Newfoundland National Convention, 23 November 1946, Debates on Confederation with Canada


November 23, 1946[1]

Mr. Chairman. Gentlemen, I open the meeting with some ten members absent. I don't know whether you wish to continue with the meeting or wait a little.
Mr. Job How many?
Mr. Chairman Ten, sir. By now they should all be here. Well, if it is your wish, gentlemen, we will continue. I will ask Mr. Cashin to explain the purpose of the meeting.
Mr. Cashin Mr. Chairman, on Thursday afternoon the Steering Committee met at the request of the Commissioner for Home Affairs and Education, in his office, to discuss the vacancy of Chairman of the National Convention. Mr. Walsh pointed out that when the National Convention Act[2] was being formed the government had approached Judge Fox, asking him whether or not he would accept the chairmanship of the National Convention. That was why it was inserted that the Chairman should be a judge of the Supreme Court. Now Judge Fox has passed away, and we find ourselves without a Chairman, and Mr. Walsh wanted to know what idea we had regarding the future position of Chairman; whether the delegates would be interested in electing their own Chairman from the members, or whether the government would have to appoint one. If the Convention members desire to elect one of their own delegates as Chairman of the Convention, Mr. Walsh informed us that he felt that die Convention Act could be amended to cover it.
That is really the object of the meeting here this morning, to ascertain whether or not we, as delegates, are interested in electing our own Chairman. That is the sum and substance of what Mr. Walsh told us the other afternoon. Now the matter is open for discussion.
Mr. Butt I don't think that is quite precisely correct. The idea is to explore the idea, not to limit it to any one thing. I don't think the government has given it any real thought.
Mr. Cashin Well, I think they have, otherwise they would not have called us. They want to know if we will do thejob or ifwe want to throw it over on them.
Mr. Job If we do not do something they will have to appoint a judge of the Supreme Court. It is up to us if we would rather have one of ourselves or a judge of the Supreme Court. I am not quite sure if he definitely states that it would have to be a member of the Convention or not.
Mr. Cashin No.
Mr. Job We can make all sorts of suggestions, and whatever we decide they would try to fall in 184 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1946 line.
Mr. Chairman Anybody else desiring to say anything?
Mr. Crosbie If we appoint somebody from the Convention, under the act, that Chairman will have no vote. Is that correct? In case we appoint somebody as Chairman what about their vote then? Would not the Chairman of the Convention be in an awkward position? He would not be allowed to cast a vote, and he would not be able to take part in debate. I understand the Chairman can't take part in debates.
Mr. Cashin The custom has been in the past for the Chairman of the committees to be allowed to leave the Chair and take part in the debate if he wanted to. If he wanted to take part in a debate he could ask someone else to take the Chair while he took his part.
Mr. Jones Would he have a vote?
Mr. Cashin Yes.
Mr. Hillier I consider it quite a responsibility. How would they be chosen? Would it be a matter of proposing and seconding and being carried, or would it be a secret vote?
Mr. Cashin Mr. Chairman, I hope you don't think that I am expressing myself too much, but in ordinary parliamentary procedure the Speaker was usually proposed by the Prime Minister and seconded in the House by the leader of the Opposition, and was elected unanimously. If we decided to elect a man to become Chairman who is a member of this Convention, I think, sir, that no member would take the job unless he had the unanimous backing of every member, and if we can't arrive at that decision then the only thing to do is throw it back on the government, and let them appoint someone from the Court or elsewhere. I am prepared to take the chance and suggest that this Convention suggest to the government that the act be amended to cover the appointmentof one of our delegates as Chairman, and that delegate would undoubtedly retain his vote. No man here would want to be Chairman and lose his vote. After all he is elected by the people and would want to vote on a matter of vital importance.
I move that this Convention suggest to the government the changing of the Convention Act, and that Mr. Bradley be appointed Chairman of this Convention. I think Mr. Bradley is capable of the job, and he is a lawyer, etc. I make the motion that Mr. Bradley be appointed Chairman, and that the government be asked to change the act to cover it. The clause in the act regarding a judge of the Supreme Court could be amended accordingly.
Mr. Ashbourne I don't think it would be right to deprive any member of the Convention of his vote, and my idea would be to have him give a casting vote. I see no reason why we should not have a member of our own Convention as a Chairman. I feel sure that in the person of Mr. Bradley we have a man well fitted for the position, a man who occupied the position of Attorney General of Newfoundland, and I would like it very much if the decision could be unanimous.
Mr. Job I would like to support that, but unless the Convention is unanimous there is not much that we can do.
Mr. Smallwood Is it the idea that we leave it to the government to appoint Mr. Bradley?
Mr. Cashin Yes, they amend the act.
Mr. Smallwood I have no objection to that. On the point of a Supreme Court judge, if Mr. Winter appoints himself to the bench, as he has every right to do, we will have on the Supreme Court bench two judges who were ex-commissioners, one the Chief Justice and the other Mr. Winter himself. It seems to me that it would be wrong to have as Chairman of the Convention an ex- commissioner, an ex-member of the government which, amongst other forms of government, have to be reviewed by the Convention. That leaves only one Supreme Court judge, namely Judge Dunfield. He, in addition to being a judge, is chairman of the Housing Corporation, a very large outfit which takes up just about every spare minute of his time when he is not doing court work, and I have heard a rumour to the effect that it is these two difficulties, first that two of the judges would be ex-commissioners, and second that the only remaining judge is also extremely busy apart from his court work, which promoted in the government the thought that perhaps the wisest thing to do would to be repeal the clause requiring a Supreme Court judge to be chairman. If we look around the town and around the country to find someone who is capable of being Chairman, and in addition to being capable, willing and with the time to spare to be Chairman, the woods are not exactly full.
Mr. Butt I disagree entirely that the Chairman should have not only a vote, but the casting vote. I am a bit worried about the question of voting as far as the Chairman is concerned. I disagree also with Mr. Smallwood when he suggests that because Mr. Winter was a member of the Commission of Government it might be unwise to appoint him. In that particular case there would be no doubt at all about his impartiality, even though he has been a member of the Commission of Government. I can see that some people in that position would not be suitable, but I have no objection to the proposal of Major Cashin, provided we can consider the question of voting. The Chairman would be in a rather difFIcult position when debate gets a bit heated and he would have to think about his position as chairman, and also of how he is going to vote, not only in the minor matters, but in the main decision, which in my opinion takes all of any man's time. On the question of voting I would like to reserve our opinion for a little while longer.
Mr. Job I think it would be a distinct loss to the Convention if Mr. Bradley, for instance, was in the position of not being able to take part in the debates, and consequently in the voting.
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, the Speaker in the old days always had a private seat to the right of the official seat where he sat as chairman. In the old days, and in any parliament, the Speaker vacated the Chair and occupied his private seat and took part in the debate. I have seen and heard Judge Fox do it, and Mr. Winter and Mr. Penney (in 1919 when he was Speaker), and certainly I have seen them vote. They don't avail of their right to speak or vote on everything that crops up, but on vital matters, as elected citizens, they do avail of their right I agree with Mr. Ashboume. I don't see how he can give up his vote, but he should not give the casting vote.
Mr. Butt To be quite frank, although Mr. Bradley is here, I have come to almost wait for his opinion. I give such thought to it, and I hesitate to see him out of the position where he would be there, and to know his opinion on any matter that might come up.
Mr. Ashboume I consider that every member of this Convention has been given by his people the power to vote, and whether he is in the Chair or whatever he is I don't think that vote should be taken from him. Rather than do that I think we should give him more power commensurate with his position, and I don't advocate that that power be given him of the casting vote, but rather than take away his power to vote at all, my idea would be to give him more power, that is the casting vote, certainly we ought not to deprive him of his vote. The Chairman, Judge Fox, was appointed by the government and he could not have a vote, but if we elect a Chairman now we have a man that was elected by the people, and naturally if the people sent him here, they sent him to exercise a vote.
Mr. Vardy I entirely support the last speaker. I don' t think it would be right to remove Mr. Bradley from his place on the floor of the assembly, but I can't see at the moment any more suitable person. I think it rests between Mr. Bradley and Justice Dunfield. I don't like to see Mr. Bradley removed from the floor, but at the same time I think he is the most suitable person, but I think it should be unanimous. I feel that Mr. Bradley should only use his vote under the most extenuating circumstances.
Mr. MacDonald Mr. Chairman, I think we have to forget that this is not the government, but it is a Convention. When a Speaker is appointed by the government he is entirely in favour of the government, although he tries to conduct matters as best he can, but his opinions are definitely in favour of the government. If we appoint a member of this Convention immediately this man is in an analogous position. If he casts his vote he will always be partial. I can't see how he can be anything else.
Mr. Smallwood There is no objection to his being partial so long as he is not partial between one member and another, that is in enforcing or not enforcing a given rule for or against a member, but there is no argument against a chairman being partial. If a man is a human being he is partial, he must have his oWn personal beliefs, but he must not use these to discriminate against any member. His only power is to enforce the rules. His own opinions are nobody's business but his own.
Mr.Ballam If we have the authority to put a man in as Chairman we can also put him out.
Mr. Vardy Ithink we have no power to appoint, only to recommend.
Mr. MacDonald I was not speaking of the Chairman being partial towards members, but 186 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1946 being partial towards aquestion which may come before the house. If he casts a vote on any side of an important question his opponents will immediately say that he is partial. I think it would be a decided loss if Mr. Bradley could not express his opinion as he would like.
Mr. Penney As I understand it, we are talking about the appointing of a member of this Convention as Chairman, and it seems to me that two outstanding matters should concern us most. One is the qualifications of the Chairman, and the other is his impartiality. In regard to the member of this Convention named, all members here present know that we had differences in debate, but as far as I am concerned, it is over and forgotten. I listened very attentively to the eloquent tribute which Mr. Bradley made to the late Judge Fox, and I do not think any man of good common sense could make the statements that Mr. Bradley made in a public session unless he meant it sincerely. Apart altogether from the voting matter, I do not feel myself competent to discuss that at this time. If the feeling of the Convention is unanimous, I rather think that Mr. Bradley would make a suitable and satisfactory Chairman.
Mr. Hillier When I spoke just now, I had no idea that any member would take that responsibility. I am glad that one of us is prepared to take that responsibility. A good many of you have known Mr. Bradley a long time; I have known him only since I came here to this Convention.... Should he be appointed, he will not be able to enter as fully into debates on the various questions as he would like to, but maybe Mr. Bradley would be in a position to forego some of these things. I do not think it would be amiss if Mr. Bradley would express himself on this particular point. Personally, I am prepared to vote for Mr. Bradley...., I would like to see everything working in harmony, and I do not see any reason why a member of this Convention, who is capable, could not be appointed as chairman to guide our destinies in a satisfactory manner.
Mr. Chairman Are you ready for the question? It is proposed by Major Cashin and seconded by Mr. Ashbourne that Mr. Bradley he recommended for Chairman and that the Commission of Government be advised to change the act.
[The motion carried unanimously]
Mr. Smallwood This question of the Chairman voting. The act, in addition to providing for the appointment of a Supreme Court judge, provides also that judge shall not have the right to vote, and in accordance with the act the standing orders of the Convention also provide that that Chairman shall not vote. So in order to enable the Chairman to vote, it is necessary first to amend the act, and second to amend the standing orders. That ought to be taken care of. The motion merely recommends that Mr. Bradley be appointed Chairman and that the section of the act be repealed.
Mr. Cashin And also that he retain his vote. That was my motion.
Mr. Chairman My understanding of it is that paragraph one will be wiped out and the government will insert other words.
Mr. Vardy I would like to be placed on record as wishing to thank the Commission of Government for giving us the privilege of appointing our own Chairman.
[The Chairman read paragraph 2 of the National Convention Act[1]]
Mr. Cashin If they amend the act, we will appoint him My motion was that we appoint Mr. Bradley and that the Commission of Government be advised to change the act — that section 2 be amended, and that the National Convention as it exists, be empowered to appoint a Chairman. We have already done that. Now we want to change the act to cover that.
Mr. Smallwood We have not done that. What we have done in adopting Major Cashin's motion is that we have notified the government that we want them to repeal that part of the act which forbids the appointment of a Chairman who is not a judge of the Supreme Court, and to appoint Mr. Bradley at our request. We cannot appoint him. We recommend that they appoint him at our request. A motion could be put that the act be amended by the government ensuring that the new Chairman so nominated shall have the right to vote and subsequently that our standing rules be amended, if necessary, to ensure that he has a vote.
Mr. Newell We should add, "and also that he have the right to speak."
Mr. Job Would it not be better to do all that in one motion?
Mr. Cashin What I think should happen is, that this recommendation goes to the government; they will draft an amendment to clause 2 and send it back here to see if it covers our request. Could we not appoint a sub-committee to discuss with the government the fixing of section 2?
Mr. Smallwood If the meeting agrees that that is included in your motion — that the Chairman is to have his vote — that he is not to lose his privilege as a member.
Mr. Crosbie We all understand that.
Mr. Fudge In view of Mr. Bradley's being now recommended to the government, and let us assume Mr. Bradley is appointed by the government, then the fact that the Steering Committee will have to go over the rules of procedure and fix them according to the appointment to the Chair, why all this trouble about changing the rules?
Mr. Smallwood The Steering Committee has no such right. The committee is not a cabinet and can decide nothing. The Convention has that right.
Mr. Butt There is a question of principle involved. Instead of making a recommendation, we should appoint our own Chairman now. We are in session; this has come up. It is a question of principle and dignity. We ought to have the right to appoint our own Chairman and we ought to decide whether the Chairman is to have the right to vote. We go back to the Commission and say, "We want the right to carry on ourselves." If you trace back the history of the Convention, it is a parliament of disabilities. One of the rights of parliament is that it can make legislation. We are, in effect, a minor parliament. Is not that right, Mr. Bradley?
Mr. Bradley In principle you are right.
Mr. Butt We should undertake now to appoint Mr. Bradley as Chairman. We should undertake also to give him the right to retain his vote. It is a question of principle. If we are here to do a job, let us do it. We ought to demand that right.
Mr. Harrington I would like to support Mr. Butt strongly. The right of parliamentary privilege has come up. Maybe if we had asked for it in the beginning we would have gotten it. If we are not to be a parliament of disabilities I make a motion that we ask to be given parliamentary privileges.
Mr. Smallwood I second that motion. If we have parliamentary privileges, we can say what we like and no one outside can sue. We have not got that right, and it may be necessary. I have a certain thing to say about a certain commissioner and I am going to say it. I would prefer not to be sued.
Mr. Job Even if it is libelous?
Mr. Smallwood Yes. I want to tell a certain commissioner he is a liar. If we had parliamentary rights, a member, in the public interest, has a certain right to say certain things for which he could not be sued. He can be dealt with by parliament, but cannot be sued. It is a restraining influence if it limits our freedom.
Mr. Bradley I understand something about the privileges of parliament, but I would not go so far as to vote for a recommendation of that kind. I do not think it is necessary, and, what is more to the point, I am perfectly sure you will get no such authority from the government.
Mr. Ballam The motion has been put and carried by a unanimous vote; I suggest we form a committee including the Acting Chairman, Mr. Higgins, Major Cashin and Mr. Smallwood to see that what we decided will be carried out and let us be finished with it. They could report back to the meeting.
Mr. Vardy I support that.
Mr. Harrington I wish to withdraw the motion.
[Mr. Smallwood, seconder, assented]
Mr. Butt On the question which I raised are we going to recommend, or are we going to appoint? We ought not to let technicalities stand in our way.
Mr. Cashin We suggest to the government that they change the act to cover the appointment of a gentleman nominated by us.
Mr. Smallwood That is what we have done. We have nominated a Chairman and we ask them to confirm it. The initiative comes from us.
Mr. Bradley I do not like to get into this debate. I would point out that the principle is correct. This Convention should have the right to select its own Chairman. That is the basis of the whole thing. I would suggest that the motion take something of this form: "That the government he advised that this Convention is of opinion that it should have power to select and recommend its own Chairman and in pursuance of that opinion..." whatever else you would like to add.
Mr. Smallwood "And in pursuance of that 188 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1946 opinion it has today selected Mr. F. Gordon Bradley as Chairman, and asks the government to change the act accordingly."
Mr. Ashbourne I think it would be a good idea if the motion was put in writing. The motion as really voted on should be read by the Secretary before it is put so that there can be no doubt in the minds of those voting on it.
[A recess was called at this juncture so that a sub-committee consisting of the Acting Chaer man, Mr. Higgins, Mr. Cashin, Mr. Smallwood and Mr. Ashboume, could draft a motion]
Mr. Chairman Here is the motion, gentlemen: Resolved that we advise the Commission of Government of our wish to be empowered to select our own Chairman, and that we have today selected Mr. E Gordon Bradley, K.C., for that position, subject to the consent of the Commission of Government, and that we advise the Commission of Government of our wish that Mr. Bradley be appointed Chairman of the National Convention, and that we request the Commission of Government to amend the National Convention Act accordingly, and in such a way as not to deprive Mr. Bradley of his rights as an elected delegate to the National Convention.
[The original motion, proposed by Mr. Cashin, was rescinded, and the new motion carried. 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] The Secretary, Captain Warren, acted as Chairman.
  • [2] Volume II:1. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • Volume II:1. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]

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