apart from those I have given here today.
In the name of the people of Bonavista Centre and of thousands of other Newfoundlanders throughout this island I move this resolution. I believe that this move will lead to a brighter and happier life for our Newfoundland people. If you adopt this resolution, and Canada offers us generous terms, as I believe she will, and Newfoundland decides to shake off her ancient isolation, I believe with all my heart and mind that the people will bless the day this resolution was moved. With God's grace let us move forward for a brighter and happier Newfoundland.
Mr. Higgins Mr. Chairman, I had no intention of seconding this motion. I want to make myself quite clear at the onset with respect to that. I do intend to second it. My purpose in doing so I will explain as I go on. I entirely disagree with Mr. Smallwood's statements, entirely. I don't intend to adopt them in any one whit. But the motion that he makes is for the acquiring, as far as the Convention is concerned, of a fact which is actually as important as any fact that we have had presented here to us today. It is important for one reason, that is that we may disabuse our minds for once and all of this business of confederation. I do believe that we have to get the terms of confederation. I do believe the country expects it, and certainly we can hear from the fire of Mr. Smallwood's speech that he is going to be one person who makes us expect confederation as a form of government to be considered. Whether good or bad, whether it meets with our ideas of the economy of the country or not, it is still a fact, and as a fact that we must ascertain, I second the motion. It is just as real a fact as that we ascertain the report of the Forestry Committee today. To me, Mr. Chairman, it is in this class. We have heard of St. George's coal fields, most of us, all our lives. A lot of us are beginning to doubt very much the value of St. Georges' coal fields, but we are determined to find out, if we can, if they have value. I doubt very frankly if the terms that Mr. Smallwood envisages from Canada are going to be very much better than we got when we were not in nearly as good a position, as when the approach was made before. But it is a fact that we have to ascertain these terms, and in this spirit I second this motion. I want to be understood as not agreeing with Mr. Smallwood, and having no wish for confederation.
Mr. Harrington Mr. Chairman, I felt solemn when I rose in this House to deliver my maiden speech on Thursday, September 12, but my feelings on that occasion were not half so intensely patriotic and righteous as they are today in speaking to the motion introduced by Mr. Smallwood. I feel it will be a great surprise to Mr. Smallwood, who is quite convinced I am going to support his motion, to realise that on the contrary, I am strongly opposed to it, on factual, but, more important, on moral grounds. In the first place, I think his resolution is premature. This Convention is a body of Newfoundlanders, elected to first consider the financial and economic changes that have taken place in this country since 1934, and then on the basis of our findings to recommend forms of government to be placed before the people in a national referendum. The Convention was called together and formally opened by His Excellency the Governor. After a week or so of preliminary discussion, the "shake down cruise" so to speak, the Convention as a whole agreed that the very best method of going about the first part of their task would be to subdivide into October 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 97 committees, each of which would consider a certain phase of the country's business and economy and place its report before the Convention for debate.
The Convention has been in session now something over six weeks. The committees have been working something over four weeks. One interim report has been referred to its committee. The first two actual reports, the education and forestry reports have just this day been submitted for debate. Yet, it is at this point, that Mr. Smallwood, the "self-appointed apostle of confederation" as he has been called, chooses to introduce his resolution. In other words before the Convention has been given even half a chance to get a true picture of the Newfoundland scene, it is proposed that we should send a delegation post-haste to find what Canada will give us if we are well-behaved and come round as quickly as possible to Mr. Smallwood's way of thinking. Yet if the Convention agrees on its findings that the country is self-supporting, and can continue to be self-supporting, then there is no necessity for us to seek aid from anyone. On the other hand if the findings are negative and assistance must be sought, then it is sound logic that we may have to go to the United Kingdom, as well as Canada and perhaps even the United States. But all this is still somewhat in the future, and I submit that the motion is premature β€” it is in plain everyday language "jumping the gun."
I do not propose to go into the constitutionality of the matter at this stage, for that would be just as premature as Mr. Smallwood's resolution. But I would like to make one observation in this regard. The terms of reference, which are beginning to look pretty sick as time goes on, have been stretched, twisted and shrunken to suit every point of view, so that they may be said to permit almost anything, and at the same time allow nothing. On the one hand the Convention has no powers. It is not a governing body; it cannot subpoena witnesses to come before it; it cannot compel public servants to divulge what should be public information. On the other hand a member of the Convention seeks at this stage, in the midst of the very preliminaries, to endow it with the sovereign powers of a government to enable a delegation of its members to go to the capital of another country and there discuss terms of union. It is very inconsistent.
At this point I would like to refer to an excellent paper on the "Political and Financial Implications of Confederation" which was read before the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Newfoundland Branch, by Professor A.M. Fraser, M.A., of the Memorial University College on March 15, 1946. Professor Fraser first declared that since he is not a native-born Newfoundlander he would not presume to appraise the sentiments of the people on this fundamental question and preferred not to express any personal opinions. His impartial paper dealt only with the political and financial set-up in the event that Newfoundland were to ever enter the confederation. But this he did say: "At the outset, I would, however say that in my opinion, the final decision on Confederation, as far as Newfoundland is concerned, must rest with the people of Newfoundland, and that they should be asked to register that decision only after negotiations to secure the best offer of terms from Canada have been completed on their behalf by a sovereign government of their own choosing. If these negotiations were to be conducted under any other auspices the terms secured would be bound to be suspect, and even if confederation were achieved in this manner, it would leave a heritage of discontent, which might well imperil the satisfactory operation of the agreement."
There are without doubt many eminent constitutional and legal minds in this country and outside who will support that opinion. I am a young man who hopes to spend the rest of his life in this country and contribute to its betterment, and when I am as old as Mr. Smallwood is now, please God, I do not want to be accused of helping to sell this country up the St. Lawrence. The public has a short memory, and those who, dazzled by the immediate prospect of temporary advantages without considering the implications, wish Newfoundland to enter confederation with Canada or any other state on a referendum vote, would be the first if the deal later went sour to revile the National Convention, the body that made possible such political conjuring.
If these arguments against the acceptance of this resolution, at this particular time, are not sufficient, and I believe they are, there is one further objection, the strongest I have to make, and one which involves, or should involve, a breach of the privilege of the members of this 98 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1946 assembly. lt will explain why, even if I were convinced of the regularity of this motion, I could not in conscience support it. For I would be left open at any time, and at Mr. Smallwood's pleasure, to a charge of complicity.
This may not be the time or place for a little sermon in morals or ethics, but it is the time and place, I think for a little speaking of minds on a matter that concerns both ethics and morals, especially when today's doctrine of materialism has crept, it seems, even into our own councils of state. "Every man for himself and the devil take the hindmost." It's get what you can for yourself, and don't be bothered by scruples. Proponents of this doctrine always make one mistake. They forget the integrity of the individual conscience; that because they are clever in duplicity others may be just as wise in honour; are quite blind to the fact that some men will not barter that honour for a nice trip to Ottawa, the bait that was privately offered me, and goodness knows how many others, if we supported the motion now before the house. To put it even more clearly, I was told by Mr. Small-wood, that I was slated to be a member of the delegation and that I should play ball to see that this motion was carried.
The members of this Convention are supposed to have an open mind. They are supposed to first examine the country's position to see whether or not it is self-supporting, and having determined that to recommend a form or forms of government to the United Kingdom to be submitted to the people of this country at a national referendum. Making due allowance for every man's honest opinion, even at this stage, there is a limit that should be drawn nonetheless.
One member at the earlier public sessions of the Convention expressed himself rather strongly on forms of government and other things, and was unfavourably criticised. Yet another member, elected on a definite platform, has been as busy as the proverbial blue tailed fly propagandising the remainder of the Convention at every opportunity. Not content with that, he invited a majority of them to his hotel room, and endeavoured to talk them into supporting his resolution. That may be good politics from Mr. Smallwood's point of view, but when we consider the nature and purpose of this Convention and the present stage of its work, I think it is the lowest kind of political chicanery and that it should be aired on the floor of this Convention. I am doing my honest best, whatever my personal opinions, to fairly appraise the situation, and I resent most strongly the obvious attempt that is being made to colour conclusions. Mr. Smallwood's antics may provide a great deal of humorous conversation, but it goes beyond a joke when even one individual is asked, cajoled or invited to sell his integrity, to further the cause of confederation, or any cause at this stage.
In view of Mr. Smallwood's activities, both inside and outside the Convention, I feel it's time that we had a show-down. I'd like to know, and a lot of other people would like to know, who Mr. Smallwood is acting for. Is it for himself or for the Canadian government, or simply for his constituents? He will be hard put to it to convince me it is simply and solely the latter.
For these reasons I do not believe that now is an opportune time for this resolution to be brought before this House and debated, and I would suggest that it be deferred to a date when the Convention, having themselves got the facts in relation to Newfoundland, are in a better position to receive it.
Mr. Penney Mr. Chairman, would it be in order to move an amendment to Mr. Smallwood's motion?
Mr. Chairman Certainly you have a right, Mr. Penney.
Mr. Penney Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I would like to say that I am opposed to Mr. Smallwood's motion at this particular time, and I agree with the sentiments expressed by Mr. Harrington, but to be short and sweet, or sour as the case may be, I will put it this way. Because this Convention is not yet fully informed on matters affecting the economy of Newfoundland I do not understand why we should take any action in connection with confederation at this time; may I therefore move as an amendment to Mr. Smallwood's motion that we defer any action on the subject of confederation with Canada for a period of say two months.
Mr. Roberts I second that motion.
Mr. Hillier Mr. Chairman, I have followed very closely the views expressed. I have not prepared any special address, but I do think before we discuss any forms of government, confederation, responsible, or anything whatsoever, that we should wait until we have completed the task on October 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 99 hand and discovered the foundations upon which we are to build in the future. I am satisfied that then we can get down to work in earnest. I came here with no fixed views whatsoever, I still remain so, and, until I can see the picture of the future of the country, I will not decide in favour of any form of government Maybe I should go as far as to say that I am voicing the sentiments of others in this assembly. It is the first time that such a gathering has come about, and this assembly will go down in history and will be remembered for what it did accomplish and what it did not accomplish in the interests of the masses of this country. At this time in the history of our country we have to consider the general welfare of the masses and not the few. The whole has to be considered and not the part. I think that is very important. Thank you.
Mr. Fudge I feel that I cannot let this opportunity slip by without making some remarks on Mr. Smallwood's statement, wherein he said that our people were 100 years behind the times.
Mr. Smallwood No, I am talking about the country, not the people.
Mr. Chairman Mr. Smallwood, address the Chair please.
Mr. Fudge I wish to say that during the past eight years I have represented at least 5,000 of the people of this country. The general labouring man in this country is not 100, or even 50 years behind the times. This is ridiculous, furthermore I will support the idea and the thought that there has been a little National Convention held outside this place by a few.
Mr. Brown I did not intend at this particular time to have anything to say in connection with the resolution introduced by my honourable friend, Mr. Smallwood. I may say to begin with, that whatever reason or whatever sympathy I would have with joining forces with Canada, Mr. Smallwood has killed it all in his address here this afternoon. I also think it is premature; we have not gotten though the business of this house β€” the business we were sent here to do. Only two committees have reported There was an interim report of the Fisheries Committee, which report was referred back to them and I would say, for the information of the delegates, that the next report will be a final one and that will not be for some time yet. After all, the fishing industry is the greatest industry we have in this country and we want to get all the available information before we present the report. As far as confederation is concerned, there is nothing wrong with sending a delegation to Canada; that could be tolerated, but Mr. Smallwood in his address says Newfoundland is so far behind the times. I have travelled perhaps as far in Canada as Mr. Smallwood β€” I could not go any farther in Canada than I have been β€” I have been through Alaska as well, and during these travels I learned much about Canada and Canadians, and I never thought our country and our people were so far in the background as Mr. Smallwood says. If that is his reason for introducing this resolution, then I do not see eye to eye with him. I am not a confederate. If I could be convinced, perhaps I would be; but, Mr. Chairman, it will take a lot of convincing before I cast a vote for confederation with Canada. Let us take the eastern provinces and ask the man on the street what he thinks of confederation; many have told us, "We are in now and we cannot get out; if we were out, we would never go in." Again he referred to health and in particular to tuberculosis; I might ask Mr. Smallwood if he has ever read a clipping in one of the Canadian newspapers in connection with the percentage of tuberculosis on the GaspΓ© coast. Perhaps Newfoundland can hold a candle with Canada, and Newfoundland is not as far back as 100 years behind another country, and I say Newfoundlanders are not 100 years behind other people.
Mr. Smallwood I did not say that, I said 50 years behind and in some things 100 years.
Mr. Brown Do you believe that?
Mr. Smallwood Yes.
Mr. Brown I would not believe you or anyone else. You may go down below Cape Chidley and find a few Esquimaux who are that far behind. It was that kind of talk and the publication of it that got us where we are today. Your remarks today will go all over Canada, over the world; how can we blame people or newspapers for publishing things about Newfoundland β€” calling us Indians and Esquimaux when we ourselves are calling ourselves Indians. I thought this resolution would come in, and 24 hours after he introduced it in the house it would be debated. I did not think there would be any speeches or addresses given on it this afternoon. But Mr. Smallwood's address, I do not mind telling you, pierces the hearts of 100 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1946 almost every member of this assembly; not only what he said, but the way he said it. It got my goat and I shall have more to say on this matter at some future date. I am against confederation as I see it today. I came here with an open mind, with no preconceived ideas. I did not go to my district and preach confederation; I did not preach anything. Whatever government is best for the people, that is the government I would vote for and I will do it today regardless of resolutions brought in by Mr. Smallwood or by anyone else.
Mr. Butt I am not wholly in accordance with the amendment of Mr. Penney. It is too definite; two months' time would be better. Maybe it could be a little more elastic. My reason for speaking at this time is to introduce something which ought to be said at this time, and Mr. Smallwood's address gives me the opportunity β€” that is to ask ourselves, before we go any further, does the Convention know exactly where it is going, as a Convention? Have we given ourselves specific directions as to what we ourselves want to do? For example, we were presented with the Chadwick-Jones report and we more or less threw it out. We gave it scant attention although it was formally received. We were presented with a reconstruction report which we did not consider worthy of discussion, in spite of the fact that future policy is involved; and the implication covering the introduction of that report is that a programme of $60 million be introduced, the funds for which would have to be found locally. We have not received that although it was laid on the table. Later on we were told that the Convention must not concern itself with government policy in spite of the fact we have, as part of the terms of reference, to recommend future forms of government. How any man can divorce the two in his mind, I do not know. We do not know what the national production is, the data is not available, how are we then to know if we are self supporting? Then we had the Fisheries Report. We got so far and had to leave it, as someone said, "in mid air", because we did not know what to do with it. We got into the bases deal and we did not know how to clarify our own position β€” we did not know what to do under the circumstances. Then we are presented today with the Education Report, for the first time. If I read aright the attitude of the Education Committee in this respect, they base their report solely on the economic condition of Newfoundland insofar as education is concerned. We shall have to do more than that with our reports if we are going to finally make up our minds just exactly where Newfoundland is going in the future. I was expecting someone to answer questions like this...
Mr. Chairman Are you discussing the Education Report? If so, your remarks are not relevant.
Mr. Butt I am trying to show you that the committee's interpretation of our terms of reference were narrower that I think they should be, consequently we ought to clarify just what we can or cannot do. I am not discussing the Education Report, I am giving an indication of the way we have or have not interpreted our terms of reference. Lastly, when we are right in the midst of the gathering of facts and before we have made up our minds as to where we are going, we have a motion placed before us with a resolution of approaching another government with the question of union. Before we go any farther we ought to clarify our minds as to where we are going as a Convention. The chairman of the Forestry Committee tells us we did not get all the the facts. If I have said anything that has not happened in this Convention so far, I would like to be brought up about it, but the point I am making is this: before we can discuss or even think about the question of confederation, or asking for the terms, we have to decide in our own minds what our terms of reference mean and where we are going. It is important, to me at least, that we do not interpret our terms of reference in too narrow a manner. I will support Mr. Penney's motion that the matter of confederation be deferred until we see fit to deal with it. I might add also that I too am looking for the welfare of Newfoundland and I would not rule out the possibility at some time or other, of going to Canada, but before I do that I want to know the facts of Newfoundland; I want to go to Canada with a sense of dignity; with the feeling that I am a Newfoundlander. I do not want to go when we do not know whether or not we are self-supporting. We must first of all decide where we are going in this matter.
Mr. Smallwood I want a ruling β€” at the moment there is a resolution and there is an amendment. Does the debate proceed on both simultaneously, or on two different debates? One is a resolution and the other an amendment and I ask whether a member may speak twice, once on October 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 101 the motion and once on the amendment β€” just as a matter of guidance?
Mr. Chairman Strictly, the debate on the first question should continue until the termination of that debate, when the amendment may be moved and on that amendment any member may speak again.
Mr. Smallwood In the circumstances in which within half an hour of the motion's having been moved, an amendment is moved to it?
Mr. Hollett I rise to speak against the motion, but in case there is any doubt in the mind of my friend, Mr. Smallwood, I am not speaking for the amendment against the motion. It seems to me that I have seen this motion in a different form than what was brought before us today. Apparently there are some discrepancies behind the motion, as to who is or is not the proper authority. The form in which I saw that motion definitely states that His Excellency the Governor be approached to make the necessary arrangements to assure us whether or not the Government of Canada would receive a delegation in order to discuss the terms of confederation. The bringing in of this motion at this particular juncture in our deliberations is so premature as to be positively indecent. Before we have had time to consider and discuss among ourselves the economic and financial position β€” before we have had time to glance over the initial reports brought in, our friend Mr. Smallwood flew to Quebec and elsewhere and came back from Canada thoroughly prepared to fight this thing to the bitter end with the idea that when this Convention was over it be committed definitely to confederation.
Mr. Smallwood No!
Mr. Hollett I submit it is the truth.
Mr. Smallwood No.
Mr. Hollett Until I see proof to the contrary, I will say it is the truth. Mr. Smallwood has approached the members of this Convention and offered them this, that and the other thing I myself was offered a senatorship. I fail to see how any one man in this Convention could, on one flying trip, come back with so many portfolios in his bag β€” Minister of Fisheries and Mines and so on. I fail to see how any man who has an honesty of purpose, who has the public welfare of the people of this country at heart, can be dancing around this town of St John's, in and out of hotels, offering jobs in Canada if we voted for confederation. I put it to you Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, these manoeuvres are positively indecent. We are self-thinking individuals elected by our people to come here and thrash out the various things at issue. On the other hand, who are the appropriate authorities of this country? Who are the proper authorities to whom we shall appeal as to whether or not we should send a delegation to Canada to find out the terms of confederation? Here we are, elected by the people, and unfortunately we find we have not even the right to go into public offices and demand certain information. Do you mean to tell me that Canada would discuss with an unauthorised body the terms of confederation? There is a chance that these terms will be even~ tually turned down. Do you think that any official body in Canada would do anything that would make them appear so ridiculous in the eyes of their own people?
Mr. Smallwood We might ask.
Mr. Hollett Do you want us to go to Canada with our fingers in our mouths and say, "Please Canada, let us in, Mr. Smallwood wants us to go in." I submit, the time is not opportune. If I were eager to do something to have confederation foisted upon this country, I would ask to have the motion withdrawn for consideration by the members.
Mr. Smallwood If I may be allowed, I would like to speak to the amendment.
Mr. Chairman Do you want to make a personal explanation, if so, you may do so. You also have the right, as mover of the resolution, to reply at the end of the debate.
Mr. Smallwood Speaking to the amendment, I may say that members must not suppose that the adoption of the motion means that a delegation is appointed or elected to go to Ottawa immediately. Members must not suppose that the adoption of this motion means that the subject of confederation and terms and conditions of confederation will be brought into this house within the next few days or even the next few weeks. Mr. Hollett has touched on the question of who are the proper authorities. What would happen is that this motion would be forwarded from one authority to the other; possibly to His Excellency the Governor; possibly from him to the Secretary of State for Dominions Affairs in the United Kingdom; possibly from him back to His Excel 102 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1946lency the Governor; possibly then from His Excellency to the Commission of Government; possibly then from the Commission of Government to the Prime Minister of Canada; all of which might take a matter of several weeks and in fact I believe would take a matter of several weeks; so that we might then picture at some future date β€” two or three weeks from now β€” a reply, through you, coming to this house to the effect that the Government of Canada will not deal with this Convention; or a reply from the Government of Canada that they will deal with this Convention. That would be the next step that this Convention would hear about, if the motion is adopted. Two or three weeks from now a reply would be brought in to us through you, sir, that the Government of Canada would or would not receive a delegation from this National Convention. If it would not receive such a delegation, then the matter dies so far as this Convention and the succeeding national referendum are concerned. On the other hand, if the Government of Canada will receive a delegation of this Convention, and to those delegates impart the terms as that government saw them, of confederation of Newfoundland with Canada, then it would still be some time after that word was received before the delegation could go. I do not see myself, in the nature of things, in the circumstances, how any such delegation could actually go before some time in December and possibly some time in the month of January. By December or by January this Convention, we hope, if it is not to sit here forever, will have received a number of reports from the committees and will have completed its debate on some of these reports and will probably have them, or nearly all of them, in hand and under discussion. These reports are the data and facts of Commission government; they are the data and facts of responsible government; the thing we lack is the facts and data of confederation. If any gentleman in this House will move that we approach the Government of the United Kingdom seeking to learn from them what help, if any, they will give this country under Commission Government, I will support that motion. If any gentleman moves that we approach the United States, not for federal union, because that is not allowed unless we pass a resolution extralegal and extra-constitutional, and that I will not support; I will support any motion proposing any approach to any part of the British Empire or the British Commonwealth, and if it is in the best interests of the people of this country (and I repeat that) to affiliate with Great Britain as Northern Ireland is; to affilliate with Timbuctoo or Canada if it is in the interest of the people of this country, I am for it and I will support any such motion. Because I feel that the people of this country are fully entitled to have all the facts about any kind of government, including Commission, including responsible, including union with Canada or with anyone else. I feel I have no right to deny the people those facts; I feel that this Convention has no right to deny the people of this country the facts about any kind of government that is within the British Commonwealth.
Mr. Chairman Is not your present address in the nature of a reply to this debate? The result is going to be that you are going to deprive yourself of reply. I will have to rule you out of order.
Mr. Smallwood I will not trespass a moment more upon the motion itself, but merely the amendment. 1 wish it could be understood by the gentlemen of this Convention, whatever they may think of meβ€”I wish it would be understood, sir, that the amendment might, if adopted, have this result, that if in the month of October, the month of November and part of the month of December we are debating the various reports of the above committees, and perhaps carry those debates over into the month of January, perhaps February, and then, having debated Commission government and responsible government, because that's what these reports are, having then done that, we decide rather late, maybe up in the winter, that we have none of the facts of confederation. It could be a month or two months after we had decided to seek those facts from Canada before we got them. It might be up in the month or March or April before we have the facts of confederation. That is why, sir, I oppose the amendment moved by my friend Mr. Penney, on the ground that delay, for even a month or two, might result in our debating the facts of confederation in March, April or May of next year, by which time the Convention should be over and forgotten. If we are going to debate it in January we have to adopt the motion now, and that's why I oppose Mr. Penney's amendment, which I believe he moved with all sincerity and genuine motives. But if it is adopted, when the people of October 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 103 Newfoundland should be voting in May or June for the kind of government they want we may be still here talking about confederation
Mr. Northcott There is an old but true saying that "fools rush in where angels fear to tread." I don't think we should rush the facts of confederation or anything else. These matters are very, very important, and I do oppose Mr. Smallwood or anyone else trying to railroad this thing through. I would like to see these terms, but I certainly want to take my time and there are many things to be considered before seeking these terms.
Mr. Dawe I wish to rise and make objection to this thing. I understand that the proposed delegation has already been picked. I do not think that we should seek terms with Canada on confederation until our natural resources have been properly assessed. I am going to ask Mr. Smallwood what he meant by what he said in the lobby of the Newfoundland Hotel: that if he could find 200 honest Newfoundlanders he would not advocate federal union with Canada. We kneel before God and ask His help, but we don't have to kneel before Canada.
Mr. Smallwood I am beginning, sir, to think now, the last remarks made by Mr. Dawe make me very strongly believe that after all the talk of conspiracy here this afternoon there is in fact a conspiracy, a diabolical conspiracy originating in several sources, a conspiracy to blacken me. When a man wants to know if it is true that Smallwood said in the lobby of the Hotel "If he could find 200 honest Newfoundlanders etc." I certainly did not.
Mr. Chairman Wait now, gentlemen, we have to debate this in an orderly way. I want to get this in the proper order. Mr. Dawe has made a statement and you have the right to deny this and you have done so. There is no reason to get heated up in this manner.
Mr. Smallwood I think, sir, I have a very good reason.
Mr. Chairman There is not going to be any fracas between members in the Convention while I am in the Chair.
Mr. Dawe I am not a party to conspiracy.
Mr. Chairman Anybody else wish to speak to the motion?
Mr. MacDonald I have listened to the speakers and I think the great majority of them are not so much against this inquiry to Canada, except that they are against this particular time to send this inquiry. I am not a confederate. I am something in Mr. Higgins' class. I am not sold on the idea of confederation, or on the idea of responsible government, nor on the idea of Commission of Government, but we have to ask Canada for at least particular terms which she is willing to give Newfoundland in confederation. Because, whether these 45 men like it or not, there are people in Newfoundland today who favour confederation, and they must be given an opportunity to vote for or against it. Now I come from a district where, as Mr. Hollett will agree, we were not told to come in here to support any particular form of government, but we were told to judge for ourselves the suitable form of government and put it before our people, so that they could select the form of government they desired. I think, Mr. Chairman, that there has been a good deal of opinion that we are here to settle the form of government for Newfoundland. We are not in here to choose anything, but we are here to consider and discuss, and then finally to recommend to the people certain forms of government. There has been some reference made to terms of reference of the Convention, and there is nothing to prevent any member from choosing two forms of government to put before his people, the people are finally those to make the choice. Now then, Mr. Chairman, in speaking of this amendment, if this Convention feels that it has to get this information from Canada, why not do it now? Why wait two or three months, or weeks? Get the machinery in motion. Whether we like it or not I think we have to get that particular information.
Mr. Starkes I stand here definitely opposed to confederation at the present time, but this resolution that Mr. Smallwood has brought in, to my mind is one of the most important that has come on the floor of this house up to the present time, and I feel that I would not be playing fair to my district if I did not say a word or two about it. I am very well aware that we have many people in this country today who believe in confederation. They may be right or they may be wrong. I personally am opposed to it at the present time. I am not prepared to argue the point just at this stage. The main fact is that there are many people who are supporters of confederation. We must remember, sir, that they are Newfoundlanders 104 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1946 like ourselves, and whatever other delegates may do I am not prepared to say to that Newfoundlander, "No, my mind is closed against it, closed against federation." I am not prepared to say to them that I won't listen to anything connected with confederation. I am prepared to listen to whatever terms can be found. I am not prepared to take any attitude against the resolution at the present time. I for one cannot see how this Convention can turn a deaf ear to this resolution. Many of our people believe in it. Many others who may not yet believe in it now, if they get the terms, may yet believe in it. I am not prepared to deny them the chance to get the facts. If confederation is to be a possibility in Newfoundland, special terms would doubtless be necessary. If the Convention should decide that a delegation should be sent to Ottawa, I think in all fairness, another delegation should be sent to England. Certainly there are possibilities of her helping her oldest charge, and it is now that we want to find this out. If I voted against this resolution I would be voting against getting facts, so I am voting to support it. When this resolution is passed it will give us the information we want. Then, and not until then, will I make up my mind on this whole confederation business, and the people as a whole will make up their minds. I do not commit myself to this. I do not see how we can do so. This is our duty, sir. Let us as members sent here by the people perform that duty.
Mr. Newell I was about to rise, sir, to propose the adjournment of this debate. It is not my intention to speak on this subject, and I do not rise to ask precedence for myself tomorrow, but there is a very real danger that the merits of the question under discussion may be confused with the personalities involved in that discussion, and I think, sir, perhaps we can all come to this debate on the morrow with clearer minds and perhaps more disciplined tongues. I therefore move the adjournment of the debate.
Mr. Vincent I beg to second the motion.
[The Convention adjourned]

Source:

Newfoundland. The Newfoundland National Convention, 1946-1948 Vol 1: Debates. Edited by J.K. Hiller and M.F. Harrington Montreal: Memorial University of Newfoundland by McGill-Queen's University Press, 1995).

Credits:

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Selection of input documents and completion of metadata: Gordon Lyall.

Footnotes:

  • [1] Volume II: 65. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] Volume II:56. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [2] Bowater's Newfoundland Pulp and Paper Mills Ltd., owner of the mill at Corner Brook.
  • [1] The Harmswonh agreement was made in 1905.
  • [2] The Anglo-Newfoundland Development Corporation, a Harmsworth subsidiary which operated the Grand Falls mill until 1965.
  • [1] A reference to the Funk Islands, small uninhabited islands situated off the northeast coast of Newfoundland.

Participating Individuals: