Newfoundland National Convention, 20 May 1947, Debates on Confederation with Canada


May 20, 1947

Mr. Chairman I wish to inform the House of the progress being made in connection with the matter of the arrangements for the conference between the delegation of this Convention and His Majesty's Government in Canada.
The latter part of last week the delegation met and decided to advise the Government of Canada, through His Excellency the Governor, that the delegation would wish to meet with the Canadian government as early as possible in the month of June. That presumably was communicated by His Excellency to His Majesty's Government in Canada, and l have here before me a letter which has just been handed to me by His Excellency which reads as follows:
I write to inform you that, owing to various important events that are to take place in Canada during the early part of June, the earliest date that would be convenient for the Canadian Government to receive the Delegation from the National Convention would be either June 25th or July 2nd.
I would be glad if you would inform me respecting the preference of the Delegation in the matter.
Yours faithfully Sgd.: Gordon Macdonald Governor.
That, presumably, is the substance of a despatch from His Majesty's Government in Canada to the Governor in Newfoundland. It is a development which I may say I anticipated to some extent. Many of you are aware of the fact that President Truman of the United States is likely to visit Ottawa in the early part of June, which will doubtless take up a considerable portion of the time of the Canadian government for three or four days, and a little later there is a very large congress which will meet in Ottawa, and which will bring into the city I believe about 150,000 pilgrims. These proceedings will occupy a considerable period of time, and the Canadian government will be of course engaged to some extent in them. I would ask the Canadian delegation to meet me in my office when the House adjoums this evening.

Report of the London Delegation:[1] Committee of the Whole

Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, I would like to congratulate this National Convention on its wis dom in sending a delegation to London. I want to congratulate, very sincerely, the delegation itself, 536 NATIONAL CONVENTION May 1947 on getting the clear-cut reply it has brought us from the British government. The reply is clear, crisp and unmistakable. Except as to one point, the reply tells us exactly where we stand so far as Britain's connection with our future government is concerned. Now, where do we stand? ....With regard to the public debt, whatever form of government we may choose, Britain will call in $63 million of our sterling debt, and issue new bonds at a saving of one-half of one percent. That will save us roughly half a million dollars a year in interest on our debt. That Britain will do whatever form of government we choose.
Interest-free loans — the British government has $9 million of our money that our government loaned them during the war, free of interest. Britain says now she isn't anxious to pay interest on it, but whatever form of government we choose we can have the $9 million back whenever we ask. They say they hope we won't ask them for it yet, because their own financial condition is pretty black — but whatever form of government we have, we can have that $9 million when we demand it. Development loans — whatever form of government we decide to have, Britain will not be able to lend us money for development purposes.
Gander — so long as we are under Commission government, Britain will pay two-thirds of the operating losses on Gander, and Newfoundland one-third, with Newfoundland paying all the loss up to quarter of a million a year. Under any other form of government, the British government will not pay any of the losses on Gander. American bases — Britain will not try to get anything from the US for us in return for the American bases. She tells us that she sees no reason to think that the States would give us anything. It's Britain's opinion that no matter what form of government we may have, we will not get anything from the States. However, should we ever have our own government, Britain would be willing to help us try to get something from the States, even though she herself does not think that the States would listen to it. Fish and ore — no matter what form of government we may have in future, Britain sees very little hope of any long-term contracts to sell Newfoundland fish or iron ore in Great Britain. And that's the story, Mr. Chairman — these are the things the British government will do, or will not do, under this or that form of government.
But it's not the whole story. For example, the delegation asked the British government whether the national referendum could contain only two forms of government for the people to vote on — Commission government and responsible government, they asked them that question. No. said the British government, that is not so, the Convention can recommend other suitable forms of government. The National Convention Act, they tell us, clearly authorises the Convention to make recommendations as to possible future forms of government in addition to Commission government and responsible government. And the British government told the delegation something else. They said that if the Newfoundland people should vote for responsible government, then from that minute that government would be completely responsible for Newfoundland's finances. The British government would no longer take the responsibility they took for Newfoundland when we went under Commission government in 1934. If we vote for responsible government, then we are cut off without even the proverbial shilling; we'll be completely on our own, we'll have to paddle our own canoe.
There's nothing surprising in that statement, nothing new in it. It's exactly what we expected, for in that statement the British government has only repeated one of the oldest, one of the most widely recognised principles of the British constitutional system. Back in 1894 the banks went broke. There are people in this country who remember that now. It was a desparate situation that confronted the Government of Newfoundland, as desparate a situation as ever confronted the Newfoundland government. The cabinet met, I believe it was Sir William Whiteway who was prime minister, they met day after day to see what they could do to deal with that desperate situation, and finally, on February 11, 1895, the cabinet asked the Governor to send a cable to the Secretary of State, and this is the cable he sent:
St. John's, Feb. ll, 1895.
To the Secretary of State:
I am requested to forward the following: My Ministers are of opinion that an Imperial Guarantee of Interest to the amount of ÂŁ20,000 sterling per annum of Newfoundland's bonds would enable them to pay off May 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 537 all floating liabilities of the Colony and to carry the Government over the present crisis until revenue will again suffice for the wants of the Island. Would the Imperial Government consider this matter at as early a date as possible and reply on what conditions they would give such guarantee to preserve the integrity of the Colony through a temporary though most serious crisis.
Signed: Governor.
Eight days later the Secretary of State cabled back his reply, which is as follows:
London, Feb. 19, 1895.
To the Governor of Newfoundland:
The application of your Ministers made in your telegram of the 11th February has been carefully considered by Her Majesty's Government. It is a necessary consequence of the self-government enjoyed by Colonies having Responsible Government that such Colonies should not look to the Imperial Government to aid them in their financial arrangements. Such aid would require constant supervision, inconsistent with self- government. To guarantee Newfoundland's bonds would be to create a precedent of wide application which would involve Her Majesty's Government in responsibilities which they could not with justice to the tax payers of the United Kingdom undertake. They are therefore unable to accept the proposal contained in your telegram.
Signed: Secretary of State.
The general principle of responsible government is plain and simple. If a British colony is self-supporting, then it's entitled to responsible government if it wants it. But the very fact that a British colony has responsible government is taken as meaning that it is not entitled to financial help from the British government. If the colony gets financial help from the British government it has to give up responsible government, because no colony is supposed to have responsible government unless and until it is fully self-supporting: and if it is fully self-supporting then it does not need financial help from the British government. Financial help and responsible government are like oil and water — they just don't mix, and so it is not surprising that the British government tells us that you can have responsible government if the people vote for it, but if you have it don't count on financial help from us.
And now there is one final piece of information that the British government gave our London delegation: if the Newfoundland people decide to stay under Commission government, then the British government will go on being responsible for our Country's finances. They'll be responsible for us if we stay under Commission government. That, Mr. Chairman, is a gallant offer by the mother country — a very gallant offer indeed. It is an offer that stirs our emotion. The very gallantry of it brings the tears to our eyes. The old mother country is on the broad of her back. Men around the world are wondering privately if Britain is headed for a financial smash. She has just come through the worst calamity in history. She has been blitzed and smashed almost to pieces — millions of her homes and buildings levelled to the ground by bombs. Her industries have been drained of their vitality, her factories and mills have fallen into decay, her shipping has been sent to the bottom in millions of tons. She opened her very veins and poured out her blood in her own defence and the defence of the civilised world. Britain gave her all, to the last farthing. Her people are bowed down now with a public debt of $100,000 million — over $10,000 for every family. The British people have the highest public debt in the whole world. Britain is in debt to her very eyes — you could almost say she's mortgaged up to the hilt, to the very limit, yes, and beyond. the limit.... Altogether in the world today the mother country owes more than $20 billion....
The whole world is aware of Britain's plight. She's being kept alive today by blood plasma in the form of American and Canadian dollars loaned to her. And we are given to understand that shortly she is coming to Canada to ask for another loan of $500 million on top of the $2,000 million that the Canadian government loaned her last year. Australia the other day gave Britain a gift of $80 million. New Zealand on the same day gave her a gift of $40 million. Those were not cash gifts, those two British countries simply reduced by those amounts the debts that Britain owed them. It was a gesture of goodwill to the old mother country in her calamity, something like the bowl of hot broth that a neighbour in Newfoundland carried to a sick patient next door. For 538 NATIONAL CONVENTION May 1947 that is what Britain is today — she is the sick patient of this world. It will take her many years to pull through, and she is going to need all kinds of help to do it even then.
And that is why, Mr. Chairman, Britain's offer to Newfoundland is such a gallant one — one of the most pathetically gallant offers this world has ever seen. It is an offer to share her poverty with us, with Newfoundland. As long as the old mother country has a crust of bread she offers to share it with us. Let us reverence her for it. In 1934 she took over financial responsibilty for Newfoundland. She said if we gave up responsible government, and came under Commission government, she'd come to our rescue. Britain was better off then than we were. It was a little better than a crust of bread that she offered to share with us then in 1934. That was six years before the war broke out. Today she is letting rich India, Burma, rich Palestine go, she is giving up her vital control of Greece to the United States. She is cutting some of her terrible losses, but out of her poverty offers to continue to be responsible for Newfoundland if we should decide to hold on to Commission government.
Mr. Chairman, I wonder what Britain's private thoughts are about this matter. Is she privately hoping that Newfoundland will not take her up on that offer? Does Britain make us this offer out of a sense of honour?.... Does she make it in the hope that we here in Newfoundland know enough about Britain's own terrible plight not to take her up on it?
Now, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to take a look, a close look, at what, this magnaminous, this gallant offer of Britain really boils down to. Suppose we Newfoundlanders in the referendum vote to go on under Commission government. Just what will that mean? Just what help would it mean to us from the mother country? We've got two things to judge by. We have the period from 1934 to 1940, when we desperately needed help from Britain, when she was much better off than she is today. What did Britain give us then?.... Out of her taxes Britain paid over to us certain modest amounts, just barely enough to keep our people alive, hardly that. The Commission of Government between 1934 and 1940 was always hard- up, always short of money. They couldn't do this and they couldn't do that. Our public services were starved. It was only after 1940 that they really began to spend money and then they were getting it from us Newfoundlanders. In fairness to their own taxpayers, the British government could only hand money over to us in dribs and drabs, in very small amounts between 1934 and 1940. That is the first thing we have to judge by. The other thing is Britain's own condition now and for years to come.
Now, judging by these facts, what help would Britain give us in future, if we did vote for Commission government? Suppose hard times fell upon us, another depression, just what financial help could we expect from the mother country? Here is how it works. In the fall of the year the Commissioner for Finance sends around to all the departments; he says we are going to make up a budget, you let me know what your department will need, and let me have it as soon as you can. The departments send back estimates, and from those estimates the Commissioner makes up his budget. He says for the year beginning April 1, I am going to spend say $15 million; the only revenue I can collect is $13 million. I am going to have a deficit of $2 million. What does he do next? He sends his budget to the Dominions Office, hands it over to the accountants of the Treasury.... If they approve that budget they are going to have to pony up $2 million. What do they do? They cut down the expenditure. They say to the Commission, "We will allow you a deficit of $1 million or $500,000, that is what we are prepared to pay." When the Commissioner for Finance was before the committee some time ago, we asked him how the British government exercised control over the Commission of Government and he said, "They control our budget." If we go on under Commission of Government, what can we expect in 1948 or 1958?
I am driven to the conclusion that this offer that the United Kingdom government has made us, this offer to go on being responsible for our country if we really do decide to hold on to Commission government — I am driven to believe that any help we would get would be on the smallest possible scale, just bare token payments each year. Dole would be the lowest possible scale, our public services would be starved. The Commission government would always be short of money. The only money they would have would be what taxes we might be able to pay May 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 539 them, and a small trickle of money from the old country. The mother country would share her poverty with us. That is what Commission of government would mean in future, if we Newfoundlanders decide to take up the old country's gallant offer to us.
Now, our people must have a free hand in this matter. If they want to vote to go on under Commission govemment, they must have the right to do it — after all, it is their country, it is not ours. But if they vote for Commission government, they deserve to know what they will be voting for. I believe that in voting to go on under Commission government, our people would be voting for financial help from Britain that just would not be forthcoming. They would be voting for a shadow.
Finally, I want to say a word of congratulation to Major Cashin on his speech yesterday. I have no doubt that he fought in London, along with the other delegates, to get all he could for Newfoundland; but I also know that in his heart it must have been very little he expected from a country that is up against what Britain is up against today. I do not expect that he or the delegates can be disappointed. If I wanted to be nasty, I could take up his speech and criticise it, but I want Major Cashin to back me up. I want to make him my minister of finance. He has been fighting for responsible government, and I believe he is as sincere in that as I may be in fighting for confederation if we get good terms. If I wanted to make him angry, I would say what Sir Edward Morris said (standing about where I am standing now) to Sir William Coaker. He said (pointing his finger at Sir William), "I will get you when I want you." I will not say that, because I am sure of one thing; if the day ever comes when Major Cashin makes up his mind that there is a better chance to get rid of Commission of Government by going into confederation, I believe he will be a confederate from that day.
Yesterday Major Cashin gave us some news. He told us that he brought back from London the firm opinion that the British government would be pleased if Newfoundland did throw in her lot with the Dominion of Canada. I do not know if Lord Addison or the prime minister told him that, but he told us, and I hope he is right. Major Cashin, like myself, is an old-timer; he has been gauging public opinion for a long time. If the people of Newfoundland thought that the British government would like us to link up with Canada, that will make more confederates in Newfoundland than Joe Smallwood could make if I am talking for a year. There is another hit of news. He said that up in Ottawa they are pleased that this delegation is going up there; they are delighted; they are not writing back and demanding to know this, that, and the other thing; they said, "Come on up", with their heart in their hand. He said the joy bells will ring. I hope they are glad, because if the joy bells ring out in Ottawa, it means they really want Newfoundland; and that means they will give us better terms than I am hoping for now, and I will get out fighting for confederation and a better Newfoundland.
Mr. Crosbie I agree with Mr. Smallwood when he said that some members of the delegation were not disappointed. I know I was not disappointed with the information we got. I was very pleased we got the information from the Dominions Office that the people themselves would have the right to decide what form of government we would have in this country.
We ought to remember the plight of the British people is a very serious one. No one could go to England, meet the people and see what they have to put up with in the way of shortages, without realising how high a price they paid for victory, and are still paying. On top of that, they have had a good deal of bad luck. Everything seemed to come together and it is astonishing to see how cheerful they are in the face of all their trouble, and how sure they are of coming back to prosperity.
I have heard it said we went to England to ask for help. That was never in my mind, and I am sure it was never in the mind of any of my colleagues on the delegation. We did not want help, and sought for nothing except what we felt Newfoundland was entitled to, and what was fair. We did want information, and we thought we were entitled to discuss and ask for trade agreements with England.... On the financial side, all we wanted was the right to suggest that the money on interest-free loan in England should be used to reduce our debt. That would have saved us about $400,000 a year in interest and sinking fund at no cost to Britain. In fact, since she guarantees the debt, it would be helpful to her to have a good slice of it paid off by our cancellation of a dollar 540 NATIONAL CONVENTION May 1947 loan. We were told that the Commission of Government did not think it prudent, having regard for the development requirements of the country, to use the balance of the loans for debt reduction. The Commission of Government did not think it prudent to save this country $400,000 a year in interest. The Commission is spending more money than any government ever dreamed of spending on what it calls development. Unfortunately, none of it is productive development. And this extravagant government does not think it prudent to reduce our debt and save us $400,000 a year. That, sir, was as far as we could get on that issue. The Commission did not think it prudent. The Dominions Office agreed, and that was that.
What inference can we draw from all this? If we used that $10 million to reduce the debt we would still have $20 million left on which to draw if need should arise. Does this mean that the Commission expects to have so much of the surplus spent by 1950 that it will have to draw on that money in England? If that is the case, then I say the quicker we get them out the better, for no Newfoundland government would ever think of spending money on that scale to so little purpose, and have any hope of saving its political neck. There is no special cause to be grateful for the conversion of the sterling debt coming up next January. Money can be borrowed in the open market at 2.5% and we should be getting the benefit of it. We should also have the debt reduced by the amount of the sinking fund. I am not particularly grateful for this intention to convert, because it should be done, it costs nobody anything and it saves us something worthwhile. It was suggested to Commissioner Wild by the Finance Committee sometime before he left for England. No doubt the prudent Commission of Government will be able to use the saving on debt interest to good advantage.
There are many things about our visit to London to which I would like to refer. I did not like the attitude of the Dominions Secretary about Gander airport. I did not like his attitude about the US bases, I did not like a lot of things he said, and I liked least of all the way in which he was able to turn aside any questions of importance when it did not suit him to answer them. We were only a group of Newfoundlanders, the elected representatives of the people, trying our best to get some accounting of stewardship, and some improvements in our financial relations with Britain, and all we got was frustration at every step. I have no personal axe to grind, but I felt that we were unwelcome visitors who were going to get as little information as possible. In fact, it was clear that the quicker we relieved England of our presence, the happier the Dominions Office crowd would be
But there is one thing that made me more angry than anything else, and that was the question of our trade with Britain. I do not have to tell the Convention or the country that our problem is markets. During the war years we built up our frozen fish industry from about 3 million to 30 million pounds a year. During these years we could have sold most of our output to the United States, but Britain's urgent needs naturally caused the producers to give priority to United Kingdom markets at prices below those obtainable elsewhere. That was the right thing to do, nobody can have two opinions on this point. When the war was over the demand for Newfoundland fish was greatly reduced, not because Britain could not use our fish, but because the Ministry of Food had to buy it elsewhere. I intend now to give a brief history of the negotiations that went on this year for the sale of 20 million pounds of frozen fillets to the British market. A price was agreed which was lower than fish could be bought from other suppliers. Our products met difficult conditions relating to shipment. Everything seemed to be in the bag, and then the Ministry of Food reneged, and the news came to us from other sources that the order was going to Norway. The trouble, it was said, was the scarcity of dollars. It was then proposed that Britain should take payment for the new Railway steamers in fish, but this proposition was rejected, presumably because the dollars had already been transferred, even though the first ship would not be ready before July, and the others much later. So the last word local suppliers had, was that the Dominions Office had reported having carried the matter to the highest quarters, and had been advised to tell the Newfoundlanders that there was nothing doing. It reminds me of the famous remark of a French queen who, when told the French peasants had no bread, asked, "Why don't they eat cake?"
This fish matter was very much on my mind May 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 541 when I went to England. I am not in the frozen fillet business, but I know what diversification can mean to the fish industry. People had put large sums of money into cold storage and processing equipment. New draggers had been built. The fresh frozen fishery was changing the lot of many thousands of fishermen by giving them cash returns and relieving them of the toil and uncertainty of curing salt cod. However, to keep up production until the American and other markets expand, we have to find an outlet for our full production for a period of two or three years of readjustment. Britain had taken most of our fillets. Now she is cutting us off completely, and giving orders to Norway and Iceland. When this matter was raised, Lord Addison did admit that Newfoundland fish was preferred by the Ministry of Food. When he was then asked why negotiations were going on for the purchase of 12,000 tons of Icelandic fish at higher prices, while Newfoundland had fish to offer, he said that Iceland was a soft money country. I told him that the Icelanders had to get goods, if, with this money they were unable to buy things in other markets, because, you know, you can't eat five pound notes, and then Lord Addison tried to change the subject. I referred to our suggestion that Newfoundland lend dollars out of her surplus to help Britain pay for our fish, and all the Dominions Secretary did was to tell us we had no right to be discussing trade matters. These were outside our terms of reference. It was pointed out that we had to report on the economic prospects of the country, and had to know something about these trade matters, and all we met was a brick wall. The only possible conclusion was that it was a political matter and that, for reasons best known to herself and not for shortage of dollars, Britain was willing to buy Icelandic fish that she did not like as well as ours, and was willing to pay more for it than our producers wanted. If that is a square deal, I don't know what the term means....
On other matters we were left in a state of uncertainty. We can get no assurance that they will keep on buying Bell Island ore, even though very soon the British government itself will own and operate the steel mills through nationalisation, and thus will not have to intercede with private owners. We can get no assurance they will continue to buy other local products they can use. They turned us down cold on our proposition to lend them dollars, and then they expect us to come home happy and tell you what grand people they are because they got us a car to see the sights of London, and tickets for a football match, and tickets to an A.P. Herbert show. Mr. Chairman, the very existence of the people of this country is bound up in these trade matters, but it seems to me that the position of our people is less of importance than the special British interests in Iceland and elsewhere. In the end, on all matters that they didn't want to talk about, we were told that we were outside our terms of reference. We were reminded we were not a government, although I cannot help thinking that, as the only elected representatives of the people, we have more right to be considered their spokesmen than this prudent Commission whose voice may be its own, but whose acts are those of the Dominions Office. Time and again we were told the Commission was the government, and it was up to them to propose this or suggest that. We said the Dominions Office was the real government, which they half-denied and half-admitted. I can assure you the Dominions Office is the government, and Commission government only its agents, in fact one Commissioner asked us to remember that they were only agents.... It is all very well for them to tell us that if we choose Commission government they will guarantee our debt and our solvency. They hedge these guarantees about with such qualifications as "to the extent of our ability" and so on. In any case, Lord Addison can safely promise for the time being because our prudent Commission of Government still has $30 million to spend and seem to be getting through it with anything but the prudence that Lord Addison gives them credit for.
Just a word about Gander. What I didn't like was their ramming down our throats the fact that the British taxpayer will have to foot this $500,000 a year as their share of Gander's deficit. I am as sorry for the British taxpayer as anyone can be, but don't let this get out of line. The people of Britain are poor in goods. They are not short of money, but even if they had lots of money and all that money was dollars, it would be the same thing as far as I am concerned. Gander is directed by the British government. The special position of the United Kingdom in Newfoundland has enabled the British government to get special concessions from other countries for 542 NATIONAL CONVENTION May 1947 its nationalised airline. Those privileges are worth more than money. We are not allowed to operate Gander as a private enterprise, to see if we can make it pay. We are not allowed to lease it to PICAO[1] or anyone else so that we can escape the deficit. We have no rights there, and then when we say that we should not have to be saddled with the deficit of $750,000 on Gander because it is not being run on business lines, they tell us this $500,000 a year to pay two-thirds of the deficit is at the expense of the British taxpayer. It is not cricket to give us that kind of answer and they know it. Why should they throw us this stuff about the British taxpayer as if we were trying to rob the poor, when we object to paying the deficit on an airport we are supposed to own and don't control? And with all due sympathy to that British taxpayer, Mr. Chairman, I would point out that the Chancellor of the Exchequer expects to have a large surplus in the present fiscal year. We, in this country, with the highest revenue we have ever had, are expected to have a deficit.
I got a great surprise in the discussion of the US base deal. I always thought that it was not part of the destroyer deal. That was officially stated at the time. To my astonishment, Lord Addison said the Americans would not have given the destroyers without the bases in Newfoundland. We were deceived even there. I know the Americans drove a hard bargain. I still don't think that the agreements should have been made beyond the duration without some reciprocal arrangement. The Americans got from us, through their hard bargain with a desperate Britain, privileges which they would have given millions to get by purchase, They got all these things out of Britain's need in order to serve their own defence interest. I don't know what would have happened if we had a Newfoundland government that said Britain could give America everything we had for the duration, and we would reserve the right to enter into reciprocal negotiations afterwards. I don't mind venturing the guess that Britain would still have got the destroyers.
I have come back a disappointed man. I expected nothing that was not fair and reasonable. I am as loyal and patriotic as any man in this country. I want no part in imposing new burdens on Britain in her present need. But we asked for nothing that was not fair, that was not right, and that would have put any new hardships on the British government or the British people. We did not get the kind reception we expected. I did not expect to see flags waving and the Lord Mayor standing in his robes at the entrance to the City of London to greet us. But I did think that the people who have been trustees for this country, and who have disposed of so many of our assets in these past 14 years, might at least have been a bit more cordial in their discussions. It looks to me, sir, that Newfoundland is still the Cinderella of the Empire.
We suggested they reduce our debt by applying the $10 million interest-free loan to its reduction. They said no, although it cost them nothing, and it would have saved $400,000 a year in interest and $100,000 a year in sinking fund charges. We suggested lending them dollars to buy fish they wanted and were going to take at higher prices from other countries, and they said no, and told us we had no right even to talk about it. They would make no definite promises about a few million dollars worth of ore from Bell Island, although they want ore and have to buy it from Spain or Sweden if not from Newfoundland, and pay for it in something the Swedes or Spaniards can use. The only pledge of any kind was that, if we got into financial difficulties after all our surplus was gone, they would try within the limits of their financial position to help keep us solvent. Well, I know what that means. When they had plenty of dollars the best that was done for us by the Commission of Government was to pay out dole at the rate of 6 cents a day.
Mr. Chairman, I am not afraid to stand alone as a Newfoundlander. We are a fine people. We should be an independent people. I want no presents or gifts from anyone, and I think what we have heard as a result of our visit ought to suggest to us that we should decide to stand on our own feet and work out our future by our own efforts. As I see it, what we were told in London leaves us no choice. I am a Britisher and I intend to stay one. I have, as I said before, the greatest sympathy for the ordinary people of Britain, and I want nothing from them. But I am not satisfied that this country has the kind of sympathy that ought to exist between blood relations, and for that I blame the Dominions Office and not the May 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 543 British people, who would be as amazed as l was if they knew the truth. Mr. Chairman, we know where we stand. I hope we have the guts to do what our fathers would have done, and show the world that Newfoundlanders are able to stand on their own feet and run their country as well as any other people.
Lastly, gentlemen, I am going to surprise you by telling you of two statements Lord Addison made with which I agree one hundred per cent. At the finish of our last interview, one statement was, "God bless Newfoundland"; and when one delegate replied, "God help Newfoundland", he replied, "God helps them that help themselves." Whether or not Lord Addison realised it, he hit the nail on the head, because if we are not prepared to help ourselves and fight for a better Newfoundland, irrespective of class and creed, through co-operation together, we have no right to expect help from others, and if we do, we certainly have no right to expect manna. So I say to us all as Newfoundlanders, let's forget petty jealousies, and pull altogether for Newfoundland and Newfoundland only. I am confident that if we do, our standard of living will be much higher, and many of our problems will disappear like chaff before the wind.
Mr. Butt ....The report of the delegation is clear and unmistakable, printed so that everybody can read it for themselves, but there are certain impressions arising out of the visit to England which I would like to pass on. Before doing so, however, and I do this rather tentatively, I must say that it sounds to me that some of the remarks of Mr. Smallwood came perilously near to nonsense. He said, "The British government have really done something which ought to stir our emotions and bring tears to our eyes when they said they would be responsible for our finances if we stay under Commission of Government." I read that statement of Lord Addison's, and to my mind it has absolutely no meaning unless we are going to wait until Britain can say, "We have the dollars to help you", or until all the surplus dollars we have are gone, because the position is that the United Kingdom has told us that she has not got the dollars to help us, but she said, "You are a prosperous country — you have the dollars". I cannot understand how anyone can think in terms of the form of government we are going to have in ten or 15 years from now in the changing world of the present. I contend that that statement of Lord Addison has no meaning unless you think in terms of five or ten years time.
Another thing, I am not a financier, but something else which sounds like nonsense to me is this, "The principle of a guarantee of a govemment's loan cannot hold true when we have responsible government." In 1933 or 1934 when we gave up (shall I say?) our responsible government, the United Kingdom government guaranteed our loan. What was done in effect was this: an act was passed which said that the Government of Newfoundland should issue sterling bonds, on the back of which the United Kingdom put her guarantee. It appears to me that no matter what form of government we have in the future that guarantee stands. I can't see how they can get out of it if we hold them to it.... I said before, other documents speak for themselves, but there are one or two observations which I would like to make on the treatment accorded to the Newfoundland delegation by the United Kingdom government.
As an example, I am going to take the method of procedure which I consider to be pretty poor. First we had a meeting which was nothing more than "How do you do". At the second meeting it was clear that it was only going to be a general discussion of the problems, and we got a transcript of this document which we could study afterwards until the next meeting. What actually happened was that we were presented with this document on behalf of the British government and Lord Addison said, "You may consider this as my mature consideration, and not much change will be made in it anyway." As a result of that the Newfoundland delegation were determined they were going to have something to say, and so we put in this memorandum.... We were told then in no uncertain terms, "You have no business to be talking about these things"....
Now let us turn to the document. First of all there was the sterling debt. I had in my mind the position of the British government and people when we approached them on the sterling debt, but I also had in mind Newfoundlanders who, for the last 200 years, have suffered plenty and more than that because of debt, which we contracted I grant you. At one stage of the game we were paying half our revenues and a little more in interest. I had in my mind at the same time the 544 NATIONAL CONVENTION May 1947 fact that Newfoundland was suffering because of her debt, and England was now suffering because of certain debts contracted because of the war, and so were we, but at the same time we were asking for something to be done; and on that same date the daily newspapers carried the heading "Lord Dalton declares war on war debts". Lord Addison had never heard of Alberta or Australian war finance. He had never heard of these things except insofar as Newfoundland was concerned, and Newfoundland was asked to pay.... The point is this: that the British government, and make no doubt about it, have already started to scale down these war debts, and in one way and another they will do it, and it is up to Newfoundland to see that our debts, no matter how contracted, which are having a disastrous effect, ought to have been put in the background. We were faced with an uncompromising, "This is a Newfoundland obligation, incurred by previous Newfoundland governments, and His Majesty's Government will naturally expect etc."
Now we turn to the interest-free loans. All we wanted to say was that by using these dollars over there Newfoundland would be helped and they would do the right thing by Newfoundland. "United Kingdom cannot undertake to pay interest on these loans". That's a plain "no"
I skip over the development loans — they are not really important at the moment — and come to the various base deals, and here I have no words to express my indignation at the way in which a government acting as trustees for the people violated our sovereign rights. Coldly they come back to us with this statement, "There is no reason to think that the United States government will be prepared to agree to any substantial varia tion." In other words, "Run along home. We did this and we are not going to find out if there is any reason." It was not like that in 1857.[1] The French fishermen were given a guarantee of an unlimited amount of bait. What happened then? The Newfoundland government protested strongly, and it resulted in a statement of an important principle. It reads like this:
The proposals contained in the Convention having now been unequivocally refused by the Colony they will, of course, fall to the ground, and you [the Governor] are authorised to give such assurance as you may think proper that the consent of the community of Newfoundland is regarded by Her Majesty's Government as an essential preliminary to any modification of their territorial or maritime rights.
That's 90 years ago, and when we go to London on this occasion we are told that the Newfoundland government gave these rights fairly and without consideration.
Now the financing and control of the Newfoundland Airport. I have said before that there is no justification for asking Newfoundlanders to pay half the cost of services for foreign companies doing business in Newfoundland. It is wrong in principle. Then we get this statement which brought up all that I have heard for many, many years in my lifetime: "Oh but you get the labour". That's all Newfoundland has ever got. It is true that we got the labour, but if your deficit is $250,000, you pay the full deficit,
I don't know that there is anything more I would like to add except this, that I have come back from London satisfied that there is only one basic principle for Newfoundland, and that is that if you want anything done, and done properly, you do it yourself — that you fight on behalf of yourself, your family, your country, and your nation until you get your rights....
Mr. Higgins Mr. Chairman, I don't know if the gentleman steering this report through could answerthis question, I presume you could answer it yourself. With respect to the memorandum dealing with the United States bases.... It appears that your delegation must have discussed with the officials of the home office the question as to any changes that might be made in that base deal under a return to responsible government. I presume that's the meaning of the question and the answer?
Mr. Chairman It was a general discussion.
Mr. Higgins The answer given you by Lord Addison, wherein it states, "Article 28 of the Agreement provides that the Government of the USA and the Government of the United Kingdom agreed to give sympathetic consideration to any representations which either may make after this agreement has been in force a reasonable time, proposing a review of any of the May 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 545 provisions of this agreement to determine whether modifications in the light of experience are necesary or desirable. Any such modifications shall be by mutual consent". That is copied from the Bases Act, I presume?
Mr. Chairman There are certain portions which are quotations.
Mr. Higgins Is the suggestion that the general principle of the bases agreement might be changed completely, or is it merely small items that would be, after mutual discussion, changed somewhat? There is no suggestion that if any government, responsible or otherwise, went to the United States, that it would have them agree to relinquish the bases?
Mr. Chairman I would say that depends upon the correct interpretation of the clause itself . I can put my interpretation on it and you can put yours, and Major Cashin can put his.
Mr. Higgins My interpretation was that these were not major considerations.
Mr. Chairman They would not go to the root of the whole deal, I don't think. That's as I would interpret it.
Mr. Higgins This particular article being quoted was a mild brush-off, is that it?
Mr. Cashin That's what I would say.
Mr. Higgins I did not quite get the meaning of what Mr. Crosbie said in the Icelandic deal regarding soft money. I presume you put up to them the question of why they were buying Iceland fish and not ours. They could very well take our fish. Could you enlarge on it?
Mr. Cashin As I gathered from the conversation ... they had finished negotiations for 12,000 tons of Iceland fish. They were asked what the meaning of "soft money" was, and the answer did not materially change the situation. It was merely a name. They were buying fish from Iceland and not from us. They put the dollar business right over to us again, and when we brought up that we had advanced $2.5 million for three ships they were building over there, they could not see why we could not send the cash over and not the fish. They were indignant that we should question the matter of us sending the cash and their not buying the fish. Furthermore they were buying a lot of fish from Norway and not from here. They gave them fish for that. There was some kind of a deal in that respect. It was just another brush-off.
Mr. Higgins There was no real explanation? Is there any explanation, other than appears in the record, with respect to iron ore, as to what they will or will not guarantee?
Mr. Cashin It is the same old story. As a matter of fact the Mining Committee brought up that contract of 750,000 tons for this year. We were pushing them to get a continuous contract for a number of years. It came out in our talks that the actual money for this year's iron ore has not been approved by the Treasury at the present time. Whilst they are negotiating, and are prepared to take the ore, it is still in the hands of the Treasury. We were told that the Commission of Government had been pushing that matter — the Commission has been pushing everything. They pointed out the freight rates were somewhat high in connection with the transportation of ore. The British Ministry of Shipping controls freight rates. They make or break them. I feel we are going to have that contract for 750,000 tons of ore, but for next yearl would not bank on it. Even though the steel industry is going to be nationalised, even when we pointed that out, they would not say whether or not they would buy the ore. You will notice from the last memorandum, the matter came up and we were told we were not the government. In other words we were given a smack on the hand, and told to go home and be good boys.
Mr. Higgins It has been intimated that planes flying the Atlantic and scheduled to land at Shannon, still had to pay landing fees whether they landed or not.
Mr. Cashin It did not come up in our talks. I have heard that even though they fly over Ireland, they have to pay whether they land or not. I have no official information to confirm that. I believe they should pay for flying over Ireland.
Mr. Higgins Having read the report, I think that we here are indebted to the delegates that went across.... I was told the delegation really did put up a very worthwhile case for the country in their discussions, and that at times it was not altogether as peaceful as even it is in this House sometimes. I understand people were called to order at times, and that in the staid atmosphere of the House of Lords people were shocked at the expressions used. I wish to congratulate them on the work they have done. I feel confident that the work they have done and the answers obtained will be of the greatest importance to us of the Convention. We 546 NATIONAL CONVENTION May 1947 did not want any help from England, but we did want to find out the position. Now we know where we stand and can act accordingly. I do not know if there is going to be any more debate on the report, but for me, the position is extremely clear. I am not trying to stifle debate but in view of the fact that we have to try and finish the other reports, I suggest we cut the debate as short as possible.
Mr. Fudge Before I proceed with my few remarks I would like to refer to what Mr. Smallwood said, that the British government is not prepared to discuss base deals with us. The British government is prepared to leave that matter in the hands of Newfoundlanders — provided, however, they get their own government; then they will discuss the matter with us. As far as this self-supporting business is concerned, it is a nigger in the woodpile. Who is self-supporting? Is Great Britain self-supporting? Is Canada self- supporting? Not at all! Why put the burden on top of us, gentlemen?.... We are the only people who pay cash for democracy; the rest can have it charged.
As a member of the delegation I feel that I am called upon to add my cements to those which you have already heard. I fully endorse the opinions expressed by Major Cashin and Mr. Crosbie. I, like them, have come back from our visit keenly disappointed with the results obtained, and the general tenor of our reception. I feel as if I had been on some kind of a wild goose chase. On the plane which brought us back to this country, we might have marked the words: "Returned Empty."
During my years as a representative of labour unions, I have had the experience of being a member of many delegations and sitting in at meetings with many official bodies, both governmental and otherwise. But in all such cases I came away from such meetings knowing that matters had been discussed openly and frankly, and in a common sense manner. But that was not my experience on this delegation, for I found little of common sense and less of frankness. I had the new experience of seeing certain persons present whispering into the Chairman's ear. I saw people pulling other people's coat-tails, and further whispering take place. It made me wonder sometimes where I was. Was this a meeting with representatives of the British government? Or was it some underground conspiracy, planning some illegal movement?
Like Major Cashin, I was witness to the manner in which the Chairman, Lord Addison, acted. I saw the great exhibition which he gave us as how not to answer a question, and how to avoid an issue. The noble lord had three stock answers, and when one failed he used the others. He said either that our question was one which we could not discuss as it was only in the power of the government to do so; or he said that the matter was already under consideration by the Commission; and when all else failed, and he was apparently stuck for an answer, he said he would make a note of what we said. I am prepared to believe that if the Chairman had been asked if we could have Bell Island towed to the mainland, he would reply that the Commission of Government had it under consideration.
Some people in this country were somewhat astonished by the reports of the meetings of the delegation which appeared in the English papers, condemning the treatment we received. But having been on the inside I can say that the reports were what the old politicians used to call "critically correct." We brought home nothing from this trip, and the simple reason is that we were given nothing we could bring home. But it is often said that good sometimes comes out of evil. And from this angle I can say that we did bring something home, and that was the lesson that we can expect nothing from any outside sources that will be of any assistance to us in our future. It taught me that if Newfoundland is to get anywhere, if she is to make any progress, she must go ahead under her own steam and with her own native sons at the wheel.
As a representative of the common man, as one whose adult life has been spent in the ranks of the workers, I have always had the interests of my fellow workers in mind. My politics are the politics of the common man. I know that if labour goes down to defeat, I must go with it. I know that if labour prospers, I prosper. And so it is that when I regard the position of Newfoundland today, I look at it from the attitude of the working man. In the present instance I tell the worker of this country that it is no use looking to Canada or the United Kingdom or anywhere else for his future. He must, and I must, and we all must, look to ourselves. There is an old saying that "every May 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 547 man's fortune lies in himself", and this applies also to countries. It applies to Newfoundland. She must look to herself for her fortune and her prosperity. Today she is in a happy position. She is one of the most solvent countries in the world. She has money, she has brains, she has the assets, and she has the men who can govern her and protect her sovereign rights. What then is holding us back? Why do we hesitate? What are we afraid of? What is all this talk about tying ourselves onto someone else's apron strings? We are not children, we are men! We are the sons of liberty- loving people. The job awaits us, and we are able to do the job. Then let us get on with it! For myself, I have faith in my country and her people. Every time the challenge came to our fathers, they stood up to that challenge. They fought and they won. As I see it, such a call has come to us today. And in the historic words of Nelson, "Newfoundland expects every man to do his duty." With us, our first duty is to take over the control of our country — to get back what we lost. When this is done, then time enough to talk about making deals with other countries. After all, what do we want from other countries? All we want is a chance to do business with them. We only want their trade, not their traditions, not their politics, not their ideas. All these things we have ourselves in full measure, and we don't want to change them for a foreigner's. As I see it, it is a waste of time, a mistake, for us to think of sending delegations to Canada or anywhere else. If there are a certain number of people who are curious to know what terms would be offered us by these countries, then they could have their desires satisfied by simply having the government of this country send a letter asking for such terms.
I agree with Major Cashin that we should not waste time with any lengthy discussion of the report before the Chair. We all know now what it means without going further into the matter. We should now get on with the job. That job is to give the people of the country a chance to express themselves by the ballot. If we do not soon do this, then there will be no country to hand back to the people, and the treasury itself will be emptied. In closing, then, I ask that every man, woman and child in the country unite their voices, their strength, and energies, in the great common task of giving Newfoundland back to Newfoundlanders, and bring victory to this old and loved land in 1947.
Mr. Hollett What with the shades of Sir Edward Morris and Sir William Coaker, I feel rather dubious about getting to my feet, especially after hearing the eloquent addresses of the various speakers.... First, I am not disappointed in the replies which we received from the Dominions Office. I did not expect to bring home something in a basket. As you knew from the first. an attempt has been made to work out our destiny by powers other than the popular vote of the people of the country. I felt it before I went to London, and I am confirmed that that attempt has been, and will continue to be made. We must take note of these things, and endeavour to exercise the prerogative of every man and woman in the British Empire. The mother of democracy is doing something no mother in a democratic world should ever try and map out for her child....
We were asked to consult with the Dominions Office on matters relative to public debt, interest- free loans, development loans, the position arising out of the various base deals, financing and control of airports, and trade and tariffs — the one concerning trade and tariffs is the most important and the one to which we got the most disappointing reply from Lord Addison — and any other matter which the delegation may raise and which the British government may feel disposed to discuss!
The Dominions Office was well aware of these subjects which we wanted to discuss, and they had expressed their willingness to receive your delegation and to answer and to discuss the matters. What happened? We were handed these replies which, in my opinion, could easily have been sent at a cost of 20 cents. Why therefore was it necessary to have 12 people travel all the way from St. John's to London to be handed this document? Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, you may answer this question how you wish. This is my answer, and I have given it much thought. But before I give you that answer, let us look at what they will do about the debt. First, the two 3.5% sterling loans amounting together to about £870,000 which mature in 1950 and 1952; that has been taken care of — "In making available to the UK Government interest-free loans...." How delightfully smart of them; how sweetly naive to say this action was taken at the instance of the Commission of Government. They tell us that the 548 NATIONAL CONVENTION May 1947 £400,000 temporary loan we may consider cancelled. Remember that that £400,000 was the price of keeping your brothers in Flanders Fields in 1916, 1917 and 1918. It was never intended at the time it was raised that our people would be called upon to pay it. Is there any concession there? They say that the question of convening the debt to a lower rate of interest had been raised by the Commission of Government with the United Kingdom government, and that a conversion operation can be carried out in January 1948, provided the Commission gives them three months' notice — and we hope the Commission does not forget to give them notice. You will agree that all these things were ours of right. The sinking fund should naturally have been applied to the debt long ago, ever since 1937 and 1938. The £400,000 — it was never intended we should pay it, otherwise we should not have gotten off so easily. This supposedly generous action of converting from 3% to 2.5%, that is in line with the United Kingdom cheap money policy, and also the Canadian cheap money policy.
Why then, I repeat, why was it necessary to send a delegation to London? The answer, in my opinion, is simply this: the Dominions Office wanted the Convention to send a delegation to Canada! Why? Because Canada wanted the Dominions Office to send a delegation there! They know very well that only by receiving the English delegation was it possible to achieve their principal aim. You will all remember the resolution of the member from Bonavista Centre — that the delegation to Canada should not be sent until after the return of the English delegation. That is the only reason why the answers of Lord Addison were not sent by airmail. Receive a delegation to England? Of course! What shall we do when we get them here? Oh, we shall brush them off somehow. We shall make a gesture about the debt. Oh yes, we must be careful to tell them that if they vote for responsible government we shall no longer guarantee their financial stability. That is exactly what they did. You have heard Lord Addison's statement given the press — "Vote for responsible government and your financial stability will no longer be guaranteed." Just what did they mean by financial stability? That is what they assured us in 1933 when they took away our constitution — "We will look after you", "We will look after your financial stability." What did it amount to from 1933 to 1940?
Any of you who have lived on our coast where our fishermen go out from day to day in the shore fishery, where our bankers go out on the Grand Banks and risk their lives and toil from long before daylight to dark, if any of you lived on these portions of the coast between 1933 and 1940, you must ask yourselves, "What does Lord Addison mean by financial stability?" If any of you acted as relieving officers during that period, as I did, and saw our people go from a robust, hardy people, down to a very gaunt, starved population, is that financial stability? Is that the financial stability which is to be taken away from us if we vote for responsible government? I ask you to consider it well. Ask yourselves what the Dominions Office means by financial stability. Does it mean a starved beri-beri race? Does it mean a TB race? Gentlemen, if that's the financial stability which Lord Addison promises you, I ask you to reject it without any hesitation whatever. I won't go into the question as to whether, if they guarantee it, they can carry it out. I have no patience with those people who are putting up this austerity business about Great Britain. 1 ask you to remember that the British Empire has granted credits to the extent of ÂŁ750,000 to European countries. ÂŁ300 million worth of credits have been given out to Greece, Turkey, Holland, Belguim, Italy and God knows how many other countries, and most of those, it has been stated, need never be paid back. We, 300,000 Britishers here, who gave our young men in two wars and suffered starvation over a period of years, shall not have financial stability if we endeavour to exercise that right which our forefathers won. You will not get financial stability.
Let us take another look at Lord Addison's answers to our questions, and I do not forget that the Chairman of the Commission government and the Commissioner for Justice had a hand in forming these answers. for did not the Secretary of State state that these two gentlemen had been invited to London by him to assist him? It is my opinion that these answers were formulated before our visit began, and that these gentlemen, as Professor Wheare said, "simply concurred". Now as to interest-free loans and development loans and base deals, these things have been very May 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 549 well explained to you by other members who have spoken. With regard to the base deals we did have a very extended conversation and it was admitted by the Chairman, "Yes, we made the base deals, we had to save our lives and keep our ships from sinking. We never would have done it but for that." In other words Lord Addison admits that these base deals would not have been made had it not been that they wanted to save their lives. We have no kick about the base deals as far as granting them to the United States at that time is concerned, but we do have a kick when Great Britain gives away our land for 99 years without any saving clause whatever. Go back to the Treaty of Versailles when most of our northern coast was given to France.[1] Go back to the time when concessions regarding our lobster fishery were given to USA,[2] and come down to this war and you get another piece given away. Why, for 70 years responsible government fought for that which Great Britain gave away freely and without concession.
Regarding Gander, that was explained and you are let in for a deficit of at least $250,000, and that may be multiplied. Regarding debt and tariffs, that end of it was taken care of as far as we could. We pointed out that if they did not have the dollars over there, apart from the fact that we have $9 million there, we pointed out that rather than let our fish industry go to the wall, the Commission government might be able to find it convenient to advance a credit to Great Britain to take care of the sale of fresh fish from this country. Well, that was not entirely turned down, we were simply told it was none of our business, which we know We replied to that by a memorandum on 7 May which has been read. I ask you to study it carefully, and then take a look at Lord Addison's reply. He replied, "I have studied your memorandum". After prolonged and careful study he arrives at his conclusions. Don't you think they are momentous conclusions? Listen: "In my view, it goes beyond the terms of reference of your delegation, and indeed of the National Convention itself." Just imagine that! Forty-five men elected by a free people in this country have not the right to discuss trade and tariffs with the government. Why? Because it goes beyond the terms of reference of the Convention Act. If that's not an answer that would make anyone weep, I don't know what is. Let me quote you section 3 of the Convention Act: "To examine the position of the country". And yet we could not possibly talk about fish and iron ore. Now let me go on to his momentous answer to our memorandum: "Most of the items to which you refer have already been raised with the United Kingdom Government...." That is excellent news. I am proud of our Commission government to think that they raised all these points, probably before this Convention was ever thought of, according to that we have been berating the Commission of Government just a little too much. All matters you gentlemen have raised here, they have been taking over to Lord Addison and the Dorninions Office, and they have been pressing them very hard for concessions for this country. I ask you gentlemen to reconsider your views on Commission of Government. I am sure Mr. Smallwood will agree with me on that. He says: "I have throughout been as helpful as I can be. I do not however regard it as the function of this delegation to debate with me questions of the policy of the Newfoundland government in current administrative and other issues, or seek to negotiate trade arrangements between the United Kingdom government and the Government of Newfoundland." Now I want you to study and read that again, and if you can show me any criticisms of the Commission of Government or the government of Great Britain, then there is something wrong with my eyesight. We did say we could not understand the attitude of the Commission on the matter of interest-free loans, but if that's a criticism, I don't know what criticism means. We could not understand their attitude. Is that criticism? No. We wanted an explanation of why a thing that would save the people $400,000 could not be put into effect.
I feel that your delegation did all it was
550 NATIONAL CONVENTION May 1947 humanly possible to do over there. I got the impression that when we were handed the first memorandum that they considered that the whole matter was closed. The answers were put before us when we sat down at the first meeting and we were supposed to discuss them intelligently.... But it seemed as if they said, "There's your answer. We will take you here and there, and we will meet again before you go back, and say goodbye", but we were not having that and immediately studied the memorandum and shot back another memorandum in answer to theirs. Their answer was a flat, "No, we have said what we have said, and can do nothing more in the matter." Your action in sending a delegation to London and raising all these points will redound to the good of this country, which you love and which you serve.
Mr. Keough Mr. Chairman, now that all the other members of the London delegation have said what they had to say, that leaves only the Walrus to have further things to say about this delegation of tribunes of the people which recently went up to London to beard the Dominions Secretary in his den.
I wish to dissociate myself completely from all the petty furore about the delegation's not being treated with due deference in London. As far as I am concerned we were. We were received in right good spirit and were extended many courtesies. Anyone with an opinion to the contrary must have been expecting a salute of guns and red plush carpets. It is utterly ridiculous that I should have to go into this matter. The treatment we received was quite considerate, and I am appreciative of the courtesies extended. However, there seems to have been such a furore here at home that I feel I should have somewhat more to say. I remember what happened in London this way. On arrival at Heathrow we were met by Rear Admiral Sir Arthur Bromley, who welcomed us on behalf of the Secretary of State, and then conducted through Immigration and Customs with diplomatic immunity. In that there was no discounesy. Next we were driven in special cars to our hotel. There, some delay was occasioned on the doorstep because, through some misunderstanding, the hotel management had us booked for two days subsequently. However, the difficulty was ironed out and those of us who wished to moved into the hotel forthwith. In any case, the delay at the hotel did not involve, as far as I was concerned, any discourtesy, merely a misunderstanding....
I am quite satisfied, too, that every effort was made to secure for the delegation the best possible accomodations. We arrived in London at a time of a great influx of visitors. Besides ourselves, there were some 15 other delegations in London for consultations with the United Kingdom government. There were buyers there to attend the British Industrial Fair. And there were fans from all over the United Kingdom to attend the soccer and rugby cup tie finals. Lodgings were not at a premium, they were just simply unobtainable. We were advised by responsible officials that every effort had been made to secure the best accomodations available. I believe them. I was quite comfortable, and the food was adequate. Incidentally, a New Zealand delegation was housed in the same hotel shortly before our arrival, and as far as I know found no reason to work themselves up into an international incident about their accomodations.
The officials of the Dominions Office went out of their way to make our visit a pleasant one. Cars were put at our disposal. A tour of London was arranged. Tickets were procured for those of us who wished to attend the mgby finals and a showing of A.P. Herbert's new play. Arrangements were made for us to sit in the Dominions' Gallery during a session of the House of Commons. We were entertained at luncheon at the Savoy Hotel. The prime minister took time out to meet the delegation informally in the cabinet chamber at 10 Downing Street. In all of these goings-on I saw no evidence of discounesy no reason to be insulted. And that I hope will dispose of the discounesy myth forever. There is this much more that needs to be said of the furore that was raised here at home about our reception. I have often heard of a mountain being made of a molehill. This was the first time I have seen an international incident made of a molehill. Shakespeare was a piker. From us he could have learned things he never knew about how to make much ado about nothing.
Turning now to the results that came of the London mission. I think I should review the powers that were conferred on the London delegation by motion of this Convention for it was on interpretation of function that dissension May 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 551 arose in London within the delegation. The motion that provided for the London delegation empowered it to ask questions only to seek information. That was a right and proper projection of the Convention's own powers, which are purely fact-finding. The delegation had no mandate to advise as to policy. It had no power to bargain or negotiate agreements. It had no justification to advise as to the disposition of the national assets of Newfoundland. Even if it had so wished, the Convention could not have endowed the delegation with such powers, for it has no such powers itself. When a position was taken to the contrary, the Chairman and I had no choice but to dissent.
The dissension within the delegation arose in this way. At the final meeting but one with the United Kingdom representatives, there was handed to us a paper setting forth the considered replies of the United Kingdom government to the questions we had put. Subsequently there began the preparation of a memorandum that would set forth the case as advanced by the delegation. The delegation considered the first draft of the proposed memorandum at a meeting held on the morning of Monday, May 5. We did not make much progress, as disagreement occurred almost immediately on the specific point of recommending the application of the balance of interest-free loans to the reduction of the public debt. The specific sentences with which issue was taken were: "In addition to the above the Newfoundland Delegation are of opinion that the balance standing to the credit of Newfoundland in the way of interest-free loans to Great Britain, and which is now lying idle, should be devoted to the further reduction of Newfoundland's sterling debt." Also: "We cannot understand the attitude of Commission of Government when they advise you that, in their opinion, it would not be prudent to adopt this last-named procedure in reference to interest-free loans, which procedure as we have just pointed out will mean a saving to the Newfoundland Treasury of some $400,000 annually." And, "... there lies to the credit of the Newfoundland Treasury in the Bank of Montreal in Newfoundland, well over $20 million which in our opinion, is ample for any immediate or foreseeable construction or development programme." And again, "We strongly urge such a policy and we seek some assurance from the United Kingdom Government before our departure to report back to the National Convention and through it to the people of Newfoundland." Finally, "Furthermore we consider this proposal a sound business proposition."
Mr. Bradley and I disagreed. We dissented on the grounds that to advise policy was not the concern of the delegation, that we had no mandate to urge the disposition of the national assets of Newfoundland, especially since no reduction in the principal of the public debt could be effected until January, l948. The disposition of the balance of the interest-free loans was a matter properly to be left for the decision of such Newfoundland government as might by that time materialise. Further, we had no guarantee that a mere $20 million would be ample for immediate or foreseeable development programmes. After all what is $20 million when it comes to financing an industrial revolution which is just exactly what we need in our fishing industry? A mere drop in the bucket! Why, already we have $5 million invested in fresh fish plants in this country, and the surface has hardly been scratched. There were far too many imponderables and unpredictables involved to agree that $20 million was ample, and in the event that it should prove to be not nearly enough, it would then appear as decidedly unsound business to have eliminated a $9 million loan at 2.5% only to have to borrow a like, or perhaps a greater sum at a higher rate of interest.
Now suppose we turn for a moment to the results that came of the London talks. Suppose we try to look at them objectively without benefit of emotionalism.
1. The Public Debt. The truth of the matter is that we have no case in absolute justice for the cancellation of that debt. it was an honourable debt, honourably incurred by honourable men — and in honour and injustice should be met. I imagine that those men of honour who made Newfoundland — those men of the past who were giants in their day and generation — would disown this day and generation if it sought to avoid such an obligation. We have a conditional case for the cancellation of the public debt. That case is set out in the memorandum submitted to the British government by the delegation. The condition upon which the case rests is Britain's being in a position to cancel, and being willing 552 NATIONAL CONVENTION May 1947 to. As a matter of fact Britain is in no position to cancel anything for anybody. She simply has nothing left. Under these circumstances the conversion of debt offer must be interpreted as a generous gesture.
2. Interest-Free Loans. The disposition of the balance of interest-free loans is to remain at the discretion of the Newfoundland government — a right and proper thing
3. Development Loans. The answer given is most reasonable.
4. The position arising out of the various base deals. It is my unqualified opinion that Newfoundland should have received, and still should receive, a suitable quid pro quo for the territories that were alienated. We have been told that if we want something done about all that, that we should get ourselves a government and do it ourselves. Sound advice, mind you, and maybe we should be doing something about it instead of sitting here Fiddling while we burn.
5. Financing of Gander Airport. Admittedly the arrangement for the financing of Gander is far from satisfactory. Again, it is a matter of getting ourselves a government and of doing something about it.
6. Trade and Tariffs. It was unfortunate that Britain could not give us an understanding to do more with regard to our fish and iron ore. I say "understanding" not "undertaking", for the delegation was not such a body as an undertaking could be given to. We were not empowered to negotiate any trade agreements. The hard fact is that just now, out of utter necessity, Britain must consider herself and what will best suit her purpose first — and all other things second. And no arguments to the contrary are likely to move her in that at this time.
7. Forms of Government. Anyone who was not expecting exactly the answer received was not a realist. He was building castles in Spain with visions of United Kingdom guarantees and grants-in-aid. The answer does emphasise a point I have always tried to make — that any people to be sovereign unto themselves, must first be sufficient unto themselves. Responsible government to be really responsible must be able to finance its own way, and be its own adequate guarantee in the credit markets of the world. For it to be anything else would be not to be really responsible, since its sovereignty would be open to dictation from the source that would foot the balance of the bill. Even in governments, he who pays the piper calls the tune.
I am going to repeat something I have aleady said to the press of St. John's. I am convinced that Lord Addison and the United Kingdom government have dealt with us in good faith. They have given direct answers to the questions asked. The answers are clear, concise, unmistakable. We may not like those answers. We may find some of them to be hard answers. But they are answers that call a spade a spade. And they are straight from the horse's mouth. And we know now where we stand. Yesterday Major Cashin made another one of those speeches. He said some things with which I agreed. Those were the things that had reference to the actual facts in the case of the London mission. He said some other things with which I did not agree. Those had to do with his constructions, interpretations and opinions. Indeed, he said so many things with which I disagree as would take a considerable period of time for me to go into in detail — something which I have no intention of doing. I am going to content myself with a blanket disavowal. As far as I am concerned all the opinions, interpretations, conclusions and so forth voiced by Major Cashin yesterday, were entirely his own.
Finally, I have a word to say to the people of this island. All my life I have been close to the common man of this land All my life I have lived on the wrong side of the tracks. All my life my associations have been with the labour and cooperative movements. I have done what I could in my time to help the little fellow the better to make both ends meet. And all over this land today there are some ordinary people who will at this time of decision hear my voice and believe it. To them — to the woodsman filing his bucksaw for a day in the woods tomorrow, to the man mending his herring nets or lathing his lobster traps, to the miner resting after a hard day in the mines — to all the little people all over this land, struggling away for their three square meals a day, and a decent suit of clothes on the back, and a tight roof over the head — to all you, and not forgetting my last forgotten fisherman on the bill of Cape St. George — to all of you, I say that this time you are going to get a square deal. The British government is not going to try to sell you up the St. Lawrence. It is not going to try to railroad you May 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 553 back to responsible government. The British government will facilitate in every way an expression of your opinion as to the form of government you really do desire. And if you should be sold out or railroaded into anything, the thing will be done by people here in this island. In the days that lie ahead you will be bombarded with propaganda designed to convince you of the merits of this form of government or that. All that you hear will not be true. Much of it will be confusing. But all of you have had a sufficient experience of the stark realities of life in this island to enable you to decide in the end what will be best for you. If then, when comes the referendum, you will each seek to disregard the emotionalism that will be poured at you, and judge according to the facts and the dictates of your own conscience, I have every confidence that in the making of this greatest decision that you, the people of this island, have ever had to make — I have every confidence that in the making of that decision you shall not err.
Mr. Reddy[1] Mr. Cashin, why is it we can't have a verbatim report of the whole proceedings in London?
Mr. Chairman I will answer that question, Mr. Reddy. When the discussions began, it was drawn to our attention by Lord Addison that there were two courses open. One, to have a free discussion at which every member of both delegations, if I may use that term, could, as it were, let his hair down, to use a more or less feminine expression, and talk freely. There would be no necessity to pick and choose one's words. That was one course. If that course were adopted, obviously it would be necessary that the actual proceedings should be regarded as confidential and only the formal documents be for public use. The other was to stick strictly to formal debate, which naturally would make free discussion very, very difficult. It was decided that we should adopt the former course; that we should talk freely, and that whatever was said, and which was reported of course in full, should be regarded as confidential, and the transcript of the reporter's notes should be for use only by the delegates themselves. Consequently, the actual speeches or statements made by the different delegates cannot be disclosed to the public.
Mr. Reddy Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for the explanation.
Mr. Harrington Mr. Chairman, is there any reason why the transcripts of these notes cannot be seen by the Convention in a private session?
Mr. Chairman The transcript of these notes can be seen by nobody except those who were present at the various meetings.
Mr. Miller Mr. Chairman, clause 7 of the resolution — that's Mr. Hollett's resolution of March 10 — other matters relative to Newfoundland affairs, that the delegation may raise in the United Kingdom if they're willing to discuss them. I'd like to ask if any other matters were raised.... If my memory serves me right, when the delegation went to Government House in February, I think it was, that particular section which brought in the name of the United States, we were quietly calmed down by being reassured that when the delegation went to England, they could take up these matters. Now that was more or less a promise. Was there any reference made to the annexation of the United States to Newfoundland? Not that I would be one to propose it, Sir, but I do want to know for the benefit of this house and for the benefit of the country, since people here this afternoon are talking to the country. I came here to talk to this Convention, not to talk to the country, not to make a political set-up out of it. I want just the facts for myself and for my fellow candidates. I'd like to have a little more information on that, sir.
Mr. Chairman I cannot recollectjust now, Mr. Miller, that the question of annexation with the United States was discussed at all. Do you remember that, Mr. Cashin?
Mr. Cashin No, not right directly. It was intimated there at one time, I think, by one of the delegates.
Mr. Chairman Yes, I have some recollection of that.
Mr. Cashin We were told, as far as my memory serves me, that on matters of trade or anything with the United States, that we would have to have our own government to do any business of that nature. We were told that any future business that might be contemplated by the Government of Newfoundland in connection with the bases, we would have power to go and talk to them about it....
Mr. Chairman I think that's when it arose, 554 NATIONAL CONVENTION May 1947 when we were discussing the question of these bases.
Mr. Cashin And this base question was at our first meeting, and there was no stenographic report as far as I'm concerned. It came up later in the second meeting, when one of our delegates took the matter up. I think he's going to say something right now, by the look of him over there.
Mr. Chairman There was a stenographic report at the first meeting. They have it.
Mr. Fudge I drew to Lord Addison's attention that in this house two members had asked regarding discussions with the United States, and the late Chairman of that time gave the answer, "Yes, it was a matter that could be discussed." And Professor Wheare concurred. I think I brought out that in my opinion there were more people in this country interested in talks with United States than in confederation with Canada. That is what I said, and I'm prepared to defend it. I am somewhat surprised at my friend across the row there, Mr. Keough.... I'm not looking for a hand-out. I never had always a silver spoon and I don't know if I ever had either one, but I have had good and I've had bad. People call us poor, and plenty over there, but that's more than the British people got over there. They haven't got food in plenty — far from it. Now I'm of the opinion that when the matter was referred to in connection with bases, because of the fact that Great Britain was depending largely upon loans from the United States, Lord Addison did say that...
Mr. Chairman Mr. Fudge, I have to draw your attention to the fact that you have no right to repeat anything that Lord Addison said.
Mr. Fudge What right did he have to repeat what we said before we got here to the Convention?
Mr. Chairman I am not aware that he has repeated anything that you said. If he has done so, then he is guilty of a breach of Confidence.
Mr. Fudge ....That's the information that was given in the House of Commons before the delegation arrived here.
Mr. Chairman That was a pronouncement as to the results of the conferences by Lord Addison which he had a perfect right to make.
Mr. Fudge I am of the opinion, Mr. Chairman, that the information or the discussions that took place over in that House is the property of the people of Newfoundland, they should have it. it shouldn't be hidden from them.
Mr. Hollett I can't go as far as Mr. Fudge has gone as to whether or not the conversations which took place between the delegates and the Dominions Office officials should be made public or not. I am of the opinion that this Convention elected a delegation to go to England, and they expected that delegation to bring back to them the fullest report possible. I have no recollection whatsoever of any agreement on keeping things which happened in the Convention room or delegates' rooms from them. No agreement whatsoever. I do think that we were the servants of this Convention. There are things brought out in the conversation which this Convention should know. I agree entirely if Mr. Fudge will confine his statement to the fact that this Convention should know exactly the results — the stenographic report which was made by our reporter during these conversations — because I maintain there are things in these statements made by officials over there which you must have if you are to get a real true perspective of the report which is now being submitted and laid on the table.
Mr. Chairman The two alternatives, either a free discussion or a formal discussion, were presented to all present. And Lord Addison made the statement that he assumed if we agreed to conduct our negotiations or our conversations, whichever you like to call them, freely, it would be essential that all statements made by individual members should be regarded as completely confidential. I agreed. No one so far as I know dissented. Consequently, Lord Addison was justified in assuming thateverything that was said would be kept confidential. Now, if there's any particular statement that was made by anyone present, that any member of that delegation thinks should be laid before this Convention, there is a way for him to get it. And that is obtain the permission of Lord Addison to disclose it. But until that is done, no member of that delegation has any right to disclose a single statement made by Lord Addison or by anyone else during those conferences.
Mr. Bailey Mr. Chairman, I think it's up to this National Convention to know what should be done or shouldn't be done. I cannot see why the six or the seven men that went across to Britain May 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 555 and got this information have got the right to keep it from the 44 of us. We're getting the same pay. We represent the same people. I believe firmly that we as a body of men should receive it in secret and put out what we believe the people should know as near as we can, on account of it was to be kept in. I know there are things as you said when your hair is let down, but I firmly believe that whatever's been said should be let known to the representatives of the people. Can't the 44 of us keep it as quiet as six of us? I, as a member of this Convention, demand that we now have the report.
Mr. Cashin Mr. Chairman, I happened to be a member of that delegation. I have a clear memory.... I attended the first meeting of that conference over there, and to my recollection I don't remember Lord Addison saying that we were to keep these things confidential. That is my recollection. I do remember him saying, the last day we were there, five or six minutes before we disbanded, that we've had very fine talks between ourselves, and these are confidential talks. These were his exact words. That was five minutes before we disbanded. That is the position. There were matters in connection with American bases and so forth which wouldn't probably be made public. But as far as before we started saying, "Well now gentlemen, all our talks here have got to be confidential", there was no such statement made. That's all there is to it.
Mr. Chairman Just a moment please, just a moment. I have made a statement here which I stand by.
Mr. Cashin So have I.
Mr. Chairman That Lord Addison did definitely indicate to us that we had these two alternatives and he assumed that if we were to talk freely, then all these talks would be confidential He definitely made that statement in the House of Lords at our first meeting, and I assented.
Mr. Hollett That is right, what you say. I remember Lord Addison making the statement. He said words to the effect, if I remember, that things would be said off the record that would not be said if he knew the record was going to be for publication. As it is three minutes to six, I propose the committee rise and beg leave to report progress and sit again tomorrow.
[The committee rose and reported progress, and the Convention adjourned]


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



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

Notes de bas de page:

  • [1] Volume II:448. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] Provisional International Civil Aviation Organisation.
  • [1] In 1857 the colonial legislature protested an Anglo-French convention affecting the French Shore. The imperial authorities backed down in a desparch whose key passage was quoted by Mr. Butt.
  • [1] The French were granted the right to land and dry fish on much of Newfoundland's west and northeast coast by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. This was extended by the Treaty of Paris in 1763, and the French Shore, as it became known, was further defined by the Treaty of Versailles in 1783. These rights were effectively extinguished by the entente cordiale of 1904.
  • [2] Mr. Hollett was probably referring to the concession of the right to fish for lobster to the French in 1890. rather than to the USA.
  • [1] The remaining section of this day's debate was taken from the recording of the proceedings.

Personnes participantes: