Newfoundland National Convention, 10 March 1947, Debates on Confederation with Canada


March 10, 1947

Mr. Chairman Orders of the day. Mr. Hollett to give notice that he will on tomorrow move the adoption of the following detailed statement of the questions to be submitted to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom as set out in the resolution of Mr. Hollett passed on February 28, 1947....[1]
[At Mr. Hollett's request, the Convention agreed to proceed with discussion of the motion immediately]
Mr. Hollett Mr. Chairman, the motion before the House this afternoon arises out of the final paragraph in the motion made by me on the 28th day of February, 1947.... These matters had to be considered by the Steering Committee before being submitted to the Convention. We have had several meetings, and the result is the motion now before this House. I would like to draw attention to a slight difference between the matters raised by my previous motion and the one now before this House. The only items previously mentioned were:
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.
The motion today contains seven items, whereas the original motion contained only five:
1. The public debt;
2. The interest-free loans;
3. Development loans;
4. The position arising out of the various base deals;
5. The financing and control of Newfoundland airports;
6. Trade and tariffs;
7. Any other matters relative to Newfoundland affairs which the delegation may raise and His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom be willing to discuss.
Two sections have been added, namely development loans and trade and tariffs. There is no discrepancy between this motion today and the original motion, in that section five of the original motion reads: "Any matters relating to the future economic position of Newfoundland." ....
This really is not my motion. It is the motion of the Steering Committee, but I was asked by the Chairman to bring the matter before you as it arose out of a motion which came before you on the 28th, and which was unanimously passed. May I refer you back again to the last clause of the original motion, which states "that the Steering Committee be requested to prepare a detailed statement". I think the Committee will agree that it would have been very difficult to make such a detailed statement....
I feel, and I think the Steering Committee agrees, that one reason why we did not detail these various headings is probably this: that there are questions in these various headings here which concern only this Convention and His Majesty's Government in England. At the moment they concern no other country. They do, I grant you, concern the people of this country, whom we represent, but I am quite sure that the people of this country do not want us to disclose to the world at large the various questions that will have to be asked under the various headings in the motion before you. There will be pertinent questions asked His Majesty's Government by any delegation that may proceed from here and I am sure that every member will agree that the very questions which we are to put to His Majesty's Government should not be public to the world at large at the present time. The answers to these questions which the delegation will bring back will, in due course, be published to the people of this country....
I make these explanations so that you may not be under any misapprehension, and think that the Steering Committee, or myself, in any way attempted to keep from you the detailed questions which are mentioned in the original motion, and which, as I may point out to you, arise out of the report of the committee which interviewed the Commission of Government here in Newfoundland.[2] I hope and trust that you will take that explanation in good faith. If there are any questions which you would like to present to us you will have an opportunity now. Mr. Chairman, I would like to move that these questions be sub 366 NATIONAL CONVENTION March 1947 mitted to this house for their approval.
Mr. Fudge I second that motion.
Mr. Chairman It has been moved and seconded that the motion by Mr. Hollett be adopted. It has been seconded by Mr. Fudge.
Mr. Higgins Question.
Mr. Chairman Are you ready for the question?
Mr. MacDonald I am afraid I can't accept Mr. Hollett's explanation. This motion distinctly gave permission to the Steering Committee to prepare a detailed statement of the questions to be submitted to His Majesty's Government. Here we have a report practically the same as the motion, without any other explanation than that which was included in the motion itself. If there is an explanation I am afraid I can't accept it. The point is, if we are to appoint a delegation to go to the United Kingdom, is not this Convention and the people of the country entitled to know just what the delegation is going for? They are going over to consult the home government on the public debt. Now the public debt includes quite a number of questions. Are you going to the old country to say that we would like to have this public debt cancelled? All sorts of questions arise out of that. I am disappointed that the Steering Committee did not go into the questions raised in the original motion, and give us some information as to what they are about to do. It looks as if the Steering Committee are asking us to appoint a delegation of six and practically give them a blank cheque. I think the Convention is entitled to know at least the main questions in regard to the public debt, or the interest-free loans, or the development loans, and the various base deals. Is there any information to give this Convention? I am very disappointed in this report. They have had somewhere around ten days to discuss this, and I think we should have the information
Mr. Newell I support the stand taken by Mr. MacDonald. I can appreciate the reticence of the Steering Committee to broadcast to the world at large questions which they do not want everyone to know about, but there are a great many questions in connection with some of these items that have already been talked about so much, and broadcast to the world so often, that if the world has chosen to listen, it must by now know as much about these things as we do. However, the main criticism I have is this: if this were a report back to this Convention from the Steering Com mittee listing the various headings for the discussion with the Dominions Office, and it were to go no further than that, and we were to accept it for further preparation ofa brief, I think I should be prepared to accept it; but I wonder what sort of reception we would get from the Dominions Office if we forwarded a communication stating that we should like to discuss the public debt, interest-free loans, development loans, etc. One of the members from Grand Falls said that a delegation going to England will have to be briefed. Of course it will. Presumably the delegation meeting us on the other side will also have to be briefed. ldon't imagine they would turn over the Cabinet to us for a week or ten days. It is only reasonable to suppose that we should know more details about the things they are to discuss. I wish to register my disappointment with this report.
Mr. Keough Mr. Chairman, I thoroughly agree with what Mr. MacDonald and Mr. Newell have said. This thing here is a hopelessly inadequate briefing. As far as I am concerned the leading question I want to see asked, the leading question as far as Newfoundlanders are concerned is this: is the British government prepared to entertain the idea of a return of Commission of Govern ment as it is now, or a modification of it, if a number of people in Newfoundland express a desire to have it retained? I have no guarantee that this question is going to be asked. I want the delegation to be able to answer "Yes" or "No" to that question, and under what circumstances.
Mr. Chairman I would like to draw the attention of members to the fact that you have to read this detailed statement of matters to be discussed with the British government with the resolution itself. Is there any further discussion?
Mr. Miller Mr. Chairman, I hope it is not getting fashionable, but I really want to offer my word of dissatisfaction with the report too. After eight or ten days of the Steering Committee working on a report, sent out expressly to bring us back a detailed report, they come back with a curtailed report. Practically the only change in it is when they break up one clause and make two out of it, and the two clauses have less scope than the first one, and that particular clause was a very important one as well. The whole thing, as I see it, is the consummation of all the findings of the Convention. I don't agree with Mr. Hollett when he says that those who will proceed to England will March 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 367 have to enter into a study period. We entered into that last September.
Mr. Hollett I did not say that, Mr. Miller.
Mr. Miller Well you did, Mr. Hollett, and I think it is about time we got it over and not spend any further time in study on the matter. In presenting this report today without the least bit of information, I can only say that I can't think so highly of the Steering Committee. It is as well to be frank. It does not appear that our opinion on this thing is worth anything. As members, must look at it in this way: we know the Steering Committee has met several times and what did they do? Bring back the same thing as they went out with. As far as I can see they threw a smokescreen around the whole thing. I don't think this should go through this afternoon. I think we would be very foolish to make a snap judgement. As I see it the thing is not even plain. "Interest- free loans" — what loans, those that we are going to look for in the future free of interest, or loans in the past? "Development loans" — what do we want them for? If we have no particular thing in mind we don't want it. Surely we are not going to go out and ask the world to support us. "The position arising out of the base deals." What can we gather out of that? Perhaps something, perhaps nothing. I would like to ask if there is a supplementary lease being applied for. I don't think I would get an answer to that, because I don't think the information is up to date. I don't think we entered into the financing of any airport except Gander, and I don't think the British government is in a position to make a statement on that even now. I don't intend to elaborate, I think the Steering Committee should have done that. The Steering Committee has presented this with the attitude of "Here's something, and it will go across without a word."
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, I don't intend to delay the House on this, but I think perhaps the key to the whole thing lies in a remark you made a moment ago yourself. This list has got to be read and considered in the light of Mr. Hollett's motion of a week ago. That motion said that this House desired to send a delegation to the United Kingdom for the purpose of discussing what possible fiscal and financial relationships there were to be in the future between Britain and ourselves, under:
1. Commission government (if we con tinued under Commission government);
2. Under responsible govemment, if we went back to that, or
3. Under some other form of government.
We want to send a delegation over to find out   what relationships, financial relationships, might exist under these different forms of government. The same resolution went on to say that a detailed list of the points that the delegation would take up with the British government should be drawn up by the Steering Committee and brought into the Convention for confirmation. This is the detailed list. First, the public debt. Someone wants to know what were they trying to find out about that. This surely, that at the moment and since 1934 the British government is guaranteeing our public debt, the principal and the interest. Now the people of Newfoundland, before they vote in the referendum, surely need to know just what the position is and will be in regard to the public debt. Britain is now behind the debt. If we go back to responsible government will Britain be behind our public debt as to principal and interest? If we continue under Commission government, will Great Britain be behind the public debt? We do not know. Undoubtedly the delegation retuming from London will know and will pass the information on to the Convention, and through the Convention to the people of Newfoundland. That is all there would be about the public debt.... The interest-free loans, that can only refer to one thing, the loans made to Great Britain in the last four or five years. They are over there in England now, not paying us any interest, what will happen to them? We know that there is a terrible dollar situation. If they cannot pay the loan in dollars, in what way will we get it back? Development loans. Since Commission of Government, Great Britain has made loans for development purposes. What is the position in regard to that? It may be that Britain cannot make any more loans, but the population of Newfoundland has got to know. With regard to the position arising out of the base deals. If there are some we are not concerned over, there is no harm in getting the details anyhow. But about control over Gander, let us have the story. There is no need to go into details under the different headings. I do not care what the Convention does, if they wish they can make the list ten times longer, but to my mind, the ground is covered. I believe 368 NATIONAL CONVENTION March 1947 the delegation will bring back the answers to all the points under the different headings and we will have a complete story. Of that I have no doubt.
Mr. Figary Are we in a position to know whether the Dominions Office will receive a delegation?
Mr. Chairman We will not know until the request goes through.
Mr. Dawe One of the most important things is trade; another is tariffs. What are we going to develop? Where will we get the machinery? Whatever form of government we have, men must work to live.
Mr. Fogwill The Steering Committee was requested to bring in a detailed statement. The other committees which brought in reports, brought in details. I agree with the other speakers who object to this report and I wish to register that objection.
[The motion carried]
Mr. Higgins I move the adjournment until the call of the Chair.
Mr. Hickman I second that motion.
Mr. Miller Before we go on to the adjournment, there is one matter I would like to have your ruling on. What manner will the Convention take in its ending? In what way will the findings of the different members or the different committees be presented. In what way will the vote be taken?
Mr. Hollett I rise to a point of order. There is a motion before the Chair.
Mr. Chairman Under the circumstances, it is always usual to allow a member to ask for information, even on a motion to adjourn.
Mr. Miller Ihave heard it put this way. After the information is all concluded, some member rises and proposes that Commission of Government must go on the referendum, and if it passes in the House it goes on the referendum, provided the Dominions Office is willing. Someone else proposes responsible government, and a third party proposes confederation. These three are placed on the referendum, the Convention is over and we go home. I would like to be clear on what the ending of the Convention would be like. I think now is the opportune time to have the question taken care of.
Mr. Chairman In reply to your enquiry, I am not in a position at the moment to tell you what resolutions may be introduced on the questions of what possible forms of government are to be placed on the ballot. It may be one, it may be two or three, but it is impossible for me to tell you that. That really lies in the hands of the 44 men (or 43 men now, unfortunately) who sit on the benches. It is in your own hands. The only thing I can say, which may help you somewhat, is that the Convention dies when its final recommendation has been sent to the British government; it has no further function after that.
Mr. Harrington I rise to a point of privilege. In connection with the recent talk on the delegation to Ottawa, there is an impression gone abroad that two of my authorities whom I quoted in my talk, had difference of opinion. I would like to correct that. i chose to disagree with Professor Wheare. l quoted from Professor Fraser who dealt with the political wisdom of this country going into confederation with Canada. I did not imply that there was difference of opinion between Professor Wheare and Professor Fraser. I disagreed with the one and agreed with the other.
Mr. Chairman You fear you left the impression they disagreed on the law, whereas the disagreement was perhaps on the facts.
[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] Above, p. 337.
  • [2] Volume II:446. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]

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