Newfoundland National Convention, 3 February 1947, Debates on Confederation with Canada


February 3, 1947

Mr. Chairman Orders of the day Notice of motion. Mr. Higgins to give notice that on tomorrow he will move the following amendments to the rules of procedure of the Convention....[1]
Mr. Higgins Mr. Chairman, gentlemen, the proposed amendment is for the purpose of bringing the rules of procedure into line with the amended act with respect to the National Convention. As you know, when the present Chairman was appointed, the not had to be amended. It gives the Chairman his right to vote, but does not confer on him any second or casting vote as Chairman. The proposed amendment gives the Chairman of the Convention his right to vote. It's merely to regularise the rules of procedure in accordance with the amended act.
Mr. Job Mr. Chairman, I wish to give notice of motion. lhereby give notice that] will, on tomorrow, move the following resolution:
Whereas it is the duty of this National Convention to ascertain all important facts bearing upon the financial and economic position of this country, and upon all possible and suitable forms of government to be laid before the people:
Be it therefore resolved that it is essential that this Convention take immediate steps to ascertain
1. What steps, if any, can be taken for establishing improved economic or fiscal relationships between the United States of America and Newfoundland, particularly bearing in mind the present occupation of certain Newfoundland territory by the said United States of America, and the fact that free entry is accorded to the United States for its importation into Newfoundland;
2. What financial and fiscal relationships could be expected between the Government of the United Kingdom and Newfoundland
(1) Under a continuation of Commission government in its present form,
(2) Under a revised form of Commission government with elected representatives thereon,
(3) Under responsible government in approximately its previous form,
(4) Under any other suitable form of government.
3. What would be a fair and equitable basis for federal union of the Dominion of Canada and Newfoundland, or what other fiscal, political or economic arrangements may be possible.
Be it further resolved that His Excellency the Governor in Commission be informed that this National Convention desires to appoint a committee of its members to confer with His Excellency the Governor in Commission on ways and means of determining the matters herein before enumerated, and that in the event of His Excellency the Governor in Commission being agreeable to conferring with such a committee, the Chairman of this Convention in consultation with the Steering Committee shall thereupon select a delegation of members of this Convention which, with the Chairman ofthe Convention, shall constitute the committee referred to in this resolution and which shall report to this Convention the results of their conferences before being in any way committed to the despatch of any delegation outside of Newfoundland.

Report of the Transportation and Communications Committee:[2] Committee of the Whole

Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, the only additional information that this Committee has to bring before the committee of the whole today is the supplementary report on Gander,[3] consisting of a verbatim shorthand account of the interview held with the Commissioner of Public Utilities, Mr. Neill, by a Committee appointed by the Convention, and i think perhaps that the best thing would be to ask the Secretary to read the verbatim account of that interview.
[The Secretary read the verbatim report]
Mr. Cashin Mr. Chairman, some of my friends February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 269 have been commenting on the fact that, for the past few weeks, I have not been taking a very active part in the debates of this assembly. My explanation to them and to the public, is that, first, I felt the carefully prepared reports which the several committees have presented were in themselves sufficiently informative and factual for the basic purposes of this Convention. And second, wishing to expedite the work, I did not desire to enter into any analysis of endless details, which, if encouraged, could only develop into idle discussions, with a consequent cost of the people's money and the delegates' time. For these reasons, I have been content to adopt the role of a more or less silent spectator. But on the present occasion I rise to what I regard as a state of political emergency, with the object of placing before this Convention my impression of things as I see them today, and with the hope that what I shall have to say may be of some assistance to my fellow delegates and to the public at large.
On September 18 last, just a week after this Convention had assembled, I made a speech introducing the Chadwick-Jones report. I referred to this Convention in terms which, to some of you, may have seemed unduly harsh — perhaps shocking. I pointed out my lack of faith in this Convention, referred to it as being ethically improper, in View of the agreement which was made between the last Newfoundland parliament and the British government, wherein self-government was promised this country upon its becoming self-supporting. I pointed out how that agreement had been deliberately avoided and ignored by the wholly unauthorised substitution of this Convention set-up. I said that as time went on, and the true nature of this Convention emerged, many delegates would endorse my sentiments. I concluded with the statement that it would become clear that in its dealings with us, the Dominions Office had stolen the vocabulary of democracy, but had ignored both its spirit and substance.
Over four months have elapsed since I made that speech, and today the things that I said then seem to have proved too dismally true. In one respect, perhaps, I might change my views. At that time I referred to the Convention as a glorified stall. Today I do not regard it in any such light manner. Rather I see in its characteristics something far more sinister and even tragic.
Today I see it as a premeditated design to keep us out of control of our own country, so that time may be afforded those in power to complete their campaign of sabotage. And so, I see this Convention and its activities as something in the nature of fiddling while Rome burns. Now, let me say, that in speaking in this strain, I cast no reflection whatever on the personnel of this body, I simply speak of the Convention as a political entity — as being part of the costly and cumbersome machinery, consisting of plebiscites and referendums, which have been foisted on us to confuse our thoughts and efforts, until the plans of the Dominions Office have been completed.
As for the personnel in the months that we have been together, I have come to know most of the delegates intimately and have made many warm friends. I have been greatly impressed with the sound reasoning and sincere utterances shown in their speeches. Many of them may not have been blessed with college education, and have had to get their learning in the university of hard knocks, but new as some of them may be to the political atmosphere, they have proven that they can measure up to their jobs in a manner reflecting credit on themselves and the people they represent. We have in this assembly representatives of all Newfoundland, including Labrador. From the great forests of the west to the stormy coastlines of the north — merchants and miners, lawyers and lumbermen, fishermen and farmers, teachers and teamsters; the rich and the poor, the classes and the masses — all are represented here. And because of this wide representation, I feel that I am speaking, not so much to the delegates themselves, as to the 300,000 odd people who are depending on us to safeguard their interests. I speak on behalf of no particular district, nor as the advocate of any political party or belief, but just as an ordinary Newfoundlander to his fellow men and women, on a matter of national interest.
I said that I rose to an emergency, and perhaps I should explain myself a little more clearly. Let me say, then, that I am seriously alarmed, at the state of things in this country today. I am disturbed at the things which have come to my notice as an ordinary citizen and as a member of this Convention. I have seen things which I think the people should know, because in the final analysis they are our masters. They are the people 270 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 who own this country, and who are most directly concerned in what happens to it.
Firstly I am not satisfied, and have never been satisfied, with the method adopted for the solution of our political position. I have always regarded the setting up of a Convention such as this as not being the proper method of solving the problem which confronts us, and every day that passes further confirms these beliefs. I have slowly seen emerge into the light of day the duplicity and bad faith which underlies this whole business. I have seen proof that our country is being deliberately sidetracked from the democratic highway that we thought we were on into a blind alley, where we can spend our time groping for progress and getting nowhere. As a result, I say that if we do not become aware of these things, and turn around on a new course, we are headed for danger.
Let us review things. This country was promised self-government when she became self-supporting. On December 12, 1945, in the House of Lords, the Dominions Secretary declared that Newfoundland was then self-supporting, and had been since 1941; and coming nearer home, we find that no less an authority than former Commissioner for Finance Wild told this Convention four months ago that we were self-supporting. All right then, we are self-supporting. These men say we are, and they should know. Now then, the first question we ask is, why was not this international contract carried out? It is a serious thing to break an international agreement, Mr. Chairman. Yet not alone was this done, but no reason was given us for such default. What does this mean and what impression must we, as sensible men, gather from this? I submit there is only one deduction we can make, and this is that the British government has not kept faith with us; that it was not in their interest that we should have control of our own country. And so determined were they to carry out their plan, that they did not hesitate to treat an international agreement as just another scrap of paper. Is this the situation which confronts us today? Must we look for duplicity where we should look for straightforward dealing? But let us go on and study the character of the thing further.
You will remember when, on the request of the Convention, Commissioner for Finance Wild was asked to appear before us, his point-blank refusal to answer certain questions. Does this indicate a wholesome co-operation with our efforts, or does it indicate another example of the bad faith to which I have referred? Does it not indicate that both Mr. Wild and the Commission government, as well as the Dominions Office, have regarded us as an opposition rather than a friendly body — that they did not care whether we got facts or not; that they had no sympathy for either ourselves or the work which we had undertaken? For myself, as a member of a committee of this Convention, 1 have been time and time again unable to get the information I requested. I have been refused information, sometimes almost insolently refused. Other committees have indicated that they have been greeted with the same hostility and lack of co-operation. I remember one extraordinary instance, when the government refused information on confidential grounds, and shortly after I saw the whole thing published in pamphlet form in the Dominion of Canada. Could there be anything more farcical? Here they tell us we are an assembly appointed and authorised to get facts, and yet when we go to the very people who so appointed us — when we go to the normal source — we are, in so many words told to go about our business. I say again, does this conduct indicate anything? Does it not indicate beyond all reasonable doubt, that the Commission government and the Dominions Office do not want us to get all the facts — do not want us to know what the true state of this country is today, and how our affairs are being managed? Does it not clearly show that we are regarded as a body without either importance or standing; that we are not being taken seriously; that they have given us the glory, but that the power remains with themselves? What would you say, Mr. Chairman, if you were doing business with a man and he treated you that way? You would say that he was a trickster and a deceiver; refuse to have anything to do with him any longer. You would cease to put faith in him. But let us see if we cannot also prove what 1 have said in a different manner.
Let us suppose that we have none of this evidence of bad faith on the part of the Commission government and the Dominions Office. Let us forget all this, and take up a single instance where the British government comes to us, in all good faith, and asks us to find out the facts February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 271 relating to the financial and economic position of this country. Would not the first question that would come to mind be this: why should the British government have to ask us to undertake such a task now? Do you think they would need to call on 45 men, living in all parts of this country with no particular training in such matters, to do this work for them? Don't you think they have all the answers themselves? They with their 4,000 civil servants, with their $10,000 salaried departmental heads, with their highly-paid imported financial experts, with their agents scattered all over the island, with their great numbers of bureaux and offices — do you think in the face of this, they can ask us to believe that they must send out an invitation to us, and ask us to please come to St. John's, and add up their accounts for them and tell them whether the country is self- supporting or not? Why the whole thing is so wildly absurd, so obviously a thing of sending the fool further, that I am amazed that this Convention has not long ago refused to have any part of this political game of hide the button. I say that we are being trifled with, that the country is being trifled with, that this Convention is being treated as so many children, to whom this political toy is given to distract their attention to play this mock parliament business according to a book of instructions furnished by those two jokers, Messrs. Chadwick and Jones.
On behalf of the people whom I represent and myself, I wish to record my strong resentment at the derogatory and insulting manner in which we have been treated by the Dominions Office, and in the interests of all Newfoundland I say that, being aware of this position, it is high time that we did something about it. To use the words of Winston Churchill, "What kind of people do they think we are anyhow?" Do they think we have no intelligence? Do they think we have no national pride? Do they think we do not resent such uncalled-for treatment?
Some months ago in a radio address, I expressed myself to the effect that if Newfoundlanders did not soon take over their country, there would be nothing left to take over. I have that same feeling today. It is an old story now, about the bartering away of our national assets. But the thing still goes on, and the tragedy of it is we are doing nothing to stop it. Sometime ago this Convention unanimously passed a resolution re questing the Commission that no further commitments or charges should be made upon our national resources, until such time as it was decided what form of government would administer our affairs in the future. But do you think there will be any attention paid to such a request? I tell you, Mr. Chairman, not the slightest. Indeed, I doubt if this Convention has been given the courtesy of a reply to their request. It was only a few days ago that a further act was passed giving further concessions on the Labrador to outside parties, and we have no doubt that as time goes on further contractual obligations will be made involving us to the tune of many millions of dollars of the people's money, further compromising our future in adeeper bondage. You will remember that at the beginning of this Convention we were furnished with a ten-year programme for the expenditure of some $60 million. This programme is actually being carried out today by the Commission government itself, without any notice being taken of this Convention.
I am aware there are those amongst us who seem obsessed with the peculiar idea that the problem of Newfoundland can be dealt with as one would a problem in mathematics; that it is something which can be worked out by the rule of three. They seem to want somebody to come and show as a mathematical certainty that Newfoundland will never know another bad day. They want a gilt-edged guarantee that there will be no more depressions in the world, that there will be no more wars, no more bombs, no more ups or downs in either politics or commerce. They want to be assured of the exact number of fish we are going to catch ten years from now, the number of trees we are going to cut, the number of tons of ore we are going to extract from our mines. And if we can't perform this miracle of exactly prophesying all these things, they will say that we are not self-supporting ―   that we had better not take a chance, there may be a depression in 1950 or even 1960, and we had better go in with some other country that has no depressions, no wars, and no business cycles. Why the thing is so absurd, so hopelessly impractical, that I would not mention it at all but for the reason that there are people who actually think this way. I ask, what country, what individual, what businessman expects to be able to have a blueprint of his condition five or ten years from 272 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 now? If a prosperous firm in good standing today cannot tell how things are going to he say five years hence, do they throw up their hands in despair, close their doors and beg someone else to come and take over their business? When Canada, the United States and Great Britain herself were in the depths of the depression, did they do it? Of course they didn't. They kept on — they took the good with the bad, and they won their fight, just as our ancestors did when we had a bad fishery. I repeat, no man and no nation knows what the future holds. But they don't show the white feathers, they know that uncertainty is the unavoidable law of life. And their pride, their courage, and their patriotism bids them fight on. They know well that any other course is the course of cowardice and dishonour.
But why, I ask, should any one in Newfoundland talk of giving up, or talk of selling out? For what is the actual position? We are faced with no financial or economic emergency. On the contrary, we are richer than we ever were before, than we ever expected to be. And as for our future prospects, I tell you they were never brighter. I know something of the economic and financial structures of other countries, and I also know something about the position of Newfoundland, and I place myself on record as saying that I know of no other people in the world who can today face their future with more confidence and assurance, than Newfoundland. I see no shadow on the road ahead. Rather do I see continued brightness and prosperity. And when the final reports are presented to this Convention, I will prove what I say by the evidence of hard facts and figures. I know that there are with us today the prophets of doom and disaster, and they in their way are bad enough. But worse still are those whom I honestly believe are disappointed at every new sign and proof of our country's prosperity, which the investigations of this Convention are steadily producing. I cannot find words to express my utter contempt for this latter class. All I can say is that they disgrace the very name when they claim to be Newfoundlanders.
Then there is another class of individual, who give evidence of a truly strange form of political thinking — who say give us food, not votes. Feed us, and we care not what you do with us. Why, sir, one can be well fed in a gaol. And Hitler, I believe, fed his people very well. But is that an argument for us going to gaol, or setting up a tyrannical dictatorship? I agree we must have food, but let us see that we eat that food as free men, and not as a dishonoured people, lest the food we seek turn sour in our months.
I know something of what people called graft in the old days, and I know something also of the things which are going on today. If you want evidence of this, I refer you to that section of the Auditor General's report which deals with the Department of Public Health and Welfare, and also the Railway Department, and you will get an indication of what I mean. I assure you that if the whole story of the things which are taking place today under the present regime were exposed, the people of this country would be shocked as they have never been before. Why, Mr. Chairman, there is at present on the table of this house the report of the Transportation Committee, and in this instance alone we find that a sum of no less than $1 million per year is being sacrificed, or should I say sabotaged, with no more consideration or foresight than if it were so many cents. In a recent interview with the Commissioner for Public Utilities we were coolly informed that this obligation had been fastened on the necks of the Newfoundland people solely by the decision of the local Commissioners without any reference to the British government. What an example of spendthrift dictatorship, what an abuse of a people's interests, what a breach of the sacred obligations of trusteeship.
Is it not high time that we did something about all this, that we took some steps to prevent this country being kicked around in this manner, of having the British government use us and all that is ours for her advantage and to our detriment? is it not time that this Convention did something about saving the country itself? I say, sir, that there was never a time in our national life when the motto "Delays are dangerous" was more applicable.
The great need of this country today is unity — unity of thought and purpose in doing the job which lies before us. I am too well aware of the fact that there are many circumstances which mitigate against this sense of unity, and which at the same time render more easy the task of those who would disunite us. There is our far-flung coastline, our isolated settlements, our lack of communications — all these things militate February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 273 against unity of thought and ideas. Indeed, our very origin is rooted in disunity. With us, the melting-pot of nationalism has worked very slowly. Hundreds of years ago our country was peopled with English, Irish and Scotch, and even today their assimilation into a national unity is not complete. We proclaim public holidays in honour of England, Ireland and Scotland, but where is our Newfoundland day? Why, even our very national ode was composed by one who was not a Newfoundlander. We boast of our English, Irish and Scotch descent, but who boasts that he is a Newfoundlander? Is not all this wrong? Should not the state of things be rectified? Is it not time that we awoke to the fact that we are first of all Newfoundlanders and not the citizens of any country thousands of miles across the seas? Let us acknowledge our national obligations, take pride in the fact that we are Newfoundlanders, and acknowledge the duty we owe this land. And the first duty — the first obligation — is the duty of unity; the duty of joining our strength and our numbers in the common interests of our common country.
I know there are members of this Convention who entertain ideas of merging our individuality with other countries, of absorbing our nationhood with other peoples. Such things, in view of the great vital issue which now faces us, I regard as being of secondary importance — things that properly belong not to the present, but to the future — things for the people of Newfoundland to consider as a self-governing dominion I regard them as issues which should not be allowed to destroy the unity, or enervate the thoughts of the people at this juncture. But let me add, that I deny to no man his right to advocate any form of government he may choose, and if a general election were called in this country, there is a free scope for the confederate, the unionist, the labourer, the socialist, and all those who wish to present their belief for the endorsement of the people. All such things come within the sphere of a free democracy. But I emphasise, that the issue today is not a party issue, it is a national issue, an issue of emergency, of saving the country, of saving the treasury, of saving the resources of the people while there is yet time. It is a situation where we must put Newfoundland first, before all else, before the aims of this Convention, before the designs of the Commission government, before the wishes of the Dominions Office or the British government. We must put first things first. All else must be brushed aside in the interest of Newfoundland. If that interest demands that we should convert this assembly into a purely Newfoundland assembly, that should be done. If it demands that we ignore the rules and constitution of this Convention that should be done. If it demands we should send a delegation to London, demanding a general election in the spring of I947, that should be done. Anything and everything should be done to ensure that there is no delay, that there is no time lost in restoring the control of our destinies to the hands of our own people. If we have any rights at all in our own country, the right of free action or free speech, then these rights should be exercised to obtain for us the right of responsible government.
Now we come to this matter of confederation with Canada. Propaganda, inspired right here in Newfoundland, has been appearing in certain sections of the Canadian press, specially designed to injure Newfoundland by misrepresentation of facts. There is a lot of talk about this affair of submerging our century-old nationhood with another country, and I expect we shall hear more, much more of it in the future. For the present I merely say this: if Canada is prepared to accept us in confederation, then be assured it is only because she wants something we have, and that she wants it very much. If she wants us, she wants us for her benefit, not for ours. And if she offers us one dollar, you can be certain that she counts on getting two or three of ours in return. Remember this, to any such deal Great Britain must be a party, and so it would all boil down to a clever game between Canada and Great Britain in which they would take the winnings and Newfoundland would be the pawn. As commonsense people, I ask you to remember this when you are being deluged with the gilded story of the lovely things Canada is going to do for us, of how grand we will live with two chickens in every pot and every man a millionaire. Let us remember that this is simply a repetition of the siren song that has lured many an unlucky country to its doom. It is the sugar on the pill, the bait in the trap. Such was the method used in luring us into Commission government and the valley of the dole in l933. The little countries of Europe have heard that song, the Maritime 274 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 provinces heard it and to their grief heeded it. I expect to hear it sung in this very chamber before long. For a change I should like someone to tell us not why we should go to Canada, but why Canada should want us at all. Is anyone within the reach of my voice, I wonder, so innocent as to think that a big country ever yet cared a hoot about the welfare of a little country. Such in brief is all I want to say about this confederation business at the present time. I have faith in our people, and I firmly believe that the people will see through the sham and skulduggery which lies behind this whole confederation issue. And I know they will stand by Newfoundland when the call goes forth.
I do not know what the other delegates may think, but as for myself, I express it as my sincere conviction that a general election under responsible government should be held in this country in the spring of 1947. I further say that if this is not done, we shall live to deeply regret it. Let us remember that we cannot escape the verdict of history and that today we are on trial.
I do not propose to further take up the time of this Convention, and in closing I would like to briefly sum up the message I would leave with you. That message is that there are grave reasons, why we should not delay in taking some steps to forestall the disaster which looms ahead. To the best of my ability I have given you these reasons. I do not make any specific motion at the present time, because I wish to give this Convention time for full consideration of the things which I have stated. I give a challenge and the challenge I present is one for action. I do this because of my sense of duty to the people who sent me here; to my conceptions of those things which I feel are just and decent; and above all, for the love which I share with you all for the greatest and finest little country in the world ― Newfoundland.
Mr. Northcott ....Mr. Chairman, many of the delegates stressed the great need of roads in their districts. I think it is my duty to do likewise in fairness of the district I represent. Whatever the form of government is in we must have roads and more roads. Roads should be, sir, foremost in any form of government. I would like to see a trunk road across this country, but the big question is just where is the money coming from. Gentlemen, I really and truly think it would come if we had more faith in ourselves and our country, but then "Faith without works is dead". The delegates have not all agreed or approved of the idea of a trunk road across the country, but I think, sir, we have all agreed on this one point, and that is, the great, and urgent need for more and better roads in the outport settlements. I would like to see all our local roads connected from settlement to settlement, and connecting up to the railway. Then we can live, move and have our being, and do business with one another, which is essential to the well-being of any country or community.
Mr. Chairman, I want now to refer briefly to a small settlement in Lewisporte district, known as Laurenceton, where no train, no steamer calls. There are approximately 80 or 90 families living there, without any government transportation, yet these same people always pay their taxes, and are all independent, and further they do not know the meaning of dole. To get their supplies, or freight, these people have to go all the way to Botwood, a distance of 12 or 14 miles, blow high or blow low. All you gentlemen know where Botwood is, as usually every November month the Kyle is ordered there by the Railway to keep the port of Botwood open so that the AND Co. can load their paper and ship it, while the Kyle keeps the channel free of ise. This same channel the Laurenceton people must use to get their freight along in the late fall. This is not good enough, and provision should be made for them. I may say, sir, these same people are only four or five miles away from the Lewisporte — Brown's Arm road, and if these people could be connected to that road it would eliminate all this unnecessary risk and hardship. When once joined to the road they would get their freight by way of Lewisporte in half an hour by truck. Those people also are the salt of the earth, and are entitled to better treatment.
Some 18 or 20 years ago the Lewisporte - Boyd's Cove road was surveyed, or partly surveyed, and not a great deal more has been done to it since, although some settlements have been extended a little here and there. This road is of paramount importance, not only to Lewisporte district, but to Twillingate district, Fogo district, and Bonavista North to Weslcyville. This road, therefore, when completed, can and will serve more than 30,000 people.... Freight then can be landed at Lewisporte or Wesleyville, and trucked from either end of the road as the need arises.
Then there would be no need of the steamers being jammed in the ice in December. I am sure that Mr. Ashbourne and Mr. Watton will support me on this very worthy and urgent road project. By this road will travel lumbermen, fishermen, farmers, and tourists....
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, I listened with very great interest indeed to what Major Cashin had to say, and nothing would give me more pleasure than to be in a position at this moment to take up in discussion some of the matters he discussed. I am positively itching to discuss the matters touched on by Major Cashin. Perhaps the opportunity will come my way to do that before the Convention ends. Unfortunately, however, I have a duty this afternoon that I must perform, namely to deal briefly with this supplementary report on the operation of Gander airport.... Now, Mr. Chairman, when the original report on Gander was brought in, I said as plainly as I could — well, perhaps I did not exactly say, but I certainly hinted very broadly — that in my opinion the people and Government of Newfoundland would not have to pay a dollar of the losses that would be run up in operating Gander. I was the only one, I believe, who did say that, because I had information, gathered at Gander and here, that led me strongly to believe it.... Now today we have a little more knowledge about it, given to the Committee by Mr. Neill, the Commissioner for Public Utilities, who is the final boss, in Newfoundland at any rate, over Gander.
I am convinced that this interview that we had with Mr. Neill is very strong evidence that my original contention was correct. Major Cashin put this question to Mr. Neill. Major Cashin said, "The government agreed to operate, knowing there was going to be a loss, primarily for the purpose of helping these air companies?" Mr. Neill said, "I go with you except to say that we never contemplated there would be a loss on the Newfoundland exchequer". Then Major Cashin said to him, "You must have some reason for that?", and Mr. Neill replied, "Yes". Then Major Cashin said, with a question mark in his voice, "Great Britain half-indicated they would pay the deficit?", and Mr. Neill said, "Well, in brief words, we have put up the case to them and they have not yet finalised it" (page 3 of the report). Major Cashin said again, "Why should New foundland be burdened with this expenditure of $750,000," and Mr. Neill replied, "I am hoping we will rectify that." I said to him, "When you did it (that is, took over Gander), did you have any knowledge or belief that Newfoundland would not have to pay that operating deficit on Gander?", and he replied, "We always put up the position that we would require assistance for the operation of Gander." I said, "To whom?", and he said, "To the British government." Major Cashin said, "They did not say 'yes' or 'no' they would pay this deficit?", and he said "Not yet." I said to him, "Is this the position: you took over the operation of Gander, believing there would be a deficit in its operation, and hoping only that the British government might help Newfoundland in paying the deficit?" He said, "I would not go so far as to say that. We have placed the position before the British government, stating that we expect assistance in the operation of Gander." I asked him, "When did you put that before them?", and he said, "Several times." I said, "When was the earliest time? Did you put it to them before you decided to take over the airport?", and he replied, "I think it was always known." It was an understood thing between the Commission of Government and the British government that if Newfoundland were to take over the operation of Gander, and if there was to be a loss each year that Britain, or PICAO,[1] or someone would have to pay it, but not Newfoundland.
It is important, extremely important, to know where we stand on Gander. I won't go so far as to say that we now know definitely, beyond all doubt, that the loss in running Gander will not have to come out of our pockets; we do not know definitely and finally, and we will not know it until the government here gets a final official reply from the British government, but we are going to get it....
The last thing I have in mind is to defend the Commission of Government. Except for the first year they were in the country, I have always been against them.... At the same time, if they have a word of credit coming to them I see no reason why I should refuse to give them that word of credit. If I had thought when l piloted the Gander report through this Convention just before Christmas, that the Commission of Government 276 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 had agreed to pay the loss, I would have said so.... But I had to speak the truth as I knew it.... I don't think the loss on Gander will cost the public chest of this country a single dollar.
Mr. Higgins I hope I don't embarrass Mr. Smallwood in the question — I would be rather surprised if I did, but nevertheless this is a report brought in by his Committee, and the intimation that we have from anything brought in is that it is public, I take it.... We gather that Mr. Smallwood, or his Committee, were advised by some person, maybe Mr. Pattison, that he advised the government that the fee for landing should be $300.... Do you know if that is a fact or not, Mr. Smallwood? It is very important. Did the Director say that we should get $300 for a landing fee?
Mr. Smallwood I would like very much indeed to be able to answer Mr. Higgins frankly; however, I can do no more than repeat what is in this last page of our report. I asked if $300 for landing should be charged, and he said, "I am not going to answer that question because it might interfere with Pattison." I thought he meant Squadron Leader Pattison, who is the Director of Civil Aviation. Then I said, "Would you say whether or not that it is the opinion of the Director and other officials of the Department of Civil Aviation that it ought to be $300 per landing?", and Mr. Neill, said "I certainly will not." Mr. Job said, "Would you say they expressed that opinion?" He said, "Minutes between Gander and myself are privileged." That's all I can say to Mr. Higgins. I will, however, say this, that a man who is an outstanding authority on aviation, and I do not refer to Squadron Leader Pattison now, stated to me that any amount up to $1 ,000 per landing, that is $2,000 per round trip, would be still an economic figure to charge the international air lines for the use of Gander.... I have a copy of that statement, and I delivered it to a Commissioner who delivered it to Mr. Neill, or at least he told me he did. Anything up to $1,000 per landing would be an economic figurel Now when I asked him if he had been advised by the Director of Civil Aviation, or anyone, if a figure of $300 would be all right, he would not reply.
Mr. Higgins I am asking him that.... Did you have $300 per landing fee as a fishing question, or it is based on facts?
Mr. Smallwood It was based on knowledge. I know that the Commissioner for Public Utilities was advised officially that $300 ought to be charged.
Mr. Higgins You know that the Commissioner was advised officially, by, I take it, some member or the Director of Civil Aviation?
Mr. Smallwood I am sorry, I won't say by whom. Mr. Higgins will appreciate that I cannot, in honour, repeat information given to me unless I am permitted to do it.
Mr. Higgins Then I don't think the shorthand script should have been submitted to the Convention. We are not sure if Mr. Smallwood's man of honour can't tell us, or what it is. We are trying to figure out why Mr. Smallwood thinks we should get $300 instead of $85 as a landing fee, and we are allowed to use that information.
Mr. Smallwood I think we are getting a little away from the mark. If Gander is costing $1 million a year operating loss, the first question is who is to pay that loss. It was to find that out , if we could, that this delegation was appointed to go and interview the Commissioner for Public Utilities. We did not exactly find out, but I think that we are satisfied that whoever does pay, it will not be Newfoundland. The rest are minor details compared with who pays the loss....
Mr. Hollett ....The point that I rise to mention is found on page 4 of the repon of the Transportation and Communications Committee in connection with Gander, wherein it states as follows: "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 Organisation (PICAO) which organisation decided that Gander should be kept upon by Newfoundland." On that point you will remember that I tabled a question to the Hon. Mr. Neill, and he writes me to say that he is in doubt as to exactly what I meant by that question, which I thought was obvious and clear to any person, but he said, "I have my office copy of the minutes of the meeting of PICAO. I cannot recollect any reference to Gander." He goes on to say they attended as part of the British delegation. In the sixth paragraph he says, "I do not understand the reference to PICAO — that Gander should be left open." This report is excellent but this definitely must be an error. It is important that we have this definitely decided, because Mr. Neill said he does February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 277 not understand that PICAO decided that Gander should be kept open, and, on the other hand, the Committee says that PICAO was the organisation that decided that Gander should be kept open. Referring to the supplementary report, I notice that Mr. Neill denies that he ever said that. Is he hedging, or is the Committee in error in the original document? I wonder if Mr. Smallwood would say anything about that?
Mr. Smallwood It was at the meeting of the Finance Committee that Mr. Neill made the statement, so I still believe that the reason Newfoundland took it over was that we are a member of PICAO.... However, in our interview the other day he said that he did not say it. I don't think there was a stenographer present at the meeting of the Finance Committee at which Mr. Neill made the statement in the first place, but there are many members of the Finance Committee here today, and they can easily say whether, according to their recollection, he made that statement or not....
Mr. Miller Again on that $300 landing charge. I wonder could Mr. Smallwood tell us whether the Director of Civil Aviation came before the Committee and if he did, what he thought the landing charge should be?
Mr. Smallwood Well, Mr. Chairman, when Squadron Leader Pattison appeared before us, in view of the fact that he is in a subordinate position I did not feel that I should embarrass him by asking him questions on which a decision had actually been reached by the government as a whole, on landing fees. I did not ask him, and neither did any other member of the Committee. As a matter of fact, when Mr. Pattison appeared before us the information we sought was more or less of a background nature....
Mr. Hollett Mr. Chairman, could Mr. Smallwood tell us anything about this Canada, Newfoundland, United Kingdom agreement?
Mr. Smallwood I think that refers to other bases altogether — Torbay, Goose, Stephenville, Harmon Field, etc. Does it refer to Gander? I don't think so.
Mr. Fudge Mr. Chairman, sometime ago in this house I felt that the Committee should have ascertained what equipment was in Gander.... That was all, I understand, belonging to the $1 million deal. Rumours have been coming out from Gander that there is a certain amount of equip ment being removed, some by the Americans to Harmon Field, and some by the Canadians to Goose Bay.... I am wondering if that is our property, Newfoundland's property?
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, the million dollars that Newfoundland is to pay Canada for what Canada had at Gander does not include any American equipment, so the Americans could do what they liked with their own equipment. The great bulk of it they moved to St. John's. They formed a pool of equipment they intended to sell, and to it they brought the equipment they owned in Gander. The buildings were not owned by them but by the Canadians. The $25 million that the Canadians spent on capital account included the buildings they built to be occupied by the Americans. They now belong to the Department of Civil Aviation of the Newfoundland government.
So far as equipment is concerned the vast bulk of it was included in that purchase price. That which was not included was shipped back to Canada or in here to War Assets Corporation for sale, or, to a limited extent, remains at Gander. Now so far as the tremendous quantity of equipment owned by Newfoundland is concerned, the government has disposed of some of it.... There is a tremendous surplus of certain things at Gander, and I suppose one day they will be offering a lot of it for sale....
Mr. Fudge Mr. Chairman, I am wondering whether or not the government actually knows what equipment was there when it was taken over. We don't know, therefore, in my opinion, they could move a lot of things that we did not know were there, and that is why I say surely the government should make an inventory....
Mr. Smallwood They have an inventory, and when I was at Gander at Christmas I saw it. It is a huge thing — I suppose a thousand sheets....
Mr. Higgins I don't want to stop Mr. Fudge on this matter, but I would like to direct Mr. Smallwood's attention to this $300 matter once more. The importance of it is that from your report we understand that we are losing half a million a year at Gander. In the letter from Squadron Leader Pattison to your Committee he states that by mid-I947 we might expect 1,000 planes a month. The normal fee is less than $100. That would mean that we would have $200 more per plane, which would give us $2.4 million a 278 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 year, or $1 million over the deficit....
Mr. Smallwood I think that I will unbutton a little. Here's the position: Newfoundland is under Commission of Government, therefore Newfoundland is under the Parliament of Great Britain and the government of Great Britain, and the Dominions Office of Great Britain, and will so remain so long as we have Commission government. We are virtually a branch of the British government. Now the British government has a tremendous stake in post-war civil aviation. Civil aviation is becoming as important in world trade as the merchant marine used to be before the war. If Britain is to have her place in the sun commercially speaking in the world, she must have a great part to play in civil aviation. One of the biggest trumps that Britain had was virtually control over Gander. We here in Newfoundland look at Gander as our airport — we Newfoundlanders who say that Gander should be made to fit into the scheme of things in such a way as to be the greatest possible benefit to Newfoundland. But you could not expect the British government to look at Gander in that light at all. If I were in the government of Great Britain, as Minister of Civil Aviation, I would have on the wall in my office a great map of the world, and I would have drawn on the map in red lines the British airways and air routes, and show on that map the airports that Britain controlled,' and could look at it and say, "Here is what we have; these are our bargaining weapons in dealing with the Americans", and amongst them I would place Gander.
As a Newfoundlander I would look at it in an entirely different light. Great Britain, God knows, needed some weapons to fight the Americans in civil aviation. Before the war ended the Americans had thousands of planes ready to fly, and tens of thousands of personnel ready to fly them, millions of money. The American policy was for each nation to be on its own, act unilaterally, grab all the airways and air traffic of the world, and if America had been able to do that now, in 1947 she would dominate the airways of the world. Britain, on the other hand, had no planes, not even yet has she got her new models ready to fly. If America had been able to go ahead on her own today Britain would be out of the picture, but Britain is not out of the picture, and one of the reasons is that Britain virtually control led Gander, because they could say to America, "Look here, you think you can do as you like, charge as little as you like, etc., but you can't because you can't use Gander without our consent, neither can you use that other big airport in Africa, or the one in India; and if you want to use them you are going to play ball with us, or agree to our policy of multilateral action, agreeing on policy and all doing the same thing. That's what you have to agree to or you won't have the use of the airports that we control." That was a perfectly reasonable attitude for Britain to take, thinking of her own interests. If I had been prime minister of Newfoundland and if the British government had come to me and said, "Look here, Smallwood, you have an airport at Gander, and it is very important to us that we should control that airport. We are on the broad of our back, we have been blitzed and beaten to pieces, and the Americans have been untouched, and if we don't do something about it inside a year the Americans will own all the airports of the world, will you help us? Will you let us control Gander so that we can use it for a bargaining weapon in talking with the Americans?" I would say, "How?", and they would say, "If we don't allow them to use it that finishes them for the North Atlantic air routes." I would say, "Well, I hate to say 'no' to you, but what is it going to cost us?" They would say, "Well, we can't ask $300 per landing, because if we do that the Americans are going to demand $300 for our planes crossing the Pacific." I would say, "But if you are only going to charge $85 a plane we will lose $l million a year. We are willing to help you, sure, but what does Newfoundland get out of it?" Now if they said, "Look, we will employ all Newfoundlanders out there, and let you have the general running of the airport, and we will foot the bills", I would say, "OK, take it with my blessing." Now that's the rock bottom position. Gander has been used up to now not for the interest of Newfoundland, but for the interest of Great Britain. I am not saying a word against that, but I don't want it to cost Newfoundland anything. We need every dollar we can lay our hands on in the next 20 years. We can't afford to pay the loss of Gander. If Britain will pay it, and all Newfoundlanders are employed out there (including those American airlines, and they are employing men that are not Newfoundlanders), February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 279 and they get decent pay and decent working conditions, and it does not cost us anything, then it is a bargain for us to let Britain dominate Gander in the international field. That's the thought as I see it.
Mr. Higgins Thank you very much for your short answer, Mr. Smallwood. I move that we increase the landing fees of Mr. Smallwood in the future!
Mr. Miller I can only infer from Mr. Smallwood's remarks that the British government exploited us, and that the British government were traitors to us. I won't say any more on that, but if I think that Mr. Smallwood is bound, as a Newfoundlander, to incorporate this in the general report that he has given.... Gander as was and as is are two different things. It was necessary to spend more money to change over to a peacetime basis. Who is to find that money? Newfoundland. Who is to find it next year? Newfoundland. Who is to get the accommodation? The British government. I am quite sure that Great Britain will recover her economic security in the near future, and I don't see why we should go on year after year spending money to keep Gander alive. What is more, it is still a big question as to whether Gander will be a success or not. Are we going to pay for the experiment? If it is a flop, we are a flop with it.
Mr. Smallwood I am very much in sympathy with what Mr. Miller says, but I don't think he quoted me right. I did not say that the British government exploited us. I did not say that, because I did not think it. If the British government is footing the bills, and if 1,000 or 1,200 Newfoundlanders are getting work and decent wages, that is not exploitation. If it is, God send a lot more like it. If we get work at Gander under decent conditions, and there is a loss of a million a year to do it, and Britain pays that loss, not Newfoundland, that is not exploitation....
Mr. Higgins I am still in doubt if he really feels that we can get $300 as a landing fee or not.
Mr. Smallwood I will say this very briefly. If we had our own government, responsible government, and I am opposed to it just as much as Major Cashin is for it, but if we had it, we could charge what we liked to land at Gander. We could charge $5,000, or $5 million or $300. If we charged $300, the airlines would pay it and use Gander, but we would only break even, and we break even now if Britain pays the difference.
Mr. Higgins I follow you, but there are too many "ifs" in it as far as I am concerned.
Mr. Smallwood Well, it is not my fault that we have no responsible government is it? ...
Mr. Higgins To get down to tin tacks. Will you get any plane company to pay those fees? If not why talk about it?
Mr. Smallwood If it would pay them to skip Gander they would skip it, but how could they do it? It's a question of gas, from New York to Gander, the number of extra passengers that a plane can take on knowing that she can refuel at Gander. Up to $300 would pay any plane. It is true that in December, you may remember, some planes overflew Gander, nonstop from New York to Ireland, which they did because they only had a part load of passengers. They are always filled coming from Europe to America, but sometimes they are only half full going from America to Europe.... Under ordinary conditions, for years to come, planes must land at Gander....
Mr. Crosbie I can't understand Mr. Smallwood's figuring. On $85 per flight for landing the loss would be approximately $1 million a year. If we charge $300, that is increase the landing fee almost four times, according to Mr. Smallwood we are still only breaking even. That does not make sense to me.
Mr. Smallwood Yes, Mr. Chairman. it is all very hypothetical.
Mr. Bailey I can't understand why the British government, if they are going to pay this difference, can't tell us and let us stop this hackling. I think until they say they are going to pay us, we have got to pay it.
Mr. Higgins I move that the report be received.
Mr. Chairman Any further discussion?
Mr. Ashbourne I am afraid that I am unable to venture any opinion this afternoon as to what would be a just and equitable charge for these airplanes that have to use our soil, but one thing I know is that when they land on Gander they are landing on Newfoundland soil. and I think the time will have to come when we shall have to protect our natural resources and our assets for the benefit of the people of Newfoundland. Now I can understand why the British government and the Dominions Office are in a dual capacity when they are protecting the interests of the air routes of the British Empire and the people of New 280 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 foundland. It is not an easy thing to try and see two sides of an argument, but it is the right thing to try and see both sides of the argument. If, and I do not mean to say that it has been done, but if we on this side of the Atlantic have been used in order that favourable treatment might be accorded to the British in the air routes of the Pacific, if that has been done, and if Newfoundland is suffering by having to receive a lower amount of landing fees, then I think it is only right that the people who are benefitting from it should see that Newfoundland is reimbursed, and I am of the opinion and belief that when this thing is straightened out that it will be done. I don't see how you can have peace and concord and goodwill and harmony unless these things are done on an equitable basis.
We have assets in Newfoundland, be it those of our forests, fisheries, or minerals (which are a diminishing asset, for every ton of ore out of Newfoundland is one less to come). By reafforestation we may be able to protect our forests, but unless we get the full amount of labour that these things will give us, how can Newfoundland prosper? I am of the opinion that in the past Newfoundland has suffered when it has come to the matter of signing agreements with big companies. The government should have had the best possible technical advisers, and if necessary, should have employed them to see that the interests of Newfoundland were fully protected. Now maybe we should be satisfied if we get the running expenses of Gander. I would not be prepared at this time to give a snap judgement on the matter. I believe that all our assets should be turning in something to this country, whether it be the dry dock or the railway, or our fisheries, or mines, or the airfields, let them all contribute their fair share to the up-keep and necessary expenses of the government....
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, it is 5.30, and I move that the committee rise and report having considered the matter to them referred and passed same with some amendment.
[The motion carried]

Forestry Committee: Supplementary Report[1]

Mr. Fudge Mr. Chairman, all members, I think, have a copy of this supplementary report on Forestry, and I now move that this report be received....
[The Convention agreed to proceed with the report immediately, and resolved into a committee of the whole]
Mr. Cashin Some months ago when the Forestry Report was originally introduced, we moved to accept the report subject to further information. We made some further investigations in the Department of Natural Resources with regard to timber resources on the Labrador. We could not get any, and finally we contacted the Bowater people at Comer Brook, and a week ago Mr. Lewin, General Manager of the Bowater Paper Corporation, came before the Committee and gave us his views and brought a copy of the survey which Bowaters made in 1937, showing approximately 25 million cords of commercial timber situated in the Hamilton Inlet area of Labrador. Of this 6,000 square miles, some 350 square miles are under lease and the balance is retained by the Crown. We have 5,500 square miles of available timber lands on Labrador, on which is carried around 20 to 25 million cords of timber. Also if I remember correctly, the members of the Convention were doubtful as regards what the earning power from our timber resources would be now, and in the near future. I think Mr. Lewin has confirmed that in his report, and I would now ask the Secretary to read this supplementary report.
[The Secretary read the supplementary report]
Mr. Cashin In view of the fact that there is only one reporter here today, I move that the committee, rise, report progress, and ask leave to sit again tomorrow.
[The motion carried, 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:53. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [2] Volume II:75. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [3] Volume II:79. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] Provisional International Civil Aviation Organisation.
  • [1] Volume II:63. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]

Personnes participantes: