Newfoundland National Convention, 12 December 1946, Debates on Confederation with Canada


December 12, 1946

Report of the Transportation and Communications Committee:[1] Committee of the Whole

Mr. Smallwood I suggest to the House that this afternoon we take up the section of the report dealing with broadcasting. Perhaps Mr. Secretary would read the section on broadcasting
[The report was read as far as the second paragraph on page 4]
Mr. Cashin I cannot let that go. That statement, "We are aware also of the existence, at least amongst some members of the public, of a belief that free speech is limited on the Corporation's stations, and that censorship is exercised over broadcasting by the Corporation. The point was put bluntly to the Chairman and General Manager of the Corporation, and in denying categorically the existence of any limitation of free speech or of censorship they explained the Corporation's policy fully and answered freely any questions we cared to put." That statement is a deliberate falsehood. In denying that there is censorship, the Chairman of the Corporation was lying and lying deliberately.
Mr. Chairman You must not indulge in personalities.
Mr. Cashin He was making a false statement. I want to tell the Chairman of the Broadcasting Corporation that manuscripts were taken out of the broadcasting house to be censored. I have proof. I am sorry I did not bring a manuscript to show where certain things were cut out which they claimed were libelous because they reflected on the Commission of Government. The Railway would not take an action against the Broadcasting Corporation, which is owned and controlled by the government. If a statement was made regarding certain things that went on in the Railway which the Broadcasting Corporation said was libelous, well then, if they allowed it to go over the air would the Railway take an action against the Broadcasting Corporation? Certainly not. They would be going to law with themselves, and that is not sensible. But the Chairman of the Broadcasting Corporation has had a man ready to go on the air and has censored his speech and cut out half of it and brought it back to him half an hour before he had to go on the air. That same statement that they cut out has been made over VOCM and there was no libel action taken against them. The broadcasting station is a tool of the Commission of Government, and they have been using it as such for the past 18 months. I know whereof I speak and I could not let this thing go without expressing an opinion.... Anyway it will have to come before the Finance Committee and we will have to bring Mr. Williams[2] up and he can say it to my face, because he knows it is false. I told him so in the broadcasting house, and I had to chase him all around the town to do it.
[The Secretary continued reading the report]
Mr. Cashin May I be permitted to turn back to page 3, subsection 1, where it says: "To erect a suitable building etc." Where are they going to find that building, and how much will it cost?
Mr. Smallwood A little further up on the same page you will see that at the end of 1945 the Corporation's current assets amounted to $75,000, consisting of $68,000 cash, which amount included $9,800 accounts receivable, which have since been collected. In other words, at the end of 1945 they had cash on hand of roughly $68,000. You will notice a little further on in this report, they have been making $10,000 to $20,000 a year, in fact it was up around $26,000 last year. I suppose what they intended to build the broadcasting house out of is their current assets, perhaps even getting a loan for the balance from the government. We did not ask what it was going to cost or exactly where it was to come from.
Mr. Cashin They also say they are going to build a broadcasting station at Grand Falls, and take over the RCAF station at Gander, In my opinion they won't get far unless they go to the government for the balance of the money.
Mr. Smallwood I am sure Major Cashin will admit that apart from any quarrelling on the matter of censorship they do seem to be flourishing, and they should not have any trouble in borrowing from the government or anyone.
Mr. Cashin I don't suppose they will have any trouble as long as the surplus lasts!
Mr. Job That's absolutely apart from the government, it is a public corporation?
Mr. Smallwood Yes.
Mr. Job The people of Newfoundland have a share of it, I suppose?
Mr. Smallwood Yes.
Mr. Hollett What happens at the end of 25 years. When the capital is paid off, where does the ownership lie then?
Mr. Smallwood The unpaid balance of that original advance of $84,000? They are paying that off regularly and at the end of 25 years it will be all paid off and they will still own it. It may not be the same Board of Governors, but they will own it as they own it now, as the trustees of the Newfoundland people.
[The Secretary continued reading the report]
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, the only appendix to this report gives the number of radio receiving sets in the country, reasonably supposed to be in operation in Newfoundland and Labrador from January 1, 1937 to December 31, 1945. And then secondly a table showing the number of sets upon which the licence fees were paid from January 1, 1937 to December 31, 1945. There is quite a difference in the figures, showing that there have been quite a number of owners of radio sets not paying their licenses....
I would like to underline the paragraph on page 5, which reads as follows: "There is one matter upon which the committee feels that it must express its disappointment etc." You have in St. John's and in Corner Brook and Grand Falls (where there are to be stations) and also Gander, various organizations, not government departments, but the MCLI,[1] the Patricians and Holy Cross, the Llewellyn Club,[2] trade unions and the co-operative movement (that movement is making good use of the Corporation), but there are a lot of other corporations, and they are open to give free the use of their facilities for forums and round table conferences for formulating public opinion. I think that too much publicity cannot be given to that fact. We were informed that their rules down there (in the paragraph on page 4) are as follows, it says: "However the Corporation is prepared to give free time, on the basis of equality, to reputable persons who wish to discuss etc." I think that refers to individuals, not organisations, and I believe the rule is this: former cabinet ministers, and, I believe, former members of the Legislative Council, are, according to the rule laid down by the Corporation, permitted to have one and a half hours, or three half-hour broadcasts, no charge made, subject to the right of the Corporation to edit the contents of the broadcast.
Mr. Cashin The censorship by Mr. Williams!
Mr. Smallwood I am speaking strictly to the report. Their right is to edit the script, also to submit it to their solicitor for his opinion on any statement which may appear to be libelous or defamatory. Former cabinet ministers and members of the House of Assembly can have apparently equal time. And the same with members of the upper house. I want to emphasise for the benefit of people who may be listening in to-night (if anyone does listen to these broadcasts) that the Corporation is there to give the use of their station free for the discussion of public affairs.
Mr. Hollett Is that true of VOCM?
Mr. Smallwood It is general knowledge that VOCM has been very generous also in the use of its time and in the latitude it allows speakers on public affairs.
Mr. Jackman Are they prepared to give VOCM the same facilities as VONF, on educational matters?
Mr. Smallwood I am sure that Mr. Jackman does not suppose that the Broadcasting Corporation has anything to do with broadcasts on VOCM, or with the personnel of that station. I don't think they interfere at all. The dispute with VOCM and the Broadcasting Corporation has to do only with VOCM's request to increase their power and stations, it is not with regard to what they shall or shall not broadcast.
Mr. Jackman I cannot agree with the excuse given by the government for turning down the 202 NATIONAL CONVENTION December 1946 request for VOCM to enlarge its broadcasting facilities. It is an excuse for dictatorship. VOCM today is the most popular radio station in Newfoundland. If we could take a poll we would find 90% of our people listen in to VOCM more so than VONF, and in the report it says the government is not going to give VOCM a chance to expand. I do not think it is right. It is about all we have left in our country —- the air. Now they are trying to take that away. They are going to set up a station in Grand Falls, and possibly one in Bell Island. What sort of propaganda are they going to give us? This country owes a tribute to VOCM; if we did not have VOCM, we would not have this National Convention today. I think this Convention should protest against the dictatorial attitude of the government in trying to take all we have left. There should be some public policy to make the government give VOCM a chance to expand; it is what the people want — the facts and truth.
Mr. Hollett I come from a part of this country where we rarely hear VOCM and it is only since I have been in St. John's I have been privileged to listen in to it, and I am thoroughly in accord with Mr. Jackrnan. I cannot swallow the excuse given by the Broadcasting Corporation for not allowing VOCM to increase power from 250 to 1000 watts in view of the fact that the Broadcasting Corporation are planning to increase the power of their station here in St. John's and erect another station in Grand Falls (1000 watts) and another in Corner Brook (1000 watts). I believe there is something more in this refusal than first strikes the eye. I would ask Mr. Smallwood if the Committee enquired as to what manner this increasing of VOCM from 250 to 1000 watts would contaminate or obliterate the air waves over this country?
Mr. Smallwood The report says the Committee felt considerable sympathy for VOCM and for Mr. Butler. Whether strict observance of that ruling has the effect of making it impossible for VOCM power to be increased is a matter upon which I am not competent to pass judgement. Mr. Hollett Did you enquire?
Mr. Smallwood We did, as far as our own competence allowed us. When you get into a technical matter, you have to know what kind of questions to ask, to have the knowledge to tell you whether the answer is scientifically correct. If the Convention will retain the services of a high—class radio technician, he could give you the answer. We cannot.
Mr. Bailey I whole-heartedly agree with the Broadcasting Corporation and I think the time has come to get the broadcasting station back under the people. I was in hospital for a month and in the next bed to me was one of the leading radio technicians in the world — Mr. Galgay — he explained the whole thing to me and I followed closely. The Broadcasting Corporation is all right.... The only thing we have to do is get control of the country, and of the broadcasting and own one valuable thing.
Mr. Ashbourne I would like to pay tribute to those who compile, at no doubt considerable expense, and furnish to the broadcasting companies the various news bulletins given to the public free of charge. These bulletins are appreciated in the city of St. John's and especially in those outports where no daily newspapers are immediately available. I mention the Gerald S. Doyle news bulletin[1] and the bulletin supplied by Messrs Harvey and Co.[2] VOCM is not very much heard in Twillingate, probably on account of lower power. I see no reason why they should not receive permission to increase their power. The weather forecasts, news regarding steamer movements, railway freights, are of great moment to the people who live in the outports. In St. John's we can buy a newspaper twice a day and see when various steamers are accepting freight; when trains are leaving; get weather forecasts; but to the fisherman who has to get up early in the morning and go out it is a great satisfaction to have some idea as to what the weather is likely to be on the following day. I would like to bring to the attention of the government, the matter of considering that radio batteries be admitted into Newfoundland duty free. All you have to do in St. John's is plug in the socket by which the electric light is given. Very few people in the outports enjoy that privilege.
Mr. Vardy When this report was being read I was like Major Cashin, but I decided to hold on until it was fully read. In 1937 I prepared a half-hour talk to deliver, and went to the best December 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 203 legal talent and submitted my manuscript to be scrutinised. I contacted the manager of VONF and told him I wanted to deliver a talk. He told me it depended on the topic and nature of the talk, whether or not I would be allowed to speak. I was advised four or five days afterwards that he regretted that after consulting the Board he could not allow me to deliver the address. He said I was far too critical of Commission of Government. In view of that, I cannot accept the second paragraph on page 4 as a statement of fact. I congratulate those responsible for this report. I move that the report be received.
Mr. Harrington Before the report is received, I would like to make a few comments. I have been broadcasting quite a while and I feel I would be remiss if I had not something to say. I have no quarrel with the Broadcasting Corporation. 1 have said a few hard things about Commission of Government and I have not been rapped over the knuckles The comments I would like to make are in connection with the staff. On page 1 — 1 chief operator; 1 operator. These are employed at the studio, and as far as I know they are at Mount Pearl. It had struck me for quite a while that the Corporation is understaffed. A broadcasting station is not like a government department where you go in and see a lot of staff. Some people get the idea there is not much work to be done. Take, for instance, Mr. House, he is chief operator and is at this moment recording this broadcast. When it is all worked out on the basis of time, they really have a lot of work to do. We should particularly pay tribute for the way in which it is covering the Convention and it takes a lot of their time, particularly the operators.
Mr. Ballam I would like to say, as Mr. Harrington has done, that we should at this time pay a little tribute to the Broadcasting Corporation. I agree with Mr. Jackman, if it could be done, we on the west coast would like to see VOCM's output increased. We do not get them and very seldom VONF. We are fortunate in having VOWN; the service they are giving is good. I understand from the report that they are increasing the wattage in Corner Brook, and you people in here might have the opportunity of listening to us. I agree we should offer a vote of thanks to the broadcasting station.
Mr. Higgins My main reason for rising was to refer to the paragraph under discussion. It is refreshing that for the first time since the House opened, Mr. Smallwood admitted there is something he is not fully competent to discuss. I do not intend to give an opinion, because it might be suggested that it might be biased due to my association with one of the Board of Governors. As the opinion is held by some members that VOCM is entitled to more power for their station, why not have the Committee make enquiries outside as to the rightness or wrongness of the explanation given by the Broadcasting Corporation?
Mr. Smallwood The first thing we did was to ask Mr. Butler to appear. He stated his case before the Broadcasting Corporation stated theirs. We knew nowhere else to go. We would need technical information in order to be able to assess the technical explanation that the Broadcasting Corporation gave us. I would like to join with Mr. Harrington and Mr. Ballam in the words they have uttered about the gratitude of this Convention to the Corporation, for broadcasting the debates; not only to going to considerable expense, because it does cost money, but re-arranging their whole time from 9.15 each night until around midnight. I know the whole country is listening and that is giving value to the Convention deliberations and debates, a value it could not possibly have otherwise. Tens of thousands who have to vote on the kind of government they want, would have no way of knowing the facts upon which we are basing our recommendations, and upon which they perhaps will base their voting for the referendum. The Corporation should know how grateful we feel to them and I am disappointed we have not been hearing it from all sides of the house.... A feeling has grown up that the Convention is lying on its oars and loafing. There are nine committees; three of them have so far reported; six others have yet to report. Here is one of 143 pages foolscap and I am sure the Finance Committee will bring in 200 to 300 pages. That is not done without hard work....
Mr. Butt I wonder if the Committee asked the Broadcasting Corporation how far they were prepared to go in cutting commercial advertising in order to arrange their time to give individuals or other bodies the opportunity to broadcast.
Mr. Smallwood The answer is simple. A broadcasting station arranges some of its programmes as much as a year in advance... In connection 204 NATIONAL CONVENTION December 1946 with this broadcasting of these proceedings, they have cancelled everything after 9.15 at night. Not only are we grateful to the Corporation but also to the commercial firms whose programmes have got to be cancelled in order to make way for what we think is more important — the discussion of public affairs.
Mr. Butt If you have commercial advertising there is a certain rigidity about those programmes which cannot be offset, unless you ask the people who control them and they are pleased to do it (and I am not doubting that they are). I want to know how far the Broadcasting Corporation are prepared to go in lessening revenue from commercial purposes so that they can facilitate the broadcasting of other affairs...
Mr. Smallwood It seems strange for Mr. Butt to be directing that question at me, because he is as well able to answer that question as I am.... In connection with the large number of radio sets on which no payment was made in 1944, the answer is that during the war it became just about impossible to get radio sets, and in many cases radio tubes and other spare parts, the result was that throughout the country there came, by the end of the war, to be a very large number of radio sets which actually were not in use and so I suppose, with some degree of humanity, postmasters throughout the island did not collect the fees on unused radio sets. I think that's the explanation. Mr. Miller I am somewhat disappointed about the manner in which this report is being covered by the House. Very good points have been overlooked, and we are making useless remarks. Our business today is as serious as it will be later on. There was a good point made by Major Cashin, concerning the erection of broadcasting stations at St. John's, Corner Brook, Gander, and Grand Falls. I can't guess the amount these outlays might total. I might say a quarter of a million dollars. Not worth our consideration this afternoon? We may be asked to spend that in three or four years time. It is well worth our consideration, and further this report should deal with the business basis of the Broadcasting Corporation. I think it is incomplete because it has not got it here. I cannot form an opinion whether the Broadcasting Corporation will be an asset or a liability to the future of Newfoundland. I want to know. That's what I am here for — more about the assets and liabilities of the future. This report has not got it and I am disappointed. The Committee ought to have investigated the rates we charge compared with the rates they charge in Canada, find out if there are any privileges given on this broadcasting station, whether some people are getting special rates, etc. General routine work, but it is not in the report. I do agree with Mr. Hollett and others who made mention of VOCM. That station is not heard in my district, or very rarely, and that is only 84 miles away. I cannot take Mr. Smallwood's explanation when he says that VOCM could find no place on the air. Has the air, that is the channels of broad, casting, reached a saturation point? Must we think that the United States and Canada will have to go down to these lower frequencies and less power? We are not driving a hard enough bargain, and VOCM is getting a raw deal. At the same time I am not so greatly concerned over that, but I am that we have not got the facts in dollars and cents.
Mr. Smallwood As the report states, the balance sheet of the Broadcasting Corporation is published annually in the public accounts, the report of the Auditor General, and in considerable detail. I brought along the balance sheet for each of the last three years, but we have them running back 14 or 15 years.
Mr Cashin 16 years.
Mr. Smallwood For each of these 16 years the annual balance sheet was published in considerv able detail. It is fairly simple, and it seems they have been making from $12,000 to $25,000 a year profit. It does not look like they would ever be a liability. If the number of people with radio sets and licence fees and the sale of time on the air should fall off, then their income will fall, and they might have a deficit. I don't think we need to look upon them as a liability in the future. The other point is one that I have so much sympathy for myself that I don't want to be jockeyed into the position of standing here defending the Broadcasting Corporation. I am not responsible for the explanation of this, we are only repeating honestly the explanation given to us by the Broadcasting Corporation, admitting our inability to assess its validity. It sounds genuine and we are not competent to question it. Mr, Miller, please don't blame us for that explanation. Mr. Chairman if all the gentlemen are through and there is no further comment I move that the December 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 205 Committee rise, report progress, and beg leave to sit again tomorrow.
[The committee of the whole rose and reported progress]

Motion to Prevent Disposal of Assets by the Government until a Decision has been made on a Future Form of Government.

Mr. Chairman Mr. Crosbie to move that this Convention is of the opinion that until the people of Newfoundland have decided what form of government they wish to have in the future, there should be no further negotiations in connection with any disposal of any assets of Newfoundland, either in Newfoundland or Labrador.
Mr. Crosbie ....Some five or six weeks ago we had the Forestry Report submitted and there was considerable debate regarding the value of timber on Labrador. I am afraid many people here spoke of Labrador not knowing of what they spoke. I felt it was rather a pity for us to discuss in public something we did not know about. That report was passed and sent back to the committee for consideration. I have taken some trouble to ascertain what was the position of timber on Labrador. I had an idea that Bowaters, one of the large paper companies, had made surveys there in 1937 and 1938, both ground and aerial. I have been in Comer Brook and asked Mr. Lewin, and he told me that he had no objection to getting the surveys and giving them to the Committee. To his knowledge, where we said 2 million cords of wood, there are 20 million cords of wood easily accessible. At that time the cost would have been extremely heavy and they had the opportunity of making this other deal at Gander, which they took. He said it was good timber and there is no reason why it should not be made into pulpwood or paper.
Bearing that in mind I was somewhat worried about a letter I received from Saint John, N, B., Canada. We did hear rumours on the street about certain parties negotiating with the Department of Natural Resources for timber rights. Mr. Smallwood may have had the idea that some delegates in the Convention were mixed up in the movement. I am sorry I forgot to bring that letter here, but that party went on to say that "myself and my association can procure ten or eleven thousand miles of timber on Labrador and can get them for you on favourable terms." It is getting pretty rough when a Newfoundlander has to be offered part of his own country from an outsider. Mr. Flinn told us that negotiations had been commenced, and since that nothing had been done. I am prepared to believe that, but I believe this resolution should go through this Convention. I also feel, since yesterday, that it is more necessary. We heard of the Gander agreement, and I don't think any man who had the interest of the country at heart would make such an agreement. The British government are only trustees of this country, and that's all. They have been the last 12 years, and they feel by setting up this National Convention they would like to pass back their trust to us. That being so I don't think Commission of Government has any right to bargain away any more assets of this country in Labrador. We don't know the value of Labrador. I mentioned timber, but in the Magazine Digest of last month there is an article that interested me. It said "Labrador Iron Ore Saves United States Steel Mills". That staggered me and I read the article. It finished up by saying that in the not far distant future the United States will be taking from Labrador $350 million worth of iron ore a year, and that's not chicken feed. I understand that one of the companies is negotiating a power agreement on Labrador. The British government should be very cautious about any further agreements they make until the people have an opportunity to say something about the future of this country. With that in mind I beg to move this resolution.
Mr. Penney I second the motion proposed by Mr. Crosbie, and may I say that it looks like we have uncovered things during our fact-finding investigations that many of us thought unbelievable. It is time to cry halt to further dickering with the assets of Newfoundland and Labrador by a caretaker government — yesterday's revelations on the Gander airport deal for example — and there are others to come — so that in this motion, even though it may not be heeded, we do nevertheless consider it our duty to try and save the remnants of our heritage for the people of Newfoundland, as well as let them know what is happening. I strongly support Mr. Crosbie's motion....
Mr. Chairman The motion has been moved by 206 NATIONAL CONVENTION December 1946 Mr. Crosbie and seconded by Mr. Penney. The matter is open for discussion. Each member has the right to speak once, Mr. Crosbie having the right to reply.
Mr. Vardy I support Mr. Crosbie's motion. I feel from what ground we have covered we realise with deep concern the serious inroads which have been made on our national wealth during the term of Commission of Government. Many of their unscrupulous acts are beyond repair, more will be headaches for some future government; but at least and during the remainder of their tenure of office I would suggest that "what we have we hold." This is not the time to encourage any lengthy debate on the matter; but we will all agree, in view of the startling facts already before us, this urgent matter demands our immediate consideration.
If they as the trustees and guardians of our country's resources refuse our request, an appeal should be addressed from this Convention, through His Excellency the Governor, to the appropriate authorities in London. Some may interpret this as being beyond our terms of reference. If so, it is certainly not beyond our rights as Newfoundlanders, who are at this time more than ever concerned over the fate of what little is left of our natural resources. If nothing more is done, a unanimous petition from the individual members outside the official scope of the Convention should be addressed to the government on this important matter.
Mr. Miller Take the second last line — "nor any disposal of any assets of Newfoundland or Labrador." Does "assets" cover the whole thing? I feel it should be all-embracing.
Mr. Smallwood It would be scandalous if the motion were to pass with practically no discussion. I do not think the government or the country would consider that this Convention was taking it seriously if it went through in a perfunctory manner. It is one of the most vital things to come before the Convention. The point made by Mr. Miller is that it does not go far enough; it seems to me, technically, that it goes a little too far. I think I know what is in the mind of the mover and those who seconded it; they have in mind the public domain, the natural resources, waterpowers, timber and territorial areas; but what is mentioned there is the word "assets" which goes way beyond physical assets. As worded, if that were adopted by us and accepted it would preclude the government from adding to the national assets.
Mr. Crosbie You are wrong.
Mr. Smallwood According to the motion there should be no further negotiations in connection with any assets of Newfoundland, even to increase those assets. I know Mr. Crosbie means the natural resources of this country that might still be bartered away, and that is what we all have in mind. If some of the rumours are true — what about this business of further bases? Mr. Job has been concerned that we have leased those bases for 99 years in return for nothing. Even the land they built on, the Americans did not pay for — not a single cent. It was paid for by the British government. First the Newfoundland government paid for it and the British government paid them back. One thing I will say for Mr. Crosbie, if anything is to happen, he is the first to hear of it. If our territory is to be further bartered away, if we do get our own government back again in the future we will not be able to do much with it. Maybe Mr. Crosbie would tell us about the 20 million cords of good merchantable timber discovered by Bowaters. ls that on Crown land or is it among the grants?
Mr. Crosbie As far as I know it still belongs to Newfoundland.
Mr. Smallwood That makes it more important. If we have 20 million cords in Labrador and if people are here from Canada and the United States trying to get concessions; and if a private company can write Mr. Crosbie from Saint John and offer him 10,000 square miles of timberland in Labrador, there must be some reason on their part for the man to be able to think they can get it. Every member of this Convention would not be a Newfoundlander if he did not feel as Mr. Crosbie does, who is determined to do everything in his power to prevent any more of this going on for the next 12 months. There is room there for a first-class row. I am sure the whole Convention, and the public, will back him; and if he wants a parade or march, we will follow behind...
Mr. Higgins I agree with Mr. Miller. If our reading is correct, I agree that Mr. Crosbie means assets as being in toto.
[It was moved by Mr. Smallwood, seconded by Mr. Higgins and carried, that Mr. Crosbie be December 1946 NATIONAL CONVENTION 207 aallowed to speak again]
Mr. Crosbie I did not expect to get into this this afternoon. By the word "assets" 1 mean everything — the water that runs; power taken from that water; trees; fish around the shores we control; timber; anything that is under Newfoundland domain. I used the word "natural resources" today. You do not have to go back very far to find $8 million loaned free of interest; $2 million borrowed at interest. It does not make sense. That is why I deliberately used the word "asset". Mr. Smallwood thinks it might mean that they can increase our assets; I do not think the government can. They have not the ability. If you . read further you will see "any disposal"; it is "disposal" with which I am concerned. We are elected here by the different districts, we have had a lot of criticism because we have had no public sessions; if we had had public sessions, there would not have been much assets left to play with. What we have left, for goodness' sake let us hold on to. I will head a parade, sure, but it may be worse than a parade.
Mr. Hollett I rise to support the motion made by Mr. Crosbie. Mr. Smallwood thinks we are taking it in a lukewarm manner. I think it is because each of us agrees that it should have been on the carpet long ago. I feel the hopelessness of the situation. All we can do is pass our opinion on the disposal of assets. The Commission of Government, and I probably should say the Dominions Office, will take no more note of our opinion than throw it in the wastepaper basket. Those absentee landlords have disposed of practically all we did have at the time we lost responsible government, without consultation of the people of this country; more than that, they dispose of territory, giving mineral rights on the Labrador; giving timber leases, and doing anything which came to their minds to dispose of the public domain of this Dominion — and it is a Dominion. "Dominions Office" — I am sick of it. It puts me in mind of a stanza from Milton, this corrupt practice.
Enough of such as for their bellies' sake, Creep and intrude and climb into the fold? Of other care they little reckining make, Than how to scramble at the shearers' feast, And shove away the worthy bidden guest; Blind mouths! (that is the mouths of State) that scarce themselves know how to hold A sheep-hook, or have learn'd aught else the least That to the faithful Herdman's art belongs! What recks it them? What need they? Thay are sped; And when they list, their lean and flashy songs Grate on their scrannel Pipes of wretched straw. The hungry Sheep (the starving people of this country from 1933-39) look up, and are not fed, But swoln with wind and the rank mist they draw, Rot inwardly, and foul contagion spread: Besides what the grim wolf with privy paw Daily devours apace, and nothing said; But that two-handed engine at the door Stands ready to smite once, and smite no more.[1]
That is the Dominions Office described by Milton in the 17th century, that little back room in some place in Downing Street where the destinies of colonies are decided; where they think they have the right to sell Newfoundland or give it away as they have been doing. I speak thus because I realise the hopelessness of the situation. We saw what happened at Gander. One to two million is to come out of the pockets of the people annually and they ask us to decide if the country is self-supporting. It is the worst treatment any country in the world ever got from the mother country... I support the motion of Mr. Crosbie.
Mr. Bailey I support the motion which I think should have been brought in long ago. I do not agree with Mr. Hollett that the Dominions Office will not take note of it; we should see to it that they do. We are elected by the people of this country and we should be the voice of freedom. The time has come for us to start fighting and to let Great Britain and certain elements know the way we have been treated in the past, and I believe from today we should get going on this. The people of this country criticised us for doing, as they thought, nothing, when we were getting $15 a day. They lost interest because we had no public sessions. As Mr. Crosbie says, if we had 208 NATIONAL CONVENTION December 1946 been having public sessions we would not have found out the things we did. I believe each and every one in this House should forget all differences and get this country back to the people to whom it belongs. We are here because our people love this country. Why should they give away the assets our forebears fought so hard to get? The Commission government intends to spend that $30 million surplus before they get out. Then they will turn the government over to us. We waited too long. How much longer are we going to put up with it? We are not going to get anything without fighting for it. The average Briton does not understand anything but a fight. I risked my life for this country and I would do it again.
Mr. Vincent However there is no need to elaborate on why this motion should, and doubtless will command the unanimous approval of this House. To me it would be most extraordinary indeed should a dissenting voice be heard. I make no apologies for saying that any delegates raising their voice against this should be deemed unpatriotic indeed. Let's back the resolution with concerted action, and do it right away.
Mr. Higgins I don't think there will be any notice taken of the motion, but to be critically correct I think that the motion will have to be amended, and for that reason I move the following amendment: that the word "assets" be deleted and the following words substituted: "any of the natural resources or liquid assets of Newfoundland at present under the control of the Commission of Government, other than already contracted for, either in Newfoundland or Labrador". Otherwise it will mean that Highroads cannot even sell a tractor. The waterpower situation is already covered by one of the acts in 1938 and 1944, giving the Labrador Mining and Exploration Company full power to acquire what waterpower they require as soon as mining leases are taken out by them. We have no control over that. That's why I move that amendment.
Mr. Smallwood I would second that if Mr. Higgins would assure me that they can't pay their bills!
Mr. Cashin Does that mean rum at the Controllers?
Mr. Smallwood It is not that kind of liquid that Mr. Higgins is dealing with. Does that mean that they could not pay their bills?
Mr. Higgins We will say "their liquid assets other than current". I think the whole lot of it is really a lot of nonsense. I am sure there won't be any notice taken of it.
Mr. Chairman That's a little bit complicated, and I think you had better put that in writing and submit it to the clerk, please.
[The Convention agreed to accept the proposed change to the motion without debate]
Mr. Jackman Five years ago I wrote a letter to the Daily News. In the final paragraph l pointed out that since the beginning of Commission government we, the people of Newfoundland, stood by silently and had our possessions and our assets given to outsiders without having any voice in the matter whatever. I congratulate Mr. Crosbie; I am strongly in favour of this motion, and will do anything I can to see that the motion will have teeth in it. I realise that we as a Convention are not in a position to demand the Commission of Government do anything, but we have an opportunity if we wish to take it on ourselves, that each delegate when he goes back to his district should call a public meeting throughout the whole country to deal with Mr. Crosbie's motion from a public standpoint, and, while the Dominions Office is inclined practically at all times to ignore things, I think some public agitation at least may open their eyes...
Mr. Harrington I would like to take up where Mr. Bailey left off... I certainly agree with him. I don't think that Mr. Bailey was being radical in what he said, neither do I think that Mr. Hollett is a defeatist, but a realist. However I have my doubts. I think this motion may do something. The stronger we make it the more chance we have of doing something. Mr. Bailey made a little excursion into our history, a matter which Mr. Bailey and I have made numerous excursions into the past few years. When people say, "That's 50 or lOO years ago, forget that", well the same thing is happening today, and what are we going to do about it? I want to support Mr. Bailey's stand that it is time for fighting, and if this is the beginning of the tight, I am all for it.
[ The motion as amended carried unanimously, and the Convention adjourned]


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



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

Notes de bas de page:

  • [1] Volume II:119. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [2] George Williams, Chairman of Board of Governors of the Broadcasting Corporation of Newfoundland.
  • [1] Methodist College Literary Institute.
  • [2] MCLI, Patricians, Holy Cross Literary Association and the Llewellyn Club were St. John's societies that sponsored debates, lectures and discussions.
  • [1] This radio programme, consisting of news and public service announcements, commenced in 1932.
  • [2] Harvey and Co., one of Newfoundland's oldest merchant houses.
  • [1] An excerpt from "Lycidas" by John Milton. See Menitt Y. Hughes (ed), John Milton: Complete Poems and Major Prose (New York, 1957), p. 120.

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