Newfoundland National Convention, 28 February 1947, Debates on Confederation with Canada


February 28, 1947

Mr. Chairman Orders of the day. Mr. Hollett to move the following resolution:
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 the Governor in Commission 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 338 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 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 Commission 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. Hollett I do not wish to go into the merits or demerits of the resolution. I made some remarks relative to this on Wednesday.[1] It is absolutely essential to get information which we have not been able to get from the authorities in Newfoundland. I see no way except by direct contact between this Convention and the Govern ment of the United Kingdom. The only way is by means of a duly appointed delegation from the Convention.... The resolution contravenes no constitutional right we possess by reason of the fact that we are a part of the British Empire. definitely governed by the United Kingdom government through the Dominions Office and the Commission of Government. More than that, we have confirmation from the Commission of Government that we would be quite in order in appointing a delegation to interview His Majesty's Government in Great Britain. I have the right to reply to any criticism. If any member wishes to make an amendment he can do so. I have great pleasure in moving the resolution.
Mr. Butt I second the motion of the member for Grand Falls.... When this Convention opened, I put forward a notice of question concerning our national debt and the possible way of financing a reconstruction programme. I was not thinking in terms of asking Great Britain what she was going to do for us. It came from a mind which remembered how the debt had been built up; which had, I hope, a sense of perspective after reading Newfoundland history; and which remembered a statement of an Englishman, who had read English and Newfoundland history, and said, "I would not like to have to decide whether England has been of more benefit to Newfoundland, than Newfoundland has been to England."
I had a whole series of questions, but older and more experienced men in the Convention and out of it, seemed to think the questions were of such vital importance that they would have to be dealt with seriously before the Convention closed and that I should leave them until a later date. I accepted the position. I think these men were right. The time has now come when these questions will be put forward. A little later we had a discussion on the Interim Report of the Fisheries Committee. I said the question of how we should go about exploring the possibility of having some benefit accrue to Newfoundland, other than came from the construction and maintenance of bases, should be examined. Later still, I voted against sending a delegation to Canada to discuss federal union for two main reasons. Every instinct in me rebelled against even the possibility of creating the impression that this was an indication we had once again reverted to the status of supplicants.
Secondly, I believed that we should, as a matter of common sense, know all about our own position before we went off discussing our affairs with another country, however friendly and neighbourly.
Then we got down to fact finding, and the issues referred to above were left in abeyance until the rather sudden appearance of Mr. Job's motion[1] which raised all three at once. I voted against that motion. I am proud of it. I would do it again. That motion should have been the one that is now before the Convention. If he had given any serious thought to the fact that the effective, real government of Newfoundland is in the United Kingdom, he would have realised that we ran the risk, by going to the Commission of Government, of getting an answer to our questions from the Commission itself and therefore limited; or made by the United Kingdom government through a third party and therefore limiting our chances of putting up our case face to face; that we may have run the risk of obtaining an opinion from the creator of the real government which the real government would have found it very embarrassing to reverse. Whoever made the final decision, we have accepted certain limitations. Take the case of the reason given for our not approaching the United States on the grounds of the present international tariff conference. I do not accept that suggestion and it is irrelevant. There is a clear case to be made for a separate negotiation, apart from the multilateral tariff arrangements whereby we give something for something. We have already given something and we ought to see what we can do about getting something in return. There is, however, that little phrase Mr. Miller used — "it is doubtful if it comes within our terms of reference." I am glad that the case is not entirely closed.
Now we come to the motion, and the question of how we are going to approach this issue. I have no doubt it will pass. I have no doubt Great Britain will give us all the facts we need. I am more concerned with the way in which we approach the problem and the importance which we as representatives of the people of Newfoundland, approach the problem of Newfoundland. This motion can be the instrument through which we can assert a statesmanlike approach to larger issues which in the end may be of more importance than all we have done so far. I am not a man given to outbursts of patriotic fervour, but on this occasion I can say, as quietly as a big issue will allow, let us go forward proud of our honourable and great traditions but more determined that in our approach we will lay the groundwork for a bigger and a better Newfoundland.
Mr. Burry I rise to support the motion. 1 am going to vote for it; I am enthusiastic about it. There is another matter relating to it that has something to do with the matter on which Mr. Butt ended — the approach to the government. I think that the statements and the attitude taken by this Convention towards that government and its associates are analogous. Statements which have been made throughout the session range all the way from comparatively mild references — such as not being willing to co-operate with us — to the one bearing on the expenditure the government is making this year, referring to it as "a deliberately planned campaign to bleed the finances of this country" before they go out of office.... They were not altogether called for. If members wish to express their feelings in that way, they have a perfect right to do so. I respect their sincerity; they are just as sincere in what they are saying as I am in what I say now. I do not rise to object to that in the least. I do rise to declare myself, not in the spirit of being holler than thou, not in the spirit of having a better plan for the future of this country, but in a humble spirit to say to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that I am not a part of that. I feel that though the relationship we have had with Great Britain throughout our history, including the past 12 or 13 years, may not be all it might have been, these statements are not called for, and this approach is just not the proper one. I am not building up a case for Commission of Government. The kind of government which is going to get my vote is that in which the Newfoundland people are going to get a fair chance. If Commission is not the kind of government which the people want, then I am going to vote the Commission of Government out. I recognise something of the great value they have been to this country; I realise also the errors they made; I hope I can see the good with the bad. Now, if they go out, our ushering or kicking them out should not be done in just this way. It is not 340 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 going to hurt them.... But it is going to hurt Newfoundland. If this goes on we will do an injustice that will take a long time to live down.
This delegation to be sent to England should not be put in the embarrassing position of going over there with the record of this Convention and some of the ungrateful and unkind remarks behind them, about the British government in its dealings with this country. We are not out of the woods yet. We might have to go to the British government again....
Mr. Smallwood I believe in London there is information that this Convention needs to have and the people of Newfoundland need to have. I am very much in favour of sending a delegation to London to get it.
Mr. Bailey I think this is a move which should have been taken, not in 1947, but every year since 1934. I fail to see how any country can govern another country without some connection between.... I have listened carefully to the remarks of our learned friend from Labrador and I appreciate what he said. I honestly believe that what we have said here should have been said long before because — as I told His Excellency and as I told members of the Commission — the greatest crime that any nation can do against another nation is to take away from it something that men had given their very lives for, the right of self- government. For the sake of $2 a head, we lost that. There may be members who do not feel the way I feel about it, but I will never forgive the British government, whether Conservative, Tory or Labour for the wrong they have done in taking our liberty from us.... I have read the Amulree Report through 27 times. I am sure if everyone in Newfoundland had read that report they would have realised that our government should have been restored in 1942; now we find that Amulree had no right or authority to make the people of Newfoundland believe the things contained in this report, and it is nothing to our credit. Nobody has made any representations at all, and in fact the members who are in the British House of Commons today don't know what to do. Had there been six or seven men each year going over to the British House of Commons, and letting the people of Britain know what we want, it would have been all right, but I doubt if there are 50 people in the British House today who know what is going on in this country.
This is the first right thing we have done in the Convention. We should let them know what we want.... If you are directly connected with somebody else you have got to stand as their equal, and we have dwelt too long upon the fact that we have been given a rotten deal. A lot of our ancestors served in the Royal Navy and their naval salute comes from pulling the forelock. We have not got past that yet, we have not set it right. We should have been sending delegations over there the last 12 or 13 years. I don't know how to approach the British government, but I believe we should go in and put our cards on the table, say what is on our minds; don't go into hysterics, but tell them what is what. Let us help this country have a government that she never had.
Mr. Vincent The six point resolution sponsored by Mr. Hollett of Grand Falls, covers all the facts required relevant to the political situation existing between the island and the mother Parliament of Great Britain.... Our first approach must be the UK — it is important that we find out just what our actual national debt really amounts to. From being called the backwater of the North Atlantic sea-routes, we have been named the junction of the North Atlantic air-crossings, focal point of the great commercial air routes of the world, the bastion of defence, the Gibraltar of the North. High sounding titles, but is our strategic position our fortune or misfortune? We are not too strong financially, so we'd like a little talk about that interest-free loan.... But seriously, I want to make it clear that I am not so confined as to close my mind to other issues that may or may not be recommended by the Convention. If the people of this country want to express their views on Commission of Government, I shall endeavour tof fairly present the Commission of Government case, yet I hold absolutely no brief for that form of dictatorial government.
What of that vexing topic confederation? The sovereign will of the people elected this constituent assembly. Is this will so petty that because I am the elected representative of Bonavista North, at district predominantly pro- Commission, that I must not entertain any consideration for the good folk of the district of St. John's West? Why are we here? To accept a cheque every 30 days and get up and tell 300,000 people, hardworking, industrious Newfoundlanders, "Oh you can't vote on this or that February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 341 issue, because I think, or I know, it's no good, at least it's not what I want." Some of our professional politicians are in for a rude jolt when the people next go to the polls. Iam not trying to build up a case for confederation, but the charge made by some few that there is not a strong sentiment in favour of union with Canada is fantastically unmre. If I were asked to voice an opinion I would content myself with saying that there is a strong warning of caution against a reversion to the unrestricted politics of the past. I know nothing of what confederation might offer. I have bothered very little about it, yet in fairness to a large minority of my intelligent fellow countrymen I would like to see the approach made to Ottawa, and if terms are offered it would be unfair to dispose of them without a thorough and honest examination. If they offer political stability and promise of future security, better things for Newfoundland, then they should go on the referendum next autumn.
I am content to leave the ultimate choice of government to the intelligence of my fellow Newfoundlanders. I would not dare suggest that this country has no choice but to accept literally the wording of the Amulree recommendation. I am not concerned about somebody clse's interpretation of the terms of reference setting up this Convention — and under no illusions as to what Bonavista North and Newfoundland expects of me My position is this, I shall support the examination of every issue that promises economic betterment to Newfoundland...
Mr. Higgins Reading over this resolution, on the bottom of page I it says: "To send a delegation consisting of the Chairman and six of its members to the United Kingdom at the earliest possible moment..." I was under the impression, although it may have been altered since the original notice was given, that the question of time was to be set there. I don't want to complicate matters, but I wonder if the Chairman would state whether or not the delegation would proceed until all the reports had been tabled, except perhaps the economic side of the Financial Report.
Mr. Chairman Yesterday, in consultation with the Steering Committee, Mr. Hollett decided to alterthe wording of his resolution somewhat. The motion before you now is the result. It is possible to amend that resolution. If you have any sugges tions Mr. Hollett might be satisfied to incorporate them without the necessity of an amendment.
I suggest the use of"the earliest possible moment" is very elastic, and it will be impossible to set a date until we receive a reply from the United Kingdom government anyway. We must not get it in our heads that if we send this off tomorrow we are going to get a reply the next day. It may be a week or two and in the meantime I think the bulk ofour reports will be concluded. The Steering Committee has work to do before the delega» tion can go at all. However, the matter is for you to decide; Ijust suggest these considerations for thought, but the Convention must do as it pleases.
Mr. Hollett The phrase was purposely left more or less elastic. We could not say whether or not the Convention would be satisfied to allow a delegation to proceed to Great Britain before all the reports were in. It was felt by some that possibly if we had the meat out of these reports which have not yet been filed, and had the financial side of the Financial Report and not the economic, that the Convention might allow the delegation to proceed as soon as word was received. The government of Great Britain is a pretty busy organisation and would want to fix the date when they would receive us. If we embody a statement saying that the delegation should not proceed until all the reports were in it would be impossible for them to fix a set date. I felt that if we made it elastic then if we got permission to send a delegation with the reports already in and the meat out of the others, and the financial side of Major Cashin's report, then I think that we might be prepared to go. We will have to have sessions, without the microphones, to draw up the questions which will be asked. If Mr. Higgins and Mr. Job will suggest some amendment I will be perfectly happy to have it altered.
Mr. Higgins I merely brought it up as a matter of record. Mr. Hollett's explanation is quite satisfactory.
Mr. Miller Would the departure of that delegation mean there would be an immediate adjournment and that the reports would not be considered any further? As it is most likely that the delegation would be accompanied by the Chairman of the Convention, would that not be the order?
Mr. Chairman It would appear the Convention 342 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 will have to go on without its Chairman if he is ordered to London. I would be entirely in the hands of the delegation. Is the House ready for the question?
Mr. Reddy I support the resolution. I believe that a delegation going to the British government may accomplish far-reaching results which will benefit generations of Newfoundlanders yet unborn. The approach should be firm, stating clearly and firmly Newfoundland's position.
[The motion carried]
Mr. Chairman Mr. Smallwood to 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 government's replies to the questions adopted by the Convention pursuant to Mr. Hollett' 5 resolution of even date, but not before.
Mr. Smallwood I believe that in Ottawa there is information that this Convention needs to have, and that the people of Newfoundland need and want to have. I believe that a delegation ought to go and get it if they will receive the delegation. However, the delegation to London should go first, and return to bring its report before the Convention, before the delegation goes to Ottawa on the mission stated in this resolution of mine. That's about all I have to say. My personal position is well known. I do now move the resolution.
Mr. Job The whole object of this motion is to get information on this subject of confederation. There is no doubt there are numbers of people in the country who want that information, and l think we ought to get it. I second the motion.
Mr. Chairman The motion as read has been moved and seconded. Is there any discussion?
Mr. Cashin I want to thank the honourable delegate from Labrador for an opportunity of clearing the atmosphere. I know when the cap fits. Mr. Chairman, before I deal with this matter before the Chair, I want to clean up this insidious propaganda that is going on inside and outside this House. I have been accused of being anti- British, and I want to tell those individuals who make such vile accusations that they must be possessed of very diseased minds. I want to point out that some 32 or 33 years ago I offered my service to King and country in western Canada; 1 was young at the time and my father telegraphed me and suggested that I return and join the Newfoundland Regiment. which I did. I went overseas, and my friend across the way here, Sergeant Northcott, went overseas at the same time.... Following that I commanded a unit of an English regiment on the other side, and still it is insinuated that I am anti-British. Also, in the last war, although well over 50, I offered my services and took a contingent across from Canada, but on account of my age I had to get out. If I hear any more of this I am going to take further steps, not in this House, but outside of it.
Now with regard to the motion. I have from the beginning been an exponent of a return to responsible government based upon the choice of the people. But before we discuss this I want to place myself on record as still retaining that view, and consequently I feel that I will probably have to bore the House somewhat, and I trust they will excuse me. Go back to 1932. I have here the manifesto of the Prime Minister[1] of that year to the people of Newfoundland. In this document on page 6, I will just read it: "The trouble indicates the only remedy. Confidence in this country and its administration must be restored. Government business must be conducted in an honest, efficient, economical and business-like way. And I must see an end to the extravagance and waste of recent years. I undertake that with the return of my party that result will follow. I am convinced that it will be possible to obtain the financial accomodation necessary to meet immediate demands and to tide the country over this next February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 343 difficult year; that taxation should and can be reduced; that business, at present strangled, can be given a breathing space, and the purchasing power of the people increased; that our fisheries and industries can thereby be assisted towards recovery and prosperity; and that our really great and valuable resources can be intelligently used to bring about these benefits without the need of continuing the humiliating and extraordinary conditions that now exist."[1] Then I will read the second last paragraph of that historic document. "Before concluding, let me repeat the pledge recently made through the daily press, that one of my first acts will be the appointment of a committee, the members of which will serve without remuneration, to enquire into the desirability and feasibility of placing the country under a form of commission government for a period of years. In case the proposal is favourably reported upon, it will then be submitted to the electorate for their approval. No action will be taken that does not first have the consent of the people."
That is a definite pledge to the people of this country. On that pledge that party was elected to office. They carried out the first part of the program. A royal commission was appointed, came here in February or March 1933, made certain enquiries into the affairs of the country, officially, economically, personal and everything else. On February 28, 1933, the same gentleman, now the Prime Minister, introduced a resolution which I am not going to bore you by reading: It is interesting to note extracts from his talk on that momentous occasion. He said, "We are a part of the British Commonwealth of Nations and it is a proud boast that no British Dominion ever went back on its pledged word. Are we to be the first? What will it profit us if we retain responsible government and lose our souls, our honour, in the end?" Mr. Alderdice said — and I want this to be listened to attentively — he had always felt that after all the vote was a theoretical thing and not all that it was cracked up to be. He said, "In the new form" — meaning the Commission — "not one man will know the difference and he could see as a result of it more prosperity in the country." He could see more capital invested because capitalists would see they are taking no chances. Commenting on the conversion of our debt to 3% he said, "The United Kingdom government will see to it that the steel interests of the United Kingdom give us a large share of their orders for ore. This means a prosperous Conception Bay. She will see thatour codfish gets preference in British mandated territory." He wound up his remarks on this famous or infamous resolution: "And finally I speak on behalf of all Newfoundlanders when I say that we thank His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom for the generous offer that they have made to us in our extremity. We are grateful for the promised development of our resources; we trust implicitly in their honourable intentions, feeling confident that a full measure of responsible government will be restored to the island when we have been placed upon a self-supporting basis and we fully, frankly and freely accept the Report and the conditions laid down in the White Paper and subscribe to the Address, the adoption of which I have now the honour to move."
These words speak for themselves. These resolutions were passed on November 29 or 30, 1933. The people were given to understand that certain things were going to happen. I defy any man to get up here or anywhere else and say one of these pledges was carried out. What happened? You, sir, as leader of the Opposition, asked that the resolution be deferred for a week. That was refused. You moved many amendments. All were turned down. After this legislation had been passed, and the Address to His Majesty forwarded, the British Parliament introduced the Newfoundland Act confirming these resolutions, in which it was stated that as soon as Newfoundland became self-supporting and upon request of the people, responsible government would be restored. That legislation was passed in Great Britain during the early part of December, 1933; and as pointed out by my friend Mr. Hollett, the Commission government was inaugurated, with pomp and ceremony, on l4 February, 1934. Every man who voted for that legislation, particularly those who were paid off with jobs, understood definitely that as soon as Newfoundland became self-supporting, responsible government would be restored. However I state authoritatively that Newfoundland suffered more hardship and privation than any time in its history. And, despite what my friend from Labrador has said, we have nothing to be grateful 344 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 for to the United Kingdom during that period.... Why therefore should I apologise? I am pro- Newfoundland. I am not anti-British.
In the early stages of this Convention, when this confederation matter came up, we passed an amendment to a resolution brought in by the member forBonavista Centre that until all reports were prepared, there would be no discussion or conversation regarding sending a delegation outside the country. These reports cannot be prepared until we get information from the government in the United Kingdom, because the Commission is not the government. We have asked the Commission government for definite information regarding the economic condition of this country — they have refused that information. We have to go to the only place we can get it....
After Mr. Penney's amendment was passed, we went along fairly smoothly. Finally we come to Mr. Job's motion[1] that we go to Government House to have a discussion with the Commission government. I voted against it. I explained my position in a few remarks which were evidently construed that I was trying to hold up the work of the Convention. But Mr. Job brought in a resolution of some kind regarding the same matter and it was kicked out. We get back from the Commission government the answer that we cannot deal with the United States — it is a matter for diplomatic negotiations. We agreed on that. We get the answer that they are prepared to ask the Dominions Office or the United Kingdom government whether they would receive a delegation from this Convention to discuss matters, and also they would be prepared to ask the Canadian government whether they would be prepared to receive a delegation — not to get or discuss terms, because the answer distinctly states we have no authority to discuss fiscal, financial or economic matters, As I see it, the delegation going to Ottawa would mean going up as postage stamps. We meet the Prime Minister and say, "We are here to find out if you have any offer to make regarding confederation." The Prime Minister of Canada says, "Here, you take that and bring it back. You cannot open it and say whether or not you accept it." We have no authority. There is only one authority — a Newfoundland government has power to discuss con federation on behalf of Newfoundland because in 1940-41 they took bases and gave them away to the American government for nothing. If they have power to do that, they also have power to give the country away tomorrow. Therefore as far as the delegation to Ottawa is concerned, I am voting against that motion....
In reading the manifesto of Prime Minister Alderdice and after the assumption of office of Commission government, the people of this country, particularly those in Conception Bay, felt they would never see another hungry day. We were going to sell all the ore; capital was coming into the country; all the money was going to be protected — everything that did come in was well protected — and finally we arrive down to this Convention. How are we going about the fixing- up of Newfoundland? I have stated that it was designed to keep the Commission in office so they could dissipate the treasury and clean out the balance, and l defy any man to bring evidence that that is not so.... When I am asked what evidence I have, my reply is to ask the Commissioner for Finance — he told me so. I repeat, the treasury is being cleaned out deliberately. I make a further forecast, that the policy of the government is to clean out the $22 million in the Bank of Montreal belonging to the people of Newfoundland and the $10-12 million on the other side belonging to us....
This delegation to Ottawa is entirely unnecessary. When the delegation comes back from Great Britain, then will be the time to decide whether or not a delegation should go to Ottawa. If that delegation comes back from Great Britain empty-handed; if they say we refuse to cancel any portion of your national debt because of your bases — which they gave away for nothing while acting as trustees. Your legal mind tells you that when anyone dissipates the assets of a trust he goes to jail. What would you say to a government acting as trustee of the assets of Newfoundland, which takes those assets and gives them away for nothing? True, our people got work out of it, and some people are so pro-British and anti-Newfoundland they say our people are not entitled to get the same rates of pay as Canadian and American workmen. They restricted the rates of pay, using the excuse that it would upset the economy, when merchants on Water Street were February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 345 paying more than some of the men were getting on the bases....
I say Newfoundland is entitled to the cancellation of that sterling debt.[1] What does it amount to? Let us look at the debt of Newfoundland to date — extemal debt; $72 million against which there is approximately $8 million in the sinking fund, $64 million; $12 million more over there belong to it, $52 million; $22 million down in the bank belongs to the people of Newfoundland — down to $32 million; $6-7 million that we owe here locally — say $40 million net national debt. The wealthiest country in the world per capita, less than a $150 a head. Let us take the other countries. Excuse me, Mr. Chairman, for bringing in parts of the Financial Report, but I can't help it. This is an historic time in the country. And I want to say, Mr. Chairman, that I'm not yet prepared to accept the position offered me indirectly some time ago, of Sergeant-at-Arms in the House of Commons in Ottawa. What is the position? $40 million debt —- $150 a head. We go up to our friends in Ottawa. What's their position? $1,380 a head. We go across to Uncle Sam, $1,800 and odd a head. We go across to the United Kingdom, over $1,900 a head.... Now that is the position, and going off begging, knowing that this country is self-supporting. I maintain that if this country is self-supporting, it's only humiliating itself to go to outsiders and say, "What are you going to offer for the privilege of taking over our customs revenue and government?" I would not ask them. It is time enough if we are hard up, particularly in view of that scurrilous attack made on Newfoundland by the Ottawa Journal:
Reuters Despatch reports that special Newfoundland mission is coming to Ottawa shortly to ascertain on what terms Newfoundland might enter Canadian federation as tenth province, have given rise to considerable editorial comment across the Dominion. For most part little enthusiasm is shown the proposal and general Canadian trend of opinion is that Newfoundland, shom of wartime prosperity is looking around for means of eluding bankruptcy. Ottawa Journal wrote: Britain's oldest colony is reported as desirous joining Canadian federation. It would be more accurate to say that Newfoundland regards confederation with Canada as a lesser evil than reverting to her former status as a British colony or becoming an appendage of the United States like an Atlantic Alaska. The Journal said, "Newfoundland would bring Canada as her dowry a debt of something like $100 million."
In my opinion, what is contained in that despatch emanated from Newfoundland. It is interesting to note that it wasjust about the time Mr. Job's delegation was over talking to the Commission and we had incorporated in Mr. Job's resolution that we were going to send a delegation to Ottawa, that this thing was published in the Ottawa Journal. The Ottawa Journal is the mouthpiece of the Canadian government. Grattan O'Leary is the editor. It is one of the three papers read by Mr. Mackenzie King every morning — the Montreal Gazette, the Ottawa Journal and the Winnipeg Free Press. We have a distinguished gentleman from the embassy here with a watching brief who will be able to confirm what I say.
I have shown that the Commission government was brought about by skulduggery. I state now that the Commission government was brought about by bribery, and corruption indirectly. Let us trace the members thereof, since its inception. The first three Newfoundland commissioners were two members of that government, the Prime Minister and the present Commissioner for Public Health and Welfare, and the late Mr. Howley.[2] At that time, Mr. Emerson stated publicly that he had expected to become Commissioner for Justice. However, Mr. Howley was pushed over...
Mr. Chairman I must draw your attention to the fact that we cannot permit personal references here.
Mr. Cashin When the first Commissioner for Justice,[3] was transferred as Registrar of the Supreme Court, the new Commissioner was Attorney General at the time of the passing of that 346 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 resolution, and he was appointed Commissioner for Justice.[1] The Speaker of the House, following the death of the deputy chairman of the Commission, was appointed Commissioner for Home Affairs and Education.[2] When the Registrar of the Supreme Court passed to his eternal reward, the former Speaker of the House[3] took up that position. He was replaced by his brother, who became Commissioner for Justice and is now a judge of the Supreme Court. Two of them are in the Supreme Court now. In addition to which many others have been appointed to lucrative positions. Have any other persons been appointed Commissioners? They were promised that if they voted for that resolution, they would be looked after.[4]
Mr. Chairman You are making a charge which it is doubtful you can substantiate.
Mr. Cashin Yes, sir, I can.
Mr. Chairman These are matters that do not concern us.
Mr. Cashin Their salaries do.
Mr. Chairman I must ask you again not to indulge in personalities.
Mr. Cashin I am speaking of the financial condition of the country, and the financial condition is dependent on salaries and other charges of government. They have been increased 25% and 40% by these same individuals. Have all the other civil servants' salaries been increased and handed out motor cars? That affects the financial position of the country. But as long as you do not want to hear it, I will wait until the Financial Report comes in and we will have it in style. I have registered my protest against this trip to Ottawa and I will sit down.
Mr. Keough ....It is some time since I have spoken at any length and some friends are beginning to wonder why. Since we have recently had so much emphasis put upon the need to vote rather than to eat, some are perhaps beginning to wonder if I have retreated to the position where I am prepared to be content with two square meals a day for all instead of three, and with a suit of clothes somewhat patched and a roof that leaks just a little. The contrary is the case. I have been hearing so much about the brightness and prosperity which lie ahead that I have been seriously thinking of upping the minimum requirements to three square meals a day, a mug-up going to bed, and two pair of pants with every suit.
I support the motion, because I cannot see how in conscience I can do anything else —- notwithstanding all the ranting and roaring like true Newfoundlanders that has gone on and all the hysterics that have been engaged in.
For all of us this is the year of consummation of a most important mission. For all Newfoundlanders it may well prove to be a year of momentous decision — of conclusions as will determine the shape of things to come in this island for longer than we all shall live. We have come upon an opportunity unique in the history of empire, unique, perhaps, in the history of the world, without passion, without prejudice, without fear, to take the measure of what our resources in natural wealth and manhood will permit us to rise to — and then to shape the future to the best advantage.
At least this once, I hope, the people of Newfoundland will be advised of all the facts, and then will be left to decide for themselves. I hope nobody with an axe to grind will try to hold the noses of Newfoundlanders and try to cram down their throats the particular form of government that he wants as a grindstone.... God grant that we shall measure up in this day and generation to the making of the most of this greatest opportunity that has ever come to any people. I can hardly imagine that any man or group of men would be so utterly foul as to want to interpose his or their private plans between this opportunity and the making of the most of it. I can hardly conceive that any would deliberately and with malice aforethought, seek the accomplishment of their own designs at the sacrifice of all the moment offers. But if such were to rise, they could be eternally certain that their memories would be cursed forever more by every succeeding generation of Newfoundlanders....
This Convention has a most urgent and essen February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 347 tial task to perform. We are here by the will of the people, not by gratuitous assumption of our own capacity to perform the work that we have in hand. However we must not forget that it is of essence of the endeavour to which we are committed that it should be debated with open mind and utter impartiality. I should not be prepared to see the condition of approach to the matter that we have in hand altered by anything short of an act of God.
I support the motion because I am concerned primarily with the best arrangement with regard to government that we can make for the future. And that arrangement will be the one that would seem to offer us the best chance to eat as well as to vote. I do think that there are people left who think that it is of some importance to be concerned with eating ... people isolated in many places who are not quite certain of their meal ticket for the next decade, and whilst I would hesitate to say that these people think food is more important than votes, I think that they would decidedly like to have their breakfasts on the morning they go out to vote for their favourite politician.
To some it may seem a truly strange form of political thought to drag food into politics, to speak of stomachs in the same breath as ballot boxes, to assert that to eat is as important as to vote. But those who have followed through history the impact of hunger upon the body politic will find nothing so very strange in all that. Those who know history know, for instance, that all the great revolutions began in the pits of men's stomachs. And history has a habit of repeating itself.
I do find, however, that those who talk of strange forms of political thought do seem to become somewhat inconsistent in their thinking when they come across some utterances bearing upon the economic that seem to serve their purposes. Thus it does seem a strange inconsistency that can attribute bad faith to the British government in setting up this Convention, yet can immediately change when the representatives of that government suggest that we are self-supporting....
It may be well that the problem of Newfoundland cannot be dealt with as a problem in mathematics, that the question of self-support cannot be resolved by the rule of three. We should consequently not hazard the resolution by the rule of thumb. And so we shall have to exercise a little more than snapjudgement in the matter. It would not contribute to our prestige if we were to troop down the front steps outside someday singing, "Let all the people rejoice; you are hereby declared to be self-supporting again", only to be met at the bottom by one of those who are again on the dole holding out his hand....
Just to keep the record straight I should like to make it clear that I am not one of those who believe it is the duty of government to wind the life of the individual in a cocoon of economic security. But I am one of those who believes that this minimum all men may demand of life — the opportunity through honest effort to make a decent living according to the standards of his times, and not on the basis that what was good enough for his grandfather should be good enough for him.... And ifyou say that not all men can have that, then I shall have to ask you just what men are you going to require to be satisfied with just how much less? The giving of such an answer might well serve to demonstrate the urgency of the economic to any Doubting Thomas politician who would care to undertake the giving of such answer the night immediately before an election....
The best political arrangement for Newfoundland is the one that will make for the greatest measure of civic liberty coincident with the greatest opportunity for all to come by three square meals a day and a decent suit of clothes on the back, and a tight roof over the head. And I feel quite confident that out of the choices presented to them the people will decide for that political form most likely to have such result. And so I repeat we are committed to assist the people to make such choice. As a matter of fact we ourselves have no choice in the matter. Mr. Chairman, the ultimate position is as simple as this: even if there should be but one man in this island who wants to hear the terms of confederation he is entitled to hear them — even if that one solitary individual should happen to be Mr. Joseph Smallwood. Even if there should be but one man on this island who wants return of responsible government to appear on the referendum ballot paper he is entitled to have it appear thereon — even if that solitary individual should happen to be Major Peter Cashin. And this too, gentlemen — if there should be but one man in this island 348 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 who wants to have an opportunity to vote for retention of Commission of Government or some modification of it — he is entitled to have that chance, even if he should happen to be my last forgotten fisherman on the Bill of Cape St. George. And I do hereby give solemn warning to the members of this Convention that the names of all of us will go down to historic dishonour, if we do not prove as solicitous for the wishes of that last forgotten fisherman on the Bill of Cape St. George, as for the wishes of Mr. Joseph Smallwood, or Major Peter Cashin or anybody else in this Convention or anybody else in this island. On that score too, Mr. Chairman, we who are gathered here cannot escape the verdict of history.
Mr. Vardy ....I support both the spirit and words of this motion. When it first came in my mind to represent the district of Trinity North the sending of certain delegations seemed to me unavoidable. Now some have suggested leaving the matter of a delegation to Ottawa until the results of a delegation to England are examined. They argue that the terms from England may be so good that it may not be necessary to send a delegation to Ottawa. I can do no more than assure this Convention that there is no member here more anxious to find that this may be so. If it is, what has anyone opposed to it got to worry about, because the people of Newfoundland, you can rest assured, will vote for what in their opinion they consider best....
I am not going to take up any more of our valuable time than is really necessary, but I would just take you back for a few moments to 1932. Iwas the only independent candidate in the 1932 election. Just prior to going to the district a gentleman who is now living, and undoubtedly will hear my voice tonight, gave me a letter of introduction to go to the then acting Prime Minister, with the suggestion that I go to the same district that I eventually faced but for that party. I spent about two hours in that interview, and asked for their platform as a result of my determination to do all possible to prevent Newfoundland from losing her franchise. I told that gentleman,[1] who is now passed on, that I regretted that I could not, under any circumstances accept his offer, but was going to face the District of Trinity North as an independent. I was not admired by my own family or friends for taking such a stand. It is well remembered in the District of Trinity North that I said from every platform that I stood on, that they were going to be sold like cattle on the auction block. I had as my authority the well-remembered words of the acting Prime Minister, when he assured me that he could not take the risk of going back to the people, that the Prime Minister that he had succeeded[2] could not under any circumstances be given charge of this country again, he was branded as a crook. He came to the railway station when I went out with my manifesto, and he asked me to destroy it and come back and have another one printed. He followed me in his car to Manuels and I still refused, and I have never regretted it.
As far as Commission of Government is concerned I have tried to give them full credit for everything they have done. I took the trouble to write them a letter a few days ago congratulating them in connection with what they have done for the farmers of this country. Everything good I have seen I have taken occasion to remind them of it, and everything they did to the detriment of the people of this country and their liberty as well. I have never felt that those who associated with the Commission of Government went with that body for any other reason except to enrich their pockets at the expense of the people. I remind this House that as a much younger man than the gentleman who spoke a few minutes ago I served in the first war, and was held up on account of my age in the last war, being wounded at least four times in both wars. But as sure as I gave all I had for the purpose of saving this island home, just as sure I would most willingly give all that's left of me for what I consider to be the best for this country. I have been dragged through the mud by the Commission of Government. They have attempted to bribe me (I hope they are listening). As long as I hold my head up I will defend this country in the way I think will be to the best interests of the people coming after me. My boys served in the war as well as myself, and I do not have to make any apology for saying this, and I hope no one who thinks differently towards this motion will at any time accuse me of being dis February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 349 loyal to this country, because I want them to remember that there is no length to which I would not go to defend the people I represent and Newfoundland as a whole.
Mr. Hollett May I ask a question without losing my right to speak to this motion, Mr. Chairman?
Mr. Chairman On a question of order, yes.
Mr. Hollett Is Mr. Smallwood prepared to amend the third section of the resolution,[1] which reads: "and shall proceed to Ottawa as soon as possible after the Convention shall have received from His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom...." Is Mr. Smallwood prepared to delete that and insert the following words: "as soon as possible after the return of the delegation from the United Kingdom Government" without my name being appended to it? I intend to make that amendment when I rise, if he is not prepared to do it now.
Mr. Chairman ....On the question asked by Mr. Hollett have you any answer to make, Mr. Smallwood?
Mr. Smallwood I am in absolute agreement with the suggestion made by Mr. Hollett. It appears that our minds think alike, because I have written here a change in that third section that I thought would be an improvement, almost the same as his was worded, perhaps slightly better. In the seventh line of the last paragraph, the two first words of that line are "after the"; after the word "the" omit the rest, and substitute these: "after the delegation pursuant to Mr. Hollett's motion of even date shall have returned from London and submitted its report to the Convention, but not before." Does that make the same idea?
Mr. Chairman Is that acceptable to you, Mr. Hollett?
Mr. Hollett Yes, quite acceptable. There is a possibility, and it may not be a remote one, that the United Kingdom government will say, "We can answer these questions without having you fellows come over here, and answer them in black and white." As the motion of the member from Bonavista Centre expresses it, his delegation will go to Canada whether or not there is one going to England. I would like to make sure of this because I can't express here now what I feel about the matter, but I have my doubts about something. While I am on my feet, if you will permit me I will speak to the motion under consideration, but before that I would like to say that I, too, have felt the cold icy blast from Labrador this afternoon....
Mr. Chairman Will you permit me to get this quite straight now. Mr. Hollett suggests all the words after "the" in the last paragraph of Mr. Smallwood's resolution should be stricken out, and the following substituted therefore: "return of the delegation elected pursuant to the resolution proposed by Mr. Hollett and adopted by this Convention on this date, but not before." Now that's acceptable to you, Mr. Smallwood?
Mr. Smallwood Yes.
Mr. Chairman Hon. Mr. Job, is it acceptable to you?
Mr. Job Yes.
Mr. Chairman Thank you. it now reads as it has been amended, and that now stands as the original motion.
Mr. Hollett Thank you, Mr. Chairman and Mr. Smallwood. I do feel somewhat as though I were included in the expressions used by my friend from Labrador this afternoon relative to certain things that may have been said in this assembly with regard to, as he said, the British people. There is no greater admirer in this assembly than myself of the British people as such, but I do not regard Dominions Office as truly representing the British people so far as Newfoundland is concerned. Any remarks I have made which may appear derogatory to the Dominions Office do not apply to the British people; like Major Cashin, I have given of my body for the people of Newfoundland, and when we meet here to discuss the future of Newfoundland we are not going to be so very particular about some of the things we say.
This afternoon there was a resolution passed that we send a delegation to Great Britain to interview the British government and not the Dominions Office. I would not be surprised if we did land in the Dominions Office, but I want it clearly understood that any delegation has not got to go over there with their fingers in their mouths, or in the conciliatory spirit that was proposed by my friend from Labrador. That delegation is not going to look for anything which it does not deserve. We are not going begging, and the delegation will not go in a conciliatory mood but 350 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 in a fighting mood.... I realise I have said some things concerning these matters, but I meant them and I believe they were true and I have a right to stand up and express my opinion without having someone jump up and reflect on something I have said.
With regard to this particular motion, you know I have repeatedly expressed the idea that we have no mandate whatever to go to Canada and look for terms, no mandate under the Convention Act. Before you take any drastic steps with regard to any change in the constitution, you must have the mandated power of the people behind you. You cannot sneak in the back door as this is an attempt to do. I have nothing against the Canadian people or government; I have no objections to going into confederation, when and only when our people have been given an opportunity to say definitely that that is what they want I must stand by that strongly. We are told by the Commission of Government we cannot talk fiscal things; we cannot talk on economic matters; we cannot bring up politics. How can we possibly go to the Dominion of Canada to look for terms if you cannot talk fiscal things, economic matters or politics? Is the committee or government so anxious because they know they have some very attractive terms to lay before us? I fail to see what good can be derived by any approach to the Canadian government by a delegation from this Convention. The Department of External Affairs in Ottawa is the department with which a delegation would have to deal; I fail to see how they can possibly talk to a delegation from here if they cannot talk about the things pertaining to the very matter about which they are going to enquire.
There are some who want these terms. They want to know what Canada is handing out. I maintain Canada is handing out nothing. The Canadian people and government are too shrewd to commit themselves to an absolutely unauthorised body like this with terms of confederation. I am quite sure any delegation sent from this Convention would be wasting its time unless and until they have, as I said before, the mandatory power of the people behind them. It is immaterial to me whether a delegation goes or not, because I am convinced they cannot submit final terms to this Convention. They may offer terms, broadly speaking. I was looking over the discussions of 1895 when we had a delegation proceed to Ot tawa to discuss terms of confederation. There were 30 or 40 subjects discussed and every one referred to matters fiscal, economical and political. Yet we are foolish enough to send a delegation to Canada to talk confederation.
I do not want the people to be fooled as in 1932 when the then Prime Minister promised the people of this country that there would be no change made in the constitutional status until the matter was referred back to the people by way of a referendum. It was not, and this status which we have now slipped in the back door. I would not be surprised if here is not the same sort of thing. This squandering of money is such that our surplus will not last six months, $40 million expenditure in this one year. How do we expect to have any government of any kind if the Commission is going to set that standard before our people? I pity any government that gets in after this government goes out — they will just be a clean-up government. I am against the motion on principle only. If we are going to deal with our country and talk about our country, we must do it by proper constitutional means. On any other basis you will fail miserably. I shall vote against the motion.
Mr. Fudge There has been quite a lot said about "approach." I know something of this question. I came up the hard way. There is something I lack, but I have tried to make up for it in other ways. Some years ago I felt I could be of some assistance to my fellow men, and realising they had confidence in me I took upon myself the responsibility of leading and helping the underdog. I am afraid if I was to take the attitude some members advocate, to go along to the employer and say "Yes, sir" and "No, sir", I can assure you 1 would not have gotten very far. Our people in Newfoundland should be given a chance to earn their living. I have some people over on the other side in fact I visited some of the old folks in the years gone by. I feel that we should go to England because I realise that part of the assets belonging to this country is over there and it should be on the stock sheet here. We are going to try and dicker with an outside concern. I am not at all satisfied until l am positive all the fittings and gear are aboard of this one. Therefore part of the fittings belonging to this country is over there and I say we should surely see to it that all the gear comes back to this little ship before we decide to February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 351 make a deal....
Mr. Hillier ....I supported wholeheartedly the resolution presented by my friend from Grand Falls, a man for whom I have every respect. I have no reason for doing otherwise, I have known him for a number of years and I know he is sincere in his remarks. One portion of that resolution which enabled me to support it whole-heartedly was "any other suitable form of government." I rise to support the resolution as presented by Mr. Smallwood, simply because I happen to know that the people of this country are looking for information in every particular and not in one particular. I am convinced that all the information we can get is not going to hurt anybody and unless we get the information from every source, how can we be expected to make a wise decision? Is it right we should deny the people ofthis country information which they are expecting to receive? It does not follow that because we receive that information we are going to accept it. I say in all sincerity let us not keep from the people what is their legal right.
Mr. Fowler It is most important that we be realistic concerning the whole matter. First I have to admit that there are a number of people who possibly favour the idea of federal union with Canada. There are also a number of people who may desire that we should continue under the protecting arm of the Dominions Office and hence retain the present dictatorial form of government, which according to the Letters Patent of 1934 should have been replaced as long ago as 1942 by responsible government.
With regard to responsible government we believe that there is a large number who still consider it the most suitable form of government for this country. It will be remembered that when the question of confederation with Canada became a live issue in 1895, we were in rather dire straits financially and economically and it might have been expected that the government of the day would have grasped at any straw floating down the stream of necessity. At that time however, Canada, thinking we were actually on the verge of financial demise, became so niggardly that the terms offered were so disgusting to our government and our people that they would have nothing to do with her. At that time Canada was of the opinion that she possessed the 110,000 square miles of Labrador, later awarded to us in 1927, and she saw in this country nothing but a barren land, where a few thousand poor fishermen eked out a bare existence. What does she see today? She sees Labrador with its possibilities for great mineral wealth, and wherein she has a lease for an air base for 99 years, and in the building of which she has expended many millions of dollars. She sees a Newfoundland apparently economically sound with balanced budgets and surpluses, a country which last year bought her goods to the extent of $40 million, which has one of the finest air bases in the world, and which must, of necessity, for 90-odd years to come, be in close and friendly relations with the great and powerful USA by reason of the bases which that country has here. As a consequence she looks toward us with envious eyes, especially in view of the fact that she herself is bound to the USA by their recent mutual defence pact. Is it not to be expected that she would be desirous of obtaining absolute control of this country and thereby cement more closely her economic ties with the USA?
I believe that Canada might be prepared to offer terms which may appear very attractive. It is my opinion that the people of this country owe it to future generations to consider well and carefully the whole issue at stake, before being carried away by the rosy picture which the agents of Canada are endeavouring to paint. We have only to look at the economic history of all the Canadian provinces except Ontario or Quebec to see that confederation will by no manner of means bring us that utopia which some people would have us believe.
I heartily agree with the opinion which has often been expressed in this Convention that confederation is of such importance that it can only be discussed by the duly elected governments of both countries. We have it on the authority of the present government and consequently on the authority of the Dominions Office, that we have no right to discuss fiscal, political or economic arrangements with the Dominion of Canada, as according to the report of the special committee appointed to interview the Commission of Government,[1] these are, "matters entirely for discussion between governments." Where is the point in our sending a delegation to Canada? I 352 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 have no desire to withhold the terms from anyone wishing to have them; but I contend that there is no need to send a delegation when the Governor in Commission is prepared to communicate with the Government of Canada and request such information as the Convention is permitted to ask, relative to the terms of federal union.
Some may say that I am inconsistent in that I voted for sending a delegation to the United Kingdom. But I would point out, first, our political affiliations with England demand that this Convention get in closer touch with the real government which has controlled our destinies for the past 13 years; secondly, the Governor in Commission made no stipulation as to the subject matter of our enquiries from the Government of the United Kingdom as they did in the case of Canada. The more I ponder this question the more I am convinced that the sending of a delegation is neither necessary, desirable nor constitutional.
[The Convention adjourned until 8 pm]
Mr. Harrington Mr. Chairman, on the night of Wednesday, October 20, 1943, at a Jubilee dinner in the Newfoundland Hotel, I proposed a toast to Newfoundland. In my toast, besides many other things, I said: "In spite of even the latest sample of mismanagement, every bit as deliberate as the former anti-settlement laws in its eventual purpose to hinder rather than to help, Newfoundland today, through a combination of world events is standing on the threshold of our inevitable destiny, the geographical centre of the empire of the air." The "latest sample of mismanagement" referred to, was as everyone knew, the regime known as Commission of Government. It was with a sense of vindication that I heard members of this Convention during the debate last December on the Report of the Committee on Transportation and Communications, say the same thing in different words. Principally it was said in connection with the sections of the report dealing with Gander and tourism, and I made particular note of Mr. Higgins' expressing himself in words to this effect: "It seems as if the Commission of Government do not want this country to prosper."
Two months after the speech referred to, I succeeded Mr. Smallwood as "The Barrelman"[1] and as editor of The Newfoundlander.[2] I inherited his historical mantle and as I believed, his political philosophy, which was identical with my own. At least it was then. For the past three years I have made no secret of my political philosophy. On the radio and in The Newfoundlander I stressed the doctrine of self-help; that New foundlanders would only progress by their own efforts; that a dictatorship, however benevolent, was a monument of shame to people who had governed themselves, wisely or unwisely, well or unwell, under representative institutions since 1832 and under responsible government since 1855. I believed that in l943. l believed it long before that. I believe it now.
When I assumed editorship of The Fishermen- Worker's Tribune[3] in 1944, and first became associated with Mr. K.M. Brown, the proprietor, and later delegate for Bonavista East until his regrettable seizure in this very House, I expressed the same view in my editorials. And lest it be alleged that these views were not mine but some one else's, l but refer you to a letter which I wrote to The Daily News in 1945, in which I stated flatly that in my opinion there was only one course open to us, namely, that we should seek to return immediately to full responsible government. "Otherwise", I said, "we are a lost people." Had I been divinely inspired I don't think I could have been more prophetic.
Early in the spring of 1946 I was asked to take part in a debate on the resolution "That the National Convention is the best method of selecting Newfoundland's future form of government." By choice I took the negative side. The debate, which took place in a well-known literary association[4] in the West End of St. John's, was won by the negative which side was favoured by both the silent and standing votes. I believed in my arguments. I believed that the National Convention would ultimately serve to "make confusion worse confounded" in this country, and who will February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 353 say in his heart that present tendencies will not bear me out.
For such reasons I intended to have no part in it. If it was to be a trick, as some have called it, I would not be one of the tricksters. If it was to be a Tower of Babel, I would not be one of the "divers tongues". So I reasoned, in a vain effort to persuade the thin, small voice of conscience that told me I was shirking the very responsibility thatI was urging on my fellow Newfoundlanders. In the end like Jacob I wrestled with an angel whose name was reluctance and at 5 pm on Thursday, the 30th of May, 1946, I decided I would put my name in nomination the following day. Even then I felt my chances were very slim, as the opposition in St. John's (City) West was tremendous from the standpoint of the calibre of the other 11 candidates.
I have said all these things merely to underline the fact that the district that elected me knew what I stood for. Indeed, I will go so far as to say that the country knew it. But now that I was into the fray, I left no stone unturned in order to keep the minds of the electorate clear on what I represented. In the month and a half preceding the National Convention elections, I was engaged in writing a column for the St. John's Sunday Herald, under the caption "Looking Ahead." In one of my columns I wrote, "The more one considers that clause of the statement relating to the National Convention, which suggests that candidates should have an open mind, the more one is inclined — especially a candidate — to come to the conclusion that it is either a very stupid clause or a very clever one. It has put every candidate in a somewhat embarrassing position, to say the least, and it has put the voting public into more confusion than previously existed." In the light of past developments I am forced to the conclusion that it was a very clever clause, in the shady meaning of the word "clever". Far better would it have been if every man could have gone out and campaigned on his own particular belief; when the election was over, we would have had a pretty good idea of where the country stood. The delegates who did that, although against the spirit of the Convention as alleged, were by far the wisest of us all.
In another weekly column during the same period subtitled "Confederation" I wrote:
There's a lot of loose talk in certain quarters about confederation. Proponents of the union are busily engaged in setting forth facts and figures". endeavouring to make the proposition look attractive to a degree. They have a perfect right to do so.... But one right that some advocates of confederation are assuming, which does not belong to them, is to make the National Convention a possible instrument of achieving their aims. It is no secret that some candidates to the National Convention have every intention of making the Confederation issue a paramount one". The National Convention is not, and never can be even a remote equivalent ofa national government... Before Newfoundlanders can seriously consider confederation they must be free, independent people, in the sense that they will be represented by a government which has been elected by a majority opinion. It certainly cannot be negotiated by an assembly elected by every shade of political belief, and theoretically without any beliefs or opinions of their own; representing no national majority, and in many cases, possibly, representing only local minorities....
It was that belief, strengthened by subsequent events that caused me to adopt my uncompromising attitude in the debate last fall on the motion to send a delegation to Ottawa
On June 14, one week before election day, over radio station VOCM in a campaign speech, I said: "Ever since the announcement of the machinery of the National Convention, and even before whenever the question arose, I followed the same line of reasoning, both in my Barrelman radio program, and my editorials in a local newspaper. First, we have to make a decision as to whether we wish to retain the present commission form of government or to return to self- government. If the decision is to return to self-government, then the second step is to decide as a people what form of self-govemment we think best for our needs — the 49th state of the American union; the tenth province of the Dominion of Canada; a status like that of Northern Ireland with control in London; or to remain under responsible government as from 1855 to I934." My views are no different now than they were when each of these statements was made. If anything, lam more certain now that I knew then what I was talking about.
As for what I think about the Commission of Government, I reserve that for a later date when forms of government are discussed. At this particular time I am concerned with our terms of reference. When I contested St. John's West I foresaw the stretching and manipulating of these terms of reference which could be carried out by unscrupulous or undisceming men. If I could have been assured that the terms of reference would be interpreted as I believed, I would not, most likely, be in this House today. But sensing then what I realise now, I could not leave that much to blind chance. One of the main reasons that impelled me to seek election was to help to forestall any move to submerge the identity of this country into any larger unit without our first going through an intermediate state, in which the people of this country under a duly constituted and responsible government could thrash out vital and irrevocable issues in a state of complete autonomy.
I have made this brief review for a very definite purpose. I wish to make it quite clear to everyone concerned that this attitude, this stand, which I have followed and intend to follow is not something born of recent months. It is to prove, if there is any doubt, that I have bowed to the line of those convictions surely and steadfastly, for a principle which I believe in....
I believe in Newfoundland, in its people, in its resources, in its potentialities. I believe that an independent Newfoundland offers a far better opportunity for Newfoundlanders today than it ever did. I believe that the time for union, especially with Canada, is past; that half a century ago, after the bank crash, or three-quarters of a century ago, when the Maritime provinces were going in, were far more appropriate times than now. We have come a long way since then. We have now the beginnings of acountry, of a nation; the increasing population, the diversification of industry, a strategic position with immense bargaining power, the spreading grasp of local and world affairs which was only the possession of a few. In short, we are now on the way to becoming a people, a real Newfoundland people, with a solidifying national consciousness, a national culture. Indeed, I fail completely to understand how Mr. Smallwood, who contributed so much in the past, to that national consciousness and culture, can reconcile himself with his more recent declarations of defeat and despair, that seeks to make solvency the main condition for Newfoundlanders' governing themselves in an insolvent world. I believe that having held aloof from absorption, from union, so long, that the step at this time would be next to fatal.
Others will differ, of course. Some of them will do so sincerely; others out of motive and design. So be it. I have said what I will say at much greater length and in far more detail when we reach the debate on forms of government. When the Hon. Mr. Job introduced his motion some weeks ago[1] I voted against it, for it included the confederation question which directly concerns the sovereignty of Newfoundland. I did not speak on the motion, because my previous attitude on this matter was unequivocal; it was plain. I did not say I was an anticonfederate but thought we ought to see the terms when I opposed the October motion.[2] For the question in my mind was, "What terms?" I shall have something to say later on that point.
I said then and I reaffirm now, that "the final decision on confederation must rest with the people of Newfoundland, and that they should be asked to register that decision only after negotiations to secure the best offer of terms from Canada have been completed on their behalf by a sovereign government of their own choosing. If these negotiations were to be considered under any other auspices, the terms secured would be bound to be suspect, and even if confederation were achieved in this manner, it would leave a heritage of discontent, which might well imperil the satisfactory operation of the agreement." That statement was made in an impartial paper on "The Political and Financial Implications of Confederation" which was read before the Royal Institute of International Affairs, Newfoundland Branch, by Prof. A.M. Fraser, M.A., of the Memorial University College on March 15, 1946 — months before the National Convention was even elected. The fact that Prof. Fraser lectures at Memorial University College and Professor Wheare at Oxford is no reason why I should accept the latter's opinion in preference to the former's.
Mr. Job's motion, harmless as it may have appeared on the surface, had too many far-reaching implications, besides being at odds with my conception of the duties of the National Convention, for me to support it. Furthermore, believing what I do about the Commission of Government, I could not find it in my heart to ask their advice on something of so essential a nature. Apart from the matter contained in the motion, the method of presentation was above reproach and befitting an elder statesman, and there was no need for controversy.
The bar of history, Mr. Chairman, is a figure of speech that has been quoted from time to time in this chamber by several delegates in recent months, and I believe they were aware of its import. But if I were to say I am less aware of the meaning of that phrase on this occasion, I would not be correct. In my speech at the opening of this Convention,[1] in support of Hon. Mr. Job moving an address of loyalty, I said that few men who make history realise at the time they are making it. I, sir, am trying to realise that; trying to keep in mind the fact that this is an epochal assembly — without precedent — and what I say and do now at this crossroads in our island's story is more important to me than anything I know. Time may prove me wrong. I will take that chance. After my speech in opposition to the motion to send a delegation to Ottawa, I was termed naive because I was honest; politically immature because I let the cat out of the bag. I would rather be naive and immature and a poor politician then, and now and anytime, than be lumped with the quislings in the years ahead, in the event that out of this Convention this island loses its sovereignty, and loses it by absorption into a union that is not the best union that might be secured.
Major Cashin has condemned this Convention, accusing the British government of lack of faith in substituting it in place of the 1933 agreement. He believes responsible government should be restored without any Convention. Mr. Smallwood thinks the Convention the summit of political and democratic brilliance, principally because he means to use it, and has used it in every way to further his pet cause: to wage a complete campaign for confederation with Canada from almost the Opening day. I agree with Major Cashin up to a point, which l will explain later. I disagree with Mr. Smallwood completely.
My interpretation of the functions, duties and scope of this National Convention lies somewhere in between both their more or less extreme views. It is to my mind the only interpretation that this Convention should have allowed itself. The terms of reference which outlined the work of the delegates said in part that they were "to consider and discuss among themselves, the financial and economic condition of the country and to recommend forms of government which might be put before the people as a basis for a national referendum...." Actually there was no need for this Convention. The British government knew the island was self-supporting and could have arranged a referendum on the basis of this reasoning: "The island is self-supporting, we intend to carry out the 1933 agreement, we will give you a referendum in which you will be asked to choose between Commission of Government and responsible government. If you by a majority select responsible government, that will be restored." That could have been done. If it had been, I doubt if anyone would or could have questioned it.
However, the British government may have argued that there were many people in between both forms of government, who wanted the outside control that Commission represented with the satisfaction of at least electing a lower house. In accordance with the 1933 agreement they could not put representative government on the referendum, so they evolved the National Convention to consider and discuss among themselves and recommend forms of government for a referendum which could, if the Convention saw fit, include representative government. If that is what they had in mind, I do not think the Convention is a stall or a red herring. Like Mr. Hollett, I see nothing and can read nothing in the terms of reference that would permit us to recommend to the people a form of government (i.e. confederation) which might jeopardise the sovereignty of Newfoundland and perhaps result in the loss of that sovereignty without proper consideration of such an unalterable decision under a sovereign government responsible to the people.
That is one interpretation of the reason for the National Convention. There is another. The 356 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 policy of the present British government appears to be in good faith to let those parts of the Empire which wish to assume responsibility, have it. if that is so in respect to peoples who have never even had representative institutions, then it should be doubly so with respect to a country which has had representative institutions for 102 years, and responsible government for 80 years, and which enjoyed dominion status, now in suspension with the Letters Patent. Yet how to do this?
Major Cashin's petition to the contrary notwithstanding,[1] the people of Newfoundland had never directly requested the restoration of the constitution. That does not prove they did not want it; it chiefly means they did not have the leaders. So by means of the National Convention the British government sees to it that they get at least representatives, and possibly leaders as well. Then the British government tells the people of Newfoundland that financially they can expect to be on their own. The mother country cannot help out any further. A report (Chadwick- Jones) is prepared and submitted to the Convention, which amongst other things informs us the country is self-supporting. Commissioner Wild before leaving the country tells the Convention the country is self-supporting. The various reports of the Convention when added up will show the same situation. What then? What else can the Convention do but recommend responsible government? As representatives of the people, they are the people. Again the 1933 agreement is fulfilled. Why then a referendum? Why indeed? Why many things? Why, above all, the introduction of confederation under the rather loose term of federal union? Why the steady flow of propaganda reiterating, insisting that the referendum involve three issues, none of which is representative government? Why should there be two forms of one form of government on a referendum, the second of which, confederation, is in reality an act of union with a larger state, which by its very appearance on a ballot paper presupposes that the people have already signified their desire for self-government? For we cannot be a province of Canada with a commission form of government, nor with a representative form of government. We must have a responsible form of government before we can enter a confederation or league of self-governing provinces.
Why, indeed? On my interpretation of our terms of reference and the definition of forms of government for the purpose of this National Convention, I will go along with the Convention as set up and with the good faith of the British government. Up to that point, we see fairly well eye to eye. At that point, namely the introduction of what is for the time being an extraneous and confusing issue, my views, and the view of the British government — if that is the view — part company. If, as I and many others in the Convention are being forced to conclude. and many in the country, the National Convention was ostensibly set up to give Newfoundlanders an opportunity to choose between forms of government, as l have set them forth, but in reality to engineer Newfoundland into confederation willy-nilly, without due regard for its effect on the ultimate welfare of our people as a whole, then it's a horse of another colour.... We have seen and heard enough to know that, to paraphrase the poet, "There is something rotten in the state of Newfoundland", and if we strain our ears we can perhaps hear in the distance the jingling of the 30 pieces of silver. So much for the terms of reference and forms of government. I stand by my interpretation, Mr. Chairman, in spite of all that is said at public banquets or by professors of constitutional history in public sessions of this Convention. I am not a lawyer, nor a constitutional historian, but I know people who are, and who agree with me, and we are not ignorant men. In short, if people are told to tell me a certain thing, which they would like me to do, is that any real reason why I should believe them or do it? I don't think so. Furthermore, I do not think I am being discourteous when I say that on such vital and fundamental issues I consider my opinion as good as either yours or Professor Wheare's.
Now I will leave the purely technical aspect of the matter for a moment to consider the more emotional side of this declaration. For obvious reasons, I shall be charged with several so-called crimes — a defender of vested interests and predatory money, which we heard so much about a few weeks ago. To that charge I will only say February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 357 "tommy-rot" for I am no more a tool of the merchants than is Mr. Hollett, or Mr. Bailey, as well as the many other men in this Convention who in the last analysis share the same beliefs. The second charge, no doubt, will be that I, and anybody else who believes as I do, is restricting the choice of the people of Newfoundland by trying to block confederation. I have already explained my position with regard to that matter, but I intend to go a little further to clear up that misapprehension and allegation in advance. I believe we are here to discuss and recommend forms of government, as I have outlined them, not forms of a form of government. If we are to discuss and recommend confederation on certain terms, for the sake of argument, then there are several other forms of responsible government we have to discuss and recommend, and in that case we shall be here another year, and none of us want that. The proponents of confederation know that for every one person in this island that advocates confederation, there are at least three who advocate union with or annexation by the United States. There are others who have a voice in this Convention in Mr. Bailey, who is a staunch believer in some sort of union with the United Kingdom, something on the lines of Northern Ireland. There are extremists too, who advocate secession from the Empire, with intent to establish a free state or a republic. These are all forms of responsible government. If we are to discuss and recommend one on a basis of terms like confederation, then we must get terms or conditions with respect to them all and discuss and possibly recommend them all. Where would it end? Where would we be? What confusion we would have. It is plain there are four options under responsible government open to the people of Newfoundland: 1. Dominion status; 2. Union with the United States; 3. Confederation with Canada; 4. Union with the United Kingdom. The second of these I intend to refer to next, and in doing so I will rebut the third charge.
The third charge levelled at me will no doubt be the hackneyed one of narrow nationalism. Why? Because I believe in an independent Newfoundland and the doctrine that God helps those who help themselves; because I believe that in this world no one gets something for nothing. Yet the very people who would make that charge will themselves likely raise a great outcry because it is merely suggested that if Newfoundland is ever to relinquish her sovereignty and lose her identity in a larger unit, she could do worse than seek to lose it in the orbit of the United States. Just south of us lies the richest, most powerful nation in the world today.... If we are to forget such things as independence and national pride; if we are to ignore the truth that man does not live by bread alone; if we are more satisfied with servility on a full stomach than freedom with an empty one, but with the means to fill it if we strive; if we are to take the mess of pottage in exchange for the birthright, and sell ourselves to the highest bidder, then our calculations cannot exclude consideration of what the United States has to offer. It is apparent to everyone that it has been considered by those who control us. I have always believed that one of the main reasons why the report ofthe Goodwill Mission of 1943 was never published was that it had discovered that a majority of our people looked to the United States as a far more attractive possibility than either Canada or the United Kingdom. And that, Mr. Chairman, is not to say I am anti-British.
It is just as apparent to everyone that such a union could never be achieved unless this country were once again a free agent. That is to say, not until our people are the masters of their own house, a sovereign people with a sovereign government which could sign the Statute of Westminster. It could never happen while we are controlled by a puppet dictatorship which dances when the strings are pulled in London. Equally, it would never happen if Newfoundland became a province of Canada. We are no Alaska, as the Ottawa Journal insinuates. Many Newfoundlanders fail to realise that Washington, D.C., is only a hundred miles farther than Ottawa, as the crow flies.
Some months ago in a debate in this chamber the view was expressed that in time there might be a federal union of North America. That is a view I have long held. In ancient times, when a vast area of Europe, Africa and Asia was included in the Roman Empire, it was the boast of many men of many nations, "Civis Romanus Sum" — I am a Roman citizen. Perhaps that day may not be far away when "I am a citizen of North America" may be no idle boast. Such federal union may not be as far away as some people think. No one in his right senses then will deny 358 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 that Newfoundland's entry into such a union would be immeasurably more advantageous as a sovereign nation than as a province of Canada. That rapidly approaching possibility is alone almost enough to convince us of the wisdom of not taking such an irrevocable step as confederation.
But enough of that digression. Now on this matter of Canadian terms. I have asked, "What terms?" The foolish argument is advanced that some of us are afraid to get the terms because they will be so good that only a fool would refuse to accept them. So say the confederates — it is just as well to give them their names, to call a spade a spade. An equally foolish argument is advanced by some anticonfederates, namely, "If we don't get the terms, even the anticonfederates will begin to get suspicious and wonder about this vision of utopia that the Convention is trying to veil from the eyes of the people." Again I ask, "What terms?" The British North America Act lays down the conditions under which Newfoundland may expect to be admitted into the Canadian confederation. It is alleged Newfoundland will get special considerations through this Convention, which same Convention has not even the power much less the right to negotiate. Mr. Smallwood himself in a letter in The Daily News some weeks ago, in reply to a letter of Mr. Bailey's, admitted that we already knew 95% of the terms, it was the other 5% we had to find out about. Even admitting that narrow margin between our present position and our position in confederation, it is plain from the committee's report of the interview with Commission of Government that the 5 %, the special concessions, cannot even be discussed by a delegation; I refer you to page 2 of said report,[1] which says that "Your Committee was advised that the words 'or what other fiscal, political or economic arrangements may be possible,' appearing in clause 3 of the resolution, should not be included in any enquiry or in the terms of reference of any delegation to the Dominion of Canada as these are matters entirely for discussion between governments." In other words, we are told indirectly that to properly negotiate satisfactory terms for entry into confederation we must do so through a proper government, and that, as far as I am concerned, is responsible government. The only ground upon which I would be satisfied for this Convention to get any terms from Canada would be this: if I were assured that such terms would be merely for the information of this Convention and the people; that they would be used only as a basis for negotiation in the event that at the referendum the people expressed a preference for responsible government, and that the Convention, having obtained such terms, would not be levered into putting confederation on these terms in the referendum. But there is no such assurance.
Finally, Mr. Chairman, I will say that I see underlying this indecision about the merits of confederation as a form of government, the fear of some members in this assembly that in the event of confederation not being on a referendum the country will approve the status quo and these members will never get into politics. I do not share this fear. I think the majority of our people will repudiate Commission government when the time comes. If I am wrong, and they do not, then as much as it is against my grain, I will abide by their decision. Others will claim that if we get back responsible government we will never again hear tell of confederation. That is absurd. Any man or group of men can form a confederate party and go to the country. If that democratic fact and right is not convincing enough proof of the absurdity of the above claim, then I believe it is within the right of this Convention to put responsible government on the referendum, with a mandate which will ensure the people that should they accept responsible govemment, that government will undertake to explore all other feasible constitutional forms of responsible government, besides dominion status, to enable the people to determine whether or not they would be better served by entry into one or other of the unions I have mentioned.
On these several counts I agree whole-heartedly with the very able and statesmanlike speech made by Mr. Hollett yesterday which lucidly and thoroughly summed up the present situation and showed the international web with which we are entangled. His appraisal of the facts and his unimpassioned though pungent delivery of his convictions will stand out in the records of this Convention as one of the finest pronouncements ever uttered here.
The resolution to send a delegation to London to thrash out matters of extreme importance to February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 359 Newfoundland is sensible and well within my reading of our terms of reference. The British government must have some attitude with regard to Newfoundland's future position in the world, and it is only right that we should meet tdghfghhem with cards on the table, find out what the position is with regard to our national debt et cetera, so that we may be better able to assess the financial and economic position of our country.
About the Ottawa delegation, I have said all I have to say. Mr. Smallwood's suggestion that the people of this country be asked to make a decision to go into confederation on terms handed to a delegation of this Convention without bargaining or negotiation is fantastic. The Canadians would think we are fools if we accepted such a position. Accordingly, I propose the following resolution:
In view of the vital necessity of getting certain information relative to this country's financial and economic position, which must properly be known by this Convention before it can decide whether or not there is a further necessity of approaching any other countries within or without the British Empire for terms of any kind whatsoever; the matter of a delegation to Ottawa should be left in abeyance until such time as the delegation to London (if and when said delegation is despatehed) has returned.
Mr. Northcott I wish to second Mr. Harrington's amendment for the following reason. If we cannot discuss the fiscal, political and economic situation of Newfoundland and Canada intelligently, then just what are we to talk about? This is the people's house and the government of the people only should enquire into this all-important matter, This issue can only be decided by the people and not by a few of us here present tonight wanting to know the terms. I am not opposed to getting these terms through the proper channels. The only means I know of is, first to elect our own government which will then decide what they want, and open negotiations with the Dominion government and see what arrangements can be made if any. I am not anticipating, after we have the terms, on living with silver spoons in our months. We are the crossroads of the world today, and hold in our hand the ace card. May God give us strength in this opportunity to think wisely and well... Gentlemen, when we sign our names to any terms. let us be sincere and honest in all our dealings and may our hand not waver in this all—important issue.
Mr. Crosbie I have listened for some four or five months to the question of confederation debated by confederates and anticonfederates. When I was elected in the West End of St. John's I did not know confederation could or would be an issue. However, we have been told by the late Chairman and by Professor Wheare that it is a form of government that might be recommended by the Convention for the referendum. This being so, I do not see why this House should be delayed any longer objecting to a delegation going to Canada and coming back with the terms. I agree with Mr. Harrington that there is an awful lot of loose talk of federal terms and propaganda going around, and I think the time has come when we should pin down the loose talk. If Canada has terms, let us get them; let us know what we are talking about. We were elected for the purpose of finding out the financial and economic position of this country, and personally I am going to vote against the amendment. The question of con» federation can be safely left in the hands of the voters.
Mr. Chairman There is a slight correction Mr. Harrington wishes to make in his amendment.
Mr. Harrington I request that the words "left in abeyance" be stricken out and the word "deferred" substituted.
Mr. Chairman Does that meet with your approval, Mr. Northcott?
Mr. Northcott Yes.
Mr. Chairman Those who have not spoken on the motion should confine yourselves to me amendment. If you should speak on both, then you will not be allowed to make any further speech.
Mr. Newell In the matter of this amendment, I do not see the purpose of it except if it is intended to stall us a little while longer. Many, who on previous occasions voted against getting the terms of confederation, said at that time that it was part of our duty to get them, but that the matter was premature and that we should not send a delegation anywhere at that time. That technicality has been destroyed by the fact we have already voted to send a delegation to England. I see no reason why, in order to facilitate the work of the Convention, we should not get this busi 360 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 ness disposed of.
I feel that the proceedings of this Convention and the extramural activities of some of its members must be very disappointing to the people who sent us here. The talk of political intrigue that is going on, of ganging up in groups, the determination beforehand of attitudes that should be resolved in debate, the closed minds to everything that one does not approve, are a very definite setback to the birth of democracy in this land. But I suppose it will be heartening for the whole country to learn from the remarks of two of the most outspoken, if not the most unbiased members that the people are our masters. I had begun to wonder if we were forgetting that. it is very encouraging to note that we are not going to tell the people of Newfoundland what they must do. Let us hope that spirit continues.
Meanwhile we are here. And if the people are our masters, what is it they want us to do? They want us, surely, to secure the facts, the information on which they can base their decision. They did not send us here to devise methods for limiting their choice in that decision, or to inaugurate political careers for ourselves. Above all, they expect us to behave as rational, sensible men. They expect us to have the mentality of a jury. They expect us to be fair-minded, not supermen. As reports come in here they do not expect them to be coloured by the political views of the authors — or maybe by this time they do. If we cannot be honest, objective and impartial about this thing, what are we here for? Who cares what form of government we, as individuals, believe in? We each have one vote in the referendum and no more.
This Convention is unique not because it is a stall or a sham or a makeshift — that's baloney, and we all know it. It's unique because we have the opportunity to sit down coolly and soberly and figure out possible forms for a future constitution for our country. Upon the basis of our findings the whole people will decide the form they prefer. Nothing could possibly be more democratic than that. We can make a good job of it, or we can foul it up. It's up to us.
Meanwhile, our mandate from the people is clear and unmistakable. At least, mine is, A year ago the people whom I represent were holding meetings and discussing their future government. Some of them, in their community study groups, have been discussing things like economic security for five or six years now, and doing things about it too. I think I can claim that they are more politically alert than many parts, even the Avalon Peninsula, from whose glittering highways I first took my bearings. Some thought a revised form of the present system might be workable and desirable, at least for some time. There were a great many who thought that, and no doubt they still do. Others wondered if union with Canada might not be more practicable, particularly from an economic standpoint. Perhaps therein lay economic freedom. They wanted to know. I don't know how they feel about it now, but i imagine they must be pleased to learn from the member from Grand Falls that he thinks they still have a chance to qualify as loyal Newfoundlanders. Most of them, frankly, found it difficult to make up their minds. They know what they don't want — ever again. They weren't so sure of what they did want. So I'm here to get certain information for them. And that is why I support this motion. I cannot conscientiously do otherwise. I wouldn't want to decide the issue. Let those who will suffer or enjoy the consequences make the decision. If we are ever confronted with the choice of freedom or poverty — and with poverty there is no freedom — and we choose to be poor but proud, let that decision be made by those to whom poverty is something more than a polite expression, and who have often in the past had to swallow their pride and accept a handout in one form or another. Whatever the choices are, they must be put as clearly as possible. That is our work. The choosing is for the country as a whole. I not only believe in the right of the people to decide, but I have faith in their ability to decide wisely.... if any of us believe that we are the servants of the people who sent us here, we must do the work for which we were sent. And we must stop inventing excuses for not doing it.
Mr. Crummey I do not think I can be charged with using up very much time in this Convention. I do not intend to say much now. During the debates, there have been many issues brought in foreign to the subject matter, and the same thing applies tonight. We are talking about confederation. There is no such issue before the Chair. Why then talk about confederation? The motion as tabled by Mr. Smallwood is that a delegation be appointed to be sent to Ottawa and that motion to February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 361 be voted on forthwith. The amendment says that the question be deferred until the delegation comes back from England. What right have we to believe that any delegation will be permitted to go to Canada? All we do know is that the Commission of Government is going to see if the English government will receive a delegation, and what happens there will certainly have a bearing on the delegation's going to Canada — if it is necessary. As I see it, it is doubtful whether our terms of reference permit a delegation to go to Canada at all. I have looked into the matter and I am prepared to believe that to be the case and I would like to read excerpts form an editorial in today's issue of the Daily News.
Mr. Chairman If these editorials are calculated in any way to prejudice the debate, I cannot allow them to be read. The Daily News has no seat in this House; its pronouncements are not permissible as such. If, however, you wish to state it as your own viewpoint and not the Daily News viewpoint, it is allowed.
Mr. Crummey I state it as my own viewpoint. "On the third point of the Job resolution an answer has been made that is quite unequivocal and substantiates the position that the negotiation of terms of union with Dominion of Canada is between governments. On the question of steps to establish economic or fiscal relationship... the position is that it is doubtful if the matter comes within the terms of reference." That is exactly my position. I am not prepared to vote for the motion before the House. Do the members think the Dominion of Canada would risk the chance of holding themselves up to ridicule by giving to a wholly unauthorised body terms of union, when nobody is assured that Dominions Office will allow it to be put on the ballot paper?
Mr. McCarthy Mr. Chairman, when the debate on this resolution started it was not my intention to make a speech. It is not my intention to do so now. But since a lot of delegates seem to be explaining why they are going to vote for the resolution or against it, I think that maybe I should make my position clear also. I am going to vote for the motion and in doing so want to make it clear that I am not necessarily for confederation; that is something upon which I shall make up my mind if and when we hear the terms. In the issue now before the Convention I am concerned only that the people of this country should not be restricted in their choice. I stand with Mr. Keough that it is important for the people to have enough and a little to spare.
I want the people to hear the terms of confederation because I know that some of them are expecting to hear them; to have a chance to vote for Commission of Government in its present form or modified form, if either be possible if they so wish; to vote for responsible government if they so wish. It is all a matter of what they wish. I do not want to see them restricted in their choice in any way. And so, I stand to support the motion.
Mr. Roberts After the impassioned speeches made here by quite a number of the delegates, I will not delay the House long with my feeble remarks. Some time ago I voted against a motion such as this, not that I thought it should not have been made, but because I thought it premature. This time I do not think it premature and I am going to support the motion. I will give you a brief history of the political life of St. Barbe district, known as the forgotten northwest coast, forgotten not only by Commission of Government but by all responsible governments; and although I would at the moment vote for return of responsible government, I would not bind myself to it if I saw a better form. The man who runs for member in the St. Barbe district on a responsible ticket will have to be a superior gentleman to be able to convince these people that responsible government will be the cure-all for their ills. As far as I can gather, and I know a good deal about the political feelings of our people, Commission of Government with all their mistakes would get a substantial vote in St. Barbe, on account of the founding of the co-operative societies which have played a large part in the economic well- being of our people, as well as the building of hospitals and roads in the Bonne Bay end of the district. These things came during the tenure of the Commission, not responsible government. On the other hand, our people have had so much contact with Canada from the days of the first settlers up to the present, that quite a bond of friendship has grown up between our two peoples, and I have no hesitation in saying quite a number ofour people would vote for confederation, terms or no terms. I have received since I came here letters and telegrams from quite a number of respectable and intelligent people from all parts of the district asking me to vote to 362 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 get the terms of confederation, and how can I, in fairness to these people, deliberately vote against this motion? I can't see what all this bally-hoo is about. Send the delegation and if there are no terms that will put an end to delegations going to Canada for many years to come. Whether we want it or not, a delegation will go to Canada some day, either from this Convention or from some future government. So, why not now, and get it over with?
Mr. Fudge I rise to support the amendment. I think you are all aware of my feelings. I believe that first we want to have a government so that we can decide in the right way. I paid particular attention to my friend from White Bay wherein he told us they have had quite a lot of meetings, and talked about certain forms of government. I presume he was speaking for his district. He did say there was one particular form of government they did not want. I have an idea what form he meant. Suppose I want that form, have I not got the right to recommend it? As far as Humber district is concerned, I am here as a representative and I have endeavoured to do the best I can. I am not afraid to return home. If they want something better than I recommended, they are entitled to it.
Mr. Newell I think the member from Comer Brook has misinterpreted something I have said. I did not say some have expressed preference for two specific forms of government — what I did say, however, and in my own mind I was thinking of economic conditions, was they were quite certain what they did not want — ever again.
Mr. Higgins I have listened carefully this afternoon and evening to some fine addresses from all shadows of political opinion — if you put it that way —- those who profess a leaning towards confederation and those who lean towards home rule. At times I have been somewhat amused, at times somewhat sorry at some of the expressions I have heard....
In that speech today there was too much digging up of the graves of people who never had any possible hope of being represented here — they are dead. Records of dead people do not concern this Convention. What is the point in bringing up the records of prime ministers? What is the point in bringing up records of commissioners? It has nothing to do with this Convention. There is entirely too much of the broken record, too much of this 1933 agreement, this broken pledge. That has nothing to do with us. We do not care if the Prime Minister made a pledge he did not keep. We are here only as a board of enquiry. We are not trying prime ministers; we are not trying commissioners; we are merely trying to find out under the terms of our Convention Act certain information, and anybody who brings in other things befogging that issue is not playing the game by us in the Convention. Today the Hon. Labour member for Humber was discussing the ship of state and the various articles we should have on the ship. One important thing he forgot, one part of the equipment we should have is a bilge pump — we are going to be sunk unless we can get rid ofthe bilge.
We have the suggestion that they will not discuss the matter of terms with us. Who says that? The only way we can find out things of that nature is by written briefs. We have some official accounts from Canadian ministers who said they would discuss the matter with Convention representatives, if they so desired. One of the speakers tonight who delivered a fine speech, said that some people were anticonfederates but they wanted to hear the terms. I say that lest there be any misunderstanding about my anticonfederacy — I am definitely pro-responsible government and nothing else — but between pro-responsible government and not doing my duty as a member of this Convention, there is a job. When the time comes there is no doubt in my mind about how I am going to vote, and no doubt about the way I feel on this approach to Canada or any other country. It is only because we have a job we must do. Much has been said about our not having the power from the people. I am certain that we do have a mandate from the people to make all the enquiries possible into all the forms of government that we think might possibly come within the purview of the national referendum. I am no constitutional lawyer — merely an ordinary general practitioner — but at least I have sufficient common sense to interpret the simple terms of reference. The other angle by the people who are against these terms, is what is the point of going to Canada, you have not the power to bargain, you are merely a post office. I do not care if we are a rubber stamp, we will get what we can. Once we have gotten that we have discharged our obligation, and for all who are pro-responsible government, if we could get better terms by bar February 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 363 gaining and if we cannot bargain, then we are in a better position.
I do not see any argument against getting whatever we can get in the way of information — and as Mr. Nowell properly put it, when this matter was discussed the last time, we had all the same arguments for two days and everyone, except one or two, did agree we had to get those terms sometime.... I do not feel like belabouring the question, but we have had much more talk on the matter than is needed under the circumstances. I am prepared to move that the question be now put.
Mr. Burry Before the question is put, I would like to say a word. I would like to speak against the amendment because it is going to deny me some information I was sent here to get. The people whom I represent want to get it as they might want to use it in the future. Four months ago I voted on a motion similar to the motion before the Chair now. I am convinced more than ever that I should be in favour of a motion like that at the present time. I have studied and laboured with the rest of you on various committee work and I am not convinced yet that we are self-supporting. I can see where a budget might be balanced, and leave many people in this country and Labrador in the same living conditions they have been in all down through the years, when fishermen have had to live on $100 a year. Balancing a budget like that, we could do it. I am not convinced that that is what we are here to do. When I think of that $20 million surplus, a strange feeling comes over me I am not very proud of that surplus I would like to get information on the possibility of joining up with bigger units, on the possibility of better living conditions and a better system than we have had in the past. I was very interested in the speech of Mr. Keough. I figured to myself that that comes from the background of a man of service to the poor people of this country. I noticed the spirit he was giving it in; knew what was in his mind; knew his feelings. I have had experience such as that myself; I have lived among people who are living in poverty, degradation and misery, great numbers of them.... I am wondering what kind of government we can get to enable these people to get a more decent living.... I am willing to take any chance to get information that will enable me to come to a decision later that will get this country of ours a better government, one that will give the people a higher standard of living. I am not voting for confederation, and whether I do so later depends on the information I receive....
Mr. Hollett ....Mr. Burry states all he wants is information. If he would read the British North America Act he will find the information there. The only thing they cannot give without argument is how much per capita are they going to pay us in the event of our giving up income tax; that is the only information a delegation can get. All the other things are laid down in the act and unless the British government amends that act, there can be no other terms, except these. At the present time in Canada the federal government is in deep argument with the governments of the provinces trying to arrive at a satisfactory amount of taxes. The idea of sending a delegation to Canada is unconstitutional and on that I firmly stand. I care not whether the delegation goes or not; I am merely stating the point; I do not think we have sufficient authority to go there....
Mr. Watton We have a motion here before us similar to one we had last fall, At that time I supported that motion. I still contend the people of this country should know the terms of confederation. Early this month we sent a delegation to confer with the Commission of Government to get their advice on certain matters; one was the sending of a delegation to Canada to discuss terms of federal union. That committee brings back a report which says that fiscal, political and economic matters are matters entirely between governments. If the delegation to Canada cannot discuss these things, what are they going to talk about? If the Canadians did give us the terms, we could not discuss them. It is a matter between governments. In that case, would a delegation from this Convention get the same terms as a duly authorised government of this country? We cannot bargain. We cannot talk back. I want to get the information and I would like to see the terms of confederation, but I honestly cannot support the sending of a delegation to Canada under these conditions. It would be a waste of time. I am going to vote for the amendment.
Mr. Job I would like to clear up a matter that has been raised once or twice. "Fiscal relations" was not intended to refer to confederation; that matter was raised by me in the event of confederation not being discussed; whether we could discuss 364 NATIONAL CONVENTION February 1947 other matters. That was ruled out — there was no ruling out of the idea that we could discuss anything which the Canadian government was willing to discuss. This discussion is getting to a stage where it is tiresome, it is such a simple matter. We are not committing ourselves to confederation; we are simply trying to get some information which we know some people in the country want and some people in this Convention want. Why we should object to getting that information, I really cannot tell.
Mr. Bailey I have listened to many speakers here today and tonight. I am not worried about the legal aspects of what we should do, or what we can or cannot do. I came into this Convention after 30-odd years travelling on this earth and I am here tonight for one reason, because I have not found any place better to live than this island home of ours. I am not interested in the terms of confederation. I am interested in the way the people in that country live. I have never believed a large country could be as well governed as a smaller one Everybody seems to be afraid of the future because of the past. We talk about a transinsular road. In Canada during the depression of 1931-32 they put men working on the roads; they were paid $5 in the summer and $10 in the winter, they put the men in camps, 100 men to every five miles; sometimes they received a cheque for 8 cents or 10 cents. They worked in temperatures of 60 below zero. The Dominion government handled the depression their way If the Newfoundland government had done that, we would certainly have had a cheap road During the depression of 1929 I went lo the United States I stayed there until 1936 because 1 could not get enough money to get out of it. From October, 1931 to April, 1933, I received $378.78. There was nothing for me but the Salvation Army soup kitchens and the Sisters of Charity.
Mr. Chairman We are not concerned in this resolution with conditions in the United States of America. Please confine yourself to the resolution and the amendment.
Mr. Bailey They had depression in other places besides Newfoundland, that is what I am trying to show. I do not believe anyone in this world can do anything for Newfoundland, only her people; and I am afraid if we go off the deep end and do not trust the right people in this country now, we are going to pay in the future. I do not believe in confederation because I do not believe it can do anything for Newfoundland — Canada did not do it in the past when they had a chance I vote for the amendment and against the resolution.
[The amendment moved by Mr. Harrington was defeated Mr. Smallwood's motion then 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] February 26, 1947, p. 315.
  • [1] February 4, 1947, p. 281.
  • [1] F.C. Alderdice.
  • [1] The quotation was taken from the recording of the proceedings.
  • [1] February 4, 1947, p. 281.
  • [1] The following section is taken from the recording of the proceedings.
  • [2] E C. Alderdice, J. C. Puddester, and W. R. Howley.
  • [3] W. R. Howley.
  • H.A. Winter.
  • A.J. Walsh.
  • James Winter.
  • These accusations enraged Mr. Justice Harry Winter and others, who brought a libel suit against Mr. Cashin. The jury was unable to agree on a verdict.
  • [1] F.C. Alderdice.
  • [2] R.A. Squires.
  • [1] Above, p. 342.
  • [1] Volume II:446. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] "The Barrelman" was a radio programme begun in 1937, that provided historical material and human interest stories related to Newfoundland.
  • [2] The Barrelman, a newspaper published by F.M. O'Leary, was renamed The Newfoundlander in 1934.
  • [3] The Fishermen-Worker's Tribune, a publication of the Fishermen's Protective Union, first appeared in l938.
  • [4] Holy Cross Literary Association.
  • [1] February 4, 1947, p. 281.
  • [2] October 28, 1946, p. 96.
  • September 12, 1946, p.6.
  • [1] Early in 1946 Mr. Cashin had circulated a petition demanding that the National Convention be cancelled, and responsible government he immediately restored.
  • [1] Volume II:446. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]

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