Newfoundland National Convention, 30 October 1946, Debates on Confederation with Canada


October 30, 1946

Mr. Chairman Before proceeding to the orders of the day, I should like to clarify a situation to which I referred yesterday afternoon in dealing with the motion before the Chair relative to the sending of a delegation to Ottawa and the amendment proposed by Mr. Penney. I said I would put the motion and then put the amendment — what I meant was this; that when the debate on the motion has terminated and when all the members who wish to speak have spoken thereto, I shall then read the question and then announce that to that question an amendment has been proposed and seconded so that you gentlemen may then understand that you will have the right to speak to the amendment as a new question. You quite understand? Then when the debate on both is over, I shall, of course, pursuant to the ordinary practice, put the amendment first, and from that the consideration of the motion will follow in due course.

Motion to send a Delegation to Canada[1]

Mr. Cashin Before the debate is proceed with, I would like to take up a matter of procedure.
Mr. Chairman Certainly.
Mr. Cashin If I understand your ruling correctly, this Convention has power to send a delegation, and that ruling was confirmed by Mr. Wheare. I am not competent to contest your ruling, there are others more capable of doing that, yet I would like to draw your attention to an extract from His Excellency the Govemor's address[2] given before the Convention, and I quote:
These forty-six Newfoundlanders gather together to consider, and here in the interest of accuracy quote from the official terms of reference "to consider and discuss amongst themselves as elected representatives of the Newfoundland people, the changes that have taken place in the financial and economic situation of the Island since 1934, and bearing in mind the extent to which the high revenue of recent years have been due to wartime conditions, to examine the position of the country, and to make recommendations to His Majesty's Government as to possible forms of future Government to be put before the people at a national referendum. Though these terms of reference do not permit of a roving commission, they do provide ample scope for the members of the Convention to ventilate their views on the possible forms of future Government.
He says the terms of reference do not permit of a roving commission. I do not know whether we consider a delegation to Ottawa or anywhere else as a roving commission; I would like a ruling on that...
Mr. Chairman I do not think, Major Cashin, that His Excellency had in mind when he used that expression, the competency or otherwise of the Convention in sending a delegation to Ottawa; nor do I consider that the expression which you have quoted is germane to the ruling which I gave yesterday.
Mr. Cashin The point I am making, His Excellency says, "the terms of reference do not permit a roving commission."
Mr. Chairman You want an interpretation of "roving commission"?
Mr. Cashin Yes.
Mr. Chairman I do not think you want to construe that expression too literally. It means what it says. I would say what His Excellency perhaps had in mind was that we were confined within certain definite limits by virtue of the terms of reference. We have to regard those terms of reference in ascertaining what our powers are... I confirm my ruling of yesterday, that I think it is perfectly competent for this Convention, if it so desires, to send a delegation to Ottawa, if the Canadian government is prepared to receive such a delegation, to ascertain the terms and the basis of which the Canadian government would be prepared to consider federal union with Canada; in the same way, it is perfectly competent for this Convention to ascertain any other fact. It really amounts to the eliciting of information, and one of the primary duties as well as the patent authority and right of this Convention is to elicit information on basic facts. Is that clear, Major Cashin?
Mr. Cashin Quite clear, but I have not gotten the definition of a "roving commission" yet. As October 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 121 I understand it, a roving commission is one meant to go around and get facts.
Mr. Chairman I am not saying what His Excellency meant; that would be impertinence on my part. All I can do is to construe the words.
Mr. Hollett That is a point that has also been troubling me. It has been insinuated here that we might possibly send a delegation to Timbuctoo. Where are we going to draw the line about this roving commission? I would like to refer you to paragraph 2 of this White Paper:
Accordingly, His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, having considered the changed financial and economic position of Newfoundland, it was announced by the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs in the House of Lords on the 11th December, 1945, that steps would be taken as soon as possible to provide machinery whereby the Newfoundland people would be enabled to examine the future of the Island and to express their considered views as to the form of Government they desire, having regard to the financial and economic conditions prevailing at the time.
In Newfoundland, not in Canada or Timbuctoo. Whilst I am not in a position of disputing your ruling, sir, or the distinguished constitutional historian who has been sent out here by the Dominions Office, yet my mind is not satisfied that we, as a Convention, have the right to send a delegation to Canada, to England or even to Timbuctoo; and I would like to have that position fully clarified, at least as far as my mind is concerned, and I would like to have clarification on the point which Major Cashin raised.
Mr. Chairman I confirm my ruling.
Mr. Watton Mr. Chairman, I have listened with varying emotions to the several speakers on the resolution now before this House. Some with profound interest, to others with disgust.
As I have stated before in this House, I came to this Convention with an open mind, and I want to make it clear that no one either inside or outside this Convention has succeeded in altering my opinion. I have not been offered any senatorships, neither have I been offered a trip to Ottawa; I also want it to be understood that I am not a confederate, not that it will make any difference to me what people think of me. As far as this motion now before the Chair is concerned I am going to support it. The people of this country, whom we represent, the people of Fogo district, whom I personally represent, expect when the time comes to be given the real facts, they want to know if this country is self-supporting at this moment, if it is likely to be so in the future. In short they want to know just where we stand as a country. They also want to know about forms of government, whether it be Commission government, responsible government, confederation or any other form, and we have got to give it to them. Whether we like it or not, there are thousands of people who think that confederation is the best thing that could ever happen in this country. Perhaps it is, I don't know, nobody knows, and I therefore consider it our duty to find out. When the terms of confederation are made known those who are now favouring it may be turned against it; on the other hand, the terms may be such that every man and woman in this country may demand it. Who are we to dictate to these people whose servants we are? There are people who say they are Newfoundlanders and will not be a party to selling this country up the St. Lawrence River. It's not a question of selling the country to anyone, it's just a matter of doing a job we were sent here to do. I am also a Newfoundlander, and when I say that, I am proud of it — I mean it. Together with thousands of others I freely gave six of the best years of my life in the service of my country. I am not going to lower myself by asking somebody where they were in the last war or any other war; it's none of my business, I leave that to the dictates of their own consciences. But that is beside the point.
It has been stated that there is some ulterior motive in bringing in this resolution. Be that as it may, I am beginning to believe that there is some ulterior motive behind those opposing it. Is it possible that those who are opposing the seeking of the terms of confederation are afraid that the terms are going to be so good it will upset their political castle of dreams and bring it tumbling around their ears? The people of this country have been bluffed and hoodwinked long enough, it's about time they were given some of the cold hard facts, whether it suits our own personal, selfish desires or not. The people have never had a chance to live half-decent lives, but in spite of that there are those who would have us believe that we are living in prosperous times, that we are 122 self-supporting. I would like to take these gentlemen to some of the little outports, to the little fishing villages to see how the fisherman and his family lives. Even in these so-called prosperous times he and his family have half enough to eat, half enough to wear, and they may have a tight roof over their heads and they may not. Are we, this National Convention, sent here by these very people who are at this moment suffering untold hardships, are we going to deny them the facts concerning confederation, or anything else for that matter? If I did such a thing I would consider myself a traitor to the cause I have taken up. If I became a party to such a dishonourable act, could I in all sincerity still stand on my feel and call myself a true Newfoundlander? I think not. At this time we have to be realistic, we have to face the facts, however distasteful they may appear. We have to acquit ourselves like men, and be strong; we must not allow our own petty desires and selfish interests to have an overriding influence over our better judgement.
I am not a politician, and I don't know that I have any desire to be. But I do say I have the interest of this country really and truly at heart; not from any selfish motives, but from an intense desire to see that this land of ours has a fighting chance, that our people have a chance to live decent lives. And in that spirit, I support the motion now before the Chair.
Mr. Fogwill Mr. Chairman, I am in accord with the principle embodied in this resolution although I am not in accord with the method, that of sending a delegation to Ottawa. What could a delegation possibly accomplish except to confer with the government officials of that country? Whatever is done will have to be reduced to writing and presented to this Convention. Could not the terms of confederation be ascertained in another way? Is it not possible for this Convention to find out those terms by transmitting its enquiry to the Canadian government through the regular diplomatic channels which exist between the governments of both countries? If that is possible then, why send a delegation at all?
As regards the time of ascertaining the terms, in my opinion it does not matter whether those terms arrive now or in January. We have the ruling of the Chair that it is within the scope of this Convention to find out those terms. But we have yet to decide whether confederation could be a recommendation of this Convention or not. So it really does not matter when we receive them, the question can be laid aside until we are ready to deal with any form of government which may be introduced in this assembly.
I did not come here with a definite opinion in support of any particular form of government. But I did come here with the opinion that Commission of Government must go and an elected government be restored; we should never have lost the rights of responsible government. Before I close l would like to make an observation. Since I sat in this House I have not said very much, but a couple of weeks ago I did object to some words which were embodied in a report that was presented here, and for my objection I was associated with radicalism by someone who probably does not know the meaning of the word "radical". I was born and reared in Newfoundland and have lived all my life in the City of St. John's, and during that time I have worked for the period of 29 years, and in that 29 years I have been fortunate to enjoy six weeks vacation with pay. If that is a definition of a radical then I should be proud to be a radical, and I would think that there are many more people of the same category in this country who would think in the same terms as I.
In conclusion, and I hope I am right in saying this, I believe the question of federating with the Dominion of Canada is a question that must be left to a duly elected government of this country, and they should have a clear mandate from the people of Newfoundland before any steps are taken to implement any terms of union that may be considered.
Mr. Jones Mr. Chairman, in the opening days of this Convention when the Chadwick-Jones report was up for discussion, I said that all forms of government should be set aside until the desired facts had been collected and examined. I am sorry that suggestion has not been adhered to. I saw then, as some of us see now, that it was bad policy to introduce a discussion on the different forms of government before the facts had been ascertained. At the present time we know very little of the economic conditions of this country, and I think it is a mistake to send a delegation to Ottawa from this Convention until we know its financial condition. I would not wish to be one of October 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 123 the delegates to approach the Canadian government with what little information we have at present in this Convention on our economic and financial life. I am not a confederate, never was, and have never given it five minutes consideration. I believe in my own country — Newfoundland for Newfoundlanders - until I am convinced otherwise. Nevertheless, Mr. Chairman, I am in favour of finding out what the Canadian government has to offer us, should confederation become a live question in this country. Many of the previous speakers have already said that we owe it to the people of this country, no difference what our own individual views may be.
This Convention is only in its infancy; it has not yet emerged from its committee stage. Until we have passed that milestone let the different forms of government sleep peacefully, and when we are strong enough, wake them up, and then we shall see what we shall see. Mr. Chairman, we are growing up too fast; let us get back to our com mittee stage and finish that job first. When that work has been completed and discussed we shall be in a much better position to talk about the different forms of government most suitable for this country. We may find that our own house, with a little window cleaning, may not be so bad to live in after all.
I have listened to the previous speakers for and against the motion now under fire, and I find that a big majority of the members is in favour of finding out what terms Canada would offer this country should confederation become a live issue. The chief obstacle seems to be the time of approach. I too think that the motion is a bit premature, and therefore favour the amendment brought in by Mr. Penny on Monday afternoon.
Mr. Chairman Mr. Fudge was interrupted in his address the other afternoon and unwittingly sat down. I feel quite sure that none of us wants to deprive Mr. Fudge of his liberty of completing his remarks.
Mr. Fudge On the introduction of these resolutions before the House, I rose and objected to the statement made by Mr. Smallwood, wherein he stated that Newfoundland was 50 to 100 years behind the times. I want to say that I did not believe it then and do not believe it now.
It appears to me that the sole aim of the resolution at this stage of our proceedings was to divide us, so that we may not be able to enquire and to examine the condition of our country, being the first order and may I add the first duty to do so.
I have listened to the debate on this question and I recall the introduction of the Chadwick- Jones report by Major Cashin. You will remember also that in later addresses made by other delegates Major Cashin was attacked viciously. No point was raised then regarding personalities, or that attack was not the proper procedure. But during discussion on this resolution, which in my opinion came before it was sent for, Major Cashin, in my opinion at any rate, was not treated fairly. And it appears to me that the whole thing was unfair. Mr. Cashin merely asked for an explanation from the introducer of these resolutions on whose authority he was suggesting the appointment of senators and delegates to Ottawa. This I certainly would have asked myself, and I want to ask it now and to go on record that I have asked, not only for my own information but for the information of the people who comprise the second-largest district in the country. I feel that we are entitled to such information. I consider that if the statements made by Mr. Hollett and Mr. Harrington are not denied, then there is nothing else left for us to do but accept them as the truth.
Right at this particular moment, one of the most important reports was to be discussed, namely the Forestry Report, which was full of hope and encouragement and would have had an important bearing on the final findings of this Convention. This report in my opinion was too optimistic for the advocates of confederation. They only want the dark and gloomy picture to come before the people of our country. I am sick and tired of hearing some of our delegates stating that we have not got the men in our country capable of looking after our own affairs. Let me recall one of the most important boards set up in this country during the war. I refer to the Woods Labour Board, and I am not alone in this when I say that the members on that board from its very beginning were highly capable of looking after their own affairs. The results show this and they were Newfoundlanders. And I further state, Mr. Chairman, that at the head of that board was another Newfoundlander, namely yourself, who succeeded the late Judge Higgins.
I want to put myself definitely on record as 124 NATIONAL CONVENTION October 1946 supporting the amendment to this resolution, and I do so feeling that I am carrying out the duties entrusted to me to defend with all the power at my command the rights and liberties of our people. I am one who has confidence in the future of our country and our people, and I do not believe for a moment that this good old ship of state is at all leaky, and I am not prepared to send out an SOS to the Canadian rescue tug.
Mr. Brown   A few days ago I spoke briefly in connection with the resolution now before this house. I felt at that time, as I do today, that that resolution was premature. It was brought in before the receipt of committee reports which would show just what the financial and economic position of this country is. I have been wondering to myself the reason why Canada has not sent a delegation here, instead of this Convention sending a delegation to Canada, if Canada wants Newfoundland, and there is no doubt she does want to annex Newfoundland...
I remember quite well, sir, and so do you when members from the government of the day went to Quebec, trying to sell the Labrador to the Quebec government. I can name the men if necessary; I think the Prime Minister was one of them, and they, in the final analysis, offered to sell Labrador to the Quebec government for $15 million, and the Quebec government turned it down, thinking that in the final analysis the Privy Council of England would award Labrador to Quebec, or to Canada. They would not take over Labrador, or what we claimed we owned of it, for $15 million. Now we have a resolution before this House asking us to send a delegation to Canada to get the terms, and I presume if necessary become part and parcel of Canada. Canada wants Labrador, and she wants Newfoundland. Perhaps the Dominion government is not so interested, or the people at Ottawa, but the Quebec government is, and wants Newfoundland, and thinks today, Mr. Chairman, that Labrador should never have been ceded to Newfoundland. I have seen a lot happen in this assembly, and so have you, sir, and I don't know today who is the father of this House, whether it is you or myself. You were elected in 1919, 1923, 1924, and I was elected in 1923, 1924, 1928, 1932 and 1946 without a defeat, and I have seen many hard and rough times in this House. This is a famous chamber. Famous sometimes for what it did not do, and famous for what it did do as well. I was in the House and saw some of the hardest fights across this floor and took part of it myself. I have been here till 7 o'clock in the morning in an all-night session, and my friend Mr. Cashin was here as well, and also Mr. Bradley.
There is so much said about crooked politicians and graft and everything else, but I want to tell this House that I was not one of them. I left politics after all these years associated with the public life of the country a shade worse off than when I entered it. I defy any department of the government in Newfoundland to turn up a piece of paper that I had black-leaded in my name and to say that I spent a dollar in my life of government money. I never have, although I had authority to spend up to $40,000 and got licked after all. I have never done it, Mr. Speaker, and I feel that I have been a fairly honourable member of this House. At times I was unruly and had to take my seat. I submitted to your ruling, sir, but once I remember distinctly when I balked for a little while and you told me you would have me removed from the House, and I asked you, Mr. Speaker, what man in the House could remove me, and you told me you would have me removed. I looked down at my old friend the late Robert Walsh, and he was about 90 years old, and I said, "Would you like to take that job on Mr. Walsh?", and he said, "No". I have seen times in this House when men could have got money and plenty of it, and I distinctly remember on one occasion when there was a bill on the table before this House, and I, with three others, when all the other members of the opposition were against us, we stood our ground and defied this House on every corner, and three of these members are here today. Mr. Bradley, Mr. Ashbourne and myself, and another man that's not in this House today. Am I right or wrong, Mr. Bradley?
Then some of us have been called political grafters. I defy any man in this country to call me one. There is no one here who can call me such, Mr. Chairman. We have before this House a resolution. It is a different resolution from what was brought before the Steering Committee, sir, and you know it, and we passed this resolution, but when brought into this House it was a different resolution entirely. It may have meant the same thing, but the wording was different entirely. I am not against getting terms from Canada, October 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 125 and seeing what these terms are, but it is premature, sir. We have not yet got for the people of this country what we were sent here to get. Therefore I am in duty bound to vote against the resolution and to vote for the amendment. Nobody, Mr. Smallwood or anybody else, has ever approached me or offered me a senatorship or a trip to Ottawa or anything else. As perhaps the oldest member here I say here that nobody apart from God Almighty directs my course. I have a mind of my own.
While men in this House today may come to the chamber for the first time, I know even more about what I speak than people whose fathers before them have spent their lifetime in connection with the fisheries of this country. I am not one of those. I feel that we came here to do a duty to the people. I don't feel as Mr. Watton felt this afternoon that some are here with an ulterior motive. I have no ulterior motive. I was elected by acclamation. I was called out by the people in my own district, and not only one crowd but several. I never intended to run as a delegate to this Convention, but I did intend, if I was spared, to run in whatever election might come forward at a later date. I was called by my people, like it was said of me one time when I was called for another district. My reply was that it was not that I can't go there, I was not afraid to go there. I have never feared a political election or a political fight. I loved it, and I love it today. Therefore, when we come down to supporting this motion I feel that I can't do it in sincerity.
I have been practically 30 years representing labour in this country. My younger days were spent in the Pacific coast fishery business in Alaska. I know all about fishing — more than many who have had so much prate on it. I was there with frozen fingers, on the Banks and in the dory. I have gone through the mill as much as the average man in this House has gone. Yet I don't come here pretending that I know it all. I have handled labour in this country for 29 years. I have led strikes and settled strikes, and got wages increased, and I have done many things for the people of this country, and I am not ashamed of it today. Mr. Fudge referred to the Woods Labour Board. I am a member of that Woods Labour Board, and it has done a lot for this country, and is still doing it. That Woods Labour Board is showing to this country that we don't want anybody else to come in and run our own affairs. That Woods Labour Board, under the chairmanship of the late revered and honoured Judge Higgins, and of the present Mr. Justice Fox, has done work that perhaps few others could do. We have experienced people on that board, and it has done a good job; therefore I join with my friend, Mr. Fudge, in saying that we can handle our own affairs and we don't have to go to Canada.
You will find today in Canada places where people are just as backward as they are in Newfoundland. I have a piece of paper in my pocket now, I won't read it, but if I did I doubt if there would be ten men in this House who would vote for this resolution. Let it go. I will not read it now, I will leave it to some other time. I am not jumping to any conclusions, I know where I stand.
Some get up and make flowery speeches, Mr. Chairman. I have never read a speech in this assembly from the first day up to the present day, and you know sir, that the rules of the House of Assembly would not allow members to read their speeches. You had to get up and spit it out of you and have no hesitation in doing it. I have done it for years, and I hope I am doing it now. In the meantime, Mr. Chairman, I am not sorry to see that this is allowed now to the new members in this House. The only thing about it, are the speeches that the members read all written by themselves or by someone else? I don't have to write a speech to get up and express my opinion, I can get up and speak my mind without a written speech.
I have never met Mr. Penney before coming here to this Convention, and I have not spoken 20 words to you since you have been here, but I hold you in the highest esteem. Thank you for seeing fit to bring in this amendment. I think that in doing so you are doing no injustice...
[Mr. Brown collapsed at this point. 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] See pp. 93, 104. [Debate Day: 1946-10-28]
  • [2] See p. 3. [Debate Day: 1946-09-11]

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