Newfoundland National Convention, 11 December 1946, Debates on Confederation with Canada


December 11, 1946

[The Secretary read the commission appointing Mr. Bradley Chairman of the Convention (6 December 1946), and a letter from Mrs. C. Fax]
Mr. Cashin Mr. Chairman, before proceeding with the regular business of the Convention, I, as senior member of what was once the House of Assembly, feel it is my duty, on behalf of myself and the other delegates, to say a few words regarding your appointment as Chairman of this Convention.
When it was indicated to us some three weeks ago that the Commission government were prepared to change the Convention Act to enable us to select and recommend our own Chairman, I felt you would be the logical person for such a position, and at our informal meeting held at that time, I took the opportunity of nominating you for this important post, to which you were elected unanimously by your fellow delegates. I realise that you have taken upon yourself a most difficult task, as from now on you will be called upon at times to make important and possibly far-reaching decisions. I feel confident you will prove equal to the task, and I am equally confident that any decisions you make will be fair and just. You are like all of us. a man of the people, and having known you for over 20 years in the political life of this country, I am sure you have the necessary parliamentary and legal knowledge to perform the duties of this important office with dignity and honour. Again, Mr. Chairman, I extend to you our most sincere congratulations.
Mr. Chairman Gentlemen of the Convention, I appreciate very deeply the very laudatory remarks to which Mr. Cashin has just given utterance. I appreciate the honour which has been conferred in elevating me to the Chair of this Convention. I am all the more appreciative of it when I realise that it has arisen out of the wish of the members of the Convention, they being the representatives of the people, for this is a people's house.
I realise also that this act does not arise only out of mere good will towards myself. I feel it is based upon some confidence you have in my ability to perform the duties of the office, and that fact in itself increases my sense of responsibility. It impresses upon me the absolute need of bending all my energies to two things, first the maintenance of the dignity of this assembly, and second, the necessity for an absolutely impartial conduct of the debates. I do not mean that it is my intention to apply the rules of this House purely in their letter, but that there must accompany any such interpretation a sense of the spirit of the rule as well. I assure you I thoroughly appreciate the task which lies ahead, and hope I shall measure up to it as you expect me to.
I am very pleased to be able to welcome back two members who have been unable to be present with us for some time. Mr. Jackman has had a very bad illness, and I am glad to welcome him back, and Mr. Hollett also has been unable to be with us for two or three weeks. I regret to announce that Mr. Kennedy has had to enter hospital, and is suffering from some trouble which I hope will soon be cleared up, and I hope he will be back with us again when we meet in January.
Some of you are aware that Mr. Brown, who was stricken so very dramatically here over a month ago, has now returned to his home at King's Cove. I was at the boat when he left on Saturday afternoon, and he is much improved, and we all hope his improvement will continue.
There are one or two things that I wish to draw to the attention of the members. The first is that before the members leave town for the Christmas vacation I would like to see each individually; the second is in connection with the debates. I have heard complaints from the public that at times they do not know who is speaking. That, I fear, has been to some extent our own fault. I believe I have been an offender myself. When a member rises to speak I suggest that he should address the Chair and then remain silent until he is named by the Chairman. That immediately places the public in possession of the name of the man speaking. Otherwise they will be confused. If you will follow my instructions in this respect it will be better for the members themselves and for the public.

Report of the Transportation and Communications Committee[1]

Mr. Chairman Orders of the day. Mr. Small- wood to table a report of the Transportation and Communications Committee.
Mr. Smallwood[2] Mr. Chairman, the members will find the copies of the report on their desks, and I believe that I am supposed only to give notice of the motion that the report be received tomorrow. However the day is still young, and I wonder, Mr. Chairman, if the gentlemen would be agreeable to the idea of proceeding this afternoon with the consideration of at leastone section of the report, and whether they would be willing to waive the rule requiring notice of motion.... What I would like to do is to move the house into a committee of the whole to consider the report of the Committee on Transportation and Communications, on the understanding that only one section, namely that on Gander, be considered this afternoon.
[The Convention resolved into a committee of the whole]
Mr. Smallwood The report is a pretty bulky document of 143 foolscap pages, covering the railway, the coastal steamer system, posts and telegraphs, roads and bridges, Gander airport, broadcasting, and the tourist trade. The committee has worked hard, every member. Mr. MacDonald, Mr. Figary and Mr. Northcott were especially valuable members of the Committee in connection with its work in investigating the railway. Mr. Hannon was especially valuable in investigating posts and telegraphs, Mr. Butt and Mr. Ryan were able to give us a lot of information on roads and bridges, Mr. Bailey an endless fund of knowledge on shipping, and Mr. Watton, who acted as secretary, I hope will never have to work as hard again as in the last two weeks. We were very sorry to lose you, sir, from the Committee but very glad to see you so signally honoured by being appointed Chairman of the National Convention.
With your permission I propose for just a few minutes to review the report as a whole. We find that Gander cost $4 million to build up to the outbreak of the war. In 1941 the Canadian government spent $25 million, and the RAF spent $3 million, so that the total cost of the airport was $32 million. Then Newfoundland bought out Canada's interest for $1 million. Newfoundland, since then, has spent $300,000 to reconvert the airport to civilian purposes, and will yet have to spend another $300,000 to purchase new equipment.... We find in the report that Mr. Neill, Commissioner for Public Utilities, estimates the probable operating loss at around $500,000 a year; while Squadron Leader Pattison estimates the probable operating loss at around $1 million a year. Roads and bridges. We have in Newfoundland today 94 miles of paved highway, 1,500 miles of gravel highway. Secondary roads, 442 miles motorable, 154 miles non-motorable. Thus 2,000 miles motorable, 3,000 miles local, total, 5,000 miles. Of the 5,000 miles in the country now, 264 miles were built since Commission of Government came. That government has spent on new road construction $2 million; on reconditioning $1 million; on paving roads $1.3 million; on bridge construction, $1 million; on snow clearing $132,000; and on road maintenance, $4 million — total, $11 million. Since they came they have spent $781,000 on the purchase of road machinery and equipment, and they need now to spend a $¹/₂ million on the purchase of new road machinery and equipment. We find that the government is spending $2¹/₂ million a year under the heading of "Roads and Bridges." We find in our report that the future expenditure under the heading of roads may be $1 million a year, and it should be $2 million and probably $2 1/2 million
Under the heading of "Posts and Telegraphs" we find that in the last seven years there has been an average surplus of $180,000 a year and from this it would appear that the Department of Posts and Telegraphs is self-supporting. We find this has been done at the cost of letting the system itself run down; and of underpaying the staff, especially the outport staff. I cannot at this point resist the temptation to quote from one of a number of letters that I have received from outport postmasters and operators. This one says:
For 25 years I have been one of those outport operators (we are everything now, postmasters, operators, bank managers, mes December 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 191 sengers, all in one) whose living has been and still is a mere existence. During that time I have taught a dozen students, some of whom are now working with the department, others having had to resign and go away to the States and Canada to get a decent living. I have a wife and family. My present wage, including bonus and all, totals $17.50 per week, or approximately 32 cents per hour. This office is central and serves the following places (here he names seven settlements) with over 2,200 people. Formerly this was the work of five different post offices. Amongst these eight settlements we have five churches with five clergymen, eight schools with twelve teachers, 22 businesses large and small, three garages, doctors, nurses, police, etc. An average of over 1,000 items of ordinary mail is handled daily. The general increase of business for the past 12 years has averaged over 500%. All this has been pointed out to the authorities and repeated requests have been made for adjustment of salary. I was told to make application. It is now November and no favourable reply has yet been forthcoming, but it is rumoured that the outport post offices are being reviewed and their salaries revised. It is rumoured that the amount of increase for some of us married men will be $2.20 per month or 50 cents per week or 1 cent per hour. This will probably be termed 'substantial' and will be supposed to take care of present living conditions. Mr. Small-wood, this is applicable to 75% of the outport officials of the Postal Telegraph Of fices.
This is only one of a number of similar letters received from various parts of the island, along the same lines. There are nearly 900 full-time staff employed at a cost of $750,000. There are in Newfoundland and Labrador 630 post offices. In Newfoundland. in summer, there are 159 courier routes covering 167,000 miles; in winter, 160 courier routes covering 116,000 miles. In Labrador, in summer, there are two courier routes covering 1,340 miles; in winter, eight courier routes covering 7,300 miles. The increases in numbers of letters, telegrams and money orders since 1939 have been striking:*
Now we find in our report that it is utterly necessary that $1 million be spent by the Department of Posts and Telegraphs to prevent its utter collapse.
Under the heading of "Railway", we find that from 1904-1946 earnings amounted to $129 million and expenses to $142 million. The operating loss has been $13 million. In the last 26 years since the government took over[1], the operating loss has been $7 1/2 million, an average over $250,000 every year. In the last ten years the operating surplus was $300,000, or $30,000 a year. This period includes the war years, the richest in our history. In the past 44 years there were only five years with a surplus; four of these during the recent war and the other, 1937, with a surplus of $32,000. In 1944-45 the operating loss was over $500,000; in 1945-46 it was $1 million. This does not tell the whole story. For there has been no mark-down for depreciation, and the government had to give the Railway $1 1 million for capital improvements.
Since 1923, $7 1/2 million has been given by the government to the Railway to pay losses; $11 million for capital improvement. A total of $18 million, or $700,000 a year from the public chest.
In the future, the main line has got to be re-railed within a very few years at a cost of $3 1/2 million; new rolling stock has to be purchased at a cost of $750,000 — total $4 million to be spent for capital improvement, if it is to be kept operating.  
In connection with the Broadcasting Corporation, the capital cost of land, buildings, masts, transmitter, and studio equipment spent by the government was $84,000. This amount is payable to the government by the Broadcasting Corpora192NATIONAL CONVENTIONNovember 1946tion in 25 yearly installments at 3 1/2%. The income of the Corporation consists of two things: sale of time to broadcasters, and license fee received from the public on their receiving sets.*
By the end of 1945 the Corporation had increased its fixed assets from the original $84,000 up to $96,000, after paying the government $30,000 on account of capital liability, and its current assets stood at $75,000, of which $68,000 was in cash.
We find the plans for the future are to build in St. John's a broadcasting house; in Corner Brook to increase VOWN from 250 to 1,000 watts and to erect a new building to house it; at Gander to take over and renovate the former RCAF radio station; at Grand Falls to erect a new 1,000 watt station.
You will find in the report a discussion of the question of free speech on the government station; and a discussion of the repeated request of VOCM[1] for the right to increase the power and install other stations as well.
The final section is the tourist business. You will find the report to be fairly comprehensive. The Committee reports of the pleasure it found on turning from the other three or four things on which a lot of public money is going to be lost, to something in which there seems an excellent prospect of getting money into the country in the shape of profits. The Committee has been impressed by what they have learned about the magnitude and value of tourist trade in North America and have wondered strongly what share our country can get of it. It has every possibility. I regard the tourist business as the most hopeful possibility economically before this country today.
Recapitulating the sections, the country is faced with annual operating loss on Gander of $500,000 to $1 million; on the Railway, $1 million and up. A total of a $2 1/2-3 million loss on operating just these two public utilities. We find the country is faced with the need to spend a lot of money on capital outlays.... Summing it up, we shall have to find between $3.75 and $4 million a year for the Railway, Gander and roads; and we shall have to spend around $5 million on capital account on these three utilities within the next very few years
That is a brief outline of the 140 odd pages of the six sections of this report. The understanding is we deal merely with Gander, and I suggest that the report be read section by section, with any gentleman wishing to intervene doing so.
[The section of the report dealing with Gander airport was read][2]
Mr. Chairman I was hoping the members would interrupt Mr. Secretary while he was reading that report to take it up bit by bit, but they did not. I hope that we do not infer from that they do not intend to deal with it.
Mr. Higgins The entire operating loss that you estimate as $500,000 to $1 million, does that include the value of the landing fees or not?
Mr. Smallwood That's including all income....
Mr. Higgins According to that, the country has spent $2.5 million for the airport, it pays out $1 million for salaries and that is recoverable, our own people are getting the $1 million back again, and all the other companies are paying $1 million in salaries. By the way, you made a comment about why the plane companies were not approached to take over this airport themselves. Did your Committee discuss the feasibility of approaching the airlines on that matter?
Mr. Smallwood No. Airlines have got some kind of contractual agreement with the government, and for the Committee on Transportation to approach those airline companies and interfere in any way or degree in the question of landing fees would have been an inexcusable interference with the function of government, It was not our duty, or within the rights of this Convention to December 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 193 deal with a firm having a contract with the government, raising the question of landing charges. Mr. Higgins will agree.
Mr. Higgins Yes, but it is important. I think your Committee were in agreement to leasing the airport to the airline companies?
Mr. Smallwood I prefer not to speak for the whole Committee on that. We stand by the report as a whole. We say it was suggested to Mr. Neill that such an attitude might have been chosen by the government in the first place. Knowing that these foreign airlines were more eager to use Gander than the government was or could be, all they had to do was to sit tight and wait for the airlines to come to them. They can't make their airlines pay, so far as the North Atlantic traffic is concerned, without Gander; it's an impossibility to make it pay, and the government might have stood pat and waited for the airlines to come to them, and then said "All right, we have no use for Gander, we have no aircraft and we don't intend to use it, but if you want to use it you can, on our conditions, and these are (1) that you pay all charges of operating the port, and (2) that you follow the conditions and standards of payment of wages, and the fact that Newfoundlanders must be employed. We lay down the standards and you follow them and pay all costs." It was suggested to Mr. Neill that should have been the attitude of the government His answer was to shrug his shoulders and not vouchsafe a word of comment.
As for the Transportation Committee, in reply to Mr. Higgins, I still don't see for a moment that it would have been profitable, or that the Committee would have got anywhere if it had gone to Pan-American, Trans-World Airways, BOAC, TCA, etc., and even if it had been practical to meet them, I don't see that it would be quite proper. Maybe I am misunderstanding Mr. Higgins.
Mr. Higgins Yes, I did mean it that way.
Mr. Harrington I would like to ask a question, but first I would like to make a few comments on the report. To my mind the way Gander is being operated now is a public scandal. I have expressed myself on this whenever I could get an opportunity. The most reasonable thing to do would be to close down Gander. It is like a man with $3,000 a year trying to operate a 50 car garage for the benefit of his neighbours. It is a disgrace. As for the question, I see here that Mr. Smallwood, in the preamble, page 2, says, "We have to record that with one exception we have secured all the information we wanted." That exception is Gander, Has that been refused?
Mr. Smallwood In reply to Mr. Harrington, the House will recall that the very first question tabled in this Convention was the one I tabled in connection with Gander. It was rather a long question, asking for details of expenditure, etc. I understand that a very honest attempt is being made to get out that information, but as yet we have not received it. It has not been refused.
Mr. Job It seems to me that, in expressing its views on the omissions, the Committee has overlooked the fact that not only should the airport have been run without loss to the colony, but the colony should have gotten something out of it. We have a strategic position, but it seems to have been given away, and a heavy loss incurred. There should have been something obtained for the colony in return for the concessions given. Early in February this year the surviving members of the old Legislative Council issued a protest through the newspapers here on the leases of airfields, and the lack of general information given to the public. In his reply Mr. Neill stated, as an excuse, that it was a rule between the nations concerned that only exchanges in air rights should be given. This report rightly points out that we were not in the same position of other countries because we did not want to run an air service, therefore we were entitled to something else in addition in exchange for use of our airfields. We were a member of this organisation and the excuse was that we were not able to bargain. The answer would seem to be that we should never have been a member of PICAO[1] s it is called. I thought I would like to draw the attention of the members to the fact that this had been protested against. This is exactly what Mr. Neill wrote us: "Strategic positions on air routes are not a bargaining factor against any other concessions. 'Air rights for air rights' is the accepted international principle, and any suggestion that air rights should be a bargaining factor for other concessions would not be entertained." That is where we fell down at the start, in agreeing to abide by the decision of an organisation to 194 NATIONAL CONVENTION December 1946 which it was not suitable for us to belong.
Mr. Hickman I hope this report is not a forerunner of some more expenditure reports coming in. I would like to go a little further and, as Mr. Job just said, I think we should have refused to operate this airport. It should have been operated by the joint airlines, and we should have had a rental for it of at least $500,000 a year. Instead we have a deficit estimated to run for at least five years, and only a slim hope of breaking even. I don't know what the expansion of aviation will be, but if it keeps on Gander may be by-passed, and Newfoundland will wind up with big deficits until it is finally decided to close it. How the government could make an agreement like that is beyond my comprehension. At the end of each statement it says that Mr. Neill has no comment. That is not satisfactory, but I don't see how he could make any comment after making the deal he did.... They were told what to do just the same as in the bases deal. The findings of this report, sir, are a disgrace.
Mr. Penney I want to compliment the members of the Transportation Committee for bringing in such a fine report, giving us the history of Gander and its Operation. The subject has been clear to me ever since we had the privilege of having Hon. Mr. Neill with us for a meeting of the Finance Committee. In talking about the Gander airport operation at that time he told us it was mnning in the red to the tune of $750,000 and the Newfoundland Railway $1 million a year. I remarked it was not a very satisfactory picture, Mr. Neill remarked he hoped it would be better next year, and I answered that I was sure the people of Newfoundland hoped that it would be better next year. The overall picture I have from your report, read and explained, is that we are running in the red to the tune of $500,000 a year on the operation of Gander airport. That operation, is chiefly for the convenience and benefit of the great powers of the world, and how Newfoundland came to be forced into a deal that would put our poor little country in that position, to finance an airport for the great powers of the world, I can't understand. It surely is not much credit to them. I think businessmen, if they were considering the future of Newfoundland, should consider the matter of leasing the airport to those great powers, so that Newfoundland would have gotten at least something out of it for the use of its territory, and the people of Newfoundland should get something out of it also for its operation.
Mr. Fudge Mr. Chairman, I wish to call Mr. Smallwood's attention to page 2, the second paragraph, wherein he talks of a great number of trucks, etc. How is it, Mr. Smallwood, that you do not give us the exact number of trucks, equipment, etc? How many buildings are there at Gander? What is the size? Have any of these buildings been leased, and to whom? And what rentals have been paid? Did you inquire into the cost of running the bakery, which I understand is operated by the government? Those are the things that we should have had in this report.
Mr. Smallwood In reply to Mr. Fudge, the report says that for the $1 million that the government paid, they got the hangers and other erections the Canadians have put there, as well as whatever equipment they left there. This equipment consisted of a large number of trucks, cars, bulldozers, tractors, snow plows, etc. The report might go on to add at least 1,000 other items, because it is just beyond counting. I doubt whether a complete inventory has been made by the Division of Civil Aviation of the whole of the equipment. It is something staggering. I suppose in connection with blankets alone there were easily 50,000 blankets.... The report says that if the government had to buy all these buildings and equipment new it would mean an outlay of nothing less than $5 million and probably much more. The buildings the Canadians put on Gander and the enlarging of the runways ran to $25 million capital expenditure. The government of Newfoundland, for $1 million, got the enlargements that had been made in the runways, the new hangers, and dozens of great barrack buildings, not counting the almost uncountable number of pieces of equipment of every conceivable description... We can get the number of buildings, and we can get the blueprints. The number must run into a couple of hundred buildings. It is a vast airport. Mr. Fudge's third question was what buildings have been rented out. Some buildings have been rented to Goodyear and House....[1] The main question was what is the airport costing the country from the capital standpoint, and second, is the government going to make any money on it? The Newfoundland people have to December 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 195 foot that bill. I would say in connection with this report that I feel anything but happy. If you look at the Gander section you will see "the decision of the Government to take over the operation of Gander is to us incomprehensible." You will note that Mr. Neill was asked why the government made that decision cold-bloodedly, knowing it was going to cost $500,000 to $1 million loss merely to operate it; not counting the million for buying the installations; not counting the $300,000 for converting buildings to civilian use.
Mr. Fudge I did not ask for that information.
Mr. Smallwood I know. I was going to deal with it, if you have no objection. In addition to another $300,000 to buy still further equipment — that is $1,600,000 on capital account since the war ended — on top of that to lose up to $1 million a year; frankly I do not believe that the Newfoundland government decided that in cold blood — to saddle the people of this country with a loss of $1 million a year. At the last session one of the gentlemen proposed that the privilege should be accorded members of this Convention, that they should have the right that former Houses of Assembly had, not to be sued in court for anything said on the floor of the House. We have not that right — I wish we had.
Mr. Higgins Why does not Mr. Smallwood go ahead and take a chance.
Mr. Chairman I would like to remind Mr. Smallwood that indulging in personalities is not permitted here.
Mr. Smallwood I do not intend to indulge in personalities with anyone, but Mr. Neill said categorically it was the first he heard of it. It was suggested to him that the proposition that the Newfoundland government operate Gander, even at a loss, was made to the Newfoundland government by the British; and he said it was the first he heard of it. When it was suggested to him that the British government was, in fact, footing the bills and paying the operating losses, he said it was the first he heard of it. I say this, that I am very sorry we have not that privilege which former Houses of Assembly had.... Cast your mind back to a year ago. The war was just about over, and the United States with a vast aircraft industry was ready to hurl a vast armada of passenger planes in the air, ready to seize control of the air traffic of the world. Great Britain was not ready; we had no aircraft; she is not ready yet. This is now December, 1946. If one year ago the United States had enough planes ready to capture the air traffic of the air. there was only one thing that could stop that. That was Gander. Because the United States airlines must have Gander.... By being able to land at Gander, an aircraft does not have to carry fuel load from New York. The landing fees are $85 each way, $170 a trip.... $170 comes to the government for the privilege of saving them what? Thousands of dollars. There is the blunder that has been made. It was given to me this spring on absolutely high-class authority (I wish I could mention the name), that it would pay them to pay anything up to $1,000 per return flight rather than not have the use of Gander. Let's work that down. That means that control over Gander was the great trump someone had up his sleeve when dealing with the Americans... I say this deliberately, if Great Britain paid out $5 million cold cash to the Government of Newfoundland in return for giving Britain control over Gander, it would be money well spent — a bargain which Britain would be getting. There is the scandal. 1 find it not only incomprehensible, but beyond my power to believe. Now we find Mr. Neill said he had just recently, just a matter of days before, written a letter to the British government stating that, in his opinion. it was unthinkable that Newfoundland should be saddled with the operating losses of Gander. He had not gotten an answer. He was asked, "How long ago did you send it?" "Recently", he said; and he added, "I made it a strong letter." He still has not gotten an answer.... If they have saddled this country with a $1 million operating loss for the convenience of wealthy foreign airlines who operate up into millions a year — I find it unbelievable — I do not believe it happened. If it did happen, instead of waiting for this Convention to end sometime next year, before waiting for that, we ought to fire out the government who did it, if they did. I am remembering I have no privilege — remembering it vividly. I find it impossible to believe that we are saddled with it. Out in Gander they have a trade union with 900 members; another trade union with 100 members — 1000 Newfoundlanders. They cannot live — the cost of living is prohibitive. They got 10% increases, and since then the cost of living has eaten it up. Why? What is the game? Is it they cannot give more wages because we are saddled 196 NATIONAL CONVENTION December 1946 with $1 million operating loss?.... We have not got the whole story on Gander, it is just as well to face it. We have written in our report all we may fairly write, because there is not a fact in it that is not a fact, but all the facts are not there.
Mr. Higgins Iwould like to ask Mr. Smallwood — not meaning to be personal, it strikes me it is very fortunate that he has not jet propulsion or we would have a job to hold him — I would like to ask him to explain where he gets the authority for the statement that the operating costs will be repaid and that it will be retroactive.
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Neill said he had recently written a very strongly worded letter, "as strongly as any one of you would word it. I have just written that letter to the British government." In view of that, I am expecting an announcement before this Convention closes to the effect that the British government has generously agreed to relieve the Newfoundland people of that burden. And I believe it will be retroactive. From April I in my belief, the cost of the losses of operating Gander will not have cost the Newfoundland people anything and the people of Gander who are demanding increases in pay should not be blocked in getting them.
Mr. Hollett On page 4 of the report, "Mr. Neill, the Commissioner for Public Utilities, was asked why the Commission of Government had made this decision. His reply was that it was because Newfoundland was a member of the Provisional International Civil Aviation Organization (PICAO) which organisation decided that Gander should be kept open by Newfoundland." Where did you get the idea that the Government of Newfoundland decided it should be kept open? On page 1 it says the British government paid five-sixths of the cost of the airport and paid $100,000 a year operating expenses prior to the war; the British government surely had some equity there, how has the equity been liquidated, or has it?
Mr. Smallwood PICAO is the name of the group of nations interested in civil aviation — Canada, United States, Great Britain and Newfoundland are members of PICAO. I intended to find out whether Newfoundland has a vote in it. As to the equity, it was understood and agreed from the beginning that the British government would build Gander at their expense up to five- sixths of the cost. One-sixth of the cost to be borne by Newfoundland, but the ownership of the airport was to be Newfoundland's. I do not think they had any equity, or have now.
Mr. Ballam I would like to ask Mr. Smallwood if he knows anything about a meeting that was held by this PICAO in Chicago. I think such a meeting was held and one of our commissioners was present. That may have been at the same time this transaction was on. There is no mention in the report about it.
Mr. Smallwood The Chicago meeting was the one at which the dispute occurred between Canada, United States and Great Britain; Newfoundland had very little part in that, except to listen. I believe PICAO is the subsequent development of the Chicago conference. It was at that conference that the lst, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th freedoms were enunciated — the right to fly over territory, right to land passengers, right to pick up passengers. They have had conferences since and have sub-committees meeting from time to time. There was one recently in Ireland. Squadron Leader McGrath attended that, but he was merely a technical observer in the British delegation. No one attended as a full-fledged representative of Newfoundland. Very few men attended who had more technical knowledge than Squadron Leader McGrath, but he was not representing Newfoundland.
Mr. Ballam It was pointed out that Newfoundland was a member of PICAO and PICAO decided Newfoundland should operate the Gander. We do not have sufficient information on it and I think the Committee should go into it. If we could get the information on that, we might be getting at the root of the trouble.
Mr. Northcott You must remember that it was PICAO or the Commission of Government who made the deal, not the Committee. The Committee has opposed it every step of the way. I would say that if the Committee had to make the deal the mark-up would be $1 million profit.
Mr. Higgins What would be the landing charges made by airports outside?
Mr. Smallwood it would be simple for the Committee to have gotten landing charges in various airports around the world. The Committee did not do that. Landing charges in airports in any other part of the world are immaterial and have nothing whatever to do with charges in Gander. Gander is the only airport in the world December 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 197 of its size, it is one which cannot be done without.... I say forget the landing charges and charge all the traffic will bear, without driving the traffic away.
Mr. Higgins Do you think it would have been feasible for the airlines to operate the airport at the start?
Mr. Smallwood Yes. They wanted to do that. I know that in February or March some people were down here from the States and held a number of conferences. That took place at Gander with the Commissioner, Mr. Neill, the Director, Squadron Leader Pattison, and a number of others. I may say, Mr. Chairman, as each session of that conference ended I knew within an hour exactly what happened at it, and I learned in that way a lot of information about Gander. I believe if the airlines were running Gander at their own expense today they would be paying much better wages than the Newfoundland government is paying....
Mr. Higgins Would Mr. Smallwood tell us if there is any possibility of making such a deal now?
Mr. Smallwood I don't know that. I would say the airlines would be very silly and simple if they did, seeing they are now getting a good airfield for nothing. The chance was there in the spring, but I don't know now.
Mr. Crosbie Those figures of wages, did you get these from the civil airlines in Gander?
Mr. Smallwood From Squadron Leader Pattison,
Mr. Crosbie Would he know these figures?
Mr. Smallwood Yes, he is Director of Civil Aviation. The wages paid in Gander are still pretty low. All the boys working with the airlines are boys who used to be down with the RAF, and former Newfoundlanders from the RAF and RCAF. They are employing Newfoundlanders wherever they can. The Americans are paying roughly $1 million in wages, along with the oil companies and other employers.
Mr. Crosbie I am not quite content with that explanation. What I want to know is, did you get any actual figures from the four airlines operating in Gander?
Mr. Smallwood No, we did not.
Mr. Crosbie Well then, the figures are not worth the paper they are written on.
Mr. Higgins Mr. Chairman, can Mr. Small wood tell us did the Newfoundland government pay any fee to join PICAO or not?
Mr. Smallwood I'm afraid I don't know.
Mr. Hollett Mr. Chairman, will Mr. Small- wood undertake to find out the countries represented on PICAO at the time the decision was made that Newfoundland should operate Gander?
Mr. Smallwood I would undertake to recommend to the Committee on Transportation and Communications that they should try to find out. I think frankly that any further inquiries on Gander had better come from the Convention as a whole....
Mr. MacDonald As a member of this Transportation Committee I fully agree with all in this report, but with regard to Mr. Hollett's question as to who was on PICAO and whether PICAO did compel the Newfoundland government to purchase Gander, I would like to know where we are going to get that information. There is only one person I know of, the Commissioner of Public Utilities, and he has said that it was on the instructions of PICAO that they had bought Gander. A little later he said that he had written to the British government saying that the Newfoundland government could not hear the expense of Gander.
Mr. Smallwood I don't think Mr. Neill said that PICAO had instructed Newfoundland to purchase and operate Gander. I don't think that was quite the word. The word here is "decided" — that "PICAO decided". Mr. Neill was asked why the Commission of Government had made this decision, and his reply was that Newfoundland was a member of PICAO, which organisation decided that Gander should be kept open by Newfoundland. But Newfoundland could have disagreed, but rather than back out of that organisation altogether — to this Mr. Neill made no comment.
Mr. Job Newfoundland is not a member of PICAO as far as I can make out. Newfoundland attended the PICAO meeting in Chicago as part of the British delegation, it was not separate....
Mr. Cashin This million dollars... Have they actually paid the million dollars over to Canada yet, and if so from what fund? Is it from the general revenue of the country this year, or from the surpluses that have accumulated?
Mr. Smallwood I am afraid I don't know I 198 NATIONAL CONVENTION December 1946 remember reading or hearing that it was being paid in installments, but from what fund I don't know....
Mr. Cashin I think we will have to get Mr. Neill on the carpet again.
Mr. Higgins Mr. Smallwood, what is the meaning of the third paragraph on page 2?
Mr. Smallwood Well, there was a formal taking over of Gander on April 1 by the Division of Civil Aviation. You see the Canadian government, on April 17, 1941, took over Gander to operate it as a war airport, and on April 1, 1946, the government took back formal possession of Gander, the operation and control of it, and housekeeping there was assumed by the Division of Civil Aviation.
Mr. Higgins They began from the first of April?
Mr. Smallwood Actually the Division was operating there before that and controlling parts of Gander during the winter. They began taking men on in February or March, but it was on April 1 that they formally and officially took over and began to operate.
Mr. Higgins It was merely the wording that I was questioning.
Mr. Smallwood I still don't get you.
Mr. Starkes If Newfoundland was represented at this convention in making this deal in connection with the Gander, would they not be entitled to have a copy of the minutes of that meeting to bring back to their country, and could not this Committee get a copy of those minutes for the Convention?
Mr. Smallwood They could certainly try to get those minutes, but guaranteeing to get them is a horse of another colour. I would suggest that anything of that nature now come from the Convention as a whole. Major Cashin is chairman of the Finance Committee and he might be able to dig up a lot of that stuff better than we could.
Mr. Cashin Mr. Chairman, I move that the committee receive this report now, and take up the other one to-morrow. I think we have gone pretty thoroughly into it, there is a lot of information that we can't get, but it may be forthcoming later when the Finance Report comes in. Mr. Neill will certainly have to come before us again. We can't let him get away with the fact that we can't get the cost of operating up to date. I move therefore that we receive this report.
Mr. Ashboume Mr. Chairman, does that mo tion need a seconder?
Mr. Chairman It is not essential.
Mr. Ashbourne Well, I would like to make a few remarks. I feel, sir, that too frequently concessions have been made to outside companies, and also too sweeping concessions. I believe that the vast majority of the people of Newfoundland have thought that the airports on our soil would have been real assets to this country, and not, as we find out today, a liability, I rather regret that I see no reference in this report to Goose airport, because I believe that when the lease of that was made to Canada there was quite a spirited comment in the public press. The government should certainly have asked the people of this country for their views through the press before these terms were agreed upon. I would like to know whether these agreements are covered by leases, and how long these leases run? I would also like to have a copy of these leases if we could secure them.
I also note that between the estimate of the Hon. Commissioner of Public Utilities and Mr. Pattison there is half a million dollars disparity, and furthermore I would like to see these figures broken down in both cases, so that we may know why there should be this disparity. Regarding a point that has already been mentioned I would like to see the corresponding scales of landing charges elsewhere I think that we would be wise in not railroading an important matterlike this through. I feel that there is quite a bit more information this Convention could demand before this report is finally accepted.
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, I don't want to delay the House, but I am glad Mr. Ashboume referred to the estimates. I remember the excitement in Gander the night that Mr. Wild delivered his last budget. It was generally believed in Gander that Britain was footing the bills on the operating losses of the airport, so on the night that Mr. Wild delivered his budget, it was broadcast and everyone who could get to a radio was there, and I remember very vividly the sentence that Mr. Wild used. It was this: "Newfoundland is primarily responsible for the operation of Gander". The word "primarily" struck me be« tween the eyes. Why did he not say "Newfoundland is responsible", why "primarily responsible"? I knew the government did not December 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 199 want any talk to be going on to the effect that the British government was footing the bills. It was put over in the most beautiful way. It could only mean that Newfoundland is, in the first instance, responsible, but will be recouped, and so they voted $750,000 in the estimate.
Sir William Hillman was in Gander, he was the Director General of Civil Aviation of the United Kingdom at that time, on his way through to the Bermuda Conference, and he made the statement that "they were fed up with repeated requests coming to them from Newfoundland in connection with Gander, authorising this, that and the other for amounts of $50,000 here, $70,000 there and $100,000 somewhere else." His complaint was that instead of putting them to the necessity of running to their superiors with so many requests for authorisation, they should come in and say they wanted $1 million or $2 million, and it would only occur once, and there would be a row, but they would pass it and there would be no more trouble for a year. There was another point that Mr. Ashboume raised — Goose Bay and Torbay. We thought that as the operation of Goose and Torbay do not come within the realm of public finance we would ignore them. The contracts for the lease of Goose and Torbay have been published in the press and are public property, and certainly the exchequer of Newfoundland is not involved in the expenses of either of those airports.... If we made a mistake and if the House orders us to get further information regarding Goose and Torbay, we will be happy to carry out their orders.
Mr. Ashbourne My point about Goose was that on account of its proximity to Newfoundland it might have a prejudical effect on our bargaining powers about Gander airport. I believe that might have been recognised by the people who effected the lease of the Goose airport....
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, Gander is the only airport designated by the Newfoundland government as a port of call for transatlantic aircraft. The Division of Civil Aviation has the authority to divert an aircraft from Gander either to Torbay or Goose or Stephenville in case Gander is closed in, but Gander is the airport, the others are only alternates in case of bad weather.... The CAA[1] of the United States government had also designated Gander as the only airport on the North Atlantic which may be used by American aircraft flying the North Atlantic. That means an aircraft leaving the US to cross the Atlantic, or leaving Europe for the US, must clear for Gander. If, having cleared for Gander she learns that Gander is closed in, then that does not mean that she has to turn back, for Gander tells them, "You may land at Stephenville, or Torbay, or Goose", but Gander is the only designated airport, and further, from the standpoint of the CAA it is the only designated airport for American aircraft. There have been rumours going around from time to time that the Americans want the right to use Stephenville, but I don't think there is anything to it. I don't think our government would be so insane as to permit the civilian use of any other airport except Gander. I think we can dismiss that.
Mr. Burry Mr. Chairman, I understand that as far as Goose airport is concerned it does not enter into the civilian aviation picture. That is because it is considered to be a permanent military base to be operated as such.... Mr. Smallwood is perfectly right in saying that planes coming across the Atlantic have the right to land at Goose at the rate of three or four a day when Gander is closed in, or any other airport that they cannot reach....
Mr. Smallwood That is the case, but I don't think Mr. Burry means to say that an airplane approaching Gander has a choice of landing where it likes, it has to do so on the instructions of the Newfoundland government.
Mr. Penney I would like to second Major Cashin's motion and in doing so I wish I could know of some correct way to limit the time of speakers' addresses to l5 minutes or so at a time. It would facilitate the work of this Convention.
Mr. Vardy I would like to support Major Cashin's motion. I think we should accept the various reports coming in after reasonable debate, by sections, and when the whole report has been formally received, if there are any critical points on which we need further explanations, l feel they should come from the convention of the whole. If we start throwing reports back on the hands of the committees, it is going to take a long time. We have a number of reports coming in and we have fairly well covered the ground.
Mr. Chairman It has been moved and seconded that the section of the report of Transportation 200 NATIONAL CONVENTION December 1946 and Communications Committee, entitled "Gander Airport" be received.
[The motion carried. The committee of the whole rose, 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:75. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [2] Mr. Smallwood became convenor of the Transportation and Communications Committee in place of Mr. Bradley, when the latter became Chairman of the Convention.
  • * 1939 1945
    Letters and post cards $9 million $13 million
    Telegraphs $500,000 $ 1 million
    Money Orders issued $ 250,000 $ 400,000
    Total $2,700,000 $ 7,000,000
  • [1] The Newfoundland government took over the railway from the Reid Newfoundland Company in 1923.
  • *
    1943 1944 1945
    Station time sold   $31,000 $ 45,000 $ 50,000
    Licenses taken in 44,000 49,000 45,000
    $82,000 $103,000 $112,000
    Profit     $15,000 $ 11,000 $ 26,000
  • [1] VOCM, a privately owned and operated radio station in St. John's.
  • [2] Volume II:75. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • Provisional International Civil Aviation Organisation.
  • [1] Roland Goodyear and A.J. House opened the Goodyear Humber Stores Ltd, in Gander in 1936/37.
  • [1] Civil Aviation Authority.

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