Newfoundland National Convention, 5 November 1946, Debates on Confederation with Canada


November 5, 1946

[The Secretary read a report and correspondence from the Newfoundland Industrial Development Board[1]
Mr. Butt I give notice that I will on tomorrow move that the report of the Industrial Development Board be referred to a committee for consideration.

Motion to send a Delegation to Ottawa[2]

Mr. Butt In view of the fact that this report may have an effect upon the people's thinking, I move that the debate be adjourned until tomorrow, and that we proceed with the other orders of the day.
Mr. Chairman Anybody second that motion?
Mr. Kennedy I second the motion.
Mr. Chairman Moved by Mr. Butt and seconded by Mr. Kennedy that the debate on the motion to send a delegation to Ottawa be adjourned until tomorrow to allow the members time to study the report and the enclosure of Mr. Pratt's address.
[After some debate, the motion to adjourn debate was defeated]
Mr. Higgins Mr. Chairman, since adjouming last evening I gave some thought to the matter under discussion today with the idea of trying to reconcile the different points of view.... I sum it up in this way, in eight points:
1. We are all agreed that we want the terms of confederation.
2. The difference between us is when is the time to make the inquiry.
3. Mr. Smallwood's motion is to start the machinery for the approach to Canada immediately.
4. Mr. Penney's amendment is to defer the approach until we have finished the reports.
5. Mr. Bradley's amendment is the same as Mr. Smallwood's motion, but the delegation is not to leave before the first of January.
6. If Mr. Bradley's amendment is passed and the delegates named, they can begin work immediately and work through the Christmas vacation. 7. The delegates appointed would be honourable men and would, I am confident, not be prepared to consult with the Canadian authorities until they are armed with the necessary data.
8. So that there would be no doubt in the minds of the members of the Convention, I suggest that if the amendment suggested by Mr. Bradley was carried, that before the delegates left for Canada they individually assure the Convention that they were so armed.
With that safeguard I cannot imagine any doubt in the minds of the delegates as to the approach being in safe hands..... With that safeguard, I can see no objection to having the amendment moved by Mr. Bradley passed immediately.
Mr. Crummey I rise for the purpose of reporting my position as to the matter before the Chair. I have listened attentively to all the speeches. Some of the discussion did not appeal to me. I do not intend to make a speech, I think time enough has been wasted. I will be as concise as I possibly can. The motion is that a delegation will be appointed from this National Convention. The amendment is that the sending of a delegation be deferred, and the reasons offered I consider sound. The amendment to the amendment is a simple matter of trying to befog the issue. The sending of a delegation from this Convention I cannot agree with, because I take the position that the matter of confederation, or federation must be negotiated by governments and we are not a govemment.... I want to state emphatically that I November 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 151 do not consider the question of confederation is a matter for the National Convention to decide, I mean to negotiate, even getting the terms. There is nothing left for me to do but to support the amendment as it states definitely that the matter may come up for consideration later on.
Mr. McCormack Mr. Newell has said that most delegates are one up on him. I might say that most delegates are three up on me. I have not spoken to either the motion or the amendment, or to the amendment to the amendment...
Previous to the introduction of the original motion the various committees were working harmoniously on the primary task. The motion by Mr. Smallwood was not startling in itself, as most delegates seemed to take it for granted that we would want to know eventually the terms Canada was willing to offer under confederation. What was startling was the fact that it was brought in at that stage in our proceedings. Its introduction disrupted the work of the committees, and what is more, the tirade delivered by the mover tended to resolve the debate into an issue on confederation.
The amendment offered by Mr. Penney seemed a logical thing at the time. Nothing has changed since, despite well-prepared speeches and the masterly way in which many of them have been presented. I must confess that I am not impressed with the points made, and have not been influenced by them to alter my original opinion.
The fact that several delegates reiterated, too convincingly, that they were not confederates, makes one feel we would do well to exercise the suspicions for which we are becoming proverbial, and look for underlying motives. Mr. Bradley, in a very logical address, presented with the ability of a master, has expressed concern over the time which might elapse in the setting up of machinery and the consequent delay in obtaining information. I cannot be persuaded, even by Mr. Bradley, that the setting in motion of machinery would entail such delay as would warrant our rushing to Canada without necessary facts about our own country. He talks of January lst, which gives us a mere six weeks. What does a little time or the expenditure of a few thousand dollars amount to, when we consider the momentous task confronting this Convention?
If the outcome of the national referendum happened to be responsible government or Commission government we could look forward to a change at the wishes of the electorate, but if we commit ourselves as a tenth province the decision will be irrevocable. We have no guarantee that a referendum will be held before 1950, and should we obtain terms now, who is prophet enough to foretell if these terms would be official then? I propose to vote for the original amendment so we can put first things first and get on with the work of our committees and arrive at a solution of our primary task, discovering not whether we are self-supporting, but rather to what degree we are self-supporting, and for how long a period we can reasonably hope to remain so, keeping in mind the unprecedented and unpredictable condition of world affairs. We would then be in a position to seek terms of federal union and should do so without any feeling of inferiority, realising that both parties would expect to benefit thereby. It is my pleasure to support Mr, Penney's amendment.
Mr. Kennedy I have listened until this stage of the National Convention with intent and interest, but with the introduction of this latest amendment to the amendment, my patience has neared its end. Certain members of this assembly seem to have forgotten what they were put here to do. The general attitude of these individuals has been revolting, and the presentation of their one-tracked narrow-minded outlook has revealed all too plainly what they consider to be the main object at stake. We are here to seek information and on the basis of such information to recommend the form of government we consider most beneficial to our beloved country and not, as some members have obviously concluded, to prattle on seeking salve for our own wounded prestige.
If one and all of our present nine working committees could this week, or any other week for that matter, present the vital statistics to prove this country independent, what an utter waste of money, and what a world-wide laughing stock this Convention would become by prolonging such ridiculous tittle-tattle as this futile motion and equally futile amendment to the amendment have produced. Let us in the name of heaven stamp out this egotistical self-elevation, and as a team get down to the work which this motion and the amendment to the amendment are seeking to sabotage by their untimely and scheming interruption. Not only I but our constituents are be 152 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1946coming impatient. Can you blame them? I suggest that this Convention first obtain clear-cut national facts and so put our country, and not our ideological crazy whims first. In all earnestness, let us behave and pull together as gentlemen and true Newfoundlanders, and not like so many old women in constant discord with our neighbours on the other side of the fence. Take down that fence and in its place insert the programme which is planned, and which we were put here to carry out.
Mr. Northcott ....I want these terms, but the time is not ripe to get these terms; we must first set our house in order, and until then we should make no attempt to get any more than the facts that our various committees are now gathering. Surely we have many men in this country and assembly who are capable of running our affairs. We have lots of good businessmen in this house today who could take care of Newfoundland, and do it well, if they were given the job. I think we have gone far enough with the debate, and I suggest that we vote on this issue, and see where we arrive.
Mr. Dawe Mr. Chairman, I have no prepared speech. I happen to have had the honour to represent Newfoundland at the Imperial Ottawa Conferences at the request of the Newfoundland Board of Trade on timber in 1932, and I have had an office in the Ottawa House of Parliament building. I know something of the tricks of the trade and political intrigue. I have been in England, and I know some of the senators of Canada, the late Senator Webster of the British Coal Corporation, with whom I negotiated the first barter deal of pitprops with England for 300 years, and later through Senator Webster 250,000 tons of Wabana ore. The basis of our Ottawa agreement was contingent on Newfoundland selling 500,000 tons of Wabana ore. Baldwin and Thomas promised Mr. Alderdice they would do their best, and I succeeded in breaking down the prejudice of the blast furnace owners in England with the result that Wabana ore is going there today. Baldwin and Thomas did not do it, and I have the correspondence for it.
Mr. Crosbie I move that the question be put.
Mr. Starkes In speaking on the amendment made by Mr. Penney, I want to be clear that I came to this National Convention with an open mind, elected by the people in Green Bay district for the third time in succession during the past 18 years; and by the way, no other member sitting in this Convention can boast of that record. I do because I am confident that the people in my district elected me, feeling sure I would take a firm stand and demand what I thought would be of the greatest importance to those people was sent me here. In supporting the resolution a few days ago brought in by Mr. Smallwood, I made it plain I stood here opposed to confederation at that time. I am also opposed at the present time to responsible government, and for that reason suggested when speaking on the resolution, that we also should ascertain from the British House of Parliament what they are prepared to do for us in the way of cancelling our national debt, or any other handouts that we should be prepared to consider valuable, having in mind our very close connections to the mother country, and the valuable aid this country has rendered her.
I am definitely opposed to the present form of Commission of Government as we had it forced upon us and had to endure it during the past 13 years. I said "forced upon us", because we all know that the government of thatday, before they went to the country, made a pledge when presenting their manifesto that before they would change our constitution, they would first submit the change to the people in a referendum. This they did not do, they did not stand by their pledge made to the electorate, but voted for and instituted the present form of Commission of Government. I must confess that many of our people have during those years lost interest in the public affairs of this country, probably brought about by this so called prosperity that our country now enjoys. We are all conscious of the fact that this prosperity is not going to last forever, and God knows, everyone here must feel in their own hearts that we now must determine the future destiny of our people bearing in mind the probability, almost the certainty, that hard times will come again. It would be all right to talk about responsible government, if we could feel confident that the present degree of prosperity will hang on for the next 20 or 30 years....
The people of this country, and here I can speak very positively about the district of Green Bay, have a great dread in their hearts about the future that lies before them. That, sir, is why so many of our Newfoundland people today are so November 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 153 doubtful and so fearful about bringing responsible government back to our country.
But there are those in this Convention who are all in favour of responsible government. I am not one of those, and I am not one of those with much faith or belief in Commission government. I do not deny that they have done some good things for this country. How could they be here for 12 or 13 years without doing some good? I believe the people should have some say in the government of their country, and that is why I am willing and anxious to get all the facts about union with Canada. I do not pretend I know anything about such union and its benefits, or disadvantages, that is why I am anxious to at least hear the terms, so that we can discuss and debate them, and if we so desire have it placed on the ballot paper for the electorate to make the final decision. I am not a confederate, neither am I anti-confederate, but I can assure this house that if the people support the terms at the referendum, Newfoundlanders most assuredly will have their elected representatives; they would then have their elected prime ministers, and be given a chance to throw them out, and elect someone else after four years of their stewartship. Someone may say that responsible government would give us that. Yes it would, but how would it give it?
Would responsible government have any hope of success when the hard times came again? Or would it mean that we would be on our own again, with nobody to come to our rescue? I think I know already what the outcome would be. What I and our people want to know is this: under confederation, would we have help in case of need? That is another reason why I am so anxious to get the terms and conditions of confederation without too much delay. Now so far as Mr. Penney's amendment is concerned, it's all right for one thing only, and that is to give the resolution not two months or six months hoist, but to obliterate it completely.... The people are not going to be satisfied to have this confederation matter put on the shelf. They are determined to have the terms, as many telegrams from my district have clearly shown me these past four or five days, and other telegrams to other delegates have shown so clearly,
I would like to know what is wrong with Mr. Bradley's amendment. It says very clearly that no matter when the delegation is appointed, it cannot go to Canada before January 1, 1947. What do the opponents of this amendment want? Do they want it to be next February or next March, or next April or May? I'm one man who isn't willing to hang around here all through the winter helping to spend $1,000 a day of the people's money. It's all very well to pooh-pooh such a small matter but $1,000 a day sounds like a lot of money in a district where they haven't even got a doctor, such as Green Bay district, although 25 years ago they had two. To some people a $1,000 a day may sound like a very small amount. They may be willing to stay here for a whole year spending this money, but so far as the people of Green Bay are concerned I think they would much rather see some of this money going to help them with the new cottage hospital that they hope to have built at Springdale, the capital of my district, to which I hope and trust the government of today will give very serious consideration. Seeing the way things are going here, I feel like putting on my coat and going home. It looks like a certain number of people are out to kill the people's chance to get the terms of confederation. And why? Is it because they want responsible government, that they spend half their time trying to think up this objection or that objection to this motion and amendment to get the terms of confederation?
Before I sit down I want to tell this Convention that the people are going to have the terms of confederation in spite of the efforts of a certain few to keep it from them.... I would not be doing my duty to my district and my country if I voted against getting these terms, so I will vote for the motion as amended by Mr. Bradley. I call upon every fair-minded man in this Convention to do likewise. It's time for us to give the people a chance, and not deny them the chance to get the truth about this matter once and for all. Can't we as men be true to the confidence placed in us, secure the facts from the Dominion of Canada, from the United Kingdom, and if need be and it is possible, secure the facts from the United States of America? That is what we are sent here for, and why not do it now? I give my wholehearted support to the amendment made by Mr. Bradley.
Mr. Fudge I rise to a point of order for information. I would like to know whether or not we have gotten into a place where we are to discuss forms 154 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1946 of government. I would like to know, because I certainly will defend responsible government, and I may have something to say about some of those who conducted our affairs at that particular time.
Mr. Bailey I have listened carefully to the different speeches, but I have not said very much and I think the pattern seems to fall clearly. What is wrong? We are going to find the terms under which Canada will accept us into union. I believe we don't want to go to Canada to get the terms. The terms have been right here in St. John's for a long time. Newfoundland has been used as an international pawn, and you and I today are nothing, only pawns in the game. Our fate was sealed nearly two years ago. Everybody wants the terms of union. I guess nearly everybody here knows what they are....[1]
Mr. Figary Mr. Chairman, I rise for the purpose of seconding Mr. Crosbie's motion. I have listened to different speakers this afternoon on the amendment to the amendment, and practically every one of them stated that there was a great deal of time wasted in the discussion on this confederation matter. I can stop a gramaphone from talking, but to try and stop some people from continuous talking is, I am afraid, too big a job for me to do. However. I may say that my patience is about exhausted, and I would suggest that we get down to the real business of the Convention in a right and proper manner.
[The Chairman then put the motion on the floor to a vote. The original motion was defeated 25- 17. The Chairman then put Mr. Bradley's motion as an alternative amendment rather than an amendment to Mr. Penney's amendment. It was defeated 25-17. Mr. Penney's amendment was carried 25-18. The Convention then 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] This Board was created in January 1942 to promote the innovation and expansion of diversified industries in Newfoundland. For further information see Peter Neary, Newfoundland in the Atlantic World, 1929-1949 (Kingston and Montreal. 1988), p. 168.
  • [2] Above, pp. 93, 104, 120, 128. [Debate Days: 1946- 10-28, 10-30, and 11-04]
  • [1] The rest of Mr. Bailey's speech, as reported, is muddled.

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