Newfoundland National Convention, 21 October 1947, Debates on Confederation with Canada


October 21, 1947[1]

Report of the Finance Committee:[2] Committee of the Whole

Mr. Cashin In order to get along with this report, I understand that there's several gentlemen who desire to make some comment or ask some questions, and as usual, I'm prepared to help out in every respect and give them the best answers I know how to.
Mr. Newell There are not very many comments that I have to make, and not very many questions that I want to ask. But I think it would be rather discourteous if this report was hurriedly passed over. There must have been a tremendous amount of work drawn into the compilation of the report and as far as I know, and I'm not speaking as an authority on the financial matters at all, merely as a layman, it is a very excellent report in most respects. There are one or two points in connection with sections of the report that I should like to raise before we read it. I'm going to refer the Convention first of all to the section in which a matter of opinion is expressed by the Finance Committee, pages 97-98. I'll read it so nobody need bother to turn back. "It is the considered opinion of the Finance Committee of this National Convention, that at no time during the period from 1940-41 to 1945-46 should the total expenditure of the country have exceeded the sum of $21 million annually. This would have meant an additional $20 million in surplus account today."
Of course that's not offered as a fact. That is offered as a matter of opinion concurred in I take it by nine or ten people. There are 40 or 44 of us here and possibly there are 20 or 25 different opinions on a matter such as this. The thing that I want to know is, does this refer to expenditures on existing services? They say that the expenditure should have been kept down to $21 million annually. Now what I want to know is this: whether this $21 million should have been meant to cover the existing services that we have today, or is it implied by the Committee that we have services which are unnecessary, which should have been dispensed with? That point is not brought out clearly and perhaps it's a minor point. Personally, I don't know what existing services we could dispose of. As for the second part of that opinion, that this would have meant an additional $20 million in surplus account, that presupposes that if the expenditures had been less, the same revenue under any form of government would have been collected. Let me say quite frankly that I'm inclined to doubt that, because any form of democratic government is naturally very sensitive to the wishes and to the demands of the people; and the demands that I have heard raised by the public have been largely on the side of decreasing taxation. I think we're all aware that quite a demand was made some years ago by one influential organisation[1] right here in this town to oppose measures to collect what was called retroactive income tax. So it's a matter of some doubt whether under any other than a dictatorial government, that amount of revenue would actually have been collected. Possibly the Finance Committee feels entirely differently about it. They offer an opinion. I'm offering one.
Again, going back to the first point raised, the expenditures should not have exceeded $21 million annually. I'm wondering if the Committee was thinking in terms of past standards of government expenditures, rather then the ideals and ideas that more modern governments have towards, for instance, a matter like social security. And I think that today if you look around the British Commonwealth of Nations, you will find that most of the governments that comprise that Commonwealth are looking towards expenditure on social security. We have been remiss in that connection in this country. I don't think that we have done a great deal for those who, having contributed largely to the revenue of the country as producers, find themselves through illness or old age or something or other, put in a position where they can no longer support themselves And I feel that if we are to look forward to a standard of living comparable to that of other countries within the British Commonwealth, we must envisage expenditures along social security lines compatible with expenditures in some of those other countries. Now we're all a bit touchy here on comparisons with our neighbours, so in making the comparison I'd like to go as far away from home as possible. I find on referring to a book written by Mr. Walter Nash that in 1944 the New Zealand government was spending on social security alone £12,577,000 and at the rate of $366 US dollars for a New Zealand pound, that translates into something like $45.5 million, for a population of 1,641,000 which, if my division is correct, works out at something like $27 per capita. On that basis, we in Newfoundland would need to spend $9 million annually approximately, to provide our people with the social security services that they enjoy in New Zealand. I not only went as far away from home as possible, but I picked the best one. If you're going to aim at anything perhaps it's just as well to aim at the October 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 625 best. Because it's my understanding that New Zealand is ahead of other countries on social security. I understand, from reference to the Chadwick-Jones report,[1] that excellent report that was tabled here very early in the Convention and then more or less discreetly forgotten by agreement between all parties ever since, I find that in 1943-44 we were spending in this country on relief and welfare approximately $1 million. I'm not here to advocate confederation with New Zealand; I'm putting forward this comparison in order to suggest that perhaps when the Finance Committee offers this opinion that our expenditures should be kept down to $21 million a year, there may possibly be greener pastures for our people that they're not quite taking into account.
There's another point which I think is on page 5 of the report ... in which the Committee is discussing the period from 1920-21 to 1932-33, the last 13 years of self-government. During this period the government raised loans on the credit of the country of $54 million, less approximately $11 million which was used for refunding loans maturing, thus leaving a net amount of loans actually raised of approximately $43 million. Again on reference to the Chadwick-Jones report, they give for the fiscal years 1918 to 1940, which covers that period — a few years on either end are added — they tell us there that 7.5% of our total revenue was raised from income tax, whereas in 1945 28.8% was raised from income tax. Now, there's no note taken of anything of that sort in the Committee's report, because it works out something like this. My figures, subject to check, the total revenue for the period is $119,197,000, which gives you an average revenue of $9.1 million approximately; 7.5% of the total revenue came from income tax, which would give you approximately $690,000 average income tax per year.... We're trying to search the past, to see if the country could have done better, and we're trying to make some estimate as to what our financial position will be in the future. I wonder if it's just possible that we might have done a little more with raising money on our own in those days. I don't want to startle you. But we have here several old parliamentarians and possibly they could toss in an opinion on a point like that.
There's another point that I want to raise; I think that it appears on page 111 and it's been dealt with extensively already, so that you may think that I'm just labouring it to death. If we take into consideration the fact that during the past five years over $20 million has been expended on capital and loan account which ordinarily should be deducted from the total expenditure, the final result for the period of nearly half a century should show approximately $15 million surplus. Now we had that thrashed out and there was quite a bit of debate and explanation given on it yesterday; but the chairman of the Finance Committee made reference to the fact that people outside the Convention, perhaps people in it as well, have been getting some wrong ideas. We all know how easy it is for anyone of us to say one thing, and have somebody else the next morning tell you that you said something entirely different. I haven't kept my ear to the ground unduly, but I found a few people who seemed to have got the idea that we of the Convention feel that expenditures on capital account don't matter, that they're just not expenditures at all. I think it would be wise for us to correct that impression. My own view is that capital expenditures have to be taken into account. I believe it is the custom that most commercial enterprises, if they invest say $100,000 in the building of a warehouse, and they figure that the warehouse will last them 20 years, to write off as against that capital expenditure each year, an amount say of $5,000 each year; that is ordinary depreciation. The capital expenditure in that case is in no way to be regarded as an expense. Because the expense is spread over, in this particular instance, 20 years. I enquired privately from the chairman of the Committee yesterday and he informs me, and actually he confirms, the impression that I already had, that governments do not do that. Our government makes no provision out of its annual expenditure for depreciation on any buildings. Is that right? I see Mr. Hollett over there shaking his head. I don't know if that's in agreement or in disagreement. But if that is so, that no depreciation expenditures are taken care of annually, then it would seem that if as a government, we spend $20,000- $25,000 on a hospital, that is very definitely expenditure, whether it's capital expenditure or not, a necessary expenditure, and it's something that we must take into account when we are 626 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1947 evaluating the ability of the country to support itself. Because when that hospital is worn out we shall have to build another one, and these capital expenditures go on year after year. And I'm also told by people who claim to know something about these things that as a general rule, if you take your capital expenditures over a period like 20 or 25 years, and average your expenditure for that period, you're likely to find that what you have is the average of your capital expenditure required for the next 20 or 25 years.
I've been unable to find from perusing this report that the Committee takes seriously into account section three of the act which sets forth that we are to bear in mind the extent to which our high revenues have been due to wartime posterity. I don't find that there's very much mention of that in the Financial Report. It more or less gives the figures and lets us place our own interpretation on them. On page 107, coming to the year 1940-41, we find our budget balance for the first time in 11 years, and a small surplus was shown. Now, that certainly might lead one to jump to the conclusion that wartime increased expenditures had something to do with our balancing our budget. But I think we must at all times bear in mind the extra labour and high prices that we've received for our products during this period. The report doesn't go into any fundamental changes that have taken place in our economy. But I imagine that would be left more for the economic section of the report than for the financial, and we accept it as such. But I would ask us all to bear in mind, that in all good capitalist economies, due note and very serious note is always taken of what is called the business cycle; in fact the whole world is very responsive to this business cycle, almost as to an act of God. I refer of course to the boom that you get from times of prosperity followed by a recession followed by a bust, followed by a slow recovery, and finally a boom again. If you read economic history you'll find that that's gone on and on, and it's taken for granted. And such things as social security schemes, family allowances and what not, that we have referred to already, are in my opinion guy wires or props to keep up an economic system and keep it going, which takes note of these things and accepts them as part of the system. I think it's very necessary that in the future we should keep that kind of thing ahead of us; and the point is not to say that we are worse off than other countries or better off than other countries. That's not enough. What we want to know is where we stand objectively, where we stand financially. Beyond this I have no desire to go at the moment in commenting on or committing myself to the conclusions reached by the Finance Committee, and set forth by them in the concluding pages of their report. The work they undertook was considerable and the result as far as it goes is commendable. It seems to me however that we can all too glibly separate the financial from the economic. We've been saying this can come up in the Economic Report, and that'll come up in the Economic Report, this is merely a Financial Report. But are not high or low revenues the outward visible and financial signs of a thriving or a depressed economic condition? You cannot entirely separate the two. Well, we've had a Financial Report, and in the main I'm satisfied with it. It's been excellent in its factual contents. We are also to have an Economic Report equally as good 1 trust. I feel though, and I must say this in all fairness to myself and to the Committee, that the conclusions set forth in the summary of the Financial Report might more properly have been drawn from a consideration of both reports together, rather then from the Financial Report alone.
Mr. Smallwood If there's no one to take advantage of the opportunity, there's a question I'd like to direct to Mr. Cashin. It arises from a statement on page 52. It says:
The Finance Committee also deplores the action of the Commission of Government with respect to a restriction by the Commission of the rates of pay to be given our Newfoundland workmen in return for their services in the construction of the American bases, inasmuch as it is asserted that the Commission of Government gave direct or indirect instmctions to the American and Canadian contractors not to pay Newfoundlanders the same rates of pay as the American workmen for performing similar work, on the grounds that it would upset the general economy of the country.
Then it goes on to say that the first contingent of American military forces arrived here in January 1941, and began the construction work and goes on to tell of the Canadian military authorities October 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 627 coming here and also beginning construction. And this whole paragraph deals with a matter which aroused intense and bitter interest amongst the people of Newfoundland during those wartime base construction years. First, I want merely to ask the chairman of the Finance Committee if he would tell us what he knows, or what the Committee knows, about that situation. Most of the people in this country today believe that the Commission of Government directly or indirectly, legally or illegally, morally or immorally, somehow caused wages on the bases to be kept down lower then the Canadian and American governments and contractors were willing to pay: that our government kept them down and lost many millions of dollars. On page 98 you say, "We are also of the opinion, that if the Commission of Government had not restricted the rates of wages to be paid our people engaged in the construction of military naval and air bases, the earnings of those people would have been supplemented by an additional $15 to $20 million."
I'd like the chairman of the Finance Committee to tell us and tell the country, what he knows in addition to what has been put in this part of their report and then, secondly, without any desire to prolong the debate, I propose to tell a little that I happen to know about the same matter.
Mr. Cashin Mr. Chairman, in reply to Mr. Smallwood, when this matter was brought up in the Finance Committee we had considerable discussion on it. Some of us felt that we shouldn't inject it into the report at all. But we had businessmen, mind you, associated with this Committee. We discovered that in many instances our own businessmen right here in the city of St. John's were paying more money for labour than was being paid to similar labour on the various military bases. We were also in touch with some labour leaders and we had one gentleman on our Committee familiar with the situation, who told us definitely that direct or indirect instructions had been given the Americans when they started work, particularly at Argentia, that the rate of pay wasn't to be above 30 or 35 cents an hour; and that afterwards, these various labour organisations got together and approached the government and they got the rate of pay jacked up to another 5 or 10 cents an hour. I think that's what my memory tells me. Now it is generally known all over the country that at that time there were Canadians and Americans brought down here and put on jobs, and paid much more money for similar work than Newfoundlanders. I have talked with men repeatedly who told me that they were working for the Americans in Argentia and could have got more money, but the bosses on the jobs told them, "Your own government tells us not to pay you any more than this for doing such a job." That was quite prevelant. It was general knowledge throughout the country that that was the case. We didn't bring in the Commissioner of Public Utilities for instance, and ask him about it because we knew the first thing he'd tell us, after our experience with him in the connection with the Gander airport, that he wasn't here when this was done. And that would end that. It was in the days of Sir Wilfred Woods that all this thing was done by the Department of Public Utilities. And there's labour men in this House today more familiar with what happened in this respect than I am. I have repeatedly stated and broadcast over the air, and it hasn't been contradicted yet by the government or by anyone else, that this was done to keep down the cost for the Americans and for the Canadians at the expense of the labouring man in Newfoundland. And I'm still of the same opinion that it was done for that purpose. Some say that it was done in order to protect certain business interests in the country. Now all these points are ones that should not be brought up here at the present time or we're going to be fighting about businessmen getting preference from the government, but the facts are that the Commission government did actually do that. They gave the instructions and unfortunately many of these contractors are gone out of the country now and we couldn't corroborate it by their personal proof. The rates of pay paid the Americans and the Canadians, if they had been paid to the Newfoundlanders, we figured that another 25% in earning power would have accrued to our people which they were deprived of because of this action. With regard to the economy of the country, I can't see how it would hurt it for this reason, that it would have given these men another $10 — 15 million which they would be able to spend, which would create profits for those who were in business, and revenue for the country. I'd like Mr. Smallwood to explain what he knows about it, and I think that Mr. Fudge and other gentlemen here know more about it than I 628 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1947 did.
Mr. Hannon In order to satisfy the chairman of the Finance Committee and my friend from Bonavista Centre, I say here now without fear of contradiction, that the Commission government did issue that order, that certain rates of wages be paid in Newfoundland when the war was on, when the military boys were running it here. I was in a position to know, as I happened to be employment agent at Gander, and had all to do with the rates of wages, rising demand and all the rest. I received orders from the President of the Atlas Construction Company, no less a person than Sydney Dawes, and before he gave the order he said, "What kind of rum have you got there?" "Well," I said, "not much rum." He says, "I didn't think so." "Harmon," he said, "you're to pay labourers only 30 cents." I said, "Well, Mr. Dawes," I said, "we can't get labourers." An order from the government, and to settle it the only way we could to get the labourers there to re-engage, thousands and thousands of men, was to offer them 10% in savings securities, and we were never allowed to pay them any more then 30 cents cash. As a matter of fact I saw the official order, and I have a copy of it at home. Anybody can doubt of course, but I'm prepared to produce it.
Mr. Chairman Would you mind Mr. Harmon, before you resume your seat, whose signature was on it?
Mr. Hannon Well now Mr. Chairman, I would much rather not say under whose signature it was, but I'm sincere about it, and...
Mr. Chairman All right sir, all right then....
Mr. Hannon If I'm forced to give their signature, I certainly shall.
Mr. Chairman Well then, your position on the question is that not alone were you informed by this Atlas representative at the time that you and he first adverted to this question, that the amount of wages to be paid labourers would be at the rate of 30 cents per hour, but in addition to that, you saw an official order.
Mr. Hannon Yes.
Mr. Chairman Which corroborated what he said.
Mr. Hillier It has been asserted that the Commission government issued an order in connection with rates of pay. I would like to ask whether the government actually did that on their own, or whether they were prompted to do so by pressure of business or some local industries or something like that?
Mr. Cashin You can put it, yes, but it doesn't excuse the government one way or the other for doing it.... I don't know, and I don't believe that business did that. They might for what I know, I don't know. We didn't go into that matter as to whether business asked them or not. It didn't matter materially. The important thing was that this order was issued directly or indirectly, and we've had proof now this evening that it was done. I don't know whether any businessmen asked them to do that. I couldn't tell you.
Mr. Smallwood If my raising the point did nothing more than to bring Mr. Harmon to his feet, it was well worth doing. Now perhaps I have more information on this than any man in this house or any man in this country. I was editor of a newspaper in this city called The Express . One of the owners of that paper was Mr. Higgins who sits opposite there now. As editor of that paper I made it my business to get to the bottom of it. I knew, and everyone knew the story that was going around that the Americans and the Canadians were willing to pay more money, but that the Commission of Government had influenced them in some way or other to keep the wages down and not to pay the wages that they were willing to pay. Everyone knew that rumour. And I decided to get to the bottom of it. My first step was to go to Colonel Bmton, who was in charge of the United States engineering forces, the first man to come here. He had offices in the Reid building on Duckworth Street. From him I could get only enough to make me feel that I was on the right track. Naturally he was an American officer representing the American government. They were dealing with the Newfoundland government and he didn't like to say too much. But he said enough to show me that I was on the right track. So what I did was this; and if I'm not mistaken I think Mr. Butt can corroborate some of what I'm going to say. At that time Mr. Butt was confidential secretary or assistant secretary for Public Utilities, working with Sir Wilfred Woods. I had an interview with Sir Wilfred Woods on this question. Was the Government of Newfoundland responsible for keeping the wages down? That's all I went to see him about. I told him that at the start. And I said to him, "Sir October 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 629 Wilfred, every word that you say to me is going down in this interview." And it did, every word. I said, "It is believed in this country that the Commission of Government were the means of keeping the wages down, is that true?" He said, "I know nothing about it." I said, "It is believed that you personally, as Commissioner for Public Utilities, are particularly and personally responsible for having done it." He said, "I know nothing about it." And so I pressed him, one question after the other, until finally the interview was published, and it was approved by him. Because before I left he said, "I see you're not making any notes." I said, "Why should I?" "Well," he said, "you're going to write this up and you're not writing shorthand." I said, "I have shorthand in my mind. I remember, I photograph on my mind every word you're saying. I don't need to take any notes." And neither did I. "Well," he said, "in that case, before you print it in the paper, I think you should bring it to me and let me read it." I said, "I'll be glad to do that, but not on condition that you'll change anything." So I went back to the office immediately and wrote it, and came back to him, and I said, "Here's my story." He read it. He didn't change a word. He remarked afterwards that it was one of the most remarkable memories and so on and so on that he'd ever come across. All right! What did he say in the interview? He said this, not freely and openly and without hesitation, it was squeezed out of him, every question I put and every answer he gave, trying to dodge it, trying to evade it, all the answers are down in the interview in print. But I finally squeezed this out of him. I said, "Did you write for example to Argentia, to the commanding officer and tell them to pay only certain rates of pay that are paid in the Highroads Department?" He said, "I did not." "Did you write to the assistant commanding office to that effect?" "I did not." "Did you write to any officer of the American army or navy in Argentia to that effect?" "I did not." "Did you write to the American contractors in Argentia to mat effect?" "I did not." I said, "Well maybe I'm on the wrong track." "Did you write to the President of the United States?" "No." "Did you write to the Secretary of State?" "No." "Did you write to the Secretary of War?" "No." "Did you write to anyone in the American government?" He said, "No." I said, "Did you write to anyone? American, Canadian, Newfoundland or anyone else?" Now it's a matter of fact, I admit it frankly here today, I bluffed him. I made him think I knew something that I did not know. And he admitted that he had written to the magistrate at Placentia. Who was the magistrate then? Mr. Miller can tell us...
Mr. Miller Magistrate Linegar.
Mr. Smallwood He had written to Magistrate Linegar. He admitted it. It's in the printed interview, passed by Sir Wilfred himself before it was printed. He had written to Magistrate Linegar in Placentia, giving him a list of the rates of pay which the Highroads Commission were paying to their employees, blacksmiths and carpenters and electricians and plumbers and truck drivers and bulldozer drivers and tractor drivers and labourers, all the different classifications. He had sent this list to Magistrate Linegar requesting him to take it to the authorities in Argentia, to draw it to their attention and let them know that these were the scales of pay that the Newfoundland government was paying. Now, if Mr. Harmon were in a position to do it, I think that possibly he would tell you that's how it happened in Gander. I know that's how it happened in Gander. They did not go to Sydney Dawes directly.... They didn't go to McNamara Construction. They went to them through a government official with a list of the wages that they were paying in the Highroads Department to their own employees. And they told them, if you pay more than this, you're going to upset our economy because if you pay more then we'll have to pay more to our highroad employees. And if the trade unions had not been formed in those places, if the trade union movement of Newfoundland had not got busy and driven the wages up this very day the rates that would be paid would be the rates that were paid in the early stages of the game. It's no thanks to the Commission of Government.
The report said, on page 98, that if the government hadn't done that, the earnings of those Newfoundlanders on those bases would have been supplemented by an additional $15-20 million. I tell you now, not 15 to 20, $30-40 million was lost to the workers of Newfoundland by the action of the Commission government in keeping wages down on those bases. I don't know to what extent businessmen, merchants and employers, helped to keep the wages down by influence on 630 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1947 the government. I have my suspicions and they're dirty enough. But I do know that whatever the reasons, the Commission of Government did keep the wages dowu and lost this country, the people of this country, from $30-40 million.
Mr. Chairman It doesn't follow that the Commission of Government may or may not have influenced employers of labour in this country into keeping wages down below what they otherwise would have been, as a result of pressure exerted by any particular class in the community including the merchant class. I have no brief for the merchant class or any other class here, but I do think that if questions which are calculated to produce class warfare, if you will, are going to be introduced, then their foundation must be statements of fact, not merely conjecture or opinion or speculation or anything else.
Mr. Jackman I feel that it is right to rise here this evening, to talk on this matter because I feel we are dealing more or less with the Financial Report... I hold no brief for the Commission of Government, never did nor never will. But at the same time I believe in giving credit where credit is due. I have had a number of occasions in the past to have interviews with the Commission of Government regarding the condition of labour on Bell Island.
Mr. Chairman In your offcial capacity as a labour leader?
Mr. Jackman Yes, and during our conversations the question of wages at the bases were brought up. And I wish to say here and now that whilst the Commission of Government was the instrument in pegging the wages, they had to do so through outside pressures. Vested interests demanded of the Commission government that...
Mr. Chairman Who?
Mr. Jackman Vested interests.
Mr. Chairman Who?
Mr. Jackman Dominion Steel Company, Bowaters, AND and the rest of them.
Mr. Smallwood Let's have it.
Mr. Jackman Well, that's it. That is exactly the situation. At that time, when the Americans first came in here, we were ourselves trying to get a little extra money in the pockets of our workers. I haven't any doubt whatever now that if it wasn't for the advent 'of the Americans in here, we wouldn't have been as successful as we were. Sir, we did get an award from an arbitration board which was chaired by a good Newfoundlander, in my opinion anyway, Judge Dunfield, who gave us an award, 18 cents above the wages paid at Argentia and other American bases, and also an award above the amount paid by the Highroads Commission. Now last year right here I asked a question regarding the rates paid by the Commission of Government to their employees. When I asked the question I knew at the time what they were paying. They were paying insofar as organised labour was concerned, 18 cents below the rates; and they stepped it up 10 cents more after my question was posed here in the House. I have since been informed, I haven't checked on it, but I have since been informed they have dropped back to the old rate of 40 cents. Now it's not my point here this afternoon to attack Commission of Government or any form of government. I realise the time will come for that later when we get to forms of government. But since the labour question was brought up, I can verify this much and produce evidence if necessary, that the Commission of Government was not wholly responsible, yet in my opinion they were because a govemment is supposed to look after the needs of the people first. But the Commission of Govemment in regard to pegging wages for Newfoundlanders on the bases was directed by outside influences, that is the big corporations in Newfoundland. That is the situation. If the Commission of Government, I say again this in their favour, were not pressed to keep these wages down, I have no doubt whatever that the very rate which the Americans wanted to pay would have been paid. But it was by the vested interests in this country that the wages of labour were kept down and not the Commission of Government. They were only the agent.
Mr. Fudge I think Mr. Smallwood said that he knew all about it. That may be correct. But I think there's a few things that Mr. Smallwood has not been acquainted with just yet. However, I shall not take time to explain it because the thing is past. But I would like to say that when the Americans and Canadians came here, the rate of wages was set at 30 cents. Along with the Federation of Labour, the President of the FPU and the Lumbermen's president, there might be another, we had several meetings with the officials of the Americans, Canadians and the government. We October 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 631 did succeed in getting the rates up from 30 to 40 cents. Now I might say in fairness to the Americans over at Stephenville or Harmon Field as they call it, the increase in wages is gone above that this year. It's true there's no organisation here (as I pointed to over in England), that our hands were tied in that deal, the 99-year lease, wherein we were not permitted to organise in what is known as Uncle Sam's or Mr. Truman's land. However, the point I want to get at is that while we try to ridicule the Commission of Government, I don't think the time is right. I've had to deal with a lot of people who were not connected with the Commission of Government. And I also have an order, a letter written by the late Sir Wilfred Woods who did say that he was prepared, his department was prepared, to pay the prevailing rate in any particular area in which they operated. Mr. Chairman, I put it straight that there are places in Newfoundland today paying from 28 to 35 cents per hour while the government is paying 40. Who is to be blamed? That I think is fair. Let's give every man his just due. There are people in this country today who are not connected with Commission of Government but they are paying from 28 to 35 cents while the government is paying 40. That doesn't sound like the Commission of Government's fault. It's about time that some of those people awoke. I've heard a lot of crying about the poor people, the poor fisherman, the poor labourer, yet if you want to do anything for them, give them a fair day's pay, which you can surely pay out of the price of fish and all the rest of it, this last four or five years. I'm not going to keep us any longer because I feel, as I've said before, the time has not come to criticise this form of government or the other. But I would remind those of you who are likely to take the tar brush, remember home first. Set the example at your own door and then the Commission of Government may come up a little bit higher.
Mr. Miller This matter has come home so much that I feel I too have to offer an opinion. When the base contractors came to Argentia there was something more than a question of pay. A base was to be built. They wanted labourers, carpenters, electricians, every classification of labour. We have had sizeable jobs in Newfoundland before: the Humber deal, Corner Brook and Deer Lake construction. They had certain standards of rate and certain standards of housing...[1] We had hopes as Newfoundlanders down there on that southern coast that similar standards would be employed. Did that come into effect? And who was responsible for it? Now that is the big question. And it would well be to lay the blame in the right place. Is Commission of Government really to blame for that situation or was the American authority in Newfoundland? If Commission of Government is to blame, blame them and thereby we get the correction. But if the American authorities in Newfoundland are to blame, let's not go on blindfolding ourselves by blaming Commission of Government and getting farther away from the issue. That seems to me to be just what is happening. I spoke of the housing conditions. When the first cookhouses were opened up at Argentia, I had personal knowledge of what took place. The purpose of that contractor at that date was to bring contractors, who were used to catering the lumber woods camps, into Argentia to cater and serve the meals to all our different classifications of labour. Now, there were among the workmen there men who wanted meals for 50 cents a day, and men who were content, according to their classification of work, to pay more. But you are all a bunch of Newfoundlanders, and here you are gentlemen, take it or leave it. That's the situation right from the actual scene of operations. I say it because I saw it. I believe that we can lay more blame on the American authorities for all that has gone on than on Commission of Government. And I don't believe in bluffing about it either. Now about this letter. I too have heard about that letter, it really did exist. The American authorities were well established and had many a pay-day over in Argentia on low scale wages and, by the way, I'm informed that the hiring rate of labourers over there is still only 39.5 cents per hour. But they had probably a year or two in over there before Commission of Government forwarded any thing. That is my opinion on the matter. But I believe that if we're to find a remedy, we must first find who's to blame.
Mr. Jackman The Commission of Government are to blame, but not directly. They acted as agents for the vested interests in Newfoundland, but nevertheless they acted. They're just as much to blame in one way but, my point is this, that they 632 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1947 are not all to blame. I've heard it said on the streets and in many places that the Commission of Government were the real cause of pegging our wages. That is only partly true. The Commission of Government worked under pressure from the Dominion Steel Company, from Bowaters, AND and the Commission of Government acted through the Dominion Office. And I got it from a Commissioner who's not a Newfoundlander, either. He told me that down in his office. They had to do so.
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, if the Commission of Government did it, what does it matter why they did it? If they did it because the big corporations got them to do it, that doesn't take the blame from the Commission. The Commission did it, whatever the reason was. And replying just briefly to Mr. Miller, the Americans were not paying those low wages in Argentia very long. I had that interview with Sir Wilfred Woods just a few months after the Americans went into Argentia, and that letter he wrote to the magistrate in Placentia was written some time before I saw him. In other words that letter was written to Magistrate Linegar or whoever was the magistrate, just after or just around the time that the Americans went into Argentia. When I went to Argentia first, they were just barely beginning. I'll never forget the second time I went there, watching a great army of trucks removing a hill and dumping it out in the water to build an embankment. And, as I watched, one of the truck drivers pulling up to be loaded gave me a nod to come aboard and I got up and sat in the cab with him. And I made the circle five or six times. He was an American, we chatted. He said, "Are you a Newfie?" I said, "I'm a Newfie, yes." He said, "It's a darn scandal, it's a darn shame the way you people are being treated here." I said, "Why?" He said, "I'm getting $1.80 an hour for driving that truck. You see the truck right behind me?" I said, "Yes." "It's a Newfoundlander, a Newfie driving it. You see the truck in front of me?" I said, "Yes." "It's a Newfie driving that. Here we are, three of us, two Newfies, one American, driving the same trucks, doing the same work, one behind, one in front and one in the middle. I'm getting $1.80 an hour and they're getting 80 cents an hour and from all I can hear your own government is the cause of it." "Well", I said, "you heard right because I got it right straight from the horse's mouth — right from Sir Wilfred Woods himself."
Mr. Hollett That just shows us what these Americans and Canadians will do for Newfies. They will allow one truck driver to get a dollar and something and the Newfoundlanders will get much less. But as for the rambling around the woods a little bit, making all sorts of assertions, no proof of anything at all — hearsay. I'm going back to the chairman of the Finance Committee. The Finance Committee also deplores the action of the Commission of Government with respect to restriction of the rates of pay and so forth. They deplore the action and make a positive statement that it was the action of the Commission of Government. I would like to ask Major Cashin, have you any proof for that?
Mr. Cashin The proof has been provided in the House the proof, if I never had any before, came out here this afternoon.
Mr. Hollett I don't call that proof.
Mr. Cashin The proof was that Mr. Harmon said he had seen a communication from the Commission of Government or some official...
Mr. Chairman He didn't say that.
Mr. Cashin What did he say then?
Mr. Chairman An official.
Mr. Cashin An official, that's what I said an official of government. There was only one kind of government in the country and that was Commission government... The whole thing was going wild all over the country. It was going through your ears all the time. You were bound to hear it. And who were responsible? My friend across here, Mr. Jackman, blames the corporations and so on for influencing Commission government. But the government is the government and they shouldn't be influenced by anyone. It's their responsibility. If a government is being influenced by corporations they're not fit to govern.
Mr. Chairman I think, gentlemen, you're getting a little far afield. The fact that the Commission of Government may or may not have brought a condition of things about, and a mere speculation, conjecture or opinion as to why that was done are two entirely different things. The statement has been made here that the Commission of Government did bring it about. Whether or not there has been any evidence produced in support of that statement is a matter of choice, but I feel October 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 633 it has not been. But whether or not there has been any evidence produced to support the conclusion that the Commission of Government did bring this about, there has been no evidence at all produced to support the conclusions as to how or why or in what circumstances they brought it about.
Mr. Hollett Mr. Chairman, that is the point that I'm trying to get home. I don't like to see people endeavouring to make certain capital, I won't say of what kinda.... Will somebody tell me this. why aren't the American people and the Canadian people in the country today paying wages similar to such as are being paid by the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Company and the Buchans Mining Company, which I know to be pretty good wages? They may not be enough, but I think every working man in the area from which I come will tell you, or tell me, that they are getting much more then the men who are working on the American bases. Now is the Commission of Government still keeping the Americans from paying these men their wages? If they are, it's time to get the Americans out of it, I would say. I say this in all fairness to the companies, vested interests if you like, in the area from which I come. While I know they're going to try to get labour for the least amount that they can pay, from what I found they only had to be approached by the representatives of the various unions and their cases got good consideration, and nine times out of ten they got what they asked for. So I cannot sit here and allow any man to say that that which happened in 1941-42 or whenever, definitely was brought about by such vested interests, unless proof positive is brought here for me to see. I think I would be unjust not only to the vested interests, but also to the employee who works with them if I didn't take some notice of that. Now what one member has said here may be perfectly right, but I want to see the proof before I allow it to go unchallenged.
Mr. Jackman Mr. Chairman, I rise to a point of information and I don't know whether it's a question of privilege as well. But I'll put it to you straight. Last year in this House I asked a question regarding government wages on Bell Island for labour. I received an answer back saying that the wages on Bell Island, that is government wages, were the prevailing rate of labour, We never received them first nor last. They did come up to 50 cents. My question of privilege, sir, I don't know if I'm in order to put it here at this hour, but I have been questioned on Bell Island by certain people inasmuch as to say that I was derelict in my duty to see that labour outside of our organisation was getting a square deal. Of course, that hasn't anything to do with us but nevertheless I was blamed for it.
Mr. Chairman You're just getting off the...
Mr. Jackman I am sir, yes, pardon me. I maintain that the answer we received last fall here was that the Commission of Government was paying highroad workers the prevailing rate of pay on Bell Island, which was 58 cents an hour for the lowest man. The prevailing rate I found out afterwards, I'm not sure yet, that's why I rise to a question of information, was 50 cents at the end of last year. Possibly they never thought this thing was going to carry on as long as it is: I didn't either. But possibly they thought that wouldn't carry on, and as far as I understand now it's back to 40 cents.
Mr. Chairman I'm sorry Mr. Jackman, but the tenor of your remarks is such that I'm unfortunately compelled to rule you out of order.
Mr. Jackman I respect your ruling, sir.
Mr. Chairman The section, if I may Mr. Jackman, under discussion is the third paragraph on page 52 in which the statement is made that the Finance Committee also deplores the action of the Commission of Government with respect to restriction by the rates of pay to be given our Newfoundland workmen in the construction of the American bases, inasmuch that the Commission gave direct or indirect instructions to the American and Canadian contractors not to pay Newfoundlanders the same rates of pay as the American workmen performing similar work, on the grounds that it would upset the general economy of the country. On this point I feel duty bound to sustain Mr. Hollett on the position taken by him. I think it is decidedly unwise, in fact I think it's a decidedly dangerous thing to make allegations or imputations unless and until you're able to prove that they are true in substance and in fact.
I make no ruling at all on that portion of the report which states that wages paid on the bases were lower than they otherwise would have been had it not been for government intervention; on that point obviously I can make no ruling. I'm not 634 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1947 familiar with the circumstances or the facts. But I do say that the reasons assigned by members here this afternoon for the government causing wages to be reduced are mere speculation, conjecture or opinion and I want to remind members that opinion is merely a matter of judgement upon which men might reasonably differ...
Mr. Higgins Mr. Chairman, this observation was made by the Finance Committee purely as an observation. Sir, I'd like to know in what way this whole discussion is pertinent to our terms of reference. I feel its entirely out of order...
Mr. Chairman The point I want to make is that in making this statement, the Finance Committee are not to be saddled with theresponsibility flowing from any conclusions, wild opinions or conjectures which may be drawn by any members from this section of the report which has been under discussion for the past hour. I want to make that clean.... The statement is made by the Finance Committee. You accept it or you don't. But I want this discussion to be conducted in such a way that the inferences drawn by certain members from this section of the report ought not to be made in such circumstances where the Finance Committee is saddled with the conclusions or inferences which may possibly or properly be drawn from this section of the report.
Mr. Jackman I understand then, sir, that this matter of wages could be dealt with under the Economic Report.
Mr. Chairman Let me rule if I may, gentlemen. The decision of this Convention is of a threefold nature. Let me try and reduce it to its simplest position. The act itself says that you shall consider the financial and economic situation of the country since 1934 with particular reference to the impact which war prosperity might have had upon our economy, and that in the light of that you will go on to recommend the future possible forms of government. I reduce the second section simply to a three-fold position. The Convention shall consider, one, is the island self-supporting? That is the work of the Finance Report. Secondly, the Convention shall consider whether or not the island will continue self-supporting, and if the answer to that question is in the affirmative how long will it continue self-supporting? And then in the light of the decisions arrived at the two previous questions, to then recommend the possible fixture forms of government which could be safely recommended to the Dominions Office to be included in the referendum, and which could be safely superimposed upon the productive economy of the country. That reduced to its simplest position is the effect of the section that I see.
Mr. Hollett I don't know whether you agreed with Mr. Higgins or not as to whether this thing was outside our terms of reference.
Mr. Chairman No sir, I didn't.
Mr. Hollett You didn't make the ruling, I see.
Mr. Chairman No, I didn't.
Mr. Hollett I would like to say a word about that. For instance let's read that paragraph:
The Finance Committee also deplores the action of the Commission of Government with respect to restriction by the Commission of the rates of pay to be given our Newfoundland workmen in return for their services in the construction of the American bases inasmuch as it is asserted that the Commission of Government gave direct or indirect instruction to the American and Canadian contractors not to pay Newfoundlanders the same rates of pay as the American workmen for performing similar work on the grounds that it would upset the general economy of the country.
Now I hold that this is relevant and comes under the terms of reference. As you have very excellently put it, our third duty is to recommend to the Dominions Office a form or forms of government. I would say right here now, and I think every man here will agree with me, that if any government would stoop to do that which the Finance Committee have asserted they did, then that is one form of government which I could not safely recommend when it comes time. Therefore I say, it is very relevant and certainly within the terms of reference.
Mr. Chairman I have to sustain you on that point. I must hope that this section of the Finance Report which is tabled for discussion at the moment is under review by members, and anything confined to this section of this report is relevant.
Mr. Hollett Now then, getting back to the question which Major Cashin has not answered to my satisfaction wherein they say that the Finance Committee deplores the action of die Commission of Government in doing these things I'm glad Mr. Smallwood brought this matter up I October 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 635 think he's sorry now that he did really....
Mr. Smallwood No, no, no, not at all.
Mr. Hollett I want to say this, that unless the Finance Committee can bring positive proof that the Commission of Government by direct or indirect order, instructed the Canadian or American authorities not to pay higher wages, then that paragraph should be deleted from the report.
Mr. Chairman At least it has no foundation in fact.
Mr. Hollett Unless they bring it in, Mr. Chairman. And I would like first before I make a motion to have that deleted from the report, to ask Major Cashin again if he has any further proof.
Mr. Vardy The very fact that all workmen did not receive the same wages is proof positive that they allowed the Americans, it was their responsibility...
Mr. Chairman You're making the conclusion again, Mr. Vardy, that that is...
Mr. Vardy It's the same conclusion we all came to.
Mr. Chairman Yes sir, I know, but it's still a conclusion.
Mr. Vardy It was the responsibility of the government of that time. If the government found out that I was only paying 20 cents per hour for packing fish down in Hickman's Harbour they would arrest me and summon me to Clarenville before the magistrate. It was their duty at that time, and the very fact that our men did not receive the same wages makes them liable and responsible. It was their responsibility and they can't escape it.
Mr. Butt Obviously, I would have certain information as suggested by my friend across the way, but just as obviously I could not reveal that for two reasons. One, I would be in danger of getting myself in jail under the Official Secrets Act. But more important than that, I held at that time a position of trust, and that I would not break. However, I've been thinking what I could usefully say which may be helpful, and I would suggest it's just possible that faced with a very difficult problem of policy that the Commission of Government may have taken certain steps to do what would be considered fair, reasonable and right in the circumstances. It may be that the Americans, the Canadians, both on the military side, and on the civil or construction side, and the Commission of Government and certain other bodies, may have sat down together and said, "Now what should we do in the circumstances?" It just may be that that happened. And, one party may have argued that they were not going to pay higher than certain wages current at the time in the country. The other party may have argued that higher wages should be paid and it should be wide open. Now any further than that I can't go, but I would say, in all fairness to people with whom I dealt at the time, that it caused more than one headache, and I think I ought to say out of fairness to Sir Wilfred Woods that whether he did rightly or wrongly at the time, he sweated plenty as to what should be done in the circumstances. I think I really ought to say that, regardless of what one may think of Commission of Government.
Whilst I'm on my feet, I would like to refer to a question raised yesterday by one of the members, and by another member this afternoon, the question of how far a government should go in raising or increasing its expenditure from time to time. That too is a very difficult question which involves a long history of government and taxation throughout, shall I say, the western world. But first, when government had to deal with nothing but the defence and maintenance of justice and a few other matters such as education, the expenditure would naturally be very small. As the world progressed, in this country, as in every other country, it was felt that more expenditure should be spent on social services.[1] ....[The only way] in which you can get money to spend is to take it from the people. But when you take money in taxation from the people, you pass it back to them in the form of services. So that it does not matter a row of pins where you fix the point at what you're going to spend from time to time, as long as the people of any country are satisfied that they want certain things. I entirely agree with Mr. Newell on the point that he made about increasing social welfare. I also want to say that there has been left, in dealing with financial matters, the impression that if one form of a government, I'm not mentioning any names, should be accepted it is necessary for us to go back to certain conditions. As one person with definite opinions on the form of the government we should have at the moment and in the future, I would like to disassociate myself with that theory and say that, 636 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1947 as for me, no form of government will be satisfactory for Newfoundland that does not progress in accordance with modern standards. But I would point out without trespassing, sir, on the Economic Report, that the whole thing boils down to the size of the cake from which you can get that piece which goes toward looking after government expenditure.
Mr. Fowler I feel I ought to avail of the opportunity to compliment the Finance Committee on its excellent report, and in particular do I compliment the chairman of the Committee, Major Cashin, because I know that if it were not for his great knowledge of and experience in the finances of this country, this voluminous and factual document which we have before us today would not be what it is. I contend, gentlemen, that this is the finest piece of work of its kind ever produced in this country especially when we realise that no experts were made available to the Committee, and that they had but limited access to facts relating to the government's finance. It would be well for the members of this Convention and the country in general to study it carefully, covering as it does in detail the history of our finances and matters relative thereto over a period of nearly 40 years, divided and subdivided into periods affected by the various economic changes which occurred, and which of necessity affected the finance picture. It is my opinion that if any one of the reports of this Convention is to materially assist us in reaching a decision, this Report of the Finance Committee is of paramount importance, in conjunction of course with the economic side of the picture. Mr. Chairman, it is mere folly to waste time in criticising the report; rather should we spend more time in trying to learn something from it by asking questions and discussing them in an intelligent manner in the light of the facts presented therein. Major Cashin, in his review on Thursday, cemented on the high revenue of the present fiscal year to date, and remarked that by the end of the year it may exceed $40 million. This is well in excess of the $37.5 million in the budget estimates, which incidentally was by far die greatest ever anticipated in this country. 70% of this estimate has been realised in six months, and this has been achieved in spite of certain duty reductions made in the past year. The chief source of revenue is still customs and excise, revealing much heavier importations. This in turn reveals that there must be adequate purchasing power in the country. If the government could keep within its already extravagant budget, we may well realise a surplus of some $34 million by the end of the year. In view of these simple facts, one may consider this country self-supporting. And it has been self-supporting for the past six years. The immediate future is not too gloomy but whether we will be self-supporting in five or ten years from now, I do not know, and I defy any man in this Convention to state definitely whether we will or will not be, regardless of what form of government we adopt. Twice in our time we have seen the world wage intemecine war that all men may be free and possess the right of self-determination. We may have this now for the asking. What are we going to do about it? Lie idly by while outsiders exploit us, or go forward to meet our destiny like honourable men? We are in a far better position today than we were at any time in our long history. Our finances are sound, our economy is more diversified and our strategic position at the crossroads of the world is recognised by all. Let us meet the challenge unafraid and prove that we are adequate to the task of self-determination.
Mr. Newell A little while ago I asked a simple question and when I finished somebody else started to talk about something else, and I think the point may have been overlooked. Before we close I'd like a simple answer. The question is this, in reference to a statement that it is the considered opinion of the Finance Committee that at no time during the period from 40-41 to 45-46 should the total expenditures of the country have exceeded the sum of $21 million, what I want to know is this. In making that statement, was the Committee considering that the present services which our government is providing could have been provided on $21 million, or were they looking at it from the point of view that we could have done with fewer services, which would have reduced the expenditures to $21 million? I'm not arguing the point one way or another, I just want that cleared up.
Mr. Cashin Mr. Chairman, in reply to Mr. Newell, I've been waiting until such time as all the gentlemen who wanted to talk on this Finance Report are finished, then I intended to cover these answers as best I knew how.... Well sir, I will October 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 637 answer it now unless there's someone else wants to speak in the meantime, or to direct another question to me.
You'll remember, Mr. Chairman, that in 1940- 41 our expenditures were roughly $16.25 million a year. And they gradually kept going up. year after year, year after year, and in including that $21 million we had taken into consideration what might have happened under another form of government, if at that time that such a form of government had control of the affairs of Newfoundland. We certainly would not have driven our expenditure up from $16 million to what it was at that time, around $30 million, but we would have tried to level off that expenditure, and once we realised that the cost of living had gone up we felt that that expenditure should properly have tapered off, and should not have gone above $21 million. I'll go a little further now and say $22 million a year. We would have tried to keep her down because in good times its always good government to put away something for a rainy day.... Consequently, we would have tried to save some money. Our taxation on the ordinary necessaries of life is not particularly high, and whilst the cost of living is high, the taxation per capita in the country is not as much as some people would imagine it is. And our idea of having expenditures of $21-22 million would have left us considerably more money in our treasury. It looked to me, and it looked to all of us, that as more money came in it gave an incentive to the government to start doling it out in all directions. You must remember that there were millions of dollars spent for which we got no value whatever. True we built roads, but how many dollars, how many cents in dollar value did we get from building roads? True, we built the vessels, vessels that cost nearly $3 million and should have cost, and were estimated to cost just $1 million dollars. These are things, if we go into details, which show that it shouldn't have gone over $21-22 million, and will prove what I've asserted. Ordinary common sense and good, sound, economic government would have held that expenditure down to $22 million, and if we had held it down to $22 million the statement I made the other day about having around $60 million in the treasury would have been a reality. But they didn't do it, and now we're in a position where the expendi tures are driven up. We arrived at a stage one time before in our history, and I was unfortunately in an official capacity at that time, when expenditures were up for ordinary government and we found we had to try and cut down our expenditures to try and square our accounts. We couldn't do it. Therefore I hold that in good times, good government will try and be economical and saving and thrifty, because there are cycles in the world where you have good times for five or six years, then it turns over to bad times. Well, a good government will make provision in the good time to carry us over in the bad time. And when bad times arrive you're able to weather the storm. That might have been in the past one reason why we were unable to carry on, not so much because we had incurred liabilities that we shouldn't have. I don't want to repeat those things again this afternoon, but I still hold that at no time during the past five or six years should the ordinary expenditures of Newfoundland have gone above $21-22 million a year. And I'm rather generous then, because one of the Commissioners for Finance, a little over a year ago, told us that to ordinarily operate Newfoundland, it shouldn't cost any more than $23 million, when they were slapping money in all directions. I don't want to go into details this afternoon of where it went, because it would occupy this house, and I'd have to bring all these Auditor General's reports back and find out where many millions of dollars have gone. But if sound government, government of our own, people who were interested in our own affairs, who wanted to provide for the future, had taken the necessary care, I feel that our ordinary annual expenditures should never have risen above $22 million and not $21 million. I'm prepared to change it to $22 million.
Mr. Newell I take it that what Mr. Cashin is really saying is this, that on the basis of providing the services that this country has[1] ... he thinks the revenue of a cautious government could have been kept down to that figure. That's what I'm really getting at.
Mr. Cashin Yes. That's my own personal opinion.
Mr. Newell Well, that's all I want. It's my own personal opinion which is different in some respects, perhaps. There are some services which our government is not providing, which possibly 638 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1947 governments in other countries are aiming at providing.... I just wanted to know what was behind that statement, if the Committee was thinking in terms of excess services that should have been cut off to reduce the expenditures, or if more frugal spending within these services could have done it. And I take it was the latter is the case from Mr. Cashin's explanation.
Mr. Cashin And in order to get those expenditures down now from where they are, it's going to be some job.
Mr. Chairman Would any of the members care to discuss further the Finance Report?....
[The committee rose and reported progress]
Mr. Higgins If there is to be any further discussion on the Report of the Finance Committee, I suggest it be postponed until the Economic Report has been presented.
Mr. Vardy Mr. Chairman, I move that resolution too.
Mr. Chairman It's been moved and seconded that further discussion on the Finance Report be deferred until the Economic Report has been tabled. I'd like to make it clear that this is not a closure motion. It is merely to the effect that further discussion on the Finance Report should be deferred....
[The motion carried]
Mr. Cashin Mr. Chairman, in moving the adjournment of the House this afternoon until the call of the Chair, I'd like to point out that the Finance Committee is now in session to prepare the Economic Report. It will probably be ready, in a week. As every member who has had anything to do with committees and compiling reports knows, a report like this, which is the summary of all the reports practically, is going to take some time. And whilst we may be able to compile it in two or three days, it's got to be mimeographed and collected and so forth, and that that's going to take a few days. And consequently, Mr. Chairman, I now move that this House adjourn until the call of the Chair.
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, I wondered if Mr. Asbbourne, who yesterday, on another motion, desired to raise a point, could do so. I think it's fairly customary in parliamentary circles for a member wishing to bring up a matter which doesn't quite properly fall under other motions or orders of business, to do so on the motion to adjourn.... I caught enough of it yesterday to realise that the matter he was attempting to raise was rather important, and while possibly we can do nothing whatever about it, possibly he wants to ventilate the matter and use the Convention as a medium through which to raise a matter of grave public concern.
Mr. Chairman Well, with the indulgence of the House, the motion made by Major Cashin has not...
Mr. Ashbourne I'll second the motion, and in seconding the motion I'll take advantage of this opportunity which I trust is in order although I asked permission yesterday in the committee of the whole to bring up the matter, which I understood I had to rescind. However, one of the members rose to a point of order, and I regret very much having been out of order at that time. The matter, sir, refers to the convertibility of the amount which is being received as proceeds from the exports of our fish in Canadian dollars...
Mr. Chairman You'll pardon me Mr. Ashbourne, I'm going to rule that you have the right to address yourself, because while I can't anticipate your remarks, I do think that your remarks might have a bearing upon the deliberations of the Economic Committee which is now in the midst of its work. Therefore, I will welcome anything that you have to say.
Mr. Ashbourne Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. As I was beginning to say yesterday, I wasn't here at the time that this announcement was made by the government around September 20, governing certain shipments of fish, and by the way, I understand that it is not for the whole catch that this provision has been made. I speak subject to correction upon this matter. But the important point in my mind is the rate at which the sterling proceeds of this fish is to be converted into Newfoundland and Canadian funds. I think myself that it's only right and proper for the trade to expect some announcement to be made by the government as to the rate at which this exchange will be converted. I understand at the present time the rate is something over $4 to the pound; and at that rate exporters would be in a position to make a price for shore and Labrador fish. But should there be a pound sterling decline, to say $3 to the pound, we can readily understand that it would mean a cut of 25% in the value received for our fish. And it was this point, sir, that I had in mind yesterday. I don't want to stress the fact now, but October 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 639 it was just to bring it to the attention of the Convention, because I understand that there is a difficulty in the minds of some people as to what we can afford to pay, particularly for Labrador fish, and probably other fish as well, until this decision has been made by the government as regards to the rate at which the proceeds is to be converted into the Canadian currency.
Mr. Chairman Before you resume your seat, Mr. Ashbourne, I presume it is a fair inference that the situation to which you refer is of a recurring nature since our ability to carry it into effect would naturally depend upon whatever surpluses we have. I take it that it is your opinion that this might have a bearing upon the deliberations of the Committee in determining our future economic potentialities, or in other words our ability to remain self-supporting in the future.
Mr. Ashbourne Quite so, sir, because as I understand it, the monies that we receive from the exports of our products will reflect our ability to pay taxes and to provide the revenue that's necessary for the carrying on of government as required in this day and generation.
Mr. MacDonald May I ask a question of you, Mr. Chairman? Some time ago, around Easter I believe it was, there were some committees appointed to work during the recess, to consolidate the different committee reports. These committees were appointed in very unofficial gatherings. private sessions; it never came before the Convention officially; they were appointed officially butnot in the Convention. Might I ask, Mr. Chairman, in View of this Committee that's now taking up the economic question, if they are aware of that fact? Are they in possession of these documents, which were supposedly condensed from the full reports that came in? Were they consolidated or not, and just what became of these reports?....
Mr. Chairman I think I ought to answer this way, to the best of my ability, belief and knowledge. That is, the work of the Committee will be to co-ordinate and collate any reports that have thus far been tabled, and have a bearing upon the economic question. It was felt by the Steering Committee that the Finance Committee, by virtue of their experience and excursions into finance, would perhaps be best qualified to deal with the broader question of economics.... I'm quite satisfied, I'm quite satisfied that they've taken everything into account, and will take everything into account, and I feel that we can reasonably expect that a pretty thorough job will be done by them. Does that satisfy you Mr. MacDonald?
Mr. MacDonald Mr. Chairman, I think you've taken me wrongly on this matter. I had no desire whatever to take the Economic Report out of the hands of the Finance Committee...
Mr. Chairman I appreciate that, Mr. MacDonald.
Mr. MacDonald I don't want to be understood wrongly on this matter. But there were committees formed to do certain work which would help out this committee.
Mr. Chairman Yes, Mr. MacDonald.
Mr. MacDonald Their duty was to take these volumes of reports on transportation, forestry, education and so on, and condense these reports so that they will be more understandable to the Convention. I think the word used was consolidate. Well, to consolidate them you'd have to get all the reports together and put them all into one. For Mr. Cashin's information as chairman for the Finance Committee, I wanted to remind him in case he forgot this, because those papers will undoubtedly be of great use to him in bringing in his Economic Report....
Mr. Chairman The documents to which you refer, I'm reminded, are already in Captain Warren's office and you can rest assured that your fears are unjustified and that your views will be taken into account.
Mr. Penney Mr. MacDonald has something there about the reports. If I remember correctly, when the delegation went to England we were given the choice to go to our homes at our own expense, or work here in this building recapitulating the reports. I took advantage of the offer to go home at my own expense. But I think most of the delegates stayed here in St. John's and worked on the reports. I never have heard if they had the reports recapitulated or not. But it would be very useful if there was a report in that way for the Finance Committee.
Mr. Vardy These committees functioned, the reports were condensed, and they're in the hands of the Secretary of the Convention, or in the hands of the chairmen of the sub-committees. The whole of these committees did their work and the reports are ready, and if they can be of 640 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1947 any use to the Finance Committee, of course they will be available.
Mr. Chairman I ought to remind members that under rule 50, this Committee has the right to invite any person or persons before it to assist them in the preparation of the report under consideration. I think you can safely assume, that the Committee has taken due cognisance of all the matters referred to by members this afternoon, and that they will be dealt with. The manner of course in which they will be dealt with will be known to us all when the report is introduced and tabled for discussion.
[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] The proceedings for October 21, 1947, were taken from the recording of the debate.
  • [2] Volume II:369. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] The Newfoundland Board of Trade.
  • [1] Volume II:16. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] Gap in the recording.
  • [1] Gap in the recording.
  • [1] Gap in the recording.

Participating Individuals: