Newfoundland National Convention, 20 September 1946, Debates on Confederation with Canada


September 20, 1946

[Requests for information were tabled by Mr. Northcott, Mr. Hickman, Mr. Higgins, Mr. Fogwill, Mr. Walton, Mr. Jackman, Mr. Fowler, Mr. McCormack, and Mr. Cashin]
Mr. Chairman Arising out of the minutes and pursuant to your resolution, an invitation was extended to the Hon. the Commissioner for Finance to attend before you in private session on Tuesday at 4 o'clock. Further, I received an intimation from His Excellency that he will be pleased to receive a delegation from the National Convention at 11 o'clock on tomorrow at Government House for the purpose of presenting to His Excellency addresses of loyalty to His Majesty the King and of thanks to His Excellency. I submit that you might appoint a delegation at once. I think that perhaps Mr. Job as convenor of that committee might suggest a delegation.
Mr. Job I do not suppose it is possible for the whole of the Convention to be received, and in that event I would suggest the committee that drafted the addresses would be appointed. I make that as a motion.
Mr. Vardy I second that motion.
[The motion carried unanimously]

Report of the Steering Committee[1]

Mr. Bradley Copies of this report are on the desks of the members and I presume you have read them. It will be unnecessary for me to read them formally. I would draw your attention to section 2. It is recommended that the work of the Convention be divided up into nine committees, each consisting of ten men. We have endeavoured to apportion the work of the members as best we could in order to balance them. These committees will be appointed by the Chairman in accordance with the schedule which is attached to this report and which sets out the various committees and members of each. As each member of the Convention sits on two committees, we suggested a schedule which provides that each committee meets three times a week. That does not mean that the committees cannot meet oftener. They may meet at night. Section 4 provides that the chairman of each committee is to be one of the members of the Steering Committee, in order that there might be a connection between the Steering Committee and each sub-committee. As there are only seven members on the Steering Committee and there are nine committees, it is obvious, at present, that two chairmen are not members of the Steering Committee. It has therefore been suggested we should ask your leave to add to the Steering Committee accordingly. It is proposed that the work begin at once. It will be apparent that very little in the form of formal meetings of the Convention will take place, and it was thought advisable that after we meet the Commissioner for Finance on Tuesday there should be an adjournment taken, and that we 46 NATIONAL CONVENTION September 1946 should meet at the call of the Chairman. Section 6 is very important. It is one thing to ask questions; another thing to get information. In order that this be done as speedily as possible we have asked the Commission of Government to provide an official in each department to assist the committees and in that way will facilitate the obtaining of information and save valuable time. You will notice that there has been considerable overlapping in connection with the asking of questions. In order that this may be avoided it is proposed to set up a 'Questions Committee' to which all questions will first be handed. It is not intended to restrict rights to ask questions. We may advise you as to how to change the questions and there may be questions eliminated where there is overlapping, and your questions amplified in order to get the information with greater exactitude. The Commission has agreed and is anxious to facilitate us in every way. I move that this report be received.
Mr. Hillier I second that motion.
[The motion carried unanimously. The Convention resolved into a committee of the whole. Sections 2, 3 and 4 of the report were approved. Section 5 was read]
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, in 1934 the Commission of Government system came into Newfoundland, and since then in this country there has been no political action of any kind whatsoever until the holding of the National Convention election. For 12 or 13 years there happened in this country exactly what Mr. Bradley, sitting in this House at the time as leader of the Opposition, forecast would happen. I remember his forecast that one effect of Commission government would be the death of whatever public opinion had existed. For 12 or 13 years in Newfoundland there has been no political action, no political agitation, no political propaganda. That has been a grand thing. At that time I disagreed with Mr. Bradley in private conversation and in my own mind. I thought that what we needed was a political holiday or armistice. We have had it, but we have also had what he forecast — the death of public sentiment. Now that was reflected very considerably in the number of our citizens throughout the island who did not bother to vote on the 21st of June. Sir, this Convention opened on Wednesday a week ago, and I have followed, as I am sure we have all done, the reports appearing in the daily newspapers and the weeklies, and the nightly broadcasts on the two stations, of the meetings of this Convention; and, as others have done, I have tried to visualise what was happening throughout the island. I was trying to picture in my mind hundreds of families around the island sitting in their homes listening to the broadcasts of the events of the Convention of that day. That has gone on now for a week and two days, and it has been good stuff, it has been suggestive and informative, but it has all had to do with public affairs and that is to the good. What is needed in this country is a great revival of interest in public affairs, and I do not mean politics. God forbid. This section 5 would have the effect of closing down the general assembly of the Convention, and setting up as its only substitute very valuable work on the part of nine committees. A practical idea, a useful idea, and a necessary idea that these nine committees should be set up, entirely right that these practical topics should be tackled in that way, and I agree completely; but it seems to me, and it means no more to me than it does to the members of the Steering Committee or to any member of the Convention, a pity that after seven or eight nights only of practical, informative and even brilliant broadcasts, reaching perhaps 200,000 of our people nightly for eight nights, arousing the public interest in public affairs, that after eight nights it should thus be abruptly cut off and for three or four weeks they should hear no more about the National Convention. The suggestion was made, but I don't see it in this section, I think, sir, by you, the thought of meeting once a week in general assembly. That is not mentioned here. It is intended that the Cenvention should adjourn until called together by the Chairman at the instance of the Steering Committee, except that on Tuesday we do meet in private session to meet the commissioner.
Mr. Chairman I think you rather misapprehend the effect of this inquiry. It is not the intention of the Steering Committee to recommend that the Convention adjourn indefinitely, but while members are at work it is impossible to have a session of the Convention; but as the work progresses and they are in a condition to report to the Convention, the Convention will immediately re-assemble.
Mr. Smallwood The work of these committees September 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 47 is going to take time, a week or two, or maybe three, at least in the case of some of the nine committees. Some may be able to report back tentatively within a week. The whole point is that it seems to me regrettable, unless there can be provided in some way to the reporters, who are the eyes and ears of the Newfoundland public, a daily statement to keep the interest of the public continuously alert. I fear that a good beginning made at interesting the people of Newfoundland will be stopped abruptly for a week or two and then, let's picture it, a committee reports to the Steering Committee that it has done a certain amount of work and is able to report, tentatively at least; the report is brought in and tabled and the whole Convention receives it and it goes to the individual men to study. It is a case of the whole house meeting merely to receive these reports and I fear that there is not only a possibility, but a probability, that for the next two to four weeks the general assembly of the Convention will disappear with that amount of time lost completely, from this one standpoint of keeping the Newfoundland public interested and informed.... There is nothing personal in it, but I am terribly impressed by the need to arouse in our Newfoundland people a continuous and increasing interest in pubic affairs.
Mr. Bradley Mr. Chairman, I appreciate to the full all my friend Mr. Smallwood has said.... I am not quite sure that an adjournment, even for a month, will so kill public opinion that it cannot be immediately revived when we have something to lay before them. The brutal fact is that it is not physically possible for the whole Convention and the nine committees to meet at the same time. Obviously we cannot be in two places at once, and if we are to obtain some continuity of publicity it must be at the expense of the work of the various committees, and that must delay the completion of that work. Now if the Convention thinks that the value of that continuous publicity outweighs the value of speed in the working of the committees, why of course that is up to them.
Mr. Ballam I agree with Mr. Smallwood, not altogether but to some extent, but as Mr. Bradley says we must not do anything to keep us here longer than necessary. Anything that we can do to expedite matters I believe it is our duty to do. I was wondering, at the 3 o'clock meeting of the committees, if the session could not meet here, as there may be some other people who would like to place questions, and the longer these are delayed naturally the longer we will be waiting for the answers.
Mr. Chairman That is in the next two sections, Mr. Ballam.
Mr. Ballam It is just merely a suggestion....
Mr. Jackman The people of Newfoundland have waited for almost 14 years, and I feel that what they want now is cold, hard facts. Reporting over the air and to the newspapers is all right, but I feel that what they want is nothing sensational at all, just the facts. I feel this is a good move, because I don't see how we are going to get anywhere if we are going to meet in full session every day like this. I don't think any of us want to be here longer than necessary, I think we should get the work done and put the information before the members.
Mr. Hollett I am somewhat in accord with the sentiments of Mr. Smallwood, that it is not possible to keep the interest of the public alive if we adjourn the assembly for a considerable period, and I am wondering if we could compromise a little on this plan and have the committees meet on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and then have the Convention meet on Friday. In some instances these committees are going to extend over a somewhat long drawn out time, and I feel that if we knew that the Convention would come in session once a week, it might make up for the lack of continuity. I think Mr. Smallwood and all of us would consider this a compromise.
Mr. Butt Mr. Chairman, I agree with the remarks of Mr. Jackman. If this Convention adjourns, and meets, say once or twice a week, it adjoums in order to give the different committees time to get the information that our constituents are asking for and need, and I feel sure, sir, regardless of the Convention adjourning for a week or two, the people are not going to lose interest. The people will be informed that the Convention is adjourned for a purpose, and that the representative they sent to this Convention is seeking information for them, and that the information cannot be gotten together while this Convention sits daily. There must be adjournment, and time given the members of the committees in order to seek this information which is so vitally important to this Convention. I fail to see where the citizens of this country can object when they 48 NATIONAL CONVENTION September 1946 know, that the Convention was adjourned for a purpose, and that every member of the Convention was doing his job in their interest, and seek ing the information that they sent us here to get....
Mr. Smallwood In line with Mr. Butt, my point is not that the public would condemn us for not meeting daily, they would just lose interest. Now on a given night 200,000 people, let us assume, are listening in. On that one occasion, in one sentence or two, it is said in a broadcast that the Convention has adjourned to go into committee work. I will agree that if that were said each night for a week on the air that fact would then become public property in Newfoundland. I am sure that my friend Mr. Harrington will agree on that. You have got to say the same thing in a number of ways at least five times over that many days before it becomes public property. I am afraid that the reaction would be, "What's happened to the Convention? I have not heard a word from them for some days." The fact that they divided into nine committees, and that they are working like nailers to get certain information would not be appreciated. My point was not as to whether the constituents would blame us or not, my fear is that they will not even know that we have adjourned or why, and they will think we are trying to stretch it out as long as possible. Already lots of people have said, "Oh they meet at 3 o'clock and adjourn at 5 o'clock - $15 gone to wing!" They don't know how we are working - that does not make good copy for our friends in the press box, and the bare fact that there was a committee meeting is not copy at all....
Mr. Brown Mr. Chairman, what is the radio and the press for? Surely, the press and the radio can inform the general public what is happening. Well, if the general public don't want us to get the information that we are seeking today and going to seek, how can we reach any decision in this Convention? Surely there must be a time for the obtaining of this information, and we can't get that information and have this house sit every day. Some of us have been sitting on some committee every day, except Sunday, up to the present time, and I don't see how this House can sit daily and obtain the information we want to give the general public. I think this is only prolonging the debate and losing time discussing the matter. As far as what my friend Mr. Smallwood says about us getting $15 a day, there will be some of us who go out of St. John's and our $15 a day won't cover our expenses, Mr. Chairman. I hope we can get through by Christmas, and I know many others in this Convention who are of the same opinion. Let us get down to business in the right way and get through this Convention just as quickly as we possibly can, in the meantime obtaining all possible information and giving it to the public.
Mr. Smallwood Just one last word. I hope the newspaper men and radio men present have received enough copy so that they can drive it home to the public. That's my idea, to give them enough copy to make them say more than one line that we are going to adjourn. If they report this little scrap that we have had, it may serve the purpose for which it was intended.
Mr. Hickman I agree entirely with Mr. Butt, and if the people have had nothing for 12 years I think another week or two won't hurt. I think the quicker we get down to the actual work the better. I would like to make a motion that the motion be put.
Mr. Smallwood I second that motion.
Mr. Chairman Moved that section 5 as read be agreed. Motion carried unanimously.
[Section 6 read]
Mr. Chairman There is a slight correction there, gentlemen. The officials of a department will not come here and take part in the committee meetings, but it is meant that an official from the department will be there and his first duty will be to give this task his first attention. That section will read: "It is proposed that each committee shall have the assistance of an official of the appropriate government department to assist it in its task of obtaining the necessary information from that department. The Commission of Government have assured the Chairman of their fullest co-operation in this respect."
[Sections 6 and 7 approved]
Mr. Chairman It is proposed that each member of the Convention sit on two committees, and the schedule for the time of sitting has been so arranged that they will not overlap. If it is so approved, gentlemen, I shall appoint the members of the Convention to the committees accordingly.
[Moved and carried that this suggestion be approved. The committee of the whole rose, and the Convention adopted the Report of the Steering Committee]

Report on the Financial and Economic Position of Newfoundland[1]

Mr. Job I wish to make the following remarks on the subject of this Chadwick and Jones report, which perhaps for short I may call the white paper. I hope there will be many other opportunities of referring to it, and on this assumption I do not intend to speak at length on it today. It has been prepared from our own government department records, with a view to giving us a preliminary picture of the economic position of Newfoundland. This document, in my opinion, is a definite contribution to our efforts and cannot be lightly brushed aside. I believe that a careful study of it will help the delegates to get some sort of a picture of the government's economic position, but it is far from providing all the information we will require. A careful study of that excellent review entitled Newfoundland. Economic, Diplomatic and Strategic Studies, edited by R.A. MacKay, of which a copy has been furnished to every delegate, will give us a still clearer picture. I wish today to briefly call attention to two short sentences in this white paper, one of which on page 9 reads as follows: "The long term prosperity of the Island ultimately depends on a flourishing export trade." The other on page 21 reads: "Certain industries run by outside concerns bring into the country only sufficient money to run their operations, but the great bulk of earnings from the sale of fish is ploughed back into the economy."
I have emphasised, and will take every opportunity of again emphasising, that the happy state of affairs declared to he so vital and desirable by those two bright young delegates, Mr. Newell and Mr. Keough in their admirable addresses, will never be achieved unless and until we are assured of a more stable and profitable market for our fishery products of all sorts than has existed in the past. Such a market will be available only if we take advantage of our strategic position to negotiate tariff arrangements with the mother country, with Canada and with the United States of America, and the sooner some government with solid backing can get under way with these negotiations the better. There is very shortly going to be held an international trade convention for the purpose of discussing trade relations and tariffs, at which a delegate or delegates appointed by the Newfoundland Commission of Government will be present. Newfoundland's case for special consideration so far as trade and tariff relations with the United Kingdom, Canada and with the United States of America are concerned, should be based not only upon the question of reciprocity on tariff concessions, but also upon the fact that these three countries will be utilising our strategic position for the safety of their millions of people.
This country has never received anything, except the temporary benefit of certain expenditures during the war, which were necessary for the safety of these millions of people, in return for the 99-year leases of Newfoundland territory granted to the United States, and the special airport facilities granted to Canada. We do not want to be subsidised by outside people to enable us to maintain that fair standard of living to which reference has been made, but we do want to be assisted by tariff arrangements. It is useless to develop our production of fish products without assurance of a profitable market. I make these present remarks on account of the urgency existing, to impress upon those who will be responsible for the appointment of delegates to this forthcoming international trade convention, of not overlooking our grounds for special consideration. We shall want the full weight of this Convention and of our people behind this idea if anything is to be accomplished quickly.
Before closing, Mr. Chairman, I would like to support most strongly the views and patriotic sentiments so eloquently expressed by Mr. Smallwood and also by Mr. Ken Brown upon the remarks of Major Cashin on introducing his motion for receipt of this white paper. His address was more or less a repetition of some made over the radio for months prior to the Convention, and I fancy that they amused a great many people and perhaps even were helpful in arousing public interests in the political situation, but it was not the kind of address that should have been delivered at this Convention, and I fancy that every delegate here will agree with this viewpoint and resent the subtle insinuations made.
Mr. Vincent Mr. Chairman, in speaking to the motion before the Convention I did so, in the words of Mr. Keough, "possessed with a deep conviction that this is a vital moment in the annals 50 NATIONAL CONVENTION September 1946 of our country." I have observed that there are those among us who are very hopeful of seeing a sentiment develop in favour of this or that form of government. In the early stages of what can only be described as an investigating committee, that is very bad. One delegate is a proponent of this, another an adherent of that, and it would be very unfortunate should any attempt be made by a proponent of any form to superimpose his preconceived notions, fixed beliefs and fore-ordained opinions on this assembly. There should be no splitting into groups. Supposing your district does want confederation and mine responsible government, what of it? Districts are but the components of what make up Newfoundland, so let us confine ourselves to factual data only. Furthermore, any attempt to narrow the issues or restrict the choice of the people would not only be foolhardy, it would be positively dangerous. The majority of our people are not concerned with the name of tomorrow's government, but that the administration of tomorrow should provide, inasmuch as governments can, more comprehensive and higher educational standards, more and better communications, in short a general raising of the standard of living which, to say the least, is much lower than in any English- speaking country of the western hemisphere.
The solution is not to be found in the political field, it will be found in the future prosperity and consequent happiness of that family over the way, for "a nation is as poor as its people." I personally do not care what name is given to their set form of government; I'll vote for it as soon as it can be shown it was in the best interest of Newfoundland. Today we are at the cross-roads. "Whence from here and whither tending?" I ask. These are important questions and it devolves upon the members to be exacting in their research and honest in their opinions, not guided by sentiment. The economy of Newfoundland is not basically different in 1946 from what it was in 1934 — the influx of outside capital during the abnormal war years cannot in the long run have any appreciable effect upon our ability to be self-sufficient - the internal market for our products cannot in the foreseeable future be greatly enlarged. Newfoundland still has 42,000 square miles of territory with only a third of a million people. That confronts us with a large problem for it obviously means a too-wide diffusion of our national effort, which in turn greatly weakens the ability of any centralised government to maintain anything like fair provisions for the communications so essential to the people of the small towns and villages. I would hesitate to vote for any form of government before all the facts are assimilated. For after all, the real trouble is the age-old business game of trying to make enough money on the goods sold to enable the businessman to keep his personnel happy, and his stores and warehouses in fairly decent order. The three meals and tight roof argument may he basically sound, but it is only a half-truth, for the question is not how we'll eat and what we'll wear. It goes deeper than that, for it must not be forgotten that no government in itself can go on providing for the welfare of its people unless its resources can support its economy. Government of course can provide legislation, social and otherwise, that will in some measure contribute to that end, but the burning questions are, can we provide new industries, seek out and develop new resources? There is a dire need for newer methods in our saltfish industry; and our external trade, the very essence and life-blood of our economy, is, as it was 50 years ago, still contingent upon the ability of foreign markets to purchase our exportable products. These and other factors tend to make the task facing the Convention a case of arithmetic plus sound common sense, so let us dispense with our pet opinions and continue the investigation on our financial and economic affairs on the broad plane of securing facts only.
I cannot agree that the Convention is a farce and a fiasco. I am willing to explore every possibility, analyse every issue, and without identifying myself with any group or following any star, to measure everything by the yardstick of the best for Newfoundland. I would vote for the retention of Commission of Government, if after the mobilisation of all the facts I find it is best for the country, but I shall as readily vote against it if the opposite is the case. Logically I believe in responsible government — what free man doesn't — but it is not a question of what I believe, it's what is best for Newfoundland.... I do not pretend to have any notion how the country would vote tomorrow, but I am convinced that the widest publicity should be given to the findings and deliberations of the Convention. If we conduct our investigation in the proper September 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 51 manner, I am confident we can safely leave the final analysis in the hands of our fellow Newfoundlanders. They will choose wisely and well.
Mr. Jones Mr. Chairman, it is with a certain amount of intimidation I rise to make a few remarks on the report now in question. This National Convention has become a reality after much tribulation. I hope its faculties will continue to keep healthy and strong, because it will need the shoulder of an Hercules to carry the burden of statistics about to be placed upon its shoulders. The members of this Convention have been appointed by our respective districts to try and find out the best form of government suitable for Newfoundland The task is going to be extremely difficult, and will call for the best contribution each and every one of us can put into it. We shall have to give sane and unbiased considerations to the many problems which will from time to time confront us, and there is much hard work in store for us before we can attempt to try and come to a decision.
Mr. Chairman, since we relinquished our status as a self-governing people, Newfoundland has been in the limelight, and still is. We have had many reverses in our economic life since then, yet we have survived somehow. When war was declared Newfoundland was at its lowest ebb, economically and financially, yet in spite of the fact that many of our young men were on the dole, being only half-fed and half-clothed (on six cents a day) they rallied round the colours, and very soon some 7,000 of our young men were enlisted in the different forces of the empire, not forgetting thousands of our young women who offered their services. Mr. Chairman, let us hope Newfoundland will never again experience the difficult times previous to the outbreak of hostilities. That is where this Convention comes in, to find that form of government which will remove the spectre of want from our people. Should this Convention recommend such a form of government, then it will be the means of placing Newfoundland on the map, and our children's children will look back in the years to come on the work of this Convention and say it was a masterpiece.
Mr. Chairman, as we look at the estimates for 1946-47 we find a deficit balance of approximately $4 million. How can we be self-supporting under these conditions? If we wish to find a solution to our problems, we must forget this form or that form of government, until we have studied carefully all the information at our disposal and then come to our decision, which is the most suitable form of government for this sadly burdened country of ours.
Mr. Watton Mr. Chairman, during the past few days we have listened to some lengthy and eloquent speeches by several members of this Convention and I wish to tender congratulations. What I have to say will not be lengthy nor will it be eloquent. I am not too particularly blessed with the gift of oratory, nor do I think it is necessary at this stage of our proceedings.
The Chadwick and Jones report will he of the utmost value to us in our deliberations, and I do not think there will be any question of its adoption. During this debate a lot has been said for and against various forms of government. Mr. Chairman, the time is not ripe, nor do I think it appropriate, for us to discuss the merits or demerits of any particular form of government. As regards what form of government is best for this country at the present, I have no idea, but as to what kind of a government I want for this country, I have a very fixed idea. What I, and the majority of the people of this country want is a government that will give us the greatest measure of economic and financial stability. A government that will see to it that the rising generations of this country are given a sound education, a chance to develop a healthy mind, and what is perhaps most important of all, a healthy body.
During the past, Mr. Chairman, our people have been denied a great many, if not all of these privileges or shall I say rights. I could carry on in this strain to come length, but if I do I shall probably find myself in the rather awkward position of self-contradiction. Because at the beginning I stated that what I had to say would not be lengthy.... So let us cut out the pretty speeches and get down to business.
Mr. Penney Feeling that our friends at Carbonear may be thinking I am asleep on the job or something worse because we are not figuring in the news so far, may I take this opportunity of speaking briefly, as well as to let you know at the start that I am not a past master in the field of oratory. Yet, like all other members of this Convention, we have our own opinions and feelings concerning the work which we are called upon to 52 NATIONAL CONVENTION September 1946 do. I was surprisingly touched and pleased with the addresses of Mr. Newell of White Bay District, and Mr. Keough of St. George's on Wednesday last, because they were young men representing extern districts in Newfoundland, and they may not have been schooled in parliamentary amenities in the same way as our old time politicians whom we have already heard every so often. Yet it could be clearly seen that they were alive to their jobs and gave us some good stuff to think over. May they be followed by other outport members who may be classified as unknown in this public way so far, like your humble servant.
When Mr. Brown told us in his address that he came to this Convention with an open mind his declaration touched me closely, for I can say also that it is my privilege to be sailing in the same boat in that respect. While I am not in love with the dictatorial make-up of Commission of Government, I am more concerned over the number and kind of meals the people of Newfoundland will be able to afford in the years ahead, than I am in particular forms of government at this time, so to that end, and for that purpose I am very willing to serve with a feeling that there are many rivers to cross in between.
Mr. Higgins Mr. Chairman, I had not intended to address this assembly at the present time, and I don't intend to do so today for more than five or six minutes. I feel it is much more fitting to have members outside St John's do the talking at the present time, because we in St. John's who are so much closer to the seat of government have a lot to learn from the opinions of outside members. My real reason for rising in this debate was because I did not feel justified in keeping silence any longer, having listened to the remarks of the proposer of this motion on Wednesday last. I do not feel justified for two reasons, one that silence may be considered to give consent to the views of Major Cashin, and secondly because I feel that his remarks, whilst they may be good politics, do not lead to contentment in the minds of the delegates. The remarks I object to are these. In referring to the undertaking by the British government to Newfoundland — "When the country is self-supportin g we would have responsible government given back upon the express wish of the people" — he said, speaking of this people, "How can any thinking Newfoundlander honestly and conscientiously give his moral support and endorsement to a thing which is not alone illegal but even ethically improper?" Again, in referring to a statement made by Prime Minister Attlee that the Commission have in hand or are planning to meet our present needs during the next two or three years, Mr. Cashin read into this statement the fact that the British government intended to enforce Commission rule for two or three years. He said again, "Our status, despite what may be said to the contrary, is simply that of a mock parliament, a discussion group, a study club." How anybody holding opinions such as these can sit as a member of this Convention is beyond my understanding, and certainly Major Cashin's doing so is, using his own words, very improper. The most scathing part, however, is the excuse he gave when he said he was not "a subservient delegate to a Commission-inspired assembly, but rather a free and independent representative of the people whose interests I represent." The suggestion contained in these remarks means that either some or all of us are subservient delegates to what Major Cashin describes as "a Commission-inspired assembly". I resent that suggestion, and I am sure I resent it equally with all of you here today. There is no man here who is not a free and independent representative of the people, and I defy Major Cashin or any other person to say otherwise. I am not interested in the background of this Convention; as far as I am concerned we have been elected by the people of this country to ascertain if we have or can arrange economic security and financial stability. Without these no government can be successful. Having ascertained these items we must look to the form of government best suited to the country. Our fellow countrymen are looking to us with great expectations, in fact the outside world is also extremely interested in this Convention, as we note by the newspaper coverage we are receiving. I ask you, can the remarks of Major Cashin impress our country or outsiders with our ability to solve our problems? Let us in all future sessions refrain from all such remarks as we heard here on Wednesday last. We must remember that the cost of this Convention is by no means inconsiderable. The sum of $150,000 was set aside to cover this assembly. The costs amount to upwards of $800 for each day. Unless we are giving service in line with our September 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 53 terms of reference we are not playing the game by our constituents or by the country generally.
Mr. Bailey Mr. Chairman, much has been said on what we are gathered here for. I could not help recalling some of the speeches of yesterday. I believe we of the Convention realise the responsibility of what is an historic occasion, and it is something, in my estimation, that should not have happened. I am learning for the first time the whole truth about what has happened in the past, and the truth still leaves me in that state of mind that there should never have been an occasion for a National Convention. I agree with my honourable colleague, Major Cashin, that we should never have surrendered the constitution. In that I differ from my learned colleague Mr. Brown. At that time I was out of the country. In 1929, watching the course of events, I was talking to some of the members of the House and the matter of borrowing came up. They said we had to borrow to get along, I asked, "What are you going to do when you can't borrow, have you any plan? You had better get one for your borrowing days are about over." It seems like everybody drifted along with no plan, "laissez faire" was the order of the day. That was the time to have tried to get the house in order, and when the world got in the doldrums in the thirties, the first thing we should have done was to have notified our debtors that until our markets picked up we would acknowledge our debt, and pay a token payment of say one third of one percent and also tried at the time to get our interest scaled down. After all, we had spent a lot of the money fighting for democracy, it was just as well to face it first as last. No, that much was too much for Newfoundland, where vested property has sacred rights above the call of human rights. Then the Tory element came to the fore and we had to surrender our franchise, our birthright. Esau sold his for a mess of pottage, he made a better bargain than us. I don't know who got anything out of it. I am sure the British government didn't, for since 1934 all liberal-minded people throughout the world have reminded her of her treatment of Newfoundland. When serving on a great ship in 1940 and talking in the mess about the way the democrats let the Spanish republic down, one steward who was secretary of the Barcelona Labour Party and on the run from Franco said, "What did you expect of the Tory element in Britain, did they not take away Terra Nova's constitution because she could not pay to the Yankee and British capitalists the interest on her debt, and that debt was only $2 a head for the people of Britain?" So you see, prestige is hard to get and easy to lose. Then we got a Commission of Government, a cure for all our ills. I was home from 1936 to 1939 and if ever there was a hopeless, befuddled body of men in the world's history it was that same Commission. I'm sure had the home government given us the power to elect our commissioners with the power the commissioners had, plus financial experts from the old country, the story would have been different today. I doubt if we would have been clamouring for a change of government.
Let us review our country's past. With everything against us for the past 336 years since the first permanent settlers landed here, taking the type of country it's our lot to own, and the way our economic system has worked, we have made marvellous progress, and its because our people seem to be made out of different clay. The north breeds men, and our country bred good men - we must never let them down, and I have great faith in the future. I don't think it's going to be easy. We don't want men of the type who surrendered our God-given right to vote. Personally, I don't think we'll get them, I think we have learned our lesson. Let us review our past financially. The figures, if one is to believe the British year book from 1900 to 1930, show that with a population of less than 255,000, we exported nearly $700 million worth of goods and we imported just $l4 million less than we exported. Out of these imports we built a Grand Falls, a Corner Brook, Deer Lake, the dry dock, the Newfoundland Hotel, hundreds of miles of railroads. Added to that we borrowed $70 million, added to the wages of a number of men who like myself worked outside the country and sent their money in, which probably in the 30 years reached nearly $100 million. Let us get down to the crux of the matter, and find out why, with this wealth in sight, we are in the place we are. In 1929 our exports totalled $40 million, or $140 per head for every man, woman and child in Newfoundland. That was our foreign trade. That year the foreign trade of the United States, the greatest in her history, was $42 per capita. Economists have told me we are the largest exporters per capita in the 54 NATIONAL CONVENTION September 1946 British Empire, of goods taken from sea, forest, mines and land, and its all plain to the world that any country where exports exceed imports that country is in a healthy condition, except Newfoundland. If we are going to eat, as Mr. Newell states, we have to find out how and where we are going to eat. We have got to have a plan and a government that will give us that freedom from fear and want that so many of us fought for.
I could not help thinking, when listening to Mr. Wild, with a revenue of $33 million, how our country in 1930 had exports valued at $7 million and a revenue of $1.25 million. Take our position today and then, are we not that much better off? If our social security and way of living would only increase with our expert and revenue, then we sure would have heaven on earth. I think in those days our "crooked" politicians did a good job, and if we get men of their stamp and managing ability, plus the advanced knowledge of the last 46 years, it will augur well for the country. I am not in accord with this big plan spending. I believe in retrenchment with a capital "R" for the days that are always ahead after a war. Then plan. "Today" has always characterised their actions in the past — always the wrong thing at the wrong time. I believe the government is making a mistake.
I voted against Mr. Smallwood bringing in an expert. I'm no BA but I don't want any expert to tell me why we don't eat or why we can't balance budgets. I have been a left wing socialist since 1910, and have travelled to nearly every country with a coastline in the world. I have been fortunate to meet folks who are trying and planning a better way of life. I have also taken notice of conditions in Newfoundland for 45 years and I'm not at all surprised that things are as they are, in fact with our laissez faire way its a wonder they are not worse.... I can answer Mr. Newell, before we eat we have to have a government "of the people, for the people and by the people" who will see that those conditions are eliminated and the common man is represented. I spent the six years of the war with 28 voyages to Europe, with Russia and the Mediterranean thrown in, and I can assure my learned colleague, Major Cashin, that the ports of Britain are no stranger to me. I detested the Commission of Government and would have fought it if it had been the best government in the world, and it was a long way from that, for I believe in democracy. I'm still of that mind. I could not get any news of what was going on home from this side, so I tried on the other. I met quite a few men who are in power today. I remember one of them saying, "Newfoundland with nearly 20,000 of her sons and daughters working and fighting for democracy is under a dictatorship. It sounds ridiculous, but we don't know what to do for Newfoundland for they don't know what they want themselves." I'm sure we cannot place the blame on the Labour Party, for had you, Major Cashin, got 50 or 60 men together of sterling character and demanded self rule with a united populace behind you, Labour would have fought for us and I think the Tory element would have been glad to have changed it.... The only chance for the Labour Party to find out if there was really any political talent and interest in government was to call a National Convention. Take it from me, Labour is in sympathy with us and don't put the blame on them. I agree with you about our getting out a financial report by Newfoundlanders wholeheartedly, and the quicker our way; the British way in getting back our independence is going to be expensive and a long-drawn out affair, and we should petition His Majesty's Government, as we are an elected body and heartily sick of Commission of Government, and ask if they will turn the government over to us and let us put parties in the field, first for responsible government, second for modified Commission of Government, third for confederation with Canada, fourth North of Ireland status, and for three years educate our people in what they have lost, so our people will have full knowledge of the issues at stake. I believe this is the best and cheapest way, and I don't think it should be left to a later date. I believe this would be parliamentary, and no man could say the country was sold down the street. I have never thought the Commission of Government legal. The Statute of Westminster states these seven self-governing nations within the British Commonwealth of Nations are in no way subordinate to each other, neither in their domestic or foreign policy, and as I read it that cannot be changed without a plebiscite of the people. That plebiscite was not held, the Alderdice government was elected to bring back prosperity to the country, not to sell it.... We, as the first elected body of Newfoundlanders, will forget the September 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 55 lapse of the past and hold the mother country to the Statute of Westminster, so let us go ahead and appeal to the mother country to allow us to take our place without a lot of beating around the bush, take over the job and quit ourselves as men.... So let us clear lower decks and face whatever our country calls for.
Mr. Fowler Mr. Chairman, if I recall correctly some speakers in the early stages of this debate called for an end to oratory and the beginning of the real business of this Convention. I think that this was not the end but the beginning of such oratory, and while I realize that it is a great temptation to any delegate, conscious of his ability, to burst forth in flowery speech, yet I also contend, sir, that the sooner we get down to real business the better.
I agree that the people of this country are very much concerned over this business of eating in the future, but feel sure the great majority are also gravely concerned over the way they will vote, and as to whether they will have that precious right restored to them in future years. You need more than a full stomach in order to have a contented people, and history will bear out that statement.
We are about to discuss the report of the Dominions Office. This, I hope, will be an inter~ esting study, and give us a first class picture of our financial and economic position at the present. But how this Convention or any other body can determine whether Newfoundland will be self-supporting in say ten years from now, regardless of what form of government we adopt, is more than I can understand; and since the basis of our economy is by no means stable, a chance on the future must be taken in any event. Therefore, in order to justify ourselves before posterity, we owe it to them as well as to ourselves, to secure if possible a form of government which will embody the highest ideals of democracy and permit of the greatestopportunities for all. To this end, gentlemen, let us take up the work at hand in harmony and unity. Let us not strike the note of discord too loudly, for there are eager ears listening, but, in the words of Britain's wartime prime minister, "Let us go forward together."
Mr. Hollett Mr. Chairman, we have certainly had an opportunity to hear all shades of opinion. I am amused at the idea of the open mind, and also of making sure of three meals a day. In order to bring this thing to a close, I move that the question he now put with regard to the acceptance of the report.
Mr. Smallwood I have already spoken and I can't speak again, but may there not be other delegates who may wish to speak?
Mr. McCormack Mr. Chairman, gentlemen, I did not propose to address the Convention as I am unaccustomed to public speaking, also because I consider all this speech-making so much waste of time that could be used to better advantage. However, as it seems to be the order of the day and apparently expected by many, I now ask for your tolerance.
Few of us came here with this so-called open mind, and as was to be expected, the proponents of the different forms of government are already showing their partiality to those whom they look to as leaders. I believe, however, that all are motivated with a sincere and honest desire to arrive at recommendations which will be of greater benefit to the many rather than to the few. It should be remembered meantime that each one of us expects to form conclusions from facts obtained, rather than from oratory in debate before these facts are obtained. The Steering Committee is to be complimented in this connection in dividing the work between the different committees and we may now hope for more expediency in obtaining the information relative to our work.
Many questions have been tabled, most of them relevant, but not all of them absolutely necessary, the replies to which may be difficult to obtain, and, as the Hon. Mr. Wild suggested, it would be well to confine them to essentials, otherwise the compilation of replies will outlive the Convention itself. Surely we can arrive at an estimate of our national economy approximate enough to meet our requirements without seeking after minute details. With reference to our national income, we cannot hope to obtain even a fairly approximate figure when no tabulation of in: dividual incomes is available from the majority, and even those would not contain supplementary income. I might refer to a large number throughout the island receiving monetary gifts regularly or otherwise from friends or relatives within the United States and Canada, I would suggest, in this connection, that Convention delegates, whom it may be assumed are conver 56 NATIONAL CONVENTION September 1946sant with the living conditions of their constituents, should be able to contribute towards a solution of this problem.
As for forms of government, in the final analysis no form of government can give economic security if our resources, when fully developed, are not capable of giving us a self-sufficient national income equitably distributed.
Our chief concern, then, is to discover, not alone our economic position at the present time of abnormality, but, insofar as possible, what we can expect it to be in say ten years time. In speaking thus, I am not unmindful of our many neglected assets, as for example our geographic position, on which we should capitalise, and the many services supplied us at high cost by outside interests, which could and should be supplied by ourselves. We must not fail to remember that the government is primarily an administrative body, and may I quote in conclusion: "O'er forms of government let fools contest, That which is best administered is best."
Mr. Chairman Gentlemen, is it the wish that we adjourn the debate to enable any of the members who have not spoken to speak on this motion?
Mr. Bradley I think that this would be a wise move, and for that reason I move the adjeumment of the debate, because I think there are many members who have not had a chance to find their feet, and we ought to give them an opportunity to do so, so that they can be more accustomed to speaking on the floor of the house before we get to the really serious business of this Convention.
Mr. Chairman Proposed by Mr. Bradley, seconded by Mr. Ballam that the debate on this motion be adjourned. Carried unanimously.
Pursuant to the adoption of the Report of the Steering Committee, and in accordance with the suggestions of that committee, I appoint the following committees:
(1) Fisheries Brown (Convener) Job Goodridge Crosbie Bradley Ashboume Hillier Reddy Fudge Figary (2) Finance Cashin (Convener) Job Crosbie Hickman Crummey Keough Penny Goodridge Bellam Cranford (3) Forestry Fudge (Convener) Cashin Dawe MacDonald Roberts Vardy Brown Vincent Northcott Bailey (4) Mining Higgins (Convener) Hollett Banfield Miller Jackman Vardy Fowler McCarthy Watton Burry (5) Agriculture Butt (Convener) McCormack Fogwill Keough Harmon Ballam Spencer McCarthy Jones Kennedy (6) Local Industries Hickman (Convenor) Reddy Dawe Hillier Penny September 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 57 Vincent McCormack Starkes Cranford Jackman (7) Education Hollett (Convenor) Fowler Jones Fogwill Spencer Miller Harrington Smallwood Ryan Newell (8) Public Health and Welfare Ashboume (Convener) Newell Roberts Higgins Harrington Kennedy Banfield Burry Crummey Starkes (9) Transportation Bradley (Convener) Smallwood Hannon Figaxy Northcott Ryan Bailey Watton Butt MacDonald
Mr. Chairman The Committee on Information will consist of Mr. Bradley, KC. and Mr. Higgins, K.C., in association with myself; and in view of the alteration of the procedure there will be no necessity in the future for notice of questions. All requests for information will now be passed to the Committee on Information and they will transmit them forthwith to the appropriate departments for information. Will the convenors of the various committees notify the committees to meet in accordance with the schedule. We will now proceed with the orders of the day.
Mr. Smallwood Since I tabled notice of this motion[1] we have heard Mr. Wild. At the session yesterday there was some difficulty in getting the exact figure showing the gross national production of the country and it was suggested that by a process of sampling there could be arrived at something fairly accurate, approximate, at least, of the figure asked for in this resolution. You gentlemen are quite familiar what arguments there are in favour of the general idea of knowing the value of the gross national production of the country. It is an entirely different motion, of course, from that defeated here the other day - the one which asked for the appointment to the Convention of a statistician-economist. This solely asks that the government should provide us with the information. How they get it is not our business. We do not put a time limit there, but within the next couple or three months we want some approximate idea, something more complete than is given in Dr. McKay's book where there is an attempt at guessing the national production. I make that motion.
Mr. Vardy I second that motion.
Mr. Bradley I do stress the difference between this and the motion which was defeated the other day. I think we must all agree that every bit of information possible for us to have ought to be laid before us. Just how accurate an estimate of the gross national production of this country can be obtained by the government, I do not know. I am neither a statistician nor am I an economist; but I think Mr. Wild indicated that something more could be done than has as yet been done, and for that reason I think we would be making a very grave mistake if we refuse to adopt this resolution. It is an effort to get all the information and in order for us to get a basic figure.
Mr. Chairman I take it the Finance Committee will take that under consideration as one of their first duties.
Mr. Hollett I am in favour of the proposal; it is essential that we know the gross national production, but why not have it for, say, 1939 and for 1933, otherwise it will be impossible for us to make the comparison.
Mr. Smallwood I would like to have it for every year for the last 50 years, but it is a sheer impos 58 NATIONAL CONVENTION September 1946sibility. It has never been done; it can be done only with respect to figures that can be gotten. The original data upon which the final figure would be built are missing except for'possibly last year and this year. They exist, but not in written form — in government accounts but never as actual written data. I wish they had.
Mr. Chairman I take the liberty of deleting the word "House" and substituting the word "Convention" in this resolution.
[The motion carried unanimously, and the Convention adjourned]


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



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

Notes de bas de page:

  • [1] Volume II:445. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] Volume II:16. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] 0n September 19, 1946, Mr. Smallwood gave notice of motion to ask the government for a statement of the gross national product, see p. 39.

Personnes participantes: