Newfoundland National Convention, 14 January 1947, Debates on Confederation with Canada


January 14, 1947

Report of the Transportation and Communications Committee:[1] Committee of the Whole

Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, before we go into the section of the report dealing with posts and telegraphs, there are some answers to questions raised in the House in the debates on previous matters, that I have to table.
On the Railway, there was some question as to the amount of money paid out in claims. The Manager informed the Transportation Committee in a meeting this forenoon that in the year ending March 31, l946, the total amount of claims paid out by the Railway was $36,982 and in the previous year $26,000. The amount paid out in claims runs from $25,000 to $30,000 a year. We asked for some explanation of even that relatively small amount — only 1% of the freight handled by the Railway in the course of the year — and two explanations were given. The first is that, since the war especially, shippers have not been using wooden containers but paper cartons instead. These get broken and the contents are strewn around or are pilfered. In the second place, the amount includes compensation paid to owners of cattle and horses killed along the railway. Another matter is that of free passes issued to persons on the Newfoundland Railway.
Mr. Figary Before we go on to the question of passes, I would like to ask, in regard to claims, is the chairman of the Committee aware that we could not get wooden containers, and that 25% was charged on cardboard containers?
Mr. Smallwood The freight charged on containers was not a matter into which we went.... On the matter of the railway passes. In the first place, passes are issued only to employees of the Railway. One holiday pass per year may or will be issued to any railroader working a certain number of years, and the dependent members of his family.... Passes are issued to no one else except Commissioners and to His Excellency the Governor; when the Commissioners or His Excellency, have a private or special car, the government pays the Railway for it. This privilege is universal practice — to give free passes to railway employees. Most railways exchange the privilege with each other....
Mr. Starkes Does that mean that Canadian railroaders coming to this country can travel on a pass?
Mr. Smallwood Yes, for employees of the railways who have that arrangement with the Newfoundland Railway.... The General Manager told us that very few Americans or Canadians travel to Newfoundland on passes; many more Newfoundlanders go up there than Canadians or Americans come down here.... All applications for passes go to the head of the department and from him to the General Manager, and he must sign them before they are any good. In that way they keep a record and the General Manager knows exactly what is happening with regard to the issuing of free passes on the Railway.
Mr. Crummey Could you tell us the number of passes in 1946 and the mileage covered?
Mr. Smallwood Neither I nor any member of the Committee nor any member of the Convention present thought of enquiring as to the actual number of passes issued. The issuing of railway passes is so commonplace throughout the world that mere details as to the number of passes is relatively unimportant. I ought to say that these free passes are merely for travelling. They do not include meals on the train or sleepers. In fact, if a railroader travelling on a pass wants a sleeper, he must buy an upper; he is not permitted to buy a lower berth.
Mr. Job raised the question about duties col 250 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1947 lected by the government on materials imported to be used on the St. John's dry dock, in the repair of ships by the Railway. The situation is this: so far as foreign ships are concerned, any duty that has been paid by the Railway for material — paint, plates or anything else — is paid back to the Railway. There is a rebate. When a local ship is repaired the duty paid by the Railway on materials used on that local ship is not paid back; it stays with the Customs.
There was a question asked as to whether or not there had been any general increase in passenger fares. No. Fares for passengers on the Newfoundland Railway are 5 cents a mile first class and 4 cents second class. That compares with 3 cents a mile average rate charged in Canada, which seems to be of some importance in view of the possibility that we may be considering whether or not the passenger fares could be increased on our Railway. If they are increased, they will be raised above 5 cents, which is now 2 cents above the average on the mainland.
We asked Mr. Russell if he could give us any idea — making allowances for all kinds of things that can happen in the world and in Newfoundland in the next eight or ten years — when the Railway might balance its budget. Perhaps it was not a fair question, but Mr. Russell gave his opinion that perhaps in about ten years time the Railway might break even. Until then, obviously, there will be an operating deficit. He is not pessimistic about it. At the end of the last war (1914- 1918) there was a great deal of pessimism over the losses on the Railway when people thought that for years to come the operating deficit would be greater and greater. It did not turn out that way. After a number of years the operating deficit of the Railway was brought down, and he thinks the same thing can happen again in the years ahead.
Another point raised was this question of shunting individual cars of newsprint paper brought in from Grand Falls to the paper shed on the dock at St. John's. The cost of that shunting is included in the rental paid on the shed and wharf. The position is this: the AND Co. pays $20,000 a year for the use of that shed and wharf at St. John's. Bowaters pays $20,000 for the use of the shed and wharf at Port-aux-Basques. That $20,000 these two companies pay gives them the right to have individual cars of newsprint paper shunted for them at St. John's and Port-aux- Basques.
Then we come to the question of what we call special rates. Mr. Russell and the General Freight Agent, Mr. Forsey, both objected to the use of the term "special rates." They produced for us CNR and CPR tariffs to show, in connection with pulpwood, paper, ore, oil and things like that, that the tariff charged is not called "special." They have "Pulpwood — Carload"; "Pulpwood — Trainload." This business of hauling ore by the trainload only happened since Buchans began. it is a new thing. The hauling of paper happened only in recent years, also the hauling of pulpwood. The Railway went after those companies to persuade them to haul pulpwood and paper by the trainload to provide traffic in the winter months. Then the Railway had to give the companies a rate for hauling that. The only thing they had to go by was the rate charged for the same kind of work in Canada and the United States.
[Mr. Smallwood gave detailed figures showing that the freight rates on the Newfoundland Rail. way for pulpwood and newsprint were higher than in the Maritimes, the Gaspé coast, and Wisconsin]
In connection with newsprint, the Railway is negotiating right now to get the paper companies to get the rate raised — to get more for hauling paper. In connection with pulpwood, they have already received increases of from 30% to 60% over the rates that were charged by the Railway to those companies last year. Up to a year or so ago the Railway was making a profit on the hauling of pulpwood, but their costs rose rapidly, so they were not making a profit, but losing money on hauling. They negotiated and got an increase which came into effect on January 1. On oil, they got an increase in 1943, and after the present deal expires, they are looking for an increase of 30% from the oil companies. On ore, they got a 30% increase from the Buchans Mining Company, taking effect from January 1, 1947.
Summing it all up, by the end of 1947, the freight collections of the Railway will rise to something between $250,000 and $300,000 a year. I cannot help saying that the final paragraph in our report, where we suggest that the Railway might get $300,000 to $400,000 a year, was not far out after all.
Before we go on to posts and telegraphs, when January 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 251 we were debating broadcasting, a question was raised about the American radio stations. There is one at Argentia, one at Stephenville and one at Fort Pepperrell.[1] The one at Fort Pepperrell is 240 watts and the other two 40 or 50 watts. The agreement was this: they had the right to broadcast on those wavelengths, at that power, during the war and for six months after the war is officially over — after the peace treaty is signed — whenever that is.
Mr. Reddy Are there any more companies getting concessions on freight besides the ones mentioned?
Mr. Smallwood Yes, several purely local Newfoundland companies, made up of Newfoundland capital and shareholders in special circumstances. For instance the Colas Company at Clarenville.[2] There are some rates that are made to apply to the nature of the freight carried and Mr. Reddy will agree, if he ships a carload and I ship a quarter ton, he is entitled to a better rate. It is not at all in the class with these big corporations, because the amount is not so big and the amount of concession given is not nearly so great.
Mr. Reddy Would you consider Gaden's[3] a small company? They get a rate on Coca-Cola?
Mr. Crosbie With regard to the question asked by Mr. Reddy, I can say "yes." Mr. Reddy is a businessman — at least so I am told — and if he is, he knows that if he buys wholesale he gets a better price than if he buys retail. As far as the Railway is concerned, they sell service. If any company guarantees them a certain amount of business, they naturally look for the best rate they can get, and it is up to the management of the Railway to give that company the best rate it can give.
Mr. Fudge In our last session I retired from the house for a while, and during my absence the question of wages paid to the highroads was raised again by Mr. Jackman and replied to by Mr. Smallwood and Mr. Ballam. Mr. Ballam stated that there was 14 cents in the difference between the highroads rate and the paper mill rate. That is incorrect. The mill rate is 70 cents per hour for an eight-hour day. The general labour rate, under the organisation that I represent, is 63 cents per hour for a nine-hour day, and on the highroads, including the town council, it is 58 cents. For all these local rates none of our men require a medical examination. In the mill the men must have a medical examination, that's why the rates are not the same.
Mr. Ballam I don't think that Mr. Fudge got that quite clear from what I said. I was answering a question brought up by Mr. Jackman as to the difference in the labour rates in the same locality. I might have said 72 1/2 cents, but I was not questioning or debating that, I just wanted to point out where the difference was.
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, if the House desires it we will incorporate the information in a new memo and have it attached to the report, so that the documents taken together will show the picture pretty clearly.
Mr. Chairman Does that answer all the questions in connection with these various matters, or does any member of the Convention desire any additional information? If not I think we will proceed with the reading of the next section, posts and telegraphs.
[The Secretary continued reading the report]
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, there are two appendices, one a report by the Secretary for Posts and Telegraphs on the alterations and improvements that they want to make, and second an estimate of the expenditure to get these improvements brought into force. I don't know if you want these read now, or if you want to discuss and read the paragraph and deal with these appendices afterwards.
Mr. Harrington Mr. Chairman, before we go on with the appendices I wonder if Mr. Smallwood would tell us if the salaries include cost of living bonus or not?
Mr. Smallwood The salaries include everything. That's the total amount of money they get. There is a sentence there which says "A recent review of salaries of all outport postmasters etc." That review has been completed, and certain raises to the outport postmasters agreed upon, and the cheques have been made out. It's a rather complicated system, and I am not going to attempt to explain it in any detail. It is based on the business done in each office. They have a system of units. One letter received by a postmaster is 252 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1947 counted as one unit; telegrams are in a different class. If he is connected with a telephone, but no telegraph office, and takes a message and telephones it to a telegraph office, that counts for 70 units. Making out or paying out a post office order is so many units. All the work is reduced to units, and the units are counted for the month and the salaries are based on the number of units handled.
That seems very good in a way, but the trouble was that that was started in 1936. In 1937 the department made a review of the units handled in every office, and again in 1938 and 1939. Then the war came, and from that day until now they have never made a review. Well, they did make a review in some cases if an outport postmaster wrote in complaining that the cost of living was going up and his wages were not going up. They would then review the units he handled for that year and base an increase in his pay on the increase in the units in his office for that year alone.... But the trouble was that between 1939 and 1945 or 1946 there was a steady increase in the number of units handled, or business done, in the whole country and in each individual office. That great increase in business you have here on the first page of our report. For example there were nine million letters in 1938-39, and in 1945- 46 there were 13 million letters. Just as the country's business increased, so did that of each individual post office. That was not taken into account, only the one particular year in which a man wrote in asking them for God's sake to give him an extra dollar or two to keep him out of the poor house. Now they have reviewed the whole business done in the whole period of the war, and they find that the business in many places has increased 2-5%, and on that general increase of the last four or five years they have computed the increase in salaries.
Now don't get excited about the increase, because the whole amount for all the outport offices is only up from $766,000 a year to $880,000. In other words, the total wage bill of the department is increased 15%. Now turn to page 5.[1] Taking the whole list, involving 534 postmasters, the average increase is 12.5%, but the man who is getting $4.80 a week may not get anything like 12.5%; a post office whose man is only getting that, is not doing so much business, so his increase may be only 3%, 4% or 5%.... I see Mr. Hollett looking at me very quizzically, as if to say if it is an increase of 15%, how can it be only 12.5? Well I don't know, because the system is too complicated, and 1 don't know how they make it up. The actual increase in pay is 12.5%, although the overall increase is 15%....
Mr. Hollett There is not much 1 can say about this report. I assume that the members of the Committee were satisfied by the Secretary's report that this thing is so dilapidated it has to be scrapped and that it will cost another $500,000 to replace it. At least that is the impression they give in the report. It seems to me that the scale of wages is out of date. I suggest that the Department of Posts and Telegraphs think up some new scheme whereby those 880 employees could be better paid. I had a considerable amount to do with postal telegraph offices in the outports, and I know the scandalous wages paid in the past. I had thought that since the war started, they were getting something on which to keep body and soul together. I see in this report that only a few in head office can possibly live on what they are getting, unless they steal it. Unfortunately, I do know that postal clerks have had to steal in order to live. Two or three of them came before my notice. I know one in particular, a case where a man had a wife and four children and he was getting $25 a month. There are several cases like that — where clerks have defaulted only, I say, by reason of the fact that they have had such miserably poor pay. If a man has a wife and four children, I do not see how the postal telegraphs can keep him in an office where the system can pay only $25 a month on which to live — or on which to die. We have only to look at the record of 534 postmasters, 356 are receiving salaries under $500 a year, or under $9.61 a week. Over half the total number of postmasters receive salaries (God save the term!) of under $4.80 a week. It is about time to review the salaries of the outport postal officials. If I were head of that department I would not take credit for any surplus when so many are receiving salaries of $4.80 a week. If that is not worse than slave days, 1 do not know what it is, and we are trying to raise the standard of living of our people! I do not blame this government only; all governments have been at fault in this respect. If the government can do January 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 253 no better than this $4.80 a week with the revenue that comes in, I would suggest they spend some of that $10 million they have overseas interest- free. That is $300,000 a year slipping away, and it could easily go to recompense people in the postal telegraphs department. It has not been mentioned what happens to the surplus; I suppose it goes into the revenue.
Mr. Smallwood That is right.
Mr. Hollett There is not much more to be said about this report. I believe the system is out-dated and inadequate, as the report says, and we cannot blame the present Secretary for that. He has not been long in this country, and as far as I can find out he is thoroughly familiar with the big job that lies ahead. I hope and trust he will see that the people working under him will get a decent wage. Not only in the outports, but here in St. John's, people are not getting sufficient money on which to live decently, and unless you have well-paid men working for you in the government, I do not see how we can get anything like efficiency, and you cannot be sure that you are going to get honesty....
Mr. Vardy Mr. Chairman, I presume that as this is the last section of the report, that in winding up we can touch briefly on all sections. Taking the report as a whole, it is generally agreed the Transportation Committee has done a good job. It certainly covers a lot of ground and gives the Convention as well as the whole country much food for thought.
Now the Convention will do very little to justify its existence unless its members are big enough to face up to the indisputable facts as we know them, and as they are confirmed by the findings of the various committees. Both in our individual and collective stands we will at times say and do things which will be strongly opposed by certain members who have for many years been associated with a union, or employed by the body whose policy or business we are discussing; yet we are all imbued with the same honest desire to get on with the job and do it very thoroughly....
There is only one department or utility of the government that is not overstuffed in proportion to our ability to pay, and the Railway, the highroads department and posts and telegraphs are not exceptions. While we are most appreciative of the services rendered, those who pay have every right to criticise their deficiencies and shortcomings.
I doubt if more than one claim out of ten against the Railway is ever filed, and when they are it generally takes years to get them paid. There is a definite lack of discipline, and little or no coordination between management and staff. I know that many of the losses need not occur. In most every case where I have had to make a claim it should not have been necessary.... Some may say these are details, but do not overlook the fact that many details such as these go to make up the enormous amount our Railway is losing yearly through negligence, careless handling, inefficiency and pilfering, in at least some cases, of other people's goods.... Here we have a utility crowded with traffic in the most prosperous years that ever Newfoundland knew, sinking almost a million dollars a year. We are conscious of the long haul through a wilderness, the money spent on snow clearing, the many stops at small stations where the limited freight and mail handled did not pay; but the past six years have been providing more traffic in passengers and freight than the system could handle, and I am not satisfied that at least for this period it should have shown a profit.
In the matter of special rates to large companies, it has been clearly shown that while they may be entitled to wholesale rates commensurate with the amount of freight offered, and the saving effected by bulk handling, the difference in rates is far too great and altogether out of proportion to the difference between wholesale and retail in any other sphere of business.
As in most, if not all government departments, there is the tendency to treat men who are comparatively young and vigorous as worn out, when very often they are, in reality, going through the most useful stage of their existence. It is not comparable or consistent with the age we are living in to regard one group of workers as being entitled to different privileges from another, and it is therefore in the spirit of treating all humans on an equality basis that I contend that their pensionable age should come at the same time in life....
For a small country with a struggling utility on which we have such huge deficits, more discretion should be exercised in the issue of passes. It is generally conceded that far too many travel free when their wages are on a par with those who 254 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1947 always must pay.
Dealing briefly with the report on posts and telegraphs, if we are to accept the Secretary's own statement and figures as correct, it changes the picture that was given the public for the past several years, when they did show small operating profit. In reality, if a fair and proper amount had been set aside for depreciation etc., it would have more truly shown a loss, and we can clearly see that it will take far more than the so-called accumulated surplus to bring their equipment up to date — not forgetting the huge burden they have thrown on the country by almost starving most of the outport operators and postal staff. In this case we do not need to mention specific cases as the report is there — it gives you the gruesome picture.
It has been stated by high-ranking officials that the policy of the Commission of Government in forcing them from 1934 onwards to close out so many small telephone and telegraph offices was very unsound, like the forming of road committees to replace the former road boards. In order to give these unfortunate people some semblance of service, the department I understand is now considering the reopening of a limited number of these offices each year, thereby admitting that in the light of new evidence the lines should have been left standing.
Again, here we find a lack of co-ordination between the Secretary and the staff. One can go to one clerk or postmaster and get a rate, and go to another and get an entirely different rate on the same matter. When the rate is disputed it is surprising to find how their opinions differ, and how they entirely disagree over the wording of the act....
Mr. Higgins I have only a few comments to make on this report. It does strike me as outstanding that the government should be criticised by a department of the government. Unless I am wrong, I read this into the question outlined on page 2. The question was put bluntly to them, "If the government told you that hard times are imminent, and relentless retrenchment must become the rule of conduct in all departments, what would your reactions be? What about your plans for a new and improved telegraph service then?"
Their reply was that in that case they would inform the government that they could not undertake to carry on the telegraph system as it is practically collapsing. It strikes me that this is an extraordinary situation. This is the position. It is not the Committee's finding that the telegraph system is collapsing, it is the people responsible for its upkeep, the people responsible for having it in shape. They knew it was collapsing — it did not suddenly fall down and go "boom". It is a most extraordinary policy for the government to collect $179,000 profit for the past seven years off a service that is dying on its feet. It seems extraordinary that you let your machine, which is earning you money, get into such a condition. It seems stupid. There is no explanation except the usual one, indifference.
On another matter I presume the Committee did discuss the matter of this radio-telegraph service as compared with the old land line. I wonder if Mr. Smallwood would enlarge on what the Committee's findings on that were, whether it is as satisfactory as the old service, and what is the comparative cost?
Mr. Smallwood In answer to Mr. Higgins' first point, it was not until the war broke out that the department was even paying its way. It lost money, year by year, as regularly as a clock ticks away the time....
[Mr. Smallwood read a list of losses between 1919-20 and 1929-30]
What happened then was this — the slump came and the great policy of retrenchment was introduced. You remember when the government brought in Sir Percy Thompson and Mr. Penson (who afterwards became a Commissioner), and they instituted a relentless program of economy and retrenchment.[1] In that program the postal telegraph system suffered tremendously. Post offices were wiped out or closed down. Salaries were reduced, and the subsidy that the department was paid for carrying mails was reduced tremendously. It had been up around $500,000 a year, and finally in 1934 it was cut down to $150,000.... The operating loss took a clip from $872,000 in 1930-31 down to $542,000; then January 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 255 down to $136,000; then $122,000; right down to $16,000, due to die cut in salaries, the reduction in subsidies, and the reduction in the number of post and telegraph offices.
The war came, and during the war, although they began to make money and had a surplus, it was impossible to get the material necessary to put the telegraph system into operation. It is true they had the radio-telegraph system before the war began, but that is now worn out because it was bought when radio was comparatively new and the materials are now antiquated. Before the war they had no money. For the 21 years between the two wars, they lost an average of $350,000 a year; or, taking out the war years, they lost $500,000 a year in that department. Now that the material is to be had, when they can they want to buy new material for an entirely new telegraph and land line system. The new system will cost $1 million.
Mr. Higgins I am not averse to slamming the government if it is necessary. I would say that your report leaves the impression that they did have the opportunity of doing something about the system, but did nothing. I think the point that they had not the opportunity to purchase equipment should be in your report.
Mr. Smallwood You will find it in the appendix.
Mr. Higgins It is not in your own report?
Mr. Smallwood No.
Mr. Higgins I do think it might have been included in the Committee's report rather than coming from the Secretary. On the other matter, that of salaries, I think it is a disgraceful thing, in what we call a civilised country, to have a person with the glorified title of postmaster receiving $4.80 a week. We either should cut out the glorified title, cut out the job, or give the person a salary consistent with the responsibility it entails. Like Mr. Hollett I have dealt with certain cases of defaulting. I certainly can find a lot of excuses for postmasters and postmistresses who have had to dip into the till to support their families. You are practically driving the person to peculation in some form or other. We have to remember that this man or woman receiving $4.80 a week has money orders for thousands of dollars going through his or her office. The whole system is entirely wrong. You get a person to spend his or her time and energy, and the use of his or her house, and at the same time take the responsibility for very considerable monies, and she or he receives a return of $4.80 a week! I don't blame the government any more than I blame each and every resident of this island for putting up with that form of slavery. For that's all it is. I think you were proper to bring out the salaries as you did, and I believe that the general assembly here today agrees with the idea set forth by Mr. Hollett, that that $4.80 is the worst badge of slavery imposed by any government of the civilised world on their fellow citizens.
Mr. Burry ....Now just why a department can show such a fine surplus without giving better service is beyond my ability to understand. Of course I do know the conditions that exist in Newfoundland, but I know the conditions in Labrador better. They have not been given very clearly in the report, although mention has been made of them. $12 per person was what the 38 postmasters in Labrador received, and this is just one clear case for members getting up to say that the figures are ridiculous. But the services of the mail system, for instance in Labrador, are anything but a credit to any government or any department. It is an isolated region, and we do not expect the public service that we would like to have, but there are some things that could be improved, and the mail system is one of them.
Just a few days ago I was talking to Mr. J.D. Williams of the Labrador Development Company,[1] and he is worried about his people down there on Labrador getting no mail for all these months. He has a right to be distressed about it, and something could be done about getting some mail into that coast. Where I come from, in the Hamilton Inlet area, they are still waiting for their first mail since the first of October, and they will have to wait yet. We do get our mail by air now, because planes are going in from Halifax three times a week to Goose Bay, and distributed along that immediate vicinity; but regularly it is done by dog team, and that is a very poor system, and the eight carriers are very poorly paid I can assure you. They have long distances to go, over difficult and rough terrain, and I know because I have travelled with them time and again. I have helped them over the hills and have known the hardships that they have to go through. I am able to sympathise with their long journeys, and know 256 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1947 they are not properly paid for that kind of work. No figures occur here, and I am not able to give all the figures, but I know one case where a carrier had to go over 175 miles by dog team and he got $20 a trip. I feel that when a department is able to show a surplus, and we are able to give instances such as this, there is something wrong somewhere. Why not put some of this surplus into paying better wages and giving better service?....
Mr. Fudge The Committee made no reference to the recent contract for mail bags supplied to the Department of Posts and Telegraphs by, I understand, a Canadian firm. According to rumours this contract was valued at $75,000. I think we should find out the facts about this rumour. If it is correct, then why are local sail- makers here in the city of St. John's left out?....
Mr. Smallwood ....It may be that in Canada they turn out these mailbags by the millions, and they can be imported at very great savings. I don't know, but unless it is a very considerable saving, I don't see why the order could not be placed with a local sailmaker. But I do know that as far back as I can remember the mailbags have been imported. I remember there was a terrific uproar, 10 or 15 or maybe 18 years ago, when it was learned that the mailbags, hampers, etc., had been made by prison labour in Canada or the States.... I am not protectionist by any means, but in a matter like this the whole thing is relatively small, and the difference on $75,000 is not going to be so wonderfully great....
Mr. Fudge ....I am at a loss to know why you did not mention that in the report.
Mr. Smallwood The members of the Committee did not consider it to be their duty to go into relatively small details. We are dealing with a department that deals with $1.5 million a year.
Mr. Fudge $75,000 is not a small detail.
Mr. Smallwood ....Anyway, to be quite frank the Committee did not take it up. The report of the Committee was mimeographed and tabled in this House before the matter came up at all. As a matter of fact it was brought up by me personally. I would like to see the matter settled.
Mr. Reddy If a local company is able to do the work I don't think it should be sent to Canada. I wish to concur with the previous speakers about the low salaries of the employees in the Department of Posts and Telegraphs. I think there are some local phone offices where the person employed does not get any salary at all. That's a shade worse. I go on record as protesting against those low salaries.
Mr. Bailey I hardly know where to begin in this thing here. I was not aware of the fact that mailbags are being imported from Canada, or else I certainly would have dug into it. I believe one time in this country mailbags were made in our own penitentiary. I don't think those things should be allowed whatever the saving. That is not what I got to my feet to speak about, however.
I want to stand alongside Rev. Mr. Hurry in the matter of the service given to the country. I believe, in fact I am sure, that never in our history has this country had the equipment that was fit for the country that we are in, thatcould save lives and give us service.... If we had a government that had been removed a little from the ox-cart age, this was a time when we could have got flying boats that could have handled our mail system on the Labrador in a matter of hours, and boats that would be on hand in case of sickness in any part of the island where a case wanted to be rushed to the hospital ... and when there is ice we could have amphibian planes. I did not intend to bring this up until the matter of health and welfare came in. Somebody would say it is a big expense, but it is not as big an expense as a cottage hospital, and we could save lives.... I believe that when the war was over and those flying boats that I spoke about were scrapped we could have had two or three of those for practically nothing, and amongst our airforce boys we had plenty of good pilots. The Labrador could have been looked after, whereas now it takes six to eight months to get a letter, and I know what that means. There is not much that we can say today except to draw their attention to it.... There is plenty of work for 50 of these flying boats, mail, freight, and mercy trips, and in places where men have to be moved from one part of the island to another, I think those boats would pay without any cost to the country. I believe in this way our posts and telegraphs service could be extended, and that our hospitals could be extended and brought to the doors of the people....
Mr. Newell Mr. Chairman, it seems to me that a discussion of this report would be utterly incomplete if we allowed it to pass from our hands without making some attempt to correlate the various sections of the report. Perhaps self January 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 257 criticism may be good for us — let's indulge for a little. I think there is a definite correlation between the various parts of this Transportation and Communications Report. Take for instance the sections on tourists and Gander. Surely they must have something in common. We have been criticised not a little because with one boot we kick people for spending a million a year on Gander, and at the same time urge them to spend many millions of dollars on roads to open up the country for the tourist trade. Somebody outside the Convention asked me if I did not think that Gander is doing a little to open up the country too. Things like that tend to give us an appearance off colour to the public. I don't care if the public are listening at the moment. That's one point.
Then there is a definite relationship between posts and telegraphs and broadcasting which has supplemented posts and telegraphs to a great degree in this country. You have only to listen to Gerald S. Doyle's News Bulletin[1] to realise that any day in the week. They spend five minutes broadcasting telegrams for people, which, if they had to follow the usual channels, would never arrive, because there are sections in this country where you cannot get a telegram through with any speed at all, not even, as Mr. Crosbie said, if you are willing to pay wholesale for it. They just don't go through.
Then again roads and railways should be considered in conjunction with each other. The question has been asked is it right to definitely endorse a policy of building a transinsular highway, for instance, when you have a transinsular railway, rather than concentrating on linking up some of the isolated settlements that need roads more? If we look about these settlements we can do so without any district consciousness or insular attitude at all, because they are parts of the greater problem. I feel that we must consider roads and railways in conjunction with each other....
The other thing that I intended to speak about was this: after we have read the report and discussed it, what profit has it brought us in our deliberation? In other words what does the report add to this general fact-finding job that we have to do? Now as far as Transportation and Communications are concerned, it seems to me that there are at least four questions we must answer:
1. What are these services costing?
2. Are they adequate?
3. If not, what should we be prepared to expend on them? And I suppose you might ask the question, why spend anything on them? Which leaves the fourth question,
4. What part have these services to play in the economic development of the country?
We must give a great deal of thought and attention to this matter — the economic potential value of the country, which we have not yet attempted to assess. I suppose when the other reports come in we will be getting down to that phrase of the discussion. These questions are important to me. If we are to make any intelligent estimate let's take a look at the answers.
First, what are these services costing? The figures I am quoting are from the report, and I am quoting from memory. Gander, about which we have a great many mental reservations, we think may cost up to $1 million.... Posts and telegraphs and broadcasting are negligible. One may have a slight deficit or small surplus. In order to retain our road system we will have to spend $1 million on highroads, and on local roads roughly $250,000. Tourists: the luscious plum was left to the last, because there seems to be some doubt about that one. We will call that X — the unknown quantity. As far as I am concerned that whole thing is an unknown quantity anyway. X plus $2.25 million to maintain our services in transportation and communications.
Mr. Smallwood The Railway?
Mr. Newell Well you can work in another $750,000 for the Railway, which brings it up to $3 million. Now as a projected transinsular highway would cost $6 million, and something for the tourists, which is unknown as yet, the question is, are these services adequate? It seems that Gander is more than adequate. Posts and telegraphs are wholly inadequate. Roads, we are all agreed that the present road system of the country is utterly inadequate. Now what should we be prepared to spend? There we are running into considerable difficulty. Why should we be prepared to expend anything? Well, there are only two reasons as far as I am concerned, one is that these services such as the railway and roads and the others have a part to play in the economic development of this country, which is at the present time undeveloped. I don't think we should look at these 258 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1947 services with an eye to what we can afford, or with the idea of cutting our garment according to the cloth, but with a view to finding a little more cloth somewhere. In other words, developing our economic resources so that we can fulfill the needs and provide a special service for the country. I am not prepared to carry the debate any further, but I do suggest that throughout a discussion of this sort we must keep in mind the prime purpose of this assembly, and I suggest that we look at the whole question of transportation and communications bearing these four simple questions in mind....
Mr. Hollett Mr. Chairman, after that rather lengthy homily on the duties of this Convention I feel disposed to say a word. I feel that nearly every member has the same idea in mind, that all these reports are to be taken and criticised and torn apart, in order to give us some idea what the services are costing the treasury, and that is exactly what we came here for.... I agree with Mr. Newell entirely, but I do feel that we have to find out what we can with regard to these reports, and if there is something we don't like, and if there is something that should be added, I don't know why we should not do something about it.
Mr. Newell I do not know when these questions have to be answered — sometime, certainly, they must. Perhaps now is not the opportune moment to go too deeply into that phase of it.... I do not want anybody to infer we should not criticise anything in these reports...
Mr. Smallwood There is another side to it all. Mr. Newell is dealing with the Convention itself — what the Convention ought to do, and with him we all agree.
The Education Committee brought in its report and we debated it here for a day. Perhaps we ought to have debated it longer. The Forestry Committee report we debated a day, or part of a day and they are bringing in a supplementary report. It deals with one of the basic resources of the country. Now in comes the Transportation Committee's report. It deals not with basic productive industries at all, but with one of the big spending departments of the government. As these three have come in, and as the other six will come in and are read out, the country hears them. The country as a whole has no opportunity of knowing what is in a report except when they hear it read on the air. Most of us, just by hearing figures and statistics read are unable to grasp them, and that is the purpose of the debate, among other things, to bring home to the Newfoundland people — our masters, whose servants we are — information to pass on to them. One of the purposes of the debate is to bring out the information that is in the reports, cold-blooded and with no adjectives — for instance, note the model of restraint in "scandalously low salaries paid." In the main the reports are just factual; it is the debate which makes them live, that makes the facts and figures get up and dance. Suppose we adopt another method, suppose we brought in all nine reports and debated them; suppose we appointed a new committee — a report consolidation committee — to knock all reports into one. Suppose we slapped that at the country — there would be a lot of mental indigestion. If we give it report by report, the country and ourselves will understand it better. So when we make our recommendations at last, it will not hit the country between the eyes as a surprise: they will have foreseen it, they will have anticipated it. I know if you were to ask the average Newfoundlander to give you a one-minute description of the posts and telegraphs, not one could do it — they do not realise what a monumental thing it is. We are educating the people of Newfoundland while educating ourselves. We must always remember not to get lost in a forest of facts and statistics — always bearing in mind that what we want to know is this: what is it going to cost the future government of Newfoundland, and where are we going to find it? We do not want people to think we are bogged down in the forest of information we have gathered. We are doing it bit by bit and thrashing it out as we go along.
Mr. Higgins Before we get too far in the woods, and if Mr. Smallwood is out of them, I wonder if he would revert to a question I asked earlier. I wanted to know the Committee's opinion of the usefulness of the radio-telegraph as against the old land line and the comparative cost of both services. My own impression is that the present radio-telegraph service is very much slower, so far as individuals getting messages is concerned. It does not appear to have been gone into in the report.
Mr. Smallwood I am not evading that question. It is one that is going to cost the country a million dollars. It is dealt with in this rather voluminous January 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 259 report of the Secretary. We are no authorities on radio-telegraph; we cannot form much of an opinion as to whether land line or radio-telegraph is best, but the department has.
Mr. Higgins Since that is a million dollar question, and my recollection of the report is that it is not very clear, and since I do not wish Mr. Smallwood to answer a question he does not know, we will let the question drop.
[There was further discussion, touching on telegrams, mail couriers, casual employees, capital expenditures, mail contracts with the railway and steamers, and service in general. The committee of the whale then rose and reported progress, and the Convention adjourned]


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).



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


  • [1] Volume II:75. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] The American base in St. John's.
  • [2] A manufacturer of road making material.
  • [3] A soft drink bottling company in St. John' s.
  • Volume II:95-6. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • Sir Percy Thompson, deputy chairman of the Board of Inland Revenue, was appointed to investigate Newfoundland's financial position in 1931. He was succeeded by John H. Penson. For further information see Peter Neary, Newfoundland in the North Atlantic World, 1929-1949 (Kingston and Montreal, 1988), p. 14 and p. 82.
  • The Labrador Development Co. carried on logging operations in southern Labrador.
  • A radio programme conststing of news and public servtce announcements.

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