Newfoundland National Convention, 26 February 1947, Debates on Confederation with Canada


February 26, 1947

Report of the Committee of the Convention which interviewed His Excellency the Governor in Commission[1]

Mr. Job I did not know that I was to make this motion, and unfortunately I have not prepared any remarks. I simply move that this report be received and suggest that it be read to the House.
Mr. Crosbie I second that motion.
[The motion carried, and the report of the Committee was read by the Assistant Secretary]
Mr. Cashin Mr. Chairman, when this Convention decided to send a committee to confer with the Governor in Commission with the object of obtaining information relating to the sending of delegates to discuss the affairs of our country with the governments of Great Britain, Canada and the United States, I was one of those who voted against such a measure on the grounds that such a committee could not obtain any tangible results. Today, that Committee has presented its report and its nature is such as I anticipated.
Over and over, I have given expression of my opinion that it is futile to entertain any notion that we can expect sincere co-operation from either the Dominions Office or its local agents, the Commission of Government. I have given definite instances of the obvious intention of our rulers to thwart and circumscribe the activities of this Convention — of their intention to divert and keep our thoughts and actions in the harmless and ineffectual channel of petty discussion. I have pointed out that as a country and a people we are being trifled with, that our rulers do not intend to allow us to interfere with the plans they have laid down. Time goes by, the treasury of our country is being squandered, and future generations are being harnessed with huge financial commitments... I say that under the present set-up, this Convention can do nothing to help our people or our country. If the doors of this Convention were closed tomorrow it would make no appreciable difference or have any effect on the already prepared plans of the Dominions Office. The future of this country has been planned out long ago in an office thousands of miles away. And if Mr. Attlee can do it, he is going to see that we follow out his plans to the letter.
The fate of this country does not rest with this Convention, but in the hands of the common people. We have been given the glory, but Mr. Attlee has kept the power. If there are any amongst us who cling to the vain hope that this Convention might be able to protect and safeguard the financial and political interests of this country, they should be long disillusioned. We have only to examine the report before us today, to obtain ample confirmation of what I say. We have the position where the members of this Convention, representing over 300,000 people, decide to ascertain the possibility of establishing economic relations with other countries, and in particular the United States. To quote the resolution: "bearing in mind the present occupation of Newfoundland territory by the United States of America and the fact that free entry is accorded the USA for its imports into Newfoundland." Arising out of this resolution, a committee of the Convention asked the government if they can approach the USA with a view to making some profitable-arrangements in the interests of the country, and the answer to their request is a clear and definite refusal. We, the people of Newfoundland, are told that the Dominions Office will not allow us to make any attempt to better our national conditions by opening negotiations with the United States. When the people of this country, through their appointed representatives are prevented from exercising the ordinary freedom of bargaining with another country, what name are we to put on this sort of thing? Could there ever be presented to us a stronger justification for having control of our own country? Imagine the position, if the British government tried to prevent Canada or Australia or any other colony or dominion from doing business with the United States. Would not the thing be regarded as so outrageous and improper 314 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 as to be outside the realm of possibility? Yet this is the very outrageous procedure which is taking place in this oldest dominion today. But, in spite of even this, some people do not yet recognise the rough hand of dictatorship even when it is thrust in their face. As every man and woman in this island knows, if we could make some arrangements with the United States for the free entry of our fish into the great markets of that country, Newfoundland could become unbelievably prosperous. Will any person disagree that this is a matter which should have been dealt with by the United Kingdom government on our behalf when these base deals were first discussed? But it is evident that the interests of Newfoundland were not even a secondary consideration. This is the error we would now like to correct, the blunder we would try to rectify, the national loss which we would attempt to make good. But when we try to make our future brighter and more prosperous, what do we meet? We come up against a wall of opposition and a denial of our rights to make any such effort on behalf of Newfoundland.
Incidentally, there is another matter which comes to my mind at this point. If my memory serves me right, in the early days of this Convention, the Chairman was asked if the Convention had the power to send a delegation from its membership to the United States. On that question being directed by the Chairman to Professor Wheare, that gentleman stated that this Convention had such powers. But today the Convention is informed through this report that we have no such power.
Mr. Chairman I have to correct you there. The ruling of the late Chairman and of Professor Wheare was that this Convention had a perfect right to send a delegation to the United States to consider the possibilities of joining up with that country, should the United States be so minded to receive any such delegation, but he gave no ruling on the question as to whether trade negotiations would be on the same basis.
Mr. Cashin If we have power to send a delegation to the United States to discuss our political and economic future, it would certainly involve tariff arrangements concerning our fish.
Mr. Chairman That is a question upon which I do not feel called upon to give a ruling at the moment.
Mr. Cashin I can understand that. I am sure if we sent a delegation to the United States, one of the first things we would discuss would be so much of our fish going into the market annually. However, what is the meaning of this divergent opinion? What lies behind these two contradictory statements? ls Professor Wheare right when he made that statement, or is the Commission right in denying his statement? What is the justification for subjecting this Convention to two such conflicting opinions? If Professor Wheare is right; and I am inclined to believe he is, then the Commission is guilty of an inexcusable act in ignoring his findings.
In the matter of all these proposed negotiations with outside countries, we are simply told that we cannot move unless and until we get the permission of the Dominions Office, If it suits the Dominions Office and the interests of the British government to let us bargain, they will do so. But, if our doing so interferes with their own bargaining, then we are out of luck. This is an extraordinary situation, above ail in the country which witnessed the birth of the Atlantic Charter. We may be too close to the picture to see the full significance of this thing at the present time. But when our people look back and consider its implications, they will find it bears the same sinister marks as those things which killed the Bond-Blaine treaty, which gave the French the rights to our shorelines, which sacrificed our bases in the last decade. One thing these events have in common. In none of them were the interests of Newfoundland put first. In none of them did she get a square deal. And she is not getting a square deal now. I go further and say that she will never get a square deal. She will never know liberty, never know a real freedom, never know either happiness or prosperity until such time as she has her own free government appointed by her own free people.
Consider how different things would be today if we did have our own Newfoundland government. Would we, the representatives of the people, have to go on our knees and say, "Mr. Attlee, may we have your kind permission to do business on behalf of our country with the United States? May we ask this great country to give us some monetary return for the things which they got for nothing from you, the most precious asset in the keeping of any country — the sacred February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 315 sovereignty of our native soil?" Would Newfoundland have to go like a slave approaching its master, and ask for permission to exercise the normal, God-given rights of a free people? Of course not Today, under a people's government, we would be in a position to fight tooth and nail for the protection of our country's interest. We would not have to beg — we would be able to demand.... We would be in a position to help our country in a tangible manner. We would be able to safeguard and further our trading interests. We could control the present squandermania which envisages in this one year the expenditure of the outrageous sum of nearly $40 million. We would be able to throw in the wastepaper basket, where it properly belongs, this Attlee reconstruction programme, which indicates spending some $60 million other than current expenditure in the next ten years. These are only some of the rights we could exercise if we today possessed the priceless asset of independence.
Speaking on the matter of expenditure I cannot help referring to a matter which properly belongs to the Financial Report, the evidence which has come before me and our Committee, which indicates beyond doubt that the financial policy of the present government is to dissipate the treasury wealth of this country in a manner so reckless and so unexplainable as to defy the understanding of the ordinary Newfoundlander. Take the matter of the proposed expenditure for the present fiscal year ending on March 31, 1947, we find that it is the intention of the government to run our expenditure up to the colossal unheard- of total of nearly $40 million, more than half our total national debt; or if we deduct from that debt all our available cash surpluses, the sum of the national debt itself. I defy anybody else to find any logical or sane reason for this wild rampage and dissipation of a country's treasury, particularly a country such as ours, and am forced to come to one conclusion: that it is part of a callous and deliberately planned campaign to bleed the finances of this country to such an extent that it will be impossible for us ever to stand on our own feet; to so weaken us, that we will have no other recourse, but to remain forever at subservient and penurious people.
Now if, in view of this extraordinary spending, there was any commensurate arrangements to increase our revenues, or if such expenditure were made with the assurance that there would be a corresponding increase in our revenues, one might be able to find some method in this apparent madness. But in our case it is clear there is no such justification. Another thing I would like to point out is that the proposed expenditure would, on the face of it, appear as the ordinary and necessary expenditure incidental to the proper operation of government, but such is not the case. Because out of this $40 million the sum of only $23 million is required for the administration of our affairs. The balance is what I regard as a creative, an artificial expenditure, and to that extent the budget of the Commission is both false and misleading:
In a previous address on September 18, 1946, in commenting on the statement of Prime Minister Attlee delivered in the House of Commons on December 11, 1945, I pointed out that he had indicated that the Commission government had a programme mapped out for Newfoundland, the working out of which would take two or three years, and would be pushed forward without interruption. Some of my listeners disagreed with the construction which 1 put on Mr. Attlee's remarks, which 1 said meant nothing more or less than that the Commission of Government intended to stay here several more years, regardless of such things as conventions or referendums. It was only a few days ago that I had my opinion confirmed by no less an authority than the present Commissioner for Finance, the Hon. Mr. James. When I reminded him of Mr. Attlee's remarks, he stated that was the programme at present in effect in Newfoundland and that it would be carried out in accordance with the statement....
Mr. Chairman, I may have possibly wandered slightly from my original intention of commenting on the report of this Committee, but I feel that the urgency of informing this Convention and the country of the matters to which I have referred is in itself a sufficient apology for any digression. As I see it, the only service we can be to the people of this country is to inform them of the political situation and the critical condition which faces us today.
Mr. Hollett ....Mr. Chairman, I desire to make a few remarks with regards to this report following a motion made by the Hon. Mr. Job and duly passed. I spoke against that motion, particularly with regard to the method of seeking tariff con 316 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 cessions from the United States of America, and also against the part relating to the basis for federal union with the Dominion of Canada.
Careful consideration of this report must indicate that those who voted against the passing of said motion were far from wrong in the criticisms we directed at it. I can well understand Hon. Mr. Job' s endeavour to get tariff concessions from the USA for our fish and fish products, and can assure Mr. Job that every member of this Convention is just as anxious as he is, albeit, some of us must agree with the attitude taken by the Commission of Government, that the question is the active concern of the government of the day; who further point out and rightly so, that since in April of this year representatives of the majority of states forming the United Nations will meet at Geneva to discuss the formation of an international trade organisation, with a view to agreement on tariff and trade questions, it is scarcely likely that at this time a participating state would entertain proposals for separate tariff arrangements. Furthermore we understand from this report that representatives from Newfoundland will be present at this conference
Turning now to clause three of the resolution and report thereon, it appears that the Commission of Government would be prepared to find out from the Government of Canada whether the said government would receive a delegation from the Convention to consider what would be a fair and equitable basis for federal union. You will note they are careful to point out that the words "or what other fiscal, political or economic arrangements may be possible" should notbe included in any inquiry, or in the terms of reference of any delegation to Canada, as they say, and rightly so, that these are matters entirely for discussion between governments. If these arrangements cannot be discussed by a delegation from this Convention with the Government of Canada, I fail to see how any fair and equitable basis for union can be arrived at by any other consultations.
When I ask myself why this third section relative to Canada was introduced in Mr. Job's motion, I must seek out the grounds on which such an effort on our part should be based and we ought all to do some right thinking in the matter.
Why are we here? The answer is, "the Con vention Act". To this act we must go to get the terms of reference. We are told there to consider and discuss amongst ourselves the financial and economic conditions of our country, having due regard to the degree which the wartime prosperity has affected same. Then based on our findings as to whether or not the country is self-supporting, to consider and recommend forms of government to be recommended to the Dominions Office, any one of which might be suitable to our apparently peculiar needs.
They, then, in their omniscient wisdom, are to decide which forms of government they will place on the ballot paper at a referendum to be held at some time in the hazy future. If the Convention Act means anything, it means that and that only.
Let us go back to the Amulrec report.[1] Everyone in this country is familiar by now with the implications of his several recommendations. We have had a dozen years under their benign influence. But the recommendation to which I chiefly wish to refer will be found in section 634, subsection 4(g) and it reads as follows: "It would be understood that, as soon as the Island's difficulties are overcome and the country is again self-supporting, responsible government on request from the people of Newfoundland, would be restored". Up to a year or so ago, few people if any in this country ever doubted that promise. On the 17 February, 1934, the new Letters Patent under the then new system of government were read in the ballroom of the Newfoundland Hotel.... These Letters Patent of 1934, which suspended the Letters Patent of 1876 and 1905, were granted to us by His Majesty George V. Paragraph four promised the highest dignitaries of this land that "We are graciously pleased to suspend the aforesaid Letters Patent which will provide for the administration of the said Island, until such time as it may become self-supporting again, on the basis of the recommendations which are contained in the report of the Royal Commission, appointed by us on the 17th of February 1933".
You will remember that a year ago, the Secretary of State for the Dominions, in the House of Lords, stated that machinery was being set up to find out the will of the people of this country, and that they would be given an oppor February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 317 tunity to select a form of government suitable to their needs. I do not believe that up to that time there was ever any thought in the mind of the British House of Commons of any other form of government than the form which we now enjoy, that is Commission of Government, or responsible government
I take you back to September 2, 1940: France had fallen in June, and Great Britain stood alone against the might of Hitler's Germany. The people of North America realised their danger, should Britain fall; they consulted the British government and began to look to their own defenses. On the above-mentioned date, the Marquis of Lothian wrote to Mr. Cordell Hull, and told him that in View of the interest of His Majesty's Government in the national security of the United States, and their desire to strengthen the ability of the United States to co-operate with the other nations of the Americas in the defense of the western hemisphere, that His Majesty's Government would secure the grant to the United States freely and without consideration for the lease of naval and air bases on the Avalon Peninsula and the southern coast of Newfoundland. The agreement for this lease was signed on 27 March l94l, and accompanying this agreement, and forming part of it was a letter from Mr. Winston Churchill to Mr. Winant. It has such significance that I give it in full to refresh your memories: "...it is the intention of the Government of the United Kingdom that, upon the resumption by Newfoundland of the constitutional status held by it prior to the 16th February 1934, the words 'the government of the United Kingdom', wherever they occur in relation to a provision applicable to Newfoundland in the said agreement, shall be taken to mean, so far as Newfoundland is concerned, the government of Newfoundland, and the agreement shall then be construed accordingly..." I ask you, was there any idea in Mr. Churchill's mind, at that date, but that we would eventually resume our former status?....
The wording of the Convention Act, the spasmodic and well-timed despatches from across the Cabot Strait, and the almost demoniacal fury of some of the protagonists of confederation in this country, will have convinced you that there is more in this thing than first strikes the eye. It is international and not a local issue. The war ended in 1945; the Americans are at Fort Pepperell, Argentia and Stephenville; the Canadians are at Goose Bay. The diplomats of the world are writing the peace terms. Great Britain has had her economy disrupted, she seeks a loan of $3.5 million from the United States and gets it. Canada lends her $1,250 million. Great Britain financially is deeply obligated. The Big Four are endeavouring to write the peace treaties; Russia and the United States have not often been in accord, neither on the peace treaties, in the United Nations effort, nor with regard to disarmament; so much so that the United States and Canada start negotiations for a mutual defence pact. What more natural, than that the future status of Newfoundland should be taken into consideration. "Would it not be better", some might say, in view of this mutual defence pact which, by the way, was signed a few days ago, "if Newfoundland was completely under the control of the Government of Canada?" I say again that our status is now an international issue; hence the Convention Act as is, and hence the bait which is being constantly held out to us by emissaries from across the water.
But Britain has pledged her word to us by the Letters Patent, 1934, and we demand that if we are to go into confederation with Canada, we shall go only at the instance of a duly elected government of our own with a clearly defined directive from the people of this country. We know that there has grown up in England, and hence in the dominions, what is known as the doctrine of mandate, which has been sanctioned by. the highest authority. That doctrine is that parliament cannot legislate on a new question of vital importance without a mandate from the people. It was the breach of this mandate which gave us Commission of Government. Mr. Alderdice assured the people, when seeking election, that his government would seek from the British government some way out of our difficulties, but he further assured the people there would be no change in our constitutional status until the question had been submitted to them by way of referendum; that was not done. But was not the question of the suspension of our dominion status of vital importance to Newfoundland? Was it not a question of vital importance to the British people? And yet we know that neither the British government nor our own referred the matter to their people, nor did they have any mandate from 318 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 them before taking such a drastic step.
It was tragedy enough that we could not raise by means of revenue $8-10 million to carry on, especially when $5 million would have to be ear-marked for the bondholders of our debt; but was it not an ignominy when Britain said, "Yes, allow us to suspend your constitution, and we will feed your people on six cents a day; but you will have it restored when you become self-supporting again, if you ask for it". How were we meant to ask for it? "Oh, you may elect a national convention. They will find out if you are self-supporting." But did they say to our people, "If your convention finds you self-supporting, they will have authority from you to request the restoration of your former constitution". No, they say, "If they find your country self-supporting, they may suggest to the Dominions Office forms of government suitable to your needs".
Would it be pertinent to ask Great Britain what she understands by the words "self-supporting"? I am sorry to raise this point, for I am as loyal to my king and empire as any man in Britain today. Who are we, gentlemen, to recommend forms of government? Do the men who framed the Convention Act know of any better form than that in Great Britain today? We could recommend Commission of Government; that's the latest experiment in our great British Empire. We could recommend representative government, were it not for the fact that it has been tried and failed miserably the world over. We could recommend that we might come up a peg from where we are today and suggest a crown colony; and we could recommend any one or more of the 2,000 different known forms of government that have been tried and failed through the ages. We can do all that, but do we not know that the British system so far has no equal, or why try to force it on India or Burma?
Some people have concurred that this Convention may even send a delegation to Canada; in fact, it seems to be the idea embodied in the motion and report. Let me quote you section 146 of the British North America Act, 1867: "It shall be lawful for the Queen on addresses from the Houses of the Parliament of Canada, and from the Houses of the respective Legislatures of the Colonies or Provinces of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, and British Columbia to admit those Colonies or Provinces, or any of them into the Union on such terms and conditions in each case as are in the addresses expressed and as the Queen thinks fit to approve, subject to the Provisions of this Act..."[1] You will note that it is only lawful for the Queen to admit us into union after receiving an address from the House of the Legislature. And yet there are some people who want to get "the terms". What terms? Are they already drawn up? Or are they to be unpigeon- holed from the closets of 1895 and 1867? Are there no terms on our side? Not in the minds of some people who wanted to hike off to Canada before we had even started our investigations....
Says the Ottawa Journal: "Newfoundland owes $100 million, she is facing bankruptcy, and wants to get in out of the wet; she cannot take it, she cannot face the future". And yet "the terms" will be so good, I'm told. I tell you there are no terms; confederation must essentially be a question of bargaining on both sides.... If we are to unite with Canada, we must do it like men who believe we have something to contribute to the partnership and, mind you, we have confederation if the people of this country say so, and only if they say so. How may they say so? I submit there is only one way, and that is under section 146 of the BNA Act and the doctrine of mandate and that is embodied in the truth that Parliament ought not to adopt any far-reaching measure without a mandate from the country. But you say, "We have no parliament." Ah yes, we have, for as soon as our constitution comes out of its state of suspended animation, the voice of the people can be heard on the issue....
The process of entering into federal union is clear cut. First you have to have two self-governing entities; second they must have much in common, and each must have something to offer the other. One may be wealthy, but lacking something which she needs and which the other, who may not be so wealthy, possesses. Third, the people of both countries must he made duly aware of the situation. In the fourth place, the people of both countries must authorise their respective governments to explore the possibilities of a fair partnership. Fifth, each government must then report back to its people and get their final approval, by way of the referendum or otherwise. There is no other way, except by coer February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 319 cion or trickery. Either of these latter methods is likely to prove disastrous Witness the case of PEI, a separate geographical unit like ourselves, whose prime minister, 72 years after union with Canada, publicly declared a few years ago, "The real trouble is, we shouldn't be part of Canada at all".
I am quite aware that there are a number of people in favour of union with Canada; so there were in 1867 and in 1895, and I am in no way trying to prevent those people, who are undoubtedly loyal Newfoundlanders, from getting what has been called "the terms", but I do contend that these terms must be obtained by the proper constitutional means. I am also aware that there are more people who would prefer a closer association with the USA. There are also constitutional means to attain that end. We know, too, that a great number of our people are not anxious to get farther away from the mother country, and particularly so when that mother country, having sacrificed her resources to save the civilisation which we enjoy is for the moment in dire distress.
There is much more that could be said about this issue, but I shall content myself with once again registering a continuing opposition to the idea of this Convention sending any delegation to Canada at this or any future time on the following grounds. First, our terms of reference give us no such authority. Second, the people who sent us here gave us no such authority. Third, as "terms" always envisage bargaining, that bargaining must be done by duly appointed representatives with the mandatory power of the people behind them.
We come now to the question of sending a delegation to the United Kingdom. Against this idea there can be no objection because there are many matters about which the Convention should have a clearer picture than we have. To that end, Mr. Chairman, I beg leave to lay on the table a notice of motion relative thereto:
Whereas it has been intimated to this Convention by His Excellency the Governor in Commission, that he is prepared to forward to the Government of the United Kingdom any enquiries from this Convention respecting financial and fiscal relationships which may be expected in the event that the people of this country at the proposed forthcoming referendum to be held in Newfoundland, should decide on any of the following forms of government:
1. Commission of Government in its present form;
2. A revised form of Commission of Government;
3. Responsible government;
4. Any other suitable form of government;
And Whereas His Excellency has further informed us that should the Convention request discussion of these questions with the Government of the United Kingdom by a delegation from the Convention members, His Excellency will enquire and inform the Convention whether such a delegation would be received;
And Whereas in the event that such a delegation shall proceed to England for the purpose aforesaid the Commission of Government has undertaken to give all possible assistance in making transport and other arrangements for the delegates;
And Whereas this Convention, in view of the importance of the matters hereunder outlined are of opinion that such a delegation should be despatched;
Now Therefore Be It Resolved that this Convention request His Excellency the Governor in Commission to acquaint His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom of their desire to send a delegation consisting of the Chairman and six of its members to the United Kingdom at the earliest possible moment to discuss with the said United Kingdom government the various matters set forth hereunder;
Be It Further Resolved that as soon as His Excellency the Governor in Commission informs us of the willingness of His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom to accede to our request said delegation shall be elected by secret ballot;
And Be It Finally Resolved that the Steering Committee be requested to prepare a detailed statement of the questions to be submitted to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom; such statement of questions to be submitted to the National Convention for confirmation before being delivered to His Excellency the Governor in Commission for transmission to the United Kingdom.
Matters to be Discussed by the Delegation with the United Kingdom Government
1. National debt;
2. Military, naval and air bases in this country;
3. Gander airport;
4. Interest-free loans;
5. Any matters relating to the future economic position of Newfoundland.
Mr. Chairman That portion of your address which contains, apparently, notice of motion cannot be included on the record at this stage. A notice of motion must be given at another time. You may renew your notice of motion before the House rises.
Mr. Smallwood There are one or two things I would like to say in reply to Major Cashin and Mr. Hollett. With one thing Major Cashin said, I am in the deepest and profoundest agreement. I jotted down his words: "The fate of this country does not rest with this Convention, but with the common people.".... The fate of Newfoundland will be decided by the people of Newfoundland when they vote in the national referendum sometime this present year, and not in the dim, hazy future that Mr. Hollett has referred to. All this Convention can do is what the law gives it authority to do; and the authority is the National Convention Act under which we were all elected. Two pieces of authority we got when elected — one, to look into the condition of the country, economically and financially. How is she likely to shape up in the next 15 or 20 years? The second piece of authority was this; that having taken as good a look as we know how, to suggest and recommend to the Dominions Office a number of forms of government to be laid before the Newfoundland people; so that they will be able to decide for themselves, what form of government they think they want. That is quite a lot of authority.... In connection with the forms of government that we may recommend, Mr. Job very wisely and in the spirit of statesmanship, brought into this house a couple of weeks ago a motion. And what did that motion say? That it is essential that this National Convention take immediate steps to find out what Britain might be prepared to do for us if we went on under Commission government or if we went back to responsible government or if we had some other kind of government. And it was essential for us to find out also what fair and equitable basis there might be for any federal union of Canada and Newfoundland.... Mr. Job's motion went on to say that we should appoint a committee to go and meet the Governor and the Commission to get their advice as to what steps we can take to get that information. The Committee met the government and they gave us their advice. Their advice was, "Send over and ask the Government of Britain what they are prepared to do; with regard to finding out what fair and equitable basis there may be for a union of Newfoundland and Canada, send to the Government of Canada and ask them." They went further and said, "If you want to send a delegation to London and a delegation to Ottawa, the Convention should ask us to find out whether the British government and the Canadian government would receive such delegations, If they say they will, we will pay the expenses of those two delegations." That is the report that has come in here. Major Cashin pays little attention to the advice of the government. Mr. Hollett pays even less. Mr. Hollett is prepared to send one to London, but not to send one to Ottawa. Major Cashin has not made it clear whether he is in favour of sending one delegation or another. This Convention has gone on record, with a small number of us voting against it, not including myself, in adopting Mr. Job's motion, to say we consider it essential that immediate steps be taken to secure this information; also, whether it is possible to take up discussions with the United States. In justice to the Commission of Government, I must refer to what Major Cashin said about that. He states the government says this business of tariffs, trade treaties and trade are matters for government and government, they should be handled through diplomatic channels. Then he says the late Chairman and Professor Wheare both said that you can send a delegation to Washington. Then you, sir, interrupted him and pointed out that what the late Chairman and Professor Wheare referred to was a delegation going to the States, not to deal with customs or trade matters, but to deal with the federal union of Newfoundland and the United States. He acknowledged this, then went straight on and argued it was inconsistent. Professor Wheare, he continued, said we could and the government says we cannot. Two entirely different kinds of delegations were referred to; one February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 321 to deal with trade and tariffs and the other possible federal union. Of course the government is right! When we come to talk about making a tariff deal with the United States, that is a matter for the Government of Newfoundland, whatever that may be, not the Convention. We were not elected as a government to do the job of the government; not elected to make a trade treaty or get tariff concessions with the United States....
Suppose we had responsible government in office today and we wanted to take up with the United States this question of trade tariffs and concessions, could our responsible government do it? Yes! On two conditions. First, if Great Britain were willing. Up to the last minute we had responsible government in 1934, the Government of Newfoundland could not go gallivanting up to make trade treaties on its own. If we had signed the Statute of Westminster we would be able to do it. But we never signed that. In 1920 when Sir Richard Squires wanted a treaty with Spain and when Sir Robert Bond wanted a treaty with the United States, they had to do it through diplomatic channels, that is the British ambassador, and the British foreign minister. That is how we would have to deal today if we had responsible government, only if the US were willing to discuss the matter. Why will they not discuss it? Because in April they are having an international conference and until that is held, they have no intention whatever of making any separate deals with individual nations....
So the government gave us this advice, and you have to give credit where credit is due. They said this matter of trade concessions, allowing our fish to go in at a lower rate of duty, ought to be dealt with between government and government; not between the Convention and the Government of the United States.... I do not like the Commission of Government. At least, if anyone comes in here to paint them as a pack of scoundrels, let us have proof! Then Major Cashin read out something Mr. Attlee said, adding "when I made that statement a lot of the members did not agree with my interpretation of it." The interpretation was this: Mr. Attlee said and could mean only that they were here for another three years. You can hold your Convention and referendum; they are going to be here for another three years.... Where is there a scrap of evidence that the Commission is going to be here another three years? This year, 1947, there will be a national referendum, no doubt about it. There is not a man here but in his heart knows that in 1947 there is going to be a referendum. We do not know when it will be. If we can get the job finished in the next two or three months.... I say here and now that some month this year there is going to be a referendum and the people will decide what kind of government we will have. "Oh!" they say, "you may have the referendum but what guarantee have we that Dominions Office, this evil genius of Newfoundland, this octopus on the back of the world, will put on the ballot what we recommend?" Trash and nonv sense! Whatever we recommend within reason, unless it is some cockeyed foolish thing, they will put on the ballot and the people will get their chance to vote it down or up. They are the bosses. Then someone says, "What guarantee have we that the Government of Britain will give us the kind of government we vote for?" We have this guarantee.... They have said categorically that the kind of government the people vote for they will have. What is all this nonsense about? Finally, Mr. Hollett...
Mr. Hollett I rise to a point of order. Was it not decided here that the use of a person's name was not to be tolerated?
Mr. Chairman You are right. It is improper, strictly speaking, to use a person's name.
Mr. Smallwood I shall refer to him as the junior member for Grand Falls.
Mr. Chairman That would be in order.
Mr. Hollett I would like to know where you get your authority to refer to me as the junior member for Grand Falls?
Mr. Chairman I thought I was paying you a compliment.
Mr. Hollett I wish to advise the present speaker who has the floor that if my name is bandied about as was Major Cashin's, i have no privileges in this House, but I have privileges outside.
Mr. Chairman I do not wish to hear anything outside this House. I repeat, in your objection to the use of your name, you are correct. I have told Mr. Smallwood he must not name you by name, but he must identify you. Proceed, Mr. Smallwood.
Mr. Smallwood The member for Grand Falls who just sat down.
Mr. Fudge Is this a mock parliament?
Mr. Chairman Do you rise to a point in order? Mr. Fudge Yes, there is too much laughing and noise going on.
Mr. Chairman That is true. Will the people in the gallery please remember that there is no disorder permitted in this House.
Mr. Smallwood The member for Grand Falls gave us the benefit of his researches into the British North America Act, which is the constitution of Canada. He quotes section 146.... It is surprising to me, the keen interest he has been showing in this matter of confederation... Perhaps he wants us to join the union. Let us take him at his word. Let us admit that is the way to join. I see the second senior member for St. J ohn's West looking at me — I may not mention his name — I think in the back of his mind he is hoping strongly we will have our own elected government in this country. So am I. Let us trace it. The delegation goes over to the British government and asks them to state what they are prepared to do for us if anything. They will tell us. We send a delegation to Ottawa and ask them what they are prepared to offer. We have both these pieces of information and we get down to talking about forms of government. Let us say we recommend this: ...(a) that Commission government be continued; (b) that we go back to responsible government; (c) that we have responsible government in union with Canada according to the terms handed to the National Convention by the Canadian government on such and such a date.
The referendum is held. You cannot go any higher than the people of Newfoundland. The gentleman from St. John's West agreed on that. They are our bosses. I like to think that when they see those terms, they will say, "That looks pretty good, we will vote for it." What are we up against? You have Commission of Government. They are here. But the referendum is held and the people have voted for confederation. Where do we- go from here? That is what is worrying the gentleman from Grand Falls. You have your election. Why not? The people have voted for responsible...
Mr. Cashin It is on your mind.
Mr. Smallwood Does that surprise you? For seven years I scarcely missed a night advocating responsible government. Do not look too pleased over that. I am worried about whether we can afford it or not. I would like to have responsible government, because I believe in it. The gentleman from Grand Falls said, "Are you going to have a better system of government than they have in the mother country?" I agree, they have responsible government in the old country, and I would like to see it here too. i hope they can afford it over there. It looks a bit doubtful just now.
Mr. Cashin We have been helping them out!
Mr. Smallwood The point is this: responsible government by all means if it does not put too great a burden on our people and keep up the cost of living. If union with Canada would help us to make it pay, let's have it. That's whatl want to find out, what have they got to offer us. Maybe if these terms are brought back I will stand up in this house, and show you a lot of fancy talking against those terms.
We will say the people vote for confederation, what is the next step after the referendum? Simple enough. Call for a general election, issue your new Letters Patent, call the houses together, the upper house and the lower house and we will have our two houses of parliament. I can see the Major (is it against the rules to say that Mr. Chairman?), I can see him bringing it in next January in this house, which would be the House of Assembly, "Whereas in the National Referendum the people of Newfoundland by a majority decided to accept union with Canada, therefore be it resolved that we now address a petition to His Majesty the King, praying that His Majesty may be graciously pleased to legislate Newfoundland into confederation with Canada." I can see myself scconding it.... It is legal and constitutional, and this is the nice thing about it, that if the decision is made it will be made by the Newfoundland people. I am sure if the gentleman from Grand Falls were given a chance to decide for the people of Newfoundland, he would say, "Oh no, let the people decide that." Well; if the people decide it, what is wrong with it? Let the people's will be done if the heavens fall, if they vote for it that's the end of it. All we have to do is call our parliament, get both houses elected and send our address to the king.
There may be other points that the Major brought in that I ought to deal with, but I don't want to get him angry, I am so anxious that the Major and I should be good friends. There are February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 323 tens of thousands of people around the island that like him, and some of them like me too. I would like to show him some letters I get saying, "Get together with Cashin, you ought to be friends". That finance business looks bad, I can't understand that game, but don't forget this — if they have stuck in a couple of million dollars to pay for these steamers in their budget, if they don't pay it this year they must pay it next year.
Mr. Cashin Tell where that money is coming from.
Mr. Hollett I rise to a point of order. Is this a conversation between this member and the member from St. John's West?
Mr. Chairman Major Cashin, strictly speaking, is our of order, but I will let it go.
Mr. Smallwood Don't let's get too formal Mr. Chairman, or we will be thinking that we are the Government. I agree with Major Cashin in this. I hope they are not going to dip into our surplus of $28 million. We have got that nest egg, and that's all we have to show for the war and I hope they are not dipping into that....
Mr. Miller Mr. Chairman, before you proceed with notice of motion there is one point I would like to be satisfied on. Since it seems necessary to be known by certain names I suggest that I be known as "the very brief speaker." There are only two things necessary here and that is clarity and consistency. My friend from Bonavista stated last fall and reiterated today, and very emphatically, that we could not approach the United States on this tariff question. I am not doubting his word at all, but I am going to refer you to the fifth line in the paragraph that deals with clause one,[1] which was in reference to the tariff question.... Now that's a report back to us from the Commission of Government. Am I to believe that the Commission would not hazard an opinion as to whether or not we could do this? Why don't they give us a clear understandable answer that it could or could not be done? This is a masterpiece of discreetness. I would accept it with better grace if I did not think it was in part subscribed to by our own Committee. The whole thing has been passed over very lightly. They went to confer with the Commission of Government with a resolution that contained three important clauses. Somewhere along the way they forgot about one clause, and they come back with this answer, "that it was doubtful whether the subject matter of the clause was within the terms of reference of the Convention or not." I think in the discussion of any matter the first essential is the establishment of facts. That was not done. The Commission of Government did not give an opinion, and the Committee did not give an opinion. The word "doubtful" stays here, despite the fact that we have the opinion of the member from Bonavista, expressed twice, that we cannot do it. I want to know can we do it or can't we? If we can't, then I think it should be stated definitely and in understandable language in this report, and until such time as this paragraph dealing with clause one is corrected I certainly will not vote for the adoption of the report.
Mr. Fudge There is no need for me to go into the details of the purpose behind sending a committee to interview the government which arose out of the Hon. Mr. Job's resolution. However, I would like to point out I did not vote for this action on the part of the Convention, and I still do not agree with it. It has been my contention all along that the first duty of this Convention is to enquire into and determine the present financial state of our country and to gauge if possible what our future prospects are. Until we know what we have, and when we will get what we own, we will only prejudice our possibilities of the best proposition from the countries we may approach.
I regret that thus far there has been nothing or very little said of an encouraging nature as far as our country is concerned. We have been subjected to a steady flow of hot air which has tended to hold our little country up to the ridicule of the outside world. Sometime ago we were given good advice by our fellow member when he said if we had any dirty linen to wash, why not wash it in private? I feel very strongly about the time which is being wasted. In the early days we had a resolution to send a delegation to Ottawa and we are still talking about delegations outside of our own country when we do not know what is in our own warehouse.
Mr. Chairman, if any delegation goes from this country they should know what stock is in our own warehouse and then find out what the British government intends to do about the base deals, as they did not have the consent of the people when our territory was bartered away. I 324 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 had an interview with Mr. Attlee when he was here; I told him we were 100% loyal and British, that we have given and we will give our best, but we are jealous of what we own. I told him we must have a voice in what is done with our property. The war is now over and the people expect to get back what is theirs or get adequate compensation for it.
When we finally take stock I would be in favour of a delegation to England, because I am convinced there are many things over there which should be in our stock sheet. I am not concerned any more about fish than about land and money on loan and landlease deals, it's all ours and our people need it all. This Convention, is an elected body from the people, let's forget this "asking" and "if you please" business. Let us stand on our feet and demand. My attitude may be termed radical, but I belong to the same stock from across the ocean and I have the same bulldog spirit and determination to have and to hold what is ours, regardless of who likes it.
Mr. Reddy I was particularly interested in section one of Mr. Job's resolution, in respect to establishing improved economic or fiscal relationships between the USA and this country, which was one of my real reasons for voting for the resolution as a whole. I was keenly disappointed on discovering how lightly this all-important question, was brushed aside by our Committee. If there is the least shred of hope of improving our relationship with the USA, which is the greatest country on earth, where thousands of our own blood relations reside, no stone must be left unturned to achieve this important objective. Any movement in this direction, will receive the support of 80% of our population.
If it were possible, for instance, to effect a reduction in the tariff of a couple of cents per pound on our fresh fish entering the USA this would mean the difference between prosperity and poverty to a large number of our fishermen. Therefore I am not at all satisfied with the attitude of the Commission of Government or our Committee on this question. And I hope at some future date this whole question will receive the attention from this Convention it fully deserves.
Mr. Vardy There is plenty of food for thought in the pamphlet published by Mr. Job and it is well worthy of study in view of the hold that Great Britain, the United States and Canada have on our country as far as our foreign policy and defence are concerned. This, like forms of government, is something which must be decided by the people of Newfoundland, and our authority is limited to recommendation only. I have every sympathy with our unfortunate position which prompted the spirit and substance of Mr. Job's resolution but we are not the government, and it is strictly outside the terms of reference. It is correct that Professor Wheare stated we have got the power to send a delegation to the USA to discuss terms of union, and we must admit that the treatment accorded Newfoundland in 1933 has not been conducive to the promoting of the cordial relationship so much desired between the mother country and her oldest colony. It was the old Conservative Churchill government which set up the machinery for the National Convention and the newly elected Labour government merely took it over as a going concern, and being favourable toward Newfoundland getting some form of responsible government, they naturally set the machinery in motion as soon as it was expedient to do so. Despite what the first paragraph on page 2[1] infers, I am of the opinion that should a delegation go to London on any business pertaining to the welfare of Newfoundland, they will get a hearing on any matter affecting this country, even though it may not be strictly speaking within the terms of reference. It is also worth noting that the Governor was a member of the Opposition when Newfoundland lost her franchise and His Excellency himself voted against the suspension of democratic government.
Mr. Higgins Speaking of delegations next year we have the Olympic Games on, and I think we could send a very fine delegation from this House to the Olympic Games! I feel certain that if we could get them to put on a contest for long distance talking we could make a good showing. We are hired, or retained by the people to do a job as a committee of enquiry, and any man who consented to be hired must put his own thoughts and ideas beside the point as a member of the committee. I may feel equally as strongly about responsible government as Major Cashin and Mr. Hollett, But even though I feel as I do, as a member of this committee of enquiry I still must February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 325 go about doing the job as it should be done. That should be the feeling of each member. It is not because we have our own feeling for various forms of government, not because the honourable member for Bonavista Centre, has his own ideas about the form of government best suited to our needs; he and the other two gentlemen must realise that the only thing that concerns us is to get the facts. The interpretation to be put on these facts is for the country as a whole. Why not stop trying to colour the business with our own personal wishes? Why not get the facts, whether we like them or not? Why not get the terms from Canada if we can? Why not send a delegation to England and find out what they are prepared to do? We should not care what the Government of Canada will offer us, or what the Government of the United Kingdom will offer us. As a commission of enquiry we are hired to get these facts, or we fail in our duty. For that reason I feel that motion should be put through this afternoon.
Mr. Miller I rise to a point of information. It is definitely stated here, "it was doubtful whether the subject matter of the clause was within the terms of reference of the Convention or not". I am not trying to put any hard questions, I just want plain information on it. If the Committee can't back up that word "doubtful" then I think it should be removed. I think it's time we moved in definite fashion, understood each other and what we have got to do. I feel quite sure that if we can't establish certain facts as we go along, we are not going to do the best for our country's interest. Once again I must say that the answer to clause 1, which is based on doubt, is not an answer at all.
Mr. Chairman For your information, that is the answer given by His Excellency the Governor in Commission. Whether that advice is right or not is another matter, but that is the advice they gave us.
Mr. Job Might I just add that the Committee as a whole adopted this resolution unanimously, and thought it was a correct statement of the interview, and it did therefore mean that they accepted that advice.
Mr. Chairman Exactly.
Mr. Hillier I support Mr. Higgins. The people of Newfoundland are looking for facts, and we have no right to deny them, and they want all the information that we can give them and they must have it; otherwise how can we expect them eventually to make a decision on matters with which they are not thoroughly familiar. I am most anxious that our people be well informed, not only with regard to the financial and economic position but with the general make up and possibilities of the various forms of government considered by this Convention based on facts.
Mr. Chairman Is the House ready for the question? The motion is that this report be received. All those in favour say "aye", contrary "nay". The motion is carried.

Report of the Committee on Agriculture:[1] Committee of the Whole

Mr. Butt In presenting this Agricultural Report, I do not intend to make a speech. I hope the report speaks for itself. There are one or two observations, however, that I would like to make. The report is not a treatise on agriculture. It is rather an attempt to survey the national aspects of agriculture in Newfoundland in the round. You will note the report is divided into five parts. One is a slight introduction not intended to be a history of agriculture in Newfoundland, but the idea of the Committee as to some of the reasons why agriculture has not taken the part in Newfoundland's economy that it should have. The second part we hope is a close approximation of the value of agriculture as a unit in our national production. The third pan is an examination of government expenditures which involved an examination of the policy of the Agricultural Division of the Department of Natural Resources. The fourth part is the extraordinary or reconstruction expenditure which involves more expenditure than any part of the agricultural programme of the government. Finally we have a summary.
The Committee proceeded in this way. First we had a memorandum from the Director of Agriculture. This excellent document contained no figures of any kind, but gave us an insight into 326 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 the minds and policies of the people looking after the agricultural industry in so far as the government is concerned. Where you find quotation marks in the report, they are nearly always from that memorandum. Before we start to discuss the report, I would like to pay tribute to Mr. Gillis for I know he wished, at times, that the Dickens had us. Having examined this document we proceeded to get certain facts about imports and local production. We then got government expenditure figures, and when we thought we had a rough picture of agriculture in Newfoundland, we then got from government officials and outside sources, evidence; and this evidence we used for checking and cross-checking our own opinion. The result you will find in the report before you. The Committee was careful not to make the value of agriculture either too much or too little. It would be fair to say we viewed the prospects in agriculture in the future with much greater enthusiasm than would appear from the report itself. There is one section on the demonstration farm which may suggest that the Committee did not put much value on the farm. That would be incorrect. All we wished to convey was the fact that for one reason or another, the farm did not appear to us to be used as much as it should, in the interests of agriculture as a whole
That is all I have to say. except that the Committee will answer all the questions we possibly can; we will be happy to go back and find out anything that will help the members make up their minds as to whether Newfoundland is self- supporting.
[The Secretary read the report. The committee then rose and reported progress]
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, I beg to give notice that I will on tomorrow move the following resolution:
Resolved that the National Convention desires to send a delegation consisting of the Chairman and six other of its members to Ottawa to ascertain from the Government of Canada what fair and equitable basis may exist for federal union of Newfoundland and Canada; and
Resolved that the National Convention requests His Excellency the Governor in Commission to ascertain whether the Government of Canada will receive such a delegation for the purpose stated; and
Resolved that should the Government of Canada be willing to receive such a delegation, then the said delegation shall be elected forthwith by secret ballot, and shall proceed to Ottawa as soon as possible after the Convention shall have received from His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom that Govemment's replies to the questions adopted by the Convention pursuant to Mr. Hollett's resolution of even date, but not before.
Mr. Hollett I rise to give notice of a motion or resolution to be placed on the table tomorrow....
[ The text of Mr. Hollett's motion is given above, pp. 319-320. 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:446. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] Newfoundland Royal Commission 1933, Report (Cmd. 4480, 1933).
  • [1] Great Britain. British North America Act, (30 & 31 Victoria, c3, 1867).
  • [1] Volume II:447. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • Volume II:447. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] Volume II: 167. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]

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