Newfoundland National Convention, 17 September 1946, Debates on Confederation with Canada


September 17, 1946

Mr. Chairman The questions tabled at the last sitting were sent immediately to the various departments and answers have not yet been received. In connection with questions, it is natural to suppose that at the commencement of proceedings, all members may not be conversant with the rules of procedure as to the form and relevancy of the question Some of these questions will have to be re~worded; and I feel I should advise with the members privately, rather than in public, because I feel sure that if a member wants to ask questions in the required scope, attention being paid to the rules, he will want to confine himself strictly to relevancy. Therefore, with your permission, we might have a private word at an appropriate occasion when I can outline the rules in regard to questions. Whatever information is required by the Convention will not alone be obtained, but questions in respect thereof will be in the prescribed form.
[Requests for information on a variety of topics were tabled by Mr. Smallwood, Mr. Hollett, Mr. Hickman, Mr. Vincent and Mr. Newell]
Mr. Smallwood lf I might be permitted, under the heading of "Questions", some newspapermen and radiomen asked me to make the point that in addition to the three copies of questions and motions tabled, it would be convenient if additional copies were made available to them.
Mr. Chairman Perhaps it might be better to have these questions available to the press on the day when they are asked in the House. The procedure requires that the member give notice of the question and on the following day asks it formally. One of the reasons for the 24-hour interval between notice and asking of questions is that in certain cases the question has to be reviewed by the Chairman, to take care that the question is in the correct form and is relevant. The day following, the chamber hears the question formally, that is, brought forward on the order paper. If copies were then available, as they appear on the order paper, it might be the appropriate occasion, as being the subject of interrogation on the following day.

Report of the Committee on Rules and Procedure:[1] Committee of the Whole

Mr. Bradley I would like to say that it was very fortunate that Mr. Miller raised some question in connection with section 39. Immediately on adjournment yesterday afternoon, the committee met in the Council Chamber and considered the matter at length.... The question had reference to the fact that this Convention may have to consider, not merely two alternatives, but one of several types of governments, and that we might find that the type of government which had the greatest number of votes, by no means had a majority; and that being the case, it might be that those members who had voted for a certain form, might on second choice have preference for some alternative which, joined with other votes, might better express the voices and plurality be obtained. The first thing I have to observe is that this Convention decides nothing. We want to get that very clear in our motion. We decide nothing. We can only decide to recommend something; but any recommendation must not necessarily be adopted by the British government. So we make no unalterable decisions. In the next place you will not be asked to decide on any particular form of government, you are not voting for a particular type of government here, the thing to do is to vote that a type or types of government he put on the ballot paper. You will not be asked to choose between two, three or four forms of government. That is not the procedure, but each type of government under consideration will, when duly moved, and seconded, be put to the Convention by the Chairman and will require a majority vote of this Convention to put that type or particular form in our recommendations. That being done, some other member of the Convention may, and probably will, propose that some other form be put on the ballot paper and that will be submitted to the vote, and it will require a majority to be put in the recommendations, and so on. and in each case, no member who votes for one is precluded from voting for the other. It is possible we might move that they should all go on. It was not the intention of the committee to deprive the members of the Convention of the right to speak or to cast their vote. The idea is that whatever preferences a member has should go to the Dominions Office, so that the imperial government would have an opportunity of knowing what each member of the Convention thought; whether he voted with the majority or against it, he still has the right to write out what he thinks of everything — what his preferences are and his reason for it. In fact, this rule, instead of restricting the members, gives them rights which they would not otherwise have.
Mr. Jackman I do not agree with the terms of reference in regard to the form of government. The form of government was made not in 1932, it was made in 1855 and that decision was never rescinded by the people of Newfoundland The question was never put to a vote when we lost our democratic rights. Therefore, in my opinion, in regards to terms of reference for future forms of government, it should be strictly boiled down to the present system and responsible government. I have been informed by different people, lawyers, etc., that this form of government is constitutional. I am not a lawyer, and I don't know very much about law, but I cannot see or figure out how we could discuss any forms of government other than responsible government and Commission of Government. For this reason, sir, when we lost our constitutional rights, I am pretty certain that at that time the matter was set forth this way to the people — that when Newfoundland became self-supporting, and when Newfoundlanders asked for the return of their government, that would be the end of it. As far as l can see, we may discuss federation, representative government, etc., but there are really only two things we can discuss, namely Commission of Government or responsible government. I don't know who is responsible for this, but if I am in order I beg to move that responsible government and Commission of Government be the only two issues.
Mr. Chairman Gentlemen, this Convention is bound by the terms of the statute which called it into existence, namely, the National Convention Act[2], and under that act the duty of the Convention is to consider the financial situation of the September 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 17 colony and to make recommendations to H.M. Government in the United Kingdom as to possible forms of government to be placed before the people by way of a national referendum. We can't control that. We can't even by unanimous vote alter these terms. The statute is made and we have to abide by it, always bearing in mind the form and duty of this Convention. Secondly, I don't see how we can narrow the choice of the people of this country, particularly in View of the wording of the statute. People are entitled to as wide a choice as possible, and in any case this recommendation of the committee on rules and procedure does nothing more than fully protect the voice of the minority of this Convention, and takes care that the individual's opinion, together with the views of the Convention, be put forward. We cannot alter these terms.
Mr. Jackman Frankly, I don't like this word "can't".
Mr. Chairman Perhaps I should say "may not".
Mr. Jackman Here is another matter. Possibly we can't do it, but I would suggest that we should discuss the matter here with a view to an amendment of the terms. We could send it in at any rate, and at least it would give us a chance to say that we are not going to sit here and have our hands tied and do as we are told to do. We should have a definite stand on matters like this. As far as I can see, it is just boiled down to a question of forms of government. We don't have the final choice, but at least we should be able to try them out on the matter anyway. When we are told that we can't do this or that, why don't we try it?
Mr. Chairman Will you consider whether or not, if your motion is acceded to, it would have the effect of limiting the choice of the people of Newfoundland, and tying their hands, by giving them only two forms of choice instead of several? I don't think we should deal with that phase of the matter. We are acting under certain statutory provisions which are very clear.
Mr. Hollett Mr. Chairman, I was on that committee, and I have some doubts as to the wisdom of incorporating this into the rules of procedure. As you have just pointed out it would limit the choice. The Convention was elected by the Newfoundland people to consider and discuss the changes which have taken place in the economic and financial structure of this country, and then make recommendations based thereon as to the form or forms of government which may be suitable to the status of this country. Why should we lie ourselves down with something extra whereby each person has to give his own personal reasons for voting this or that way?
Mr. Chairman There is no obligation on any member, the wisdom of the committee placing beyond all doubt that the views of the members of this Convention should be fully protected. The language used in session makes that very clear. "It is our duty to make recommendation to H.M. Government... etc." In other words this does nothing to limit the rights or circumscribe the rights of the members.
Mr. Hollett If we read that section 39, those are exactly the terms. It goes on further to say, "together with any preference which he may express as to one form of government or another." Each individual has to make up his mind as to what he himself thinks is the best form of government in this country. I fail to see how he can have two minds about it. He may be satisfied to have other forms of government, but there is nothing in the terms of reference to conclude that, and I must say that I don't like this particular thing, which seems to be added on, and I think we should vote against its adoption unless the last three lines are deleted.
Mr. Chairman Any further debate that the words to which Mr. Hollett has reference do nothing more than place beyond cavil or doubt what is meant by the preceding words of the section. If it errs it only errs on the side of making things clearer.
Mr. Hickman Is there a motion before the Chair, sir? Has it been seconded?
Mr. Chairman There is no need to second a motion in committee, sir, but Mr. Bradley has put the motion. Moved that this section as read be adopted. Carried unanimously. Proceed, Mr. Secretary.
Mr. Bradley This ought to be carefully considered. The committee is of the opinion that the Chairman, by reason of his qualifications and long experience in parliamentary matters, and his unquestioned impartiality, particularly also in view of the fact that he is continually and daily in close contact with all activities of the Convention, is the most suitable person to appoint these committees. In an assembly of this kind, perhaps on the spur of the moment and without the due 18 NATIONAL CONVENTION September 1946 consideration which matters of this kind not only deserve, but in connection with which they are imperative, we may come to a hasty decision as to nomination or election; whereas the Chairman himself, having regard to his more superior knowledge, is the most suitable person. I move this.
Mr. Dawe Mr. Chairman, I respectfully object to that.
Mr. Chairman Does any other person care to express his views on that section? I would like to say that, whilst expressing my appreciation to Mr. Bradley for his remarks about me, for me to appoint committees is a very honourable duty but it is also a very onerous duty, and looking at it from that point of view it is an obligation which perhaps I might prefer not to have. But you must remember, gentlemen, that I am but your servant, and if you in your wisdom want me to undertake that duty, I shall.
Mr. Brown Mr. Chairman, I quite agree with the remarks of my honourable friend, Mr. Bradley, when he has suggested, sir, that you, as Chairman, appoint all committees. His point is well taken. You have perhaps more parliamentary experience than any man in this House. Your knowledge of parliamentary procedure and the handling of the rules of the assembly in years past, your long experience, makes you the right man, as Chairman of this Convention, to appoint all committees. I have much pleasure in seconding Mr. Bradley's motion.
Mr. Ashboume Gentlemen, I support the remarks of Mr. Bradley and Mr. Brown in this connection. I think that considerable work may have to be referred to certain committees. The steering or business committee is one of the most important committees which will be appointed, and we should have that committee at the very earliest moment. A certain timetable should be devised by this steering or business committee which might form a blueprint for the members of the Convention, in order that we can get down to certain definite business. We need a plan, and realising the amount of work which confronts us, it seems to me that only by appointing different committees and studying the different estimates which bear upon the financial and economic con~ dition of the country, shall we get down to something whereby we can intelligently study the various reports of the committees. Otherwise it will be the duty of each member of the Convention to himself undertake the exhaustive and complete study of the economy of Newfoundland, which will be a very onerous and difficult task. I believe that a lot of this work could be referred to various committees who would meet in the morning, or after the adjournment, or in the evenings. Unless this is done, and some of this work apportioned to the various committees, I believe that the task will be most difficult and the sittings unduly prolonged. I am prepared to vote for the adoption of this section.
Mr. Smallwood In joining with the shower of tributes being paid to you, I would like to express a word of gratitude to you for the great enthusiasm and loving care with which you have seen to the restoration of this chamber to something approaching, equalling, and perhaps even surpassing its former glory. It is an achievement for which we owe you deep gratitude. Anyone who is at all familiar with the chamber as it was, and who has any feeling for the glories of the past, must have deep gratitude to you for the meticulous care you have given to getting the chamber back to what it used to be. The mere physical job of gathering desks and chairs that have disappeared, never to be recovered some of them, carpets that have been sold by auction and could not be replaced, great draperies that have disappeared to be replaced by the best that could be obtained, the paintings that have been restored by our own Clem Murphy, I believe. You have done all within your power, and as far as the $34 million resources of the country would permit, to get this chamber fit to receive the new representatives of the Newfoundland people. I have heard that you are determined to restore the old legislative library, and we all know the earnest way in which you are endeavoring to bring the old people's house back to its pristine beauty, and I think we can say how deeply grateful we are to you.
Mr. Dawe Mr. Chairman, may I pass a little personal remark, when I said, "I object to the motion", I did not mean it towards you. I think this House should choose you.
Mr. Chairman That is quite all right, Mr. Dawe.
Mr. Brown Mr. Chairman, if any man has any doubt as to the man most capable and most fit to choose the committees he can forget it. There are September 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 19 four of us here today who sat under your chairmanship from 1924-1928: Mr. Bradley, Mr. Ashbourne, Major Cashin and myself. The four of us well know that you were often tolerant with us when you should have been harsh. I remember distinctly, sir, the latter years of that govemment[1] when you had only one as a majority, and you, with the help of your colleagues, piloted this House through, and the government did not go "busted", to use a common phrase. You did your job and did it well. I believe the members of this Convention agree with me that you are the right man to appoint committees, and whoever you appoint we will be quite satisfied.
Mr. Vardy I rise to support the last speaker. I know Mr. Justice Fox, and I do not know of any person more suitable than he is. Before this Convention ends there will be a job for every man elected to it, our responsibilities are tremendous.
This is indeed and always will be an historic occasion in the life of Newfoundland. Those of us who were successful at the polls have been summoned to perform a common task. Let us keep faith with those whose confidence has made these gatherings possible. Let us examine each fact on its merit and as true loyal Newfoundlanders, at all times put our country first. I sincerely hope that the results of our deliberations will be motivated by a keen honest desire to restore to our people a truly democratic way of life.
We have in His Excellency a man of vision and character, who will not be influenced by any who might prove disloyal, a great leader who has the courage of his convictions, and I am satisfied that in future history his name will be associated with those who will make it possible for Newfoundland to take her proper place as a proud member of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
Gentlemen, we have a job to do, let us be tolerant with one another, always respecting the rights and privileges of each member as the elected representative of his district, and at all times upholding the dignity of the chair. I am sure that our worthy Chairman will allow us plenty of latitude to intelligently discuss any matter which is brought on the floors of the Convention chamber. Those of us who are only boys in politics will at first be inclined to watch the big guns across the Channel, and more or less take full stock of method of procedure, lest the reporters get one for the Comic Weekly; but as time moves on and we are more sure of our ground, I am quite certain that every member will measure up to what is expected of him.
I am not anticipating any real delay in securing all the information available in order for us to eventually arrive at a just and honourable decision as to what forms of government would be best suited to our country....
Mr. Hollett I beg to move that the question be now put.
[The motion carried]
Mr. Bradley I move that the report of the committee as a whole be adopted.
Mr. Jackman I would like to speak on a personal matter that applies to all of us. I refer to a report in the Daily News regarding yesterday's proceedings. I notice that the report says some of the delegates were absent and it does not give the names. I am from an outport and I am certain that my supporters at home are watching the papers daily and when they see a report that some of the delegates were absent, it is quite possible that they are going to mark me down as being off the job. I do not think a delegate should absent himself from a session unless under circumstances beyond his control. When a member is unable to attend he should notify the Secretary and in future the names, as regards absenteeism, should be given in the reports.
Mr. Brown I would be the first to disagree with that. If this Convention lasts six months, six weeks or two years, I am not going to be here every sitting and there are few members of this Convention who have not business that will not permit their attending all sittings. I may have to go to a meeting of the Woods Labour Board or some other such convention; I cannot be in both places at the one time and one thing is just as important as the other. Down through the years there never was anything in the rules, to my knowledge, that prevented a man's being absent.
Mr. Chairman Quite right.
Mr. Brown Why should we adopt a rule saying a man must be in his seat at every session? I know that the people whom I have the honour to represent will not expect me to be here every sitting. I have as much interest in my country and as much interest in this Convention as anyone else, but it 20 NATIONAL CONVENTION September 1946 is a mistake to say a man must be here every day.
Mr. Jackman What I mean is this — and I thought I made it clear — I did not say he must attend, that is not possible, for example, he may be sick. The point is that out of respect to the Chair and the whole assembly, if a delegate finds it impossible to attend, he could at least telephone the Secretary, and if we are going to have all the proceedings published, which is quite right, I say let the reports be complete....
Mr. Brown On Saturday evening's train I left to accompany my wife home. I came to you, Mr. Chairman, when the committee rose, and asked if it would be all right to go and said I would be back on Monday's train.
Mr. Chairman Quite so.
Mr. Brown When I am not here present in my chair, I do not care what people say. They can say I am gone to Timbuctoo. They can say I am drunk. I am not worrying about that. I do say let the rules of this Convention stand without having anything to do with them.
Mr. Fudge I note the chair of Mr. Ryan of Placentia West is vacant. He has a severe cold and asked me to tell you that, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman It is neither practical nor possible, nor is it expected that on every day of meeting every member must be here. There are bound to be circumstances over which we have no control, and whilst we shall all endeavour to assemble here and perform our duties, there are occasions when we cannot be here. Then again a member may have to leave. It is a matter of duty for the members to be here and members will perform that, but it has to be recognised that there are circumstances which may require a member to absent himself, he will certainly be excused.
Mr. Brown The only time the papers should report absentees is in the event of no quorum.
Mr. Jackman I fit is going to be reported, I am of the opinion the names should be published.
Mr. Butt I move that the question be now put.
Mr. Brown I second that.
Mr. Jackman I move that the names of the members attending every day be put in the record.
Mr. Chairman You must consider that would be unfair, even to absent members, who might by some misconstruction be written down as delinquents. In the old days there were occasions when we did not have a full membership of the House present but we did not inquire into their reasons.... It might form the occasion for some unwarranted slander being cast on a member to have his name posted. I do not think any member who has of necessity the confidence of his district which elected him need fear that confidence is going to be altered.... Perhaps you might pardon me, Mr. Jackman, if I suggest that maybe you are becoming alarmed unnecessarily. No one has any wish to cast a slur upon any member, but you will appreciate what is an undeniable fact, that we cannot be here on all occasions. Perhaps you would let it remain as a subject of good sense.
Mr. Butt I respectfully move that the question be now put.
Mr. Smallwood Perhaps now that Mr. Jackman has made his point and it has undoubtedly been reported, he would be happy to withdraw his motion.
Mr. Jackman I am prepared to withdraw my motion, but I still think the Secretary should be notified in the event of absenteeism....
Mr. Vardy I think we are making a mountain out of a molehill.
Mr. Chairman It has been moved that the report of the committee be adopted as read, put in and amended.
[The motion carried unanimously]
Mr. Chairman Before the committee rises, I most gratefully acknowledge the altogether generous references which you made to me. You make me feel most humble but withal most appreciative of what you said. I regard it as a very great privilege and a lasting distinction, than which I can imagine no greater, to be permitted to serve you, as I hope you will permit me to do.
[The Committee rose and reported progress, and the Convention adopted the rules and procedures as approved]
Mr. Ashboume In the terms of reference for this National Convention, it is particularly stated that it shall be the function and duty of the elected representatives to consider and discuss the changes that have taken place in the financial and economic system of this island since 1934, and to examine the position of the country. It seems to my mind that in the person of the Honourable Ira Wild we have one who can give us, I hope, a picture of the financial position of our country, together with a review of his term of office and of the problems with which he has been confronted since he came to Newfoundland. September 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 21 Honourable Mr. Wild came here in 1934 and occupied the important position of Comptroller and Auditor General until 1938, and in 1941 he returned and since that time has been the Honourable Commissioner for Finance and Customs. Having been here for nine years Mr. Wild will soon be relinquishing his commission and returning very shortly to the old country, so it gives me much pleasure to move a resolution to this House this afternoon that the Honourable Commissioner for Finance be invited to address the committee of the whole Convention tomorrow, September 18, at 4 pm on the general financial position of Newfoundland.
Mr. Vardy I beg to second the motion.
Mr. Chairman Convention ready for the question?
Mr. Cashin Mr. Chairman there were many questions put on the paper yesterday relative to Mr. Wild, and, whilst I am anxious that he come and address this Convention, I feel that when he comes he should be prepared to give all the information that has been requested of him, I understand that he is going away shortly, and I request that if Mr. Wild has not got all that information ready that he be asked to postpone his address for a couple of days until such time as he has a great deal of that information ready. There are many questions I would like to ask Mr. Wild and I would like to have the information and further explanation on it. But I don't think you could have it tomorrow.
Mr. Chairman On receiving an intimation from the committee which I met yesterday afternoon that it would be desirable, in the opinion of the members, that Mr. Wild be invited to address the committee of the whole in private, I saw him, and he asked me to inform you that he is very happy to do so at whatever time is suitable, and not alone tomorrow, but thereafter for as many days as he can find it possible to come.
Mr. Bradley Mr. Chairman, I appreciate the point made by Major Cashin, but another thought occurs to me: many of us are not so well acquainted with financial matters as Major Cashin, and the sooner we can get some light the better. If Commissioner Wild can come tomorrow I believe he would have to speak to us for at least an hour, and there won't be much time for Major Cashin to ask many questions, and in the meantime we can get some information. It might facilitate Major Cashin's ideas if the commis~ sioner would come tomorrow, with the understanding that he will come again on some subsequent day.
Mr. Cashin I know from my own experience that a lot of the information I have requested is going to take several days to prepare, and I don't want him to be inconvenienced, and when he comes he should make a good job of it. Any member is entitled to ask questions and I know he can't get it ready before the end of the week.
Mr. Chairman Would that be convenient to you?
Mr. Cashin Oh, anything is agreeable to me.
Mr. Chairman Well then -
Mr. Cashin Will he come the second time?
Mr. Chairman Not alone is he prepared to come tomorrow, but on other occasions.
Mr. Cashin I want it understood that if he is not prepared to come back the second time, particularly when they don't want to come before the public, the people here are entitled to every bit of information. The position the Commission has taken, is that they refuse to come before the public. Now on questions in the past I have gone through the ropes myself. When a question was directed towards a minister, the minister brought in a reply to that question, and if the answer did not suit the inquisitor, he questioned him further there on the floor of the House. I realise we have no right to subpoena people, but this is a different question. We are here to represent the people and they say, "we will only go up there privately"; and if we get information from them privately, the press, forinstance, cannot give it to the public. Now how are we to get it to the public? Are we to give it out as a kind of rumour? I contend that whilst we have no power to drag them here, every member of the Commission should come before, the Convention publicly. It creates more con fidence for themselves, because when the people find out that they won't come publicly they feel, "Well, what has he to hide?" However, they have indicated they are not prepared to do that, so the next best thing is to get them before a committee of the Convention, but when that time arrives the questions, particularly these financial questions, have got to be answered properly. There is nothing in it that is not in the public interest, and no excuses will be taken by me for any refusal to answer these questions... However, Mr. Wild 22 NATIONAL CONVENTION September 1946 and his associates desire to say, "We do not want to come before you publicly" — Why?
Mr. Hickman Mr. Chairman, has Mr. Wild made it clear that he will only come and address us, or will he answer questions? The motion is that the commissioner be asked to come and address us on the financial questions. Will he retire at the end of his address, or remain to be questioned?
Mr. Chairman I take it that perhaps an informal discussion might ensue.
Mr. Hickman Is Mr. Wild prepared to stay for that or not?
Mr. Chairman I presume so.
Mr. Smallwood On that point, which came up in the Committee on Rules and Procedure, my understanding is that the general principle is that all information that they produce to the Convention meeting in the committee of the whole of a public character is public information, to be passed on by the Convention to the press and the public, with exceptions. There might be occasions, we do not know what they might be, when it was definitely not in the best interests to give information on certain subjects. But, given these exceptions, all information which commissioners or public servants deliver to the Convention becomes instantly public property. That is my understanding of the matter. I was one of these who insisted On these principles. Major Cashin was another....
Mr. Crosbie I would like to say that with regard to meeting with the public, I don't think there should be any exceptions. We are here to get facts and information, and quite often during the last ten years we have heard, "It is not in the public interest." I think it is time we heard the end of it.
Mr. Smallwood I notice in Mr. Gushue's speech at Rotary[1] a few days ago he referred to a report which he said was secret, and not yet released to the public. If that has a bearing on the fisheries or any other resources or activities of this country, and if it would enable us to determine the economic state and prospects of Newfoundland, we ought to have it. But if it is the case that due to negotiations with governments and fishery organisations in other countries, it is not expedient to release it to the public, are we to be denied access to that document? Are we going to put ourselves in the position of not being able to get information which we need because we have said we will not take any information unless it becomes public property? Let us assume that the government is negotiating with some other country on a question of tariff, or any matter. No government, speaking generally, will reveal a situation still in process of negotiation, and yet these negotiations could be dragged on for months. They might be prepared to give us that information if we did not immediately hand it over to the public. If the principle is established that we are to be the judges, on condition that it does not become public property immediately, thenwhere are our rights? Denied? And is the public interest attacked? I am as keen as Mr. Crosbie and Major Cashin that the information coming before this Convention should come before the Newfoundland public. I feel so deeply on it that I have come to this conclusion, that if things are right and the public of Newfoundland gets everything that we get, then before we make our report to the public, it, having the same evidence will have come to the same conclusions, and made up its mind for itself. That can be done only if the Newfoundland people get the information that we get. In spite of that there may be occasions when that principle might have to be waived in the interests of getting information.
Mr. Chairman Take the case of negotiations. Of necessity the views of the negotiating party on the other side might have to be considered. Take some public promotion planning the utilisation of public resources, in which the government of the day is negotiating with some outside concern to develop these resources. I can imagine a situation where the promoter on the other side says, "No, I want these discussions secret and confidential between you and me until such time as the contract is consummated or concluded". We have to take into consideration not only the views but the directives on the other side, for instance the question of tariffs between the US and the Newfoundland governments. The Newfoundland government might be willing indeed to take the public into its confidence, but the US government may say, "No, we are negotiating as between government and government, and for the immediate present we will not allow the informa September 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 23tion relative to the subject matter of our negotiations to be made public." What then? There may be other instances where definitely it would not be in the public interest to disclose information. I think we might proceed on the broad principle that all information, commitments, obligations and national situations as we know it (with certain well expected reservations) will be made available to the Convention; but we are not to forget that there may be negotiations which no government, no matter how willing it is to take the people into its confidence, can disclose. Take a Water Street merchant who may have some negotiations with the government that are pending conclusion. He won't want to have the situation publicly canvassed until it is concluded, and I don't think it would be fair that the matter be publicised under those circumstances. We have to bear in mind these exceptions to the general rule that all information will be made available to the Convention.
Mr. Crosbie I quite agree. But you might ask a lot of questions, 15 or 20. You meet Mr. X, commissioner, in conference and he says, "Gentlemen I don't want you to make this public." If the answers can't be made public, why should the questions be asked?
Mr. Hollett It is most unfortunate that they have taken this attitude. Do you think that they can give us information, 45 men or so, not sworn or anything, and net expect it to leak out? Are the persons of the Commission of Government not to be allowed to come and see us in public? They defeat their own ends by refusing to come before the public. In any case, if an official comes here we know that if he is not allowed to disclose something he is not going to. I think it is most unfortunate, and gentlemen I submit that there is nothing for us to do but take it gracefully and hear the commissioner in committee of the whole.
Mr. Chairman Perhaps it might be wise if we did not anticipate difficulties. Nothing may be discussed by the commissioner in regard to which there is any necessity for confidence or secrecy. Why not cross the bridges when we meet them, and perhaps we will not have any trouble at all.
Mr. Dawe There is a method of finding information — information from the Canadian government.
Mr. Cashin The point I have been trying to make is, Mr. Wild may say, "We will speak to you as a committee of the whole, but we will not speak to your committee with the public there." Why? They have not explained the reason why they won't do that. They have some reason for it, and I think they are playing their cards very badly, because the public can say, "There must be something wrong, what is it?" Are they afraid they will be asked an embarrassing question which they don't want to answer? We delegates were to enquire into everything and the sessions were to be open to the public, and now we find that if Mr. Wild comes here we have to bar that door, and John Citizen cannot get in while Mr. Wild tells us how he handled this or that. If Mr. Wild was across the House and was asked a question by a leader of the opposition he would have to answer it. Now he says, "Bar the doors". That is not democracy. We can't make them come, but if they don't come publicly they should stay out altogether. With your permission I put an amendment in this form, that when this invitation goes to Mr. Wild he be asked to come to this House tomorrow afternoon, and that when he does come the House will be in public session, and ask his reply to it. He can only say no, and then we know where we are.
Mr. Smallwood This is in connection with his address, not necessarily in connection with the cross-examination he is to get later on.
Mr. Cashin I know I can't cross-examine him tomorrow because he won't have those answers ready, but in any case I believe it should be open to the public, and I want a justification from the commissioners as to why they won't come before the public. Are they so scared? Are we too insignificant? That is the attitude they are taking.
Mr. Smallwood Don't forget they are a dictatorship, you know!
Mr. Chairman Perhaps before we get any further stirred up we might take this amendment. Major Cashin kindly read your amendment.
Mr. Cashin I don't have it written down, but I want when this invitation goes to Mr. Wild to have it inserted that he make his address in public.
Mr. Chairman Perhaps you mean to have the words "in private" deleted.
Mr. Cashin Yes, take out "in private" and put in "in public session" and be sure of it.
Mr. Ashbourne Did I not understand from you, Mr. Chairman, that it had been decided by the Commission that they were not prepared to meet 24 NATIONAL CONVENTION September 1946 us in public?
Mr. Chairman That is right.
Mr. Smallwood Is not that in connection with questions?
Mr. Chairman They just laid it down.
Mr. Smallwood Tomorrow is merely a review by the commissioner of the position of Newfoundland as he sees it; it is merely a formal address.
Mr. Chairman Without interrogation, you mean. It further has to be remembered that it was not the intention, of the United Kingdom government to have officials of the government subjected to examination by this Convention. That is a definite statement.
Mr. Smallwood That is face to face?
Mr. Chairman I do not know whether it is face to face or otherwise; but it was not intended that officials of government should be examined by this Convention. Furthermore the Commission of Government have stated that, whereas or whilst it is willing and most anxious to afford this Convention, and through this Convention the public at large, the fullest possible information which properly can be and should be disclosed, and is further prepared to meet the Convention as a committee of the whole, but only in private and not in public sessions....
Mr. Jackman Who drew up the National Convention Act?
Mr. Chairman The National Convention Act was passed by the legislative authority of this country. I do not think you can go beyond or past that. We are faced with facts and we cannot do anything about it. We are bound by the terms of reference under that authority. We are faced with an unalterable fact. We cannot compel people to come here....
Mr. Vardy The commissioners are appointees of the home government. We have no jurisdiction over them. I think we should accept the facts. We cannot dictate to them. They are still in office.
Mr. Butt I do not think it is a matter of dictating to the Commission, but we should ask them for a reconsideration with a different spirit. If we dictated to them they would probably dictate back. If we approach them in the spirit that we want to get the best we can for this country, they may be willing to reconsider it. I suggest further we are discussing a time-honoured problem, one that has been handled on many occasions. If a minister comes before the public he gives all the information he can give. That is all we ask.... I suggest we approach them in the spirit of wanting the information we can get, not for ourselves, but for the people of this country, and in that spirit to reconsider the position. If there is information beyond a shadow of doubt not in the public interest, he may withhold it. If I ask a minister a certain question and he says, "I cannot answer that", and I ask him 20 more questions and he still says, "I cannot answer them", I will not take that lying down.
Mr. Jackman I was notified by a commissioner about two years ago on a question put to him that we had no authority to call witnesses. He gave me to understand his authority came from the Dominions Office. I understand this act has been drawn up by the Commission. If that is so, by what authority are we acting? What I want to bring out is that if the commissioners refuse to meet us in public, let us have them removed and others put in. Secondly, the Dominions Office should be contacted and asked if it is not possible to have the commissioners attend here and give us what we want in public. The Commission of Government is not a secret organisation, nor are we a secret body. Every matter to be dealt with here should get the fullest possible ventilation.
Mr. Bradley We had better face the facts. This Convention has no authority to compel anyone, commissioner or no commissioner, whether he be Mr. Wild or Mr. Jones or Captain Murphy of one of our sealing steamers, we have no authority to compel anybody. That being the case we can only ask, and if he lays down conditions upon which he will come, we have to comply with the conditions.
Mr. Chairman I will have to ask for a motion to suspend the rules if you desire to discuss this matter — i.e. the rule in relation to members talking more than once — so as to regularise the discussion. I do not want to shut off the discussion, but we will have to regularise it, in order to allow free expression.
Mr. Brown I have not spoken on this matter before, but it seems to me that we should cross ourbridges when we come to them. If they refuse, then it is time to jump down their throats. If we are bound by that act which you showed us, Mr. Chairman, what is the use of talking about it?
Mr. Cashin The point is Mr. Wild has been in September 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 25vited here. I asked to have the word "private" cancelled and the word "public" put in.
Mr. Chairman It has been moved by Mr. Cashin and seconded by Mr. Jackman that the words in the motion by Mr. Ashbourne and seconded by Mr. Vardy, after the words "committee as a whole", "in private session" be deleted, and the words "public session" be substituted.
[The motion carried]
Mr. Cashin Is it in order to move that the Hon. Mr. Wild be invited to address the Convention in public session at 4 o'clock tomorrow?
Mr. Ashbourne I understood he was not prepared to come.
Mr. Chairman The motion is that the Hon. Mr. Wild be invited to address this Convention in public session at 4 o'clock tomorrow afternoon.
[The motion carried]
Mr. Chairman An invitation will be extended to the commissioner accordingly. I anticipate what his reply is going to be.
I want to appoint, now, the steering committee, or business committee. Only seven can be appointed and there is no insidious distinction drawn.
The committee will consist of:
Messrs. Cashin, Bradley, Brown, Hollett, Higgins, Fudge, Ashbourne.
I suggest that Mr. Bradley be the convenor of that committee and that it meet without delay.
There is another committee of very great importance, and that is the library committee. We need to have available to the members of this Convention reference and data of all kinds referable to the legislature and public affairs of the colony. We had a well-balanced, invaluable legislative library. That library no longer exists, as we knew it. It may be there are some of those books held by the public library, but to what extent, I do not know. I do feel there is an urgent necessity to restore that library as well as for the immediate information of members of this convention, as also out of veneration for the past, and I think we should make a beginning and get all the books we can belonging to that library and put them back, as the first step. The first duty is the restoration of that library to serve your needs as well as to safeguard invaluable manuscripts belonging to the legislature of this colony.
Mr. Brown Is it a fact that the books have been taken out of this House?
Mr. Chairman Yes.
Mr. Brown That is a crime. I remember the first day I held office here. The librarian, Miss Morris, sent down for me to come to the library. She asked me to pass down the first book on the top shelf. I passed it down and she said, "Open it, you will see the name of your great-grandfather there, one of the first members of responsible government." I would not like to know today that these books had been destroyed. It is criminal to destroy the library and I would not like to say what should be done with the person or persons who destroyed it. I do not know of a more important committee than this, to seek out and bring back the books belonging to this House. I move that that committee be appointed.
Mr. Reddy I have pleasure in seconding that motion.
[The motion carried]
Mr. Chairman The committee shall consist of Messrs. Smallwood, Ashbourne, Harrington, Ballam and Hickman. That completes the order of the day.
Mr. Smallwood I move the following resolution: That we request the government to appoint to the Convention a competent statistician- economist to enable us the better to assess the financial and economic condition and prospects of the country.
We have appointed already to the Convention an authority on constitutional history, practice, and theory in the person of Professor Wheare of Oxford University. Up to the present time, perhaps for weeks or months, the Convention may not be able to make as much use of his particular knowledge and advice as it will have to do when we get to the question of considering particular types of government. In the meantime the job of the Convention as it is beginning to emerge very plainly now, is going to be one of gathering, compiling and assessing data of an economic and financial character. Speaking for myself, I have made a profession — in part earned my living - by collecting statistics and facts about Newfoundland trade and industry, but I confess frank 26 NATIONAL CONVENTION September 1946ly that when I see Major Cashin's questions and others already asked, and I imagine many yet to be asked, I feel profoundly my inability to analyse and assess the importance of the data. It so happens that I am not very good at arithmetic. I feel that if the government were to give us a statistician-economist of at least equal academic and professional standing of Professor Wheare, the constitutional authority, whether he be obtained in the United States or any other English- speaking country, if he be a thoroughly competent man, he can be of enormous value in what is a monumental job. I think we are overawed and weighed down, not with the burden of the world, but by the realisation of the tremendous task of setting out to assess the real state of this country. If we can get help from a professional man, one who has no axe to grind and who does not care what kind of government we may have; if we can get such a man as that it will be of tremendous help to the members of the Convention in discharging the duty they have had laid upon them.
[Mr. Vincent seconded the motion, which was deferred to the next sitting. 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.

Notes de bas de page:

  • [1] Volume II:53. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [2] Volume II:1. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] The government of Walter Monroe, 1924-1928.
  • [1] R. Gushue, speech at St. John's Rotary Club, 12 September 1946, as reported in Evening Telegram, 13 September 1946, p. 2.

Personnes participantes: