Newfoundland National Convention, 4 February 1947, Debates on Confederation with Canada


February 4, 1947

Amendments to the Rules of Procedure[1]

Mr. Chairman Orders of the day. Mr. Higgins K.C. to move the following amendments to the Rules of Procedures of the Convention....
Mr. Higgins Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, as I told you yesterday this is merely a formal motion to bring the rules of procedure in line with the amended act. It requires, of course, a two-thirds vote of the Convention, but I can assure you it is purely of a formal nature, and there is nothing that should give you cause to worry in the matter. I move it, sir.
Mr. Chairman Moved and seconded by Mr. Ashboume that the rules of the Convention be amended in accordance with the motion just made by Mr. Higgins. Are you ready for the question?
[After some debate, the motion carried]

Motion to Enquire into Future Forms of Government

Mr. Chairman Mr. Job will move the following resolution. Mr. Secretary, will you read it please?
[The Secretary read the motion]
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 importations 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 go-vernment 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 hereinbefore 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 of the 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.
Mr. Job Mr. Chairman, my intention was at one time to ask for this motion to be deferred for another day, because the members have only just got the copy of the resolution placed on their desks, but I thought that the same purpose would be served if I introduced the resolution and perhaps got a seconder, and then the matter might be laid over until tomorrow for debate.
In moving this resolution I feel that there is no need to take up the time of the Convention with a very lengthy explanation. The motion is self- explanatory and in my opinion non-controversial. If it is adopted it will enable the Convention to start the machinery at once for securing certain 282 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 information which, in my opinion, is essential before we can intelligently recommend any form of future government.
You will notice that section 1 deals with the very important question of improved, or perhaps I should say stable, fiscal relationships with the United States of America. I propose in connection with this subject, to issue soon a short pamphlet[1] making clear what is in my mind for the information of members, or of anyone else interested in the question.
Section 2 deals with a point that has been raised once or twice as to whether, under certain circumstances, we can or can not expect any continuation of assistance from Great Britain, and it also leaves open for discussion general questions of finance and exchange between the United Kingdom and Newfoundland.
Section 3 is the section that may be commented upon controversially, but which I hope will be accepted in the spirit in which it is offered. In my opinion we were elected to this Convention to deal in a fair and broad way with our problems, and to make recommendations for their solution. It may be that some think that the confederation issue would be better left alone altogether, and that it is not our business even to discuss it, but in view of the ruling of our late respected Chairman, Mr. Justice Fox, concurred in by Professor Wheare, and I think I am right in saying by our present Chairman, that confederation with Canada is one of the issues open for debate, we would in my opinion be wrong in not facing this fact now, and making some preparations for its discussion at a future date. The inclusion of the confederation issue in this resolution is made only so that our deliberations and recommendations can come to an end as soon as possible. I think that a discussion of the pros and cons of confederation or of any other form of government at the present juncture would be a great mistake, but I cannot agree that we would be unwise in seeking to gather now certain details which must have a bearing on the forms of government which it is clear to me we must debate if we are to accomplish the duties for which we were elected. However, the gathering of such information is the sole object of the resolution, which in its present form provides for reporting back to the whole Convention prior to the despatch of any delega tion.
I would like to add that it is my firm belief that confederation with Canada would not be a satisfactory solution to our problems, but it is also evident to me that a considerable number of the people who have elected this Convention will expect a fair and free discussion of the subject. The main point I want to stress is that this is in no way a resolution favouring confederation or any other form of government, and that I have worded it as broadly as possible in the hope that it will be accepted as a non-controversial motion. There is only one other remark I would like to make, and that is that this whole resolution has been drafted by myself without any influence from any other member of the Convention.
Mr. Higgins I should like to second the motion, and to say that I agree entirely with the reasoning of Mr. Job in introducing the resolution.
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, I would like to say that I support the motion, that I agree with all three sections in it, and that I think the Convention would be well advised to send a committee of its members to the Commission of Government, and seek their advice as to the proper steps for the Convention to take in securing the answers to these three questions.
Mr. Chairman Is the House ready for the question?
Mr. Hollett Mr. Chairman, this is a very important resolution, and one which I think we should study very carefully and think about before we vote. The first section of the resolution ... involves quite a lot. In the first place, I would say "what steps, if any, are to be taken for the establishing of improved economic or fiscal relationships" is a matter which is wholly and solely for the government of the day, or for the business people of the time. I can find nothing in the Newfoundland Act, or the Convention Act, which authorises us to set ourselves up as a body to deal with other nations.... I wonder what attitude the Commission of Government would take if we attempted to interfere in their prerogative, which they undoubtedly possess as the government of the day. It is surely their duty, and theirs only, to approach the United States with regard to concessions in tariff and other matters. On that point alone I think we are sticking our noses into something which at the moment is February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 283 none of our business whatsoever. Why should we not go and endeavour to interview the governments of a dozen countries who take our products? If we are going to deal with the United States, why not with Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece and the West Indies? ....
The second part of that section — "Bearing in mind ... free entry etc... — we have gone into this before, and I think we all agreed that we did not give any territory of ours to the United States, therefore in what way can we use that as a bargaining power in order to get our fish into the USA duty free or with concessions? That part of our territory which has been stolen from us and given away, was taken from us by Great Britain. If we look for concessions on account of that, we must look to Great Britain, who sliced it off this little island and gave it away. I can imagine the answer any delegation would get if we approached the United States saying, "Look here, you have got some of our territory, what are you going to do about it?" That's a signed and sealed bargain, by which Great Britain gave away for 99 years, which means forever, those bases, and for which they got 40 or 50 old destroyers. That I think is something which we have to think about in dealing with that particular section...
[Mr. Hollett read Section 2]
In other words we are expected to communicate with the Commission of Government, and in conjunction with them set up a committee to say, "Well now, if we have responsible government, what will you do for us?"; "If we continue your puppet government as it is, or slightly reformed, what will you do to help us?"; or, "If we take some other form of Government, what is your attitude then?" I think that's the most ridiculous section of the lot. In other words we have to decide what form of Government we will recommend to the people. Can you conceive of the Commission of Government sitting down and talking to asses who would ask them questions of that sort?
Then we come to clause three. A nice little parcel tied up with a neat little string. The same parcel which we had several months ago, and which we spent a week or ten days arguing about, nicely disguised and designed to fool people, there is no question about it. Mind you, I have no objection to our knowing the terms under which We might go into union with Canada, but I am reminded of the fact, when I think of it, that the Ottawa government is unable to come to terms with the various provinces at the present time.... In spite of that we consider sending a delegation to Ottawa to find out the terms. I admit that is not the exact wording, but that is the point of the section....
I am not very strongly against this motion. It commits us to very little except that it asks us to approach the Commission of Government. I don't know if they will receive us. There is nothing to get us into serious trouble at the moment, but it is a pity that we can't get on with the job for which we were sent here and then, according to our own poor judgement, make up our minds as to whether we are self-supporting. Major Cashin told us yesterday that we were self-supporting since 1941, but we have not decided that in our wisdom. I think we ought to get to work and finish our business, and find out just where we are, and let the government talk fiscal matters with the United States, and with Canada for that matter.
Mr. Job May I make a few remarks of explanation?
Mr. Chairman Anything that you have said you may explain, Mr. Job, if it has been misinterpreted. In addition you have your right of reply at the end of the debate.
Mr. Job I don't want a long debate, but there is nothing in this resolution calling for an approach to any foreign government at all. You said we might as well approach Spain or Italy or Greece or the United States, but this motion is not for approaching the United States, but our own government, for information which I think it is necessary for us to have in doing this job here. There is nothing in this resolution which calls for the sending of a delegation anywhere outside of Newfoundland.
Mr. Chairman Is the Convention ready for the question?
Mr. Fogwill Mr. Chairman, the last paragraph of the resolution, I wish to move an amendment to delete the words from line six "the Chairman of this Convention in consultation with the Steering Committee shall thereupon select a delegation of members of this Convention", and insert these words: "the Convention shall elect from amongst its members a delegation which, with the Chairman of the Convention, shall constitute 284 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 the Committee referred to in this Resolution etc."
Mr. Job There is one point I would like to make, if I may intervene for a moment. The rules provide that the Chairman shall appoint all committees....
Mr. Chairman That is the rule, gentlemen.
Mr. McCarthy Would this be a committee or a delegation? The resolution reads "delegation".
Mr. Chairman It is referred to as a "delegation" in one place and a "committee" in another place.
Mr. Higgins Can you not agree to suspend the rules?
Mr. Chairman You can by a two-thirds majority motion, of which I think notice will have to be given.
Mr. Higgins You can suspend it if it is unanimous.
Mr. Chairman There has been an amendment moved which has not been seconded, and of which I have not the exact words. I have no desire to restrict the right of any member, but I must have that in writing before I can submit it to the body.
[The Chairman left the Chair for ten minutes]
Mr. Chairman Mr. Fogwill, have you your proposed amendment in writing now?
Mr. Fogwill Yes, sir. The amendment to the resolution is as follows: to delete the words from line six "the Chairman of this Convention in consultation with the Steering Committee shall thereupon select a delegation of members of this Convention", and insert these words: "elected by the National Convention from its own members".
Mr. Job I have no objection to that change. I think it is quite proper and probably democratic if the Convention should elect its own committees. The only reason I put it in was that the rules provided for it.
Mr. Bailey I second the motion.
Mr. Chairman It has been moved by Mr. Fog- will and seconded by Mr. Bailey that the resolution be amended....
Mr. Cashin Mr. Chairman, speaking to the resolution, I am somewhat of the same mind as my friend Mr. Hollett. l have no particular objection to a committee of the Convention interviewing the Commission of Government with regard to any matter, but with all due respect to Mr. Job and Mr. Higgins, I think that in many cases we are going to askthem things which we as sensible people should not ask. For instance, "What steps, if any, can be taken for establishing improved economic or fiscal relationships between the United States of America and Newfoundland....?" Surely to goodness, every member of this Convention knows that the only step which can be taken is that the government itself get in touch with the United States government and ask them these questions. They won't tell us to appoint a delegation to go to Washington, because I think it's been proved that we have no power to do that.
And then the second part, "What financial and fiscal relationships could be expected between the Government of the United Kingdom and Newfoundland etc." First when this Convention met there was a ten year programme placed on the table of the house, which is now being carried out. That $59 million program, of which in this fiscal year so far about $8-9 million have been spent, they have been carrying it out and have never asked us whether they would or not.
The government has power to go to the United States and talk paper, mines or anything else. I would also like to point out that, at the present time, the fishing interests of Gloucester are putting on a campaign looking for increased tariff protection for their fish. In my opinion we have no power, it is up to the government to do that, and they would be falling down on their job if they are not trying to do it. Now, I would be perfectly willing to support this part of the question: "What steps, if any, are you taking", is the government taking. But what steps can be taken, or what steps are the government trying to take? They should be taking some. The British government should be taking some steps in our interests, but are they doing that? They know what can be done if they will only do it.
The next thing: "What would be a fair and equitable basis for federal union....!" We are asking them to tell us what they think is fair. It's our job to decide what is fair, not theirs, and furthermore, Mr. Chairman, we had this matter up some three or four months ago and there was an amendment moved by Mr. Penney and passed in this House, whereby this confederation issue was to be left over until such time as our reports were finished. I think Mr. Penney will agree that that was the idea of his amendment, and now we find it in here. I have no objection to a delegation February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 285 going down and talking to the Commission of Government in the next three months, but I want them to go down somewhat sensibly; to ask them what can be done is a lot of foolishness. As a former minister of the Crown I have to state that that looks silly to me.
Mr. Chairman I would like to point out to the Convention before the debate goes any further, that this amendment can only be put with the consent of the whole House, because it is, in my opinion, contrary to the rules. Is there any further discussion.
Mr. Hollett Mr. Chairman, may I ask under what particular rule the amendment is a contradiction?
Mr. Chairman Yes, Mr. Hollett. Rule 42 says, "The Chairman of the Convention shall appoint all committees."
Mr. Hollett Did not that refer to committees in connection with the working of this Convention? It should not apply to the idea of appointing a committee to go elsewhere....
Mr. Chairman The rule says "all committees". Nevertheless, that can be overridden by the Convention.
[After some debate, and with the consent of the Convention, the Chairman put Mr. Fogwill's amendment to the vote. It was carried. The Convention then debated and passed Mr. Job's motion as amended (30-7), and adjourned. There followed an informal session]

Informal Session of Convention Tuesday, February 4th, 1947 at 4.50 pm

Pursuant to adjournment of the public session at 430 pm the Convention assembled in the Legislative Council Chamber to consider the implementing of the motion of Hon. R.B. Job.
Mr. Fogwill asked that the committee referred to in Hon. Mr. Job's motion be elected in open session.
Mr. Higgins, K.C. moved and Mr. Newell seconded that a nominating committee be elected for the purpose of recommending and nominating a committee to interview the Governor in Commission.
Ater some discussion Mr. Higgins, K.C,, with the consent of Mr. Newell and the Convention withdrew his motion and moved that the electing of that committee be effected forthwith by secret ballot.
The motion was seconded by Rev. Mr. Burry and carried, whereupon the following were elected members of the committee with the Chairman: Hon. R.B. Job, Messrs. CA. Crosbie, G.F. Higgins, K.C,, T.G.W. Ashbourne, J.R. Smallwood, I. Newell and F.D. Fogwill.
There being no further business the meeting then adjourned.


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



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

Notes de bas de page:

  • [1] Volume II:53. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] Robert B. Job, A Pamphlet on the Idea of a "Partly Internationalized" Newfoundland (St. John's, 1947).

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