Newfoundland National Convention, 20 October 1947, Debates on Confederation with Canada


October 20, 1947

Mr. Cashin Mr. Chairman, before I move this House into a committee of the whole to further consider this Finance Report,[1] there is a matter which I would like to draw to your attention, and to the attention of the delegates; that is with reference to the remarks made in connection with the compilation of the Finance Report on Friday afternoon by the delegate from Bonavista Centre, Mr. Smallwood. In commenting on this report, Mr. Smallwood, consciously or unconsciously, would lead one to believe that myself and those associated with me practically cooked up the figures and, whilst he might not have meant it, at the same time it was conveyed to the outside public that such was the case. Consequently, Mr. Chairman, I asked you on Saturday, after hearing these things from outside, to call a special meeting of the Steering Committee this morning, and 614 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1947 you know what happened at our meeting this morning in connection with these figures, that is in reference to the revenues and expenditures on pages 112-113, from 1897 up to Dec.31, 1946. I think that we produced sufficient evidence this morning to show that no such thing took place, and that the Finance Committee has been upheld. Under such circumstances Mr. Chairman, I would ask you to make an official ruling on this matter before we proceed to go into committee of the whole to discuss this report.
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, as Major Cashin has raised this matter, and as it refers to my remarks on Friday past, I would like to say that at no time since the report was tabled have I had anything but admiration for the fine piece of work which that report shows.... It is one of the finest reports laid before this Convention, and one of the most important. At no time have I thought that the Finance Committee has misrepresented any figures or statistics, and secondly, to the best of my knowledge and memory, on Friday I said nothing which would give any member of the public or of this Convention any...
Mr. Higgins Mr. Chairman, I don't want to interrupt Mr. Smallwood, but I think Major Cashin asked for a ruling. I think we should have this ruling.
Mr. Smallwood I would like to know what ruling Major Cashin desires. He has referred to me, and I am now making an explanation. Possibly, sir, if you have a ruling you might defer it until I make my explanation.
Mr. Chairman The position, Mr. Smallwood, is that the matter was discussed by the Steering Committee this morning, of which body you are a member. At the instance and request of the Steering Committee I am obligated to make a ruling.... Major Cashin's motion, in effect, is that I should briefly recapitulate to members what took place, the reason for convening the meeting and the ruling I am expected to make. I therefore propose to make my ruling at this time.
Before doing so I must direct the attention of members to the important distinction to be drawn between motive and effect. I am quite satisfied that Mr. Smallwood, in the course of his remarks, was prompted by the best of motives... I must rule that, quite irrespective of his remarks, Mr. Smallwood was prompted by the best of motives, and in particular to discharge his duties As I before said, however, the motive which prompts a remark, and the effect of that remark upon the mind of a third person are two entirely different things.... I am forced to remind members that, in my opinion, this is not a parliamentary body. This is simply a fact-finding body.... I will hold that members have not the rights and privileges belonging to members of Parliament.
It has been reported to the Steering Committee that some of the remarks made by the member for Bonavista Centre Friday afternoon last created in the minds of the public some opinions which unquestionably affected the integrity and honesty of the Finance Committee, who are responsible for that report.... The position briefly is this. Members will recall that approximately some six months ago a Finance Report was tabled, and on pages 112 and 113 certain figures had been compiled and set forth. In the course of the debate which occurred on Friday last, Mr. Smallwood questioned the correctness of the figures I want to draw a distinction here. The question with which I have to concern myself is whether or not the figures had been independently corroborated to the satisfaction of the Steering Committee as being correct and unimpeachable.... In Steering Committee the figures for the years 1897-98 to 1918-19, both inclusive, were accepted by both parties to the controversy as being correct. From the period 1919-20 to 1934-35 these were shown to be correctly copied from the Auditor General's reports.... I therefore rule that for the period 1919- 20 to 1934-35 the independent corroboration to be found in the Auditor General's reports leaves me no alternative than to conclude that these figures were correctly copied and taken from the Auditor General's reports. With regard to the remaining period, that is to say from 1935-36 to Dec. 31, 1946, no evidence one way or the other was submitted to us this morning, perhaps for the excellent reason that it is not available; but I am forced to the conclusion that these figures are correct for two reasons: in the first place all figures prior to the year 1935-36 were found correct.... If, therefore, it is found that two-thirds of a report is correct, then I am driven to the conclusion that the remaining one-third must be likewise correct, unless there has been evidence adduced to warrant my reaching a contrary conclusion.... It becomes my duty to hold that the figures were correctly copied, and they should October 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 615 not be misconstrued by any person as being cooked, or in any way reflecting upon the integrity and honesty or character of the individuals responsible for this report. On the contrary, I think it was a job extremely well done....
Now one further word. It may well be that members may feel that the manner in which the debit side and the credit side of balance sheets have been prepared by present administrations may have been incorrectly or improperly done. Upon that I make no continent. My only duty is, or was, to make sure that these figures were listed as taken from such government figures or statistics as may be available to members. On that point I have satisfied myself, and I therefore rule at this time that I find that the figures are correctly represented....
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, I think I am entitled in reply to Major Cashin's request to you to make a ruling, and in continent upon your ruling to say...
Mr. Chairman Just a minute, Mr. Smallwood, please. If it is your intention to appeal my ruling to the House that is your right but I remind you that you are not permitted to debate and appeal from my ruling to the house. I want to make it clear that when I met the Steering Committee after I had been sworn in there was handed over to me rules of procedure.... I have sworn that I will impartially and fairly preside over the deliberations of this room while I am here.... Unless and until any of the rules of procedure handed to me by the Steering Committee are repealed, varied, altered or amended by two- thirds of this House, it becomes my sworn duty to enforce your rules. I did not make these rules, they were made for me. I shall preside here to insure that the rules of debate shall be conducted with propriety, and in accordance with the rules of procedure....
Any ruling that I make I shall expect to be respected and observed. Unless and until my ruling is appealed to and reversed by the House as a whole, I propose to act on my rulings as if they were judgements of this House. It is the constitutional right of any member to appeal my ruling, but he must do one of two things: he must either abide by my ruling, or else he must appeal from it to the House.... I will promptly put any appeal from any decisions I may make to this House, and of course I must naturally abide by any decision reached by the House as a whole. Therefore I must say two things: one, while a member is addressing the Chair he has no right to come between the speaker and the Chair. It is in the interest of all you gentlemen that I should reserve to you the dignity and respect to which you are fairly entitled. That I can only do if by and with your sympathy I am permitted to enforce the rules, that no member shall rise or interrupt a speaker who is addressing the Chair, unless and until he rises to a point of order, at which time he will be asked to state his point of order. A ruling will, if possible, be immediately given on that point of order, and then, if he is dissatisfied with the decision his remedy is to appeal to the House as a whole. With that in mind, Mr. Smallwood, I want to reserve to you the right to correct, by way of appeal to the House if you like, any misapprehensions I was unfortunate enough to convey, or any decisions thatI wrongfully arrived at....
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, there was nothing further from my mind than to appeal against your ruling.... It was my intention merely to say that not for a moment had I any thought that in the writing and compilation of this Finance Report did the Finance Committee or any member of it have any desire to change or twist or distort or falsify any figures whatsoever.... At no time did I have in my mind, nor have I now, any doubt about the integrity of that Committee or their honesty. I have no doubt that, in copying those figures, they copied them correctly and accurately, with the exception of one item which I will refer to at some other time; that they just took the figures from the Auditor General's report and copied them, and that is what they put in this table.
Mr. Chairman You do accept that? That their bona fides in honesty in copying the figures is not in question at all?
Mr. Smallwood I never doubted it at all, except for one short period on one side of the ledger, and that is purely a technical matter which I hope to have the pleasure to explain. My entire point is that the very reports which the Finance Committee took their figures from are themselves wrong....
Mr. Higgins I rise to a point of order. You have ruled these figures correct, and I don't think Mr. Smallwood is at all within his rights in discussing 616 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1947 these matters.
Mr. Chairman I was about to say that you either appeal against my ruling or subscribe to it, and I don't think that you should say any more at this time because the order paper requires us to resolve the House into a committee of the whole at this time. If you want to again address yourself on the Financial Report it will be your right to do so.
Mr. Smallwood I intended to do that when the House goes into committee of the whole. At this moment I am concerned only with exercising my rights as a member of this Convention to put myself correctly before the House.
Mr. Chairman I must allow you that right.
Mr. Smallwood That is what I am trying to do, and I will do it in these words: at no time have I doubted the bona fides, the integrity and the honesty of the Finance Committee in copying these figures into the report. Now I want further by way of explanation to say this, that the quarrel I have is not at all with the Finance Committee, but with the source from which they got their figures and in committee of the whole I propose to show why I quarrel with the source.
Mr. Chairman That is very fair and very reasonable I assure you that I reserve to you every right to make any further comments which you desire in committee of the whole.

Report of the Finance Committee:[1] Committee of the Whole

Mr. Cashin My understanding is that in dealing with all these reports, it is a matter of questions and answers.... All this fuss would be overcome if questions were put properly to me; I want to tell every member, as far as I am capable, any questions they want to put to me about expenditures, or revenues or capital expenditures, as far as I know, I shall be only too delighted to enlighten them.
Mr. Smallwood I do not know that I have any questions to put to the chairman of the Finance Committee but since this Convention began, ... it has been the practice when the House goes into committee of the whole, to do two things in connection with reports which were before us: to direct questions to the chairman of the committee whose report was being debated, and to have members make their interpretations and deductions from the facts stated. I do not want to direct any questions at the chairman of the committee but I do wish to make one or two interpretations on the facts that are contained in that report.... Sir, the Finance Committee was perfectly right in beginning their survey of the country's finances, not at 1934 but rather back early in the century, because it is quite impossible to understand the story of Newfoundland since 1934 unless we understand her story for some years before 1934.... I propose to take the period 1920 down to the present time, because that period is within the conscious recollection of most people in this Convention this afternoon.
Mr. Chairman In fairness to you and to myself, your position is that the prescribed period is incapable of being properly understood unless and until you take the period anterior to that period which is necessary to the understanding of this prescribed period?
Mr. Smallwood That is exactly the position I take. We have been doing that in all the reports.... The practice of the government in its accounting since 1934 has been this: on the one side, under the heading of "Revenue" they place everything they received, and on the other side under the heading of "Expenditures" they place everything they spent. Whether public money is spent on ordinary account or current account, capital or reconstruction or special account, it is all expended.... There is no more point in the practice of showing the total expenditures as capital or ordinary than there is to call what was spent in October different from what was spent in November.... The table showing the expenditures of the government for that year should show every dollar and every cent they spent. Similarly, on the revenue side every dollar that the government receives goes into what is called the Consolidated Revenue Fund — abbreviated CRF.... So when a table is compiled showing what money the government has received in a year, every cent they received should be in that table, and every cent which they have spent. The Commission of Government has done exactly that since 1934.... Unfortunately, in taking the reports of the Auditor General from 1920 to 1934 that cannot be done, because it was the practice up to 1934 October 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 617 ... to split it up into all kinds of headings, and not to give one figure showing the grand total received and the grand total amount spent in the one table.
Between 1920 and 1934 the practice of all governments, as I so well know, having sat in here from before 1920 as a newspaper reporter right down to when the last speech was made, day after day, ... the practice in Newfoundland on the part of all governments was that they took in so much in revenue from the people of Newfoundland, but it was not enough money. They had to cover their expenses and what did they do? They went out and they borrowed money; every year they borrowed.... In all, $60 million. That is what the various governments borrowed from 1920 to 1933. Now, it may be held that the reason they borrowed was because they were not taking in enough revenue to pay their expenses. They took so much from the people in taxes, the rest they borrowed. It may be said that $60 million was well spent. It was spent on capital account to put the country in a better condition, to provide facilities and conveniences for the people; it was well spent, it may be argued. Let us take a look at it. 1921 — $6 million, what was it spent on? First of all, half a million was spent to pay off temporary loans for the railway; $1 million was spent on other railway purposes; half a million on public works — spent on a per capita basis throughout the country; half a million on special public works, guaranteeing fishery supply, half a million on railway operating deficit. $5.5 million out of $6 million. You could not say it was spent on capital account; it was spent on account of the ordinary purposes of the government, to carry on the government. In 1922 they borrowed another $6 million. Did they spend that on capital account? They spent $1.75 million on the railway; Hall's Bay road (special district grant), $665,000; relief for unemployed, $128,500; roads and bridges, $1.5 million; relief work, $1 million; able-bodied pauper relief, $60,000. $5.5 out of $6 million for ordinary purposes of the country. No capital account. Next year they borrowed $3.5 million. $800,000 was spent to pay the deficit on 1921 and 1922; $300,000 was spent on railway operating purposes; $170,000 on roads and bridges and special relief work; $1 million on pit props. So it goes on.... In 20 years they borrowed $60 million, an average of $3 million a year, and most of it was spent not on capital account at all, but to carry on the ordinary purposes of government.... And who can say that $60 million was used in a capital sense to put the country in a better and sounder condition? It was the contention of many a man who stood in this chamber in the days of responsible government, whenever the estimates were brought down, ... that they were cooked; that the figures were falsified, a bluff, a camouflage, and did not tell the true story of this country's financial condition. Then when the other side got the floor, it was their turn to say the same thing. They said the Railway was a government department and they ran it at a loss every year. What do we know about operating losses on the Railway under the heading 'Ordinary Expenditure'? That was the burden of their song.... Major Cashin always contended the Railway deficits ought to be shown in the ordinary expenditure. They were not shown... We all know it was wrong on the part of the various governments and Auditors General — it was wrong not to show all the expenditure on ordinary account. The Committee just took the figures straight out of the Auditor General's reports; but at least one member of that Committee must have known; in fact I say he knew when he copied the figures very correctly...
Mr. Chairman ...Do I understand you are citing a statement of a former Minister of Finance as authority for the proposition you are about to state?
Mr. Smallwood That is exactly what I am doing. One member, in copying the figures from the Auditor General's reports from 1920-34 showing the ordinary expenditure each year, knew the figures were incomplete; they did not show the whole story. He knew they did not include what was paid out to cover the operating losses of the Newfoundland Railway.
Mr. Chairman ...Whether or not these figures were properly compiled by the government or whether or not the opinion of a member of that Committee should have prevailed over the government report seems to be immaterial...
Mr. Cashin I gather from Mr. Smallwood's statement that he is trying to tell the House that when we compiled this report we left out the deficits on the Railway?
Mr. Smallwood Only in this one case.
Mr. Cashin ....We are not trying to hide any 618 NATIONAL CONVENTION OCTOBER 1947 thing. When we were compiling the figures we kept the Railway revenues clear of this. We brought the Railway out as a separate entity. We showed the Railway had a total deficit of $4 million and that it had to be paid from some source. All the deficits from 1923-33 are also shown. What are we talking about, then? We said that deficits were paid for out of loans. We did not try to cover them up in any way. I object to this trying to convey that we left out something...
There is another point that I want to clear up in connection with these revenues referred to by Mr. Smallwood, that the revenues collected are not revenues brought in by taxation. True, during these periods amounts of money were brought in and piled into the same accounts. Now what used to happen in die old days, was when we raised a loan, that loan was borrowed for specific purposes, and no Executive Council could change it without it being referred to the House. We established a new account in the bank for the 1928 loan. The Auditor General had charge of that loan, and he knew what specific purposes that loan was to be used for... Today what happens is that it is all piled in together and it makes it most difficult to follow. We consider that the budgets compiled by the present Commissioner for Finance are not clear. They do not show what the actual cost to the country is.... If I were making that budget speech I would point out that here is what it takes to operate the country, and here is how we spent it.... And the capital expenditure has to be explained; when the budget is explained 95% of the people don't realise that the cost of operating the country is much less than is actually shown in the budget. Mr. Chairman, in comment about how much the people know about this, when I started to go into these figures I had to buy one of these Auditor General's reports, and the bookstore told me they only sold seven Auditor General's reports in 12 months, which shows how much people could know about it. I realise that the government accounts in every country are tangled up, but there is nothing in this report that is left out as far as I know; if there is anything left out, and if we did not pile in all the expenditure we should have, we have accounted for it by capital expenditure...
Mr. Chairman ....It would be a decidedly dangerous thing for any member to take any excerpt from this report and comment on it without reference to the report as a whole. You are not justified in considering any part of this report without reference to the rest...
Mr. Smallwood I accept the point made by Mr. Cashin. I know that the point I am making is covered at one place and another throughout the report... But the point I am making, and I am sure Major Cashin will agree with me, is this: that the figures from 1920 to 1934, on the expenditure side, the figures that are in the Auditor General's reports, are not complete because they do not include all ordinary expenditure. They include some of it, but not all of it. But nevertheless the Committee took the figures as they were, and here they are. There is another point. Since Commission came here in l934 what we find is this: that the government, in the Auditor General's report for every year, has given a figure showing every dollar and cent they spent.... That's OK, but now turn over to 1934 up to now in revenue, and what do you find? You find left out money which the government had received and which they spent, and which is shown in the expenditure... I am referring to the advances made from year to year by the Colonial Development Fund. True that most of these were paid as loans from year to year, but when it got around 1940, or 1941 I think it was, the British government said, "Since your Commission has been out there we have advanced you every year so much money from the Colonial Development Fund. It now runs up to $8-10 million. We are going to give you that. It is an outright gift." That Colonial Development Fund money is included in the expenditure side here. My point is that these receipts of the government from the Colonial Development Fund ought to be included on the revenue side.
Mr. Cashin No. That's where the quarrel started before.
Mr. Smallwood Yes, and it's a matter of interpretation, or opinion. The facts are clear, and we have given our opinions on it. We differ in our opinions on it.... My opinion is that the Government of Newfoundland should show on the revenue side every dollar, every cent, that they have received, and on the expenditure side every dollar and every cent they spent. How else are we going to know where we stand as a country?
Mr. Chairman, I am about to take my seat, but before doing so I would like to say this: that I happen to have been born in Newfoundland. My October 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 619 ancestors in Newfoundland run back to the year 1707. That's a long time ago, and I am a Newfoundlander, yet I find on the part of some people, in and out of the Convention, this tendency: that if I am not prepared to stand up in this Convention and out of it, in speaking and writing, to paint the rosy picture, if I am not prepared to say that everything is rosy...
Mr. Higgins Mr. Chairman, I rise to a point of order. We are supposed to be discussing the Financial Report. I think Mr. Smallwood should be asked to confine his remarks to the Financial Report.
Mr. Chairman I think the point is well taken... The discussion must be confined to the Finance Report...
Mr. Smallwood What I want to say is that I am...
Mr. Penney Mr. Chairman, may I rise to a point of order also? I understand that Mr. Smallwood asked for 15 or 20 minutes this afternoon. Well, he is long past that time, and to me it seems awful funny to have to sit back here and have your ear drums almost blown out by the same person occupying the better part of the time of each session of the Convention.
Mr. Chairman On that point I am entirely powerless. There is nothing in the rules which would justify my imposing a time limit on any member. One of the reasons for resolving into a committee of the whole is to relax the rules of debate...
Mr. Smallwood I feel it my duty as a member of this Convention and as a Newfoundlander, to face the facts of the country's financial position fairly and squarely. Not to be optimistic or pessimistic, but to be realistic; to face the hard, brutal facts. One of the facts we must face is this: that between 1920 and 1940, the Government of Newfoundland ... failed to take in enough revenue to meet their expenses. They failed by $60 million to do it for 20 years.... There is a fact, and it is a fact I suggest to you in trying to anticipate to what extent the next 20 years will duplicate the 20 years from 1920 to 1940. We have got to face these facts.... Whatever form of government we have in the future we know that from 1920 to 1940 this country went broke $60 million in its expenses and had to go out and borrow the $60 million to make good.
Mr. Hollett Mr. Chairman, I wonder if Mr. Smallwood would be good enough to tell this House the amount of money for instance loaned by the federal government of Canada to Saskatchewan during these years?
Mr. Chairman What is the point of your question, Mr. Hollett?
Mr. Hollett The point is this: that there are a good many countries in this world. We all know that scarcely a country in this world during these years could pay its debts. They had to borrow money, and I refer chiefly to the Province of Saskatchewan simply because my friend Mr. Smallwood is an ardent confederate. He is trying to convince the people, through these microphones, that because we had to borrow $60 million during these years that we have no chance whatsoever for a future existence I want him to tell this country the exact position of certain provinces in Canada during these particular years, and particularly Saskatchewan....
Mr. Smallwood The answer is this: at the very time that Newfoundland went on the rocks the Province of Saskatchewan also went broke, just about as badly as this country did. Newfoundland, as we all know, lost self-government because we went broke. Great Britain stepped in and took our government from us. In Saskatchewan the Government of Canada loaned the Government of Saskatchewan I think $90 million. That was in the depression days of 1929-31. This year, in 1947, the federal government made a deal with Saskatchewan.... They signed a deal giving them some 20-odd years to pay half of it, and the other half the federal government has forgiven altogether.... Saskatchewan came out of it very well, and they did not lose their government as we did.
Mr. Chairman That is not the point. The point is that Saskatchewan did have to obtain $90 million from the federal government in order to carry on the provincial government at the same time that Newfoundland had to borrow outside, in order to carry on the cost of government....
Mr. Cashin Mr. Chairman, our friend is trying to make a wonderful point. We borrowed $60 million to pay our debts since 1920-21. Absolutely incorrect. Let us look at the whole story.... The object of this report was to get an overall picture of the country from 1934 down to now, but we went back a number of years, and here is the situation. Before we go any further, my friend opposite is trying to make a wonderful point that 620 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1947 in our revenues for the last few years we had not been showing the monies that we received as grants-in-aid from the Colonial Development Fund; in other words that these revenues are not correct. I contend that loans of money or advances are not revenues, but they are covered because on the other side of the fence we showed the expenditures out of that money, but we take good care to point out that in the text. If we take into account the fact that over $20 million has been spent on the capital or long account, which ordinarily should be deducted from our own expenditure, the final result for a period of half a century should show approximately $15 million. That shows that we did not try to cook this thing... Now if we took that $20 million from $469 million that leaves $449 million, consequently our revenue should be $469 million, which would leave us a surplus of $15 million. Now let's go a little further. We are not like Saskatchewan at all, we are away ahead of them. Why? Up to September 30 1947, we collected in revenues $499 million. That leaves us a deficit mind you, including these capital expenditures, a deficit of $3.4 million-odd. Now today our national debt is approximately $70 million. Against this we have $35 million in cash. That means if we paid it off tomorrow we would have a debt of $35 million. Now what have we got for that debt? To begin with we are lending money today free of interest, probably the only country in the world that is doing it, but what have we got for the $35 million? Take that report brought back by the Ottawa delegation, which shows we have a railway which is valuable to someone. I don't think the Railway is worth $72 million, but that's down in black and white. in addition we have all our public buildings today in the country, say $10 million.
Mr. Smallwood Can you? I doubt it.
Mr. Cashin That statement is approximately correct.... Therefore our total assets are approximately, and I say approximately, $107 million. Now if we deduct that $35 million which we owe, we have a definite surplus left (on paper, mind you) of $70 million in round figures. That is the position as far as the Government of Newfoundland is concerned today. Now if we take, on top of that, the other hundred-odd million dollars in the bank, and we add our life insurance, our securities and all else, I hold today that this country is in an outstanding financial position — unequalled by any country in the world. True we have gloomy days coming before us. So has every other country. Why, the mother country that is supposed to be backing our note, so to say, what financial position is Great Britain in? What financial position is Canada in? Today in Canada they are having great difficulty in making some arrangement to offset the dollar trade with the United States of America.
When we say $60 million, we have to say, "What have we got left on our shelves?" We have to take stock at the end of the year like any firm on Water Street. A businessman may not have any money in the bank; he sometimes has to pay profits tax and he has to go to the bank to borrow it. He has a big stock on hand. That stock represents his surplus. That is the position as I see it with Newfoundland. We were in financial difficulties, we have gone through hard times, but today no one will deny that this country is in as sound a financial position as any other country in the world.
Mr. Vardy Mr. Chairman, we have come to the report so long awaited with bated breath, for it is from our findings and our interpretation of what the Finance Committee has prepared that we base our conclusions for our final recommendations to the people of Newfoundland. In view of the very unsettled conditions as the result of a long and bloody conflict, we cannot hope to escape the inevitable share of a general world depression. In some respects we will suffer more than our proportionate share, and in others we will experience less...
Mr. Chairman That is where you start to prophesy and it is absolutely irrelevant and out of order. I would ask the members to confine their remarks to the Finance Report....
Mr. Vardy I have based my remarks solely on the result of the findings of the various committees, particularly the Financial Report. If I wander, I apologise. It must be generally admitted that for the past seven years Newfoundland has been on the favourable side of the balance sheet. This was more artificial than real in the sense that it was wartime prosperity brought about through our strategic position as the Gibraltar of the West Atlantic, and what might prove our doom and disaster in 1960 was our blessing in 1940, for just as sure as we reaped October 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 621 a measure of financial benefits from our geographical position in the last war, we will suffer being the front line battleground of the next, and we will pay both in manpower and cash. All this we are only too conscious of, and it would be folly on our part to ignore these unpleasant facts. I presume this Convention will, in due course, bring in an Economic Report based on the substance of the findings of the various committees.... Regardless of how critical we may be over the construction or interpretation of certain actions by the powers ruling us, we do agree on the main basic principles. As far as the cost of government goes, this has increased in every country out of all proportion to what the people should be called upon to pay. Newfoundland is not the exception and the public are only too conscious of this unpleasant fact; but it is the duty of the next government to cut not only the number but the cost to a minimum, more in harmony with the requirements and earnings of our people. We have studied the figures for over a year, and believe it or not our people are interested in hearing our conclusions and have expected this whole business to wind up long ago. Nine out of every ten of our listening public are well informed on the cost of all governments and none of the whole 100% would do much better if they were there. Newfoundlanders generally are wondering, "Where do we go from here?" If I were given the privilege of moulding a plan for this country, I would first restore to Newfoundland full dominion status....
Mr. Chairman We are not discussing forms of government at this time.... Let me again please remind members that the primary duty of the Convention, and you are now engaged upon it, is to consider the financial and economic position of the island as and from 1934. Then after that you will go on to consider the question of future forms of political institutions. I must ask members at this time if they would confine themselves strictly to the Financial Report....
Mr. Vardy I respect your ruling and I will drop a paragraph. I have heard other members discuss forms of government and you did not interfere.
Mr. Chairman If the inference is that I have discriminated in favour of certain men, I can only apologise, I am merely attending for the fourth time. It will take time to get a working grasp of what goes on.
Mr. Vardy I understand that. You will agree with me it is also difficult for us; after all, we are only laymen. It is difficult in discussing the Finance Report to avoid touching on the political side. However, I will drop out a paragraph. Now it would be monotonous to the public for every member to get up to repeat these figures we have heard the past few days, and I propose to give a brief resume of the present position as I see it after giving the whole matter exhaustive study and consideration.
Mr. Chairman, if our cash balances were applied to our liabilities, our per capita debt would be in the vicinity of something like $115 per head — a very healthy position indeed. Two of our staple industries, paper and mining, never were in a healthier condition. Our fishing industry has received an unexpected setback, as it was generally felt the past spring that prices would be as good as last year, but in reality, apart from the matter of exchange, the average price received by the fishermen is really about $2 less, $1 directly on the price and at least $1 on the cull. I fear the price of fish will gradually come down; but I am optimistic enough to believe that great strides will be made in the matter of modern curing, handling and marketing, and the millions from the fish-eating countries who have migrated to the central and western states will be reached with our fish products packed and cured under the most modern and sanitary conditions. The Marshall Plan will, if accepted, leave many millions of American dollars in Newfoundland for herring and other sea products to be shipped to Europe in a similar manner to the UNRRA pack, and replacing it in perhaps a bigger way. Our lumber industry has taken a temporary slump, but we have no surplus of lumber to cause any real anxiety in this respect. New industries are cropping up in many of the larger outports as well as St. John's. absorbing many of the men who have been left idle through most of the base works being finished.
The general overall picture is as bright for us as for any other country we know. Yet I would not say that Newfoundland will always run as a separate entity in the British Commonwealth — it may even in the very near future unite with her neighbours on the continent — but looking back at the manner in which our counuy's pride, wealth and territory have been needlessly sacrificed 622 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1947 during the past 14 years, we cannot afford to risk the handling of such a serious and delicate matter as confederation to a group of irresponsible trustees who have proved beyond a shadow of doubt they are incapable of protecting the best...
Mr. Chairman Please, Mr. Vardy, I want you to understand there is no attempt on my part to discriminate against you in any shape or form. Prognostications as to our economic potentialities or future forms of political institutions are, I rule, entirely irrelevant. I must ask members now to confine themselves to a direct discussion of the Financial Report.
Mr. Vardy I have never been brought to order by the Chair. I shall never stoop to personal abuse of any member here. If the Chairman finds in the heat of debate he must call me to order, if he is right I shall bow to his better judgement, if he is wrong, I shall defend myself in a manner appropriate to the occasion. Sir, your task is a difficult one I do not envy you. When our feelings run deep, so will our language. I feel, Mr. Chairman, after most carefully examining the balance sheet we can assume full responsibility for our future destiny unafraid. With hard work, determination and endurance, the pride of Newfoundland will again be restored to her proper place in the new world order.
Mr. Higgins I should like to move that we decide now to terminate the debate and that we adopt the report without further discussion. I do not know if I can move it at this time.
Mr. Chairman I will accept the motion. I will ask the House if it is ready to receive the motion, but if the House decides to debate the motion, then I obviously cannot accept it. If you have a seconder I will ask the House if they are prepared to accept the motion.
Mr. Job I will second that. My feeling is that this report will get lots of attention when we come to the discussion of the economic side. It is merely a short postponement of further discussion; and as a matter of fact people have been speaking to the economic section. I do not think we have been discussing the Financial Report. I think we should wait until we have the economic section.
Mr. Chairman The motion before the Chair is calculated to determine further debate on the Financial Report. Before putting the motion, I shall ask if the House is ready to receive the motion. If the House decides, or feels that further debate is desirable, of course the motion will be voted down. In the event of the motion's being accepted, it will mean, of course, that further debate has been terminated. Moved by Mr. Higgins and seconded by Mr. Job that the report of the Finance Committee be received and adopted, is that it, Mr. Higgins?
Mr. Higgins Yes, without further debate.
Mr. Smallwood I rise to a point of order. Can you adopt a report in committee of the whole? Mr. Chairman You can receive it.
Mr. Higgins I meant to renew the motion when you took the Chair.
Mr. Chairman Moved and seconded that the Report of the Finance Committee be received. Is it the wish of the house to receive the motion?
Mr. Ashbourne I just wish to bring up a matter which may not particularly have any bearing on the Financial Report but which I believe has a considerable bearing on the financial position of some of our fishermen which seems to be rather in doubt. I refer to the matter of the conversion of the sterling received for shipments of fish, into Newfoundland or Canadian currency....
Mr. Job Point of order. I do not think the speaker is speaking to the point we are discussing. I do not want to stop Mr. Ashbourne, but I thought it would be better for him to bring up the subject when the adjournment is moved.
Mr. Chairman The motion is that the Report of the Finance Committee be received.
[After considerable procedural debate, the Chairman ruled the motion out of order. The committee then rose and reported progress]
[Mr. Hollett asked when the Economic Report would be submitted]
Mr. Cashin We discussed a certain programme, but we did not get to any final decision as to what programme we are going to carry out. I think we can make our final decision tomorrow as to what form, or forms, we will adopt to bring our Economic Report to the House.
Mr. Chairman Thank you. Does that answer your question?
Mr. Hollett Not quite. I have been giving some thought to this report. We have to decide whether or not this country is self-supporting, which I think is a very silly thing to have to do, because I don't think any individual, country, or town or anything else is self-supporting; but we have to decide this, and consequently we have to have October 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 623 this Economic Report, but the reason I raised the point is that I am doubtful as to whether or not the Finance Committee is the correct committee to make this report, or if they are, should not they be aided by at least the chairmen of the various natural resource reports which we have had, such as Fisheries, Mining, and the others. I think it would be wise if some men from these other committees were added to the Finance Committee. I think they should be assisted by some members of the other committees that worked on the real natural resources of this country.
Mr. Cashin When we meet tomorrow in the Finance Committee we will discuss that point and will be able to give a report as to what we feel should happen, or think should happen in the future in connection with this Economic Report....
Mr. Chairman ....The Economic Committee has the right to invite members of other committees, and particularly of committees which have already tabled reports, or even to go outside of that altogether.... The Committee is empowered to call before them all such persons and obtain everything which they may consider necessary for the proper framing of the report.
Mr. Hollett Mr. Chairman, that's the very point I was getting at...
Mr. Higgins I feel we can leave it to the Committee to decide that. Now, with respect to this notice of motion, I did propose to give it in this form:
I give notice that I will on tomorrow move that further discussion of the Report of the Finance Committee be postponed until the Economic Report of the Finance Committee has been presented.
But in view of the fact that this would be the only business tomorrow in the event of its being passed, I would like the indulgence of the House to have a vote on it now, because it seems rather useless to come back, if this motion is brought up tomorrow, and meeting for ten minutes and then adjourning. I think we could see what the views of the members are on this matter.
Mr. Chairman The House has the right in any circumstances where notice of motion is ordinarily required, to dispense with notice which would ordinarily otherwise be required... The motion is to the effect that notice of motion which would ordinarily otherwise be required to be dispensed with.
Mr. Higgins That notice be dispensed with — yes.
Mr. Smallwood That requires the assent of the whole House, sir?
Mr. Chairman Yes.
Mr. Smallwood Speaking to that motion, and speaking purely for myself...
Mr. Chairman It has not been seconded yet.
Mr. Smallwood Well, to enable it to be voted on, I second it. I have no desire to continue or discontinue the debate on the Finance Report, none whatever. If it goes on I am satisfied, or if it stops I am satisfied, but I wonder if. there is anyone in the House who feels that he would like to contribute to the debate and is perhaps a little diffident at this moment to say so for fear he would be blamed for holding up the work of the Convention...
Mr. Higgins I say that does not prevent them when the Economic Report is presented, but tomorrow, if the House does not receive it unanimously today, I am giving notice and it may be carried tomorrow, and we are wasting the whole day for nothing.
Mr. Chairman A motion may be made without previous notice by unanimous consent of the Convention....
[After some debate, Mr. Higgins' motion was deferred. 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:369. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] Volume II:369. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]

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