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


November 10, 1947

Mr. Smallwood I give notice that I will on tomorrow move the Convention into a committee of the whole to consider and discuss the proposals received on November 6 from the Prime Minister of Canada
I gave that notice of motion on behalf of Mr. Bradley, and in my own behalf I will give the following notice of motion: thatI will on tomorrow move the following resolution:
Be it resolved that the National Convention desires to recommend to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom that the following forms of government he placed before the people of Newfoundland for their choice in the forthcoming national referen dum, namely:
(a) Commission of Government;
(b) Responsible government as it existed in Newfoundland prior to its suspension in 1934;
(c) Confederation with Canada upon the basis submitted to the National Convention by the Prime Minister of Canada on November 6, 1947.
In connection with the notice of motion for Mr. Bradley, he asks me to assure the House that his intention is from day to day to defer consideration of his motion until the completion of the present debate on the Economic Report. In my own behalf I wish to assure the House that my intention 690 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1947 is to move that the motion of which I have just given notice be deferred from day to day until the business contemplated in Mr. Bradley's motion has been finalised.

Report of the Finance Committee: Economic Report[1] Committee of the Whole

Mr. Hickman Mr. Chairman, when I first came to this House I had a very different opinion of what was to be done and how we were to do it. As I understood it, the Convention was to be something like a royal commission. There was certain work to be done of a fact-finding nature and I assumed that it was our duty to get these facts, examine and check, and then use them as a basis for hard and fast opinions that would be useful in deciding the state of the country and its prospects. I thought we would get down to that job like a group of businessmen and that our debates would be chiefly like the discussions that go on around a council table. I thought that once we had agreed on the question of fact, we would enter into a dignified discussion of the constitutional   question. I have been surprised at the difference between my ideas of what would happen and what has actually occurred, and I regret that issues were injected into this Convention, before we had been here long enough to find our feet, that have given a different and, in my opinion, an unfortunate turn to our proceedings.
When we come down to the practical problem that was put before the Finance Committee, it must be admitted that it amounted to a matter of getting what facts we could and doing our best to try and draw the correct conclusions from them. I have listened with impatience to a good deal of silly talk about the report being full of estimates, guesses and so on. But, Mr. Chairman, neither you nor I nor any member of this House can say with certainty where he will be an hour from now. The Finance Committee could not do any more than take what information it could get together, examine it in the light of such knowledge as we have of general conditions, and say, "In our opinion the position of this country for the next three years should be so and so"....
Mr. Hollett has rightly said that the terms of reference do not ask us to determine if this country is self-supporting. At least, they do not ask this question directly. On the other hand, reference to the conditions laid down in the Newfoundland Act for a change of the island's con stitution sets out that when we are again self-supporting and on request of the people, self-government will be restored. The primary condition for the restoration of self-govemment, which is the only alternative to the Commission that was considered by the British government, is that the island should be self-supporting. Exactly what is meant by that term of self-support may be debatable. The Finance Committee recognised that, and tried to limit its predictions to inferences that seemed completely reasonable, and to a period that might lend itself to sensible predictability. That was the only systcm we could work by and it was my understanding that our report, when it had been completed to our satisfaction, would be considered in the light of the problems it involved and in a decent and impartial way. The business of the Convention was that of taking the report, examining it, correcting it if it was found we had made some mistakes, and then of agreeing   in the end either on our conclusions or an amendment to them. Nothing could have astonished me more than to hear the attack on the report by the member for Bonavista Centre. I resented that attack, Mr. Chairman. It was uncalled for, and it was uttered in language so insulting to the Committee and so bitter that I cannot help wondering just what was the motive behind it. I am not a politician and I came to this Convention to try and give some service to the country. I have no axe to grind and in helping to frame the report, I did my best within my personal limitations. The report presents a completely honest view of the country's position and its prospects so far as any person with some knowledge of business and finance can foresee them. Nothing was farther from my mind that I should have to come and hear that report tom to shreds in the destructive and discourteous speech made by Mr. Smallwood.... We were simply carrying out a job that had been given to us by the Convention, and the surest way to kill all thought of personal service of a public nature, is to have honest efforts subjected to the violent type of attack that the member for Bonavista Centre November 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 691 directed at this report. Don't misunderstand me, Mr. Chairman, I can take it and what was said does not bother me as an individual, but the principle of the thing is wrong. No one knows it all, even if he thinks he does. Mr. Hollett quoted some predictions made by Mr. Smallwood in 1931 which showed how wrong he could be when he ventured into the field of prophecy. I think it worthwhile to refer to this matter because it shows how things and opinions change. In 1931 the member for Bonavista Centre figured that conditions in Newfoundland were far better than they were in the cities of Canada and the United States. Today Mr. Smallwood sees nothing but rocks ahead. Why? That is what I have been asking myself, and what a lot of other people like me have been asking since they heard the destructive opening attack on the report. Was it necessary to take up this report, pick a few sentences from it and try to make them sound as if the Finance Committee had nothing else in mind except to deceive the people of the country? I want to know also what gain there is to be found in proclaiming to the world that Newfoundland's future is grim and depressing when, as far as I am aware, there is no basis for it. That speech sounded like the prediction that all who entered here should abandon hope. I am content, however, to leave the decision on the usefulness of the report to the people of this island and also to put it on the conscience of its opponents as to whether their forebodings are not one of the most harmful things to be heard in this country for a very long time. I tell you that nothing can so easily undermine prosperity than a loss of confidence, and anything that is done to discourage our productive workers is a dangerous thing. I don't believe in concealing the true facts of a bad situation, but there is nothing in the report that is deceitful or that hides anything. If there are errors of fact they are accidental and they are not, in my opinion, relevant to our main conclusions. As a businessman, I don't believe in fooling myself or trying to fool anyone else on a matter of such importance.
Now, Mr. Chairman, while this report contains an estimate of past financial results and includes some suggestions as to how the surpluses of future years might be used, the important thing is to know just what is the position of the economy at the present time, and what is the outlook for the chief industries and for employment. In coming to conclusions about the condition of the economy we have been guided by the facts that are available — many of them from the reports of the various committees that have reported— and by such knowledge as members   of the Finance Committee have themselves, or have been able to obtain from others who are reliable witnesses. When it came to the estimation of the condition and future of the fisheries we had, of course, to be guided by the opinions of those people who are fully conversant with all sides of that great industry. The people who are investing large sums of money in the future of the fishing industry are better guides than others who are looking in from the outside. in the case of the paper industry the same thing is true. We had all the leading figures in the Newfoundland forest industry give evidence to the Forestry Committee, and the House is aware of their optimism and must surely accept their words before those of others who have no inside knowledge. I want to emphasise again that to the best of our ability we got all the facts we could get, and all the opinions we could find that we thought useful and valuable   We were not a committee of experts. We were only a few ordinary people trying to use our common sense as well as we could, and we were not interested in trying to fool the people or creating a sense of false optimism. I would ask the House to examine the picture very briefly because others, lam sure, will be prepared to go into greater detail on certain industries with which they are fully acquainted.
The fishery is still the main industry in the size of the employment it gives. Anyone who says that the fishing industry is not stronger than it was before the war does not know what he is talking about. Prices may be benefitting today from a measure of world inflation. That is true of every commodity that is produced. The point is that the fisheries are today on much stronger foundations than they ever were in the history of this country. We haven't yet reached the point of perfection, but we are moving steadily forward and every year sees new improvements that will give greater security to the producers who are the life-blood of this and every country. The demand for saltfish will always exist because in certain tropical countries it is the ideal food for a number of reasons, On top of that we have a very large 692 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1947 investment in the cold storage industry and that is not only diversifying the codfishery, but increasing the number of kinds of fish that we can use. There is also the fish reduction business which is going to be a big thing. If you look at the picture you will see ahead of us a certain demand for a large quantity of salt cod, a growing demand for canned fish of all kinds, and the commercial use in increasing quantities of haddock, rosefish, herring, caplin, mackerel and other species by either the cold storage, the canning or the fish meal plants. It does not require any great prophet to say that the use of so many species of fish in so many different ways is an assurance that the fisheries can never again go back to the darkest moments of the 1930s. I know that at the moment there is an exchange problem that may be troublesome. On the other hand, that problem has to be solved or the whole world will come tumbling about our ears.
Newfoundland cannot expect to be prosperous in a world torn by conflict or sunk in depression. We know, in the words of the member for Bonavista Centre, that things looked pretty good in Newfoundland while the bread lines were forming in the cities of Canada and the United States. Just the same, we can't fool ourselves. If the rest of the world is stricken with poverty, we can't expect to have prosperity. That does not mean there is anything wrong with our industries or their future, and I am as certain as the day that everything is going to come right. The world cannot go down. In fact, the world is going to revive because to have peace we must have general prosperity. The United States is going to pour its resources into the poor countries that have been ravaged by war, and build up their economies with its help. As the purchasing power of Europe revives, so will the prospects of prosperity being secured in Newfoundland increase. We have been improving the means of catching and processing fish of all kinds. More draggers and schooners are reaping the rich harvests of the Banks and the fish are going into fillets for the American market or being cured for our saltfish markets. We are improving the cure our saltfish and new methods of drying are beginning ning to be employed to help improve the quality. Purse seiners and other modern equipment are being used to build up other parts of the fish industry. We have now a central marketing sys tem so that nobody can bring prices down by cutting other people's throats by underselling them in the markets. All these things cannot be ignored in considering the prospects of the fisheries.
Now there have been some references to the Labrador fishery. In any industry that is controlled largely by nature, there will always be black spots. We hear of a big wheat crop in Canada, but we don't hear anything about the farmers who lost millions of bushels because of weather conditions last summer. Those farmers whose crops were wiped out were much like our fishermen who didn't get enough fish. Everyone is naturally sympathetic to these hardy producers who are treated badly by nature, and we have to do what we can to help them. Just the same, the fact that a percentage of people have had bad luck or are unemployed for some reason beyond their control does not mean that the whole economy is depressed. We may have to find some means by which the producers can be given greater security in the future, so that we can eliminate as far as we can the gamble of the voyage. In a country like this a wise government will try always to keep some special public works in hand to meet special emergencies where people have had hard luck. I do not agree with the principle of spending every cent the country has in a time of general prosperity and we ought, in my opinion, to be adding to our surplus at the present time.
As to the forest industry, I can only go by what the people who know that industry best have said about its prospects and what they are doing to back up their words. The demand for newsprint is so great that the exchange problem does not concern it very much. The United States and other countries able to pay in dollars can take all we produce, and we have the word of people who know what they are talking about that prosperity seems to be in store for the forest industries for several years to come. Anyone can stand up here and point to what happened in the thirties. But the world would never again survive a depression like that of the years between the two wars. Our prospects are good because we are selling all our produce at good prices, although Britain is not able to buy so much and other countries in the sterling group are in difficulties. Their condition is bound to improve and we shall have better markets when it does improve.
While the producer is the backbone of the country, the volume of employment is much larger than may be thought by looking at the number of people in only the productive industries. Back in 1935, in the middle of our worst depression, the total number of people employed in fishing, farming. logging and mining was less than the people employed in other things. We have to keep up the volume of production so that these others can be employed, but the fact is that in the service and distributing industries there are many more thousands employed than there are in the producing industries. The number of wage earners has greatly increased, and unemployment in the wage-earning industries does not necessarily decline at once because of a weak spot in one of the producing industries The economic picture must be seen as a whole so that we can get an accurate picture of it, and it is a pity we have not got more statistics to help us piece the puzzle together.
In my opinion we have many prospects yet to be tapped. I have heard criticisms of the cost of the Clarenville fleet, yet these vessels are giving employment at sea to more than a hundred Newfoundlanders and are earning large sums in freights that we used to pay out to foreign bottoms. I don't say we can carry all we produce in our fleet, but I believe that we can greatly increase the size of our mercantile marine. We have the men and if Norway, a country with a population   of a little more than three million, can have one of the world's largest mercantile marines, then I can't see any reason why this island should not have a much larger mercantile marine than we have. We believe that the employment and earnings of Newfoundlanders in the trade of seamanship can be greatly increased. The same is true of the tourist industry and I am certain that the right use of capital in the development of that industry can bring results that will astonish us all....
Some people have said that there was no point in trying to make up a budget. I can't agree with that. We are trying to answer the question as to whether the country is self-supporting. We had to examine the financial picture, and we had to be guided by the advice of the Finance Commissioner who was interviewed by the Convention. He said the country could balance its ordinary requirements with a revenue of $23.5 million. We say it will take more than that, and we make the figure $25 million after allowing for some reduction   in the cost of servicing the debt and in some other things. We have examined the sources of revenue and we believe that it is highly improbable that the revenue in the next three years will fall below an average of $30 million. That is allowing for a drop of 25% from the present level, and that leaves a pretty good margin for error. Of course, if there were to be a big fall in world prices, there would be a fall in our revenues like the revenues of every other country. On the other hand, if the fall in prices is big, it will mean that everything will cost less so that we would also have a fall in our expenses. You cannot foresee everything but we feel that the figures we have produced are conservative... My own opinion, for what it is worth, is that conditions must remain fairly good, because the consequences of any grave decline would be terrible beyond anyone's imagination to the richest nations. America cannot have prosperity in a poverty- stricken world. Neither can Canada. Neither can Newfoundland. But as far as any ordinary person can examine our situation and foresee what is likely to happen, I say that our estimates are conservative and reasonable, and give as fair a picture of our prospects as it is possible to give.
There are factors which are helpful to us. The people who live in cities abroad mostly pay rent. They have to buy coal or oil to heat their homes and do their cooking. They must earn money to buy everything they eat and need to live. We do have a few advantages which are not to be overlooked. In the census of 1935 it was shown that nearly 90% of the houses in Newfoundland are owned by the people who live in them. There is no other country in the world ofwhich this is true. Many of our people — not all but a very great many — not only own their own homes, but can have fuel at the expense of their labour, can grow a part of their own food and get some more of it from the bounty of nature. Their life is not easy, but if we can build up the value of our productive enterprises and maintain a good level of seasonal employment, we should be able to achieve a standard of living in this country that will make for security and happiness. We must bend our efforts to achieve this end and it is my opinion that it can be attained...
The Finance Committee did not intend, in 694 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1947 estimating the use of a prospective surplus, to do any more than indicate its opinion of the kind of thing in which surplus monies could be employed to produce the greatest benefits for all the people. We were not required to make that estimate and it is not actually of great pertinence to the main object of our deliberations. Our chief point is that the economy is far stronger than it was, and that this strength may have come about during a period of wartime prosperity, but is now established as a permanent feature of our industrial and financial situation. Our second point is that, on the basis of what we regard to be the reasonable volume and value of national production during the next three years, the budget can be balanced and a substantial sum be available for capital expenditure directed towards further strengthening of the economy. This is not wishful thinking but my free and frank opinion on the basis of my own knowledge of the facts and tendencies. Our opinions may be subject to challenge by the opinions of others who read into the facts different meanings, but that can only be determined by sensible discussion, and it certainly cannot be obtained by heated attacks that seem to have a political motive.
For myself I can only say that I signed the report because I believed it is as accurate a forecast of the position as it is possible to obtain. I stand by the belief expressed in the soundness of this country's economic future, and I am sure that if we all work together in harmony for the conunon good we shall be able to achieve a much higher standard of living for all our people in the future.
Mr. Watton ....As you all know, I have not used up much time in this Convention in making speeches. Perhaps I have not used up enough. It is not my intention to use up much of that time now, but I feel that I must express my opinion regarding the Economic Report brought in by the Finance Committee. . ..
I most sincerely accept this report as an honest and sincere presentation of our past and present economic condition, and the forecast for the foreseeable future of this country, to be a job well done and to which I subscribe. No person can say for certain just exactly what will be the conditions in this country say ten years hence. But by careful analysis of present conditions they can make a fair estimate of what conditions are likely to be in the foreseeable future, and I think that Major Cashin and his committee have done just that.
Now we come to the very important question of a mercantile marine... Should we or should we not have a mercantile marine? I think we should. We are a maritime nation in every sense of the word. We all agree we must export or die. To export our produce we must have ships. What are we doing now? If we want to export our produce, the first thing we have to do is to approach about half a dozen different countries for ships to take our produce to foreign markets. For these we have to export, to send out of this country thousands and tens of thousands of precious dollars to pay for the use of these ships and find employment for hundreds of foreign seamen. Therefore I think we should have our own ships to take our own produce to market and to bring back the things we need. And most important of all is the fact that we would be finding employment ment for hundreds of the best seamen in the world —Newfoundlanders. We shall always need ships whether we meet up with good times or bad...
....I contend that Gander airport should be operated at Newfoundland's profit over and above the employment it provides for some few hundred Newfoundlanders employed there today. I say this, if foreign companies — AOA, TWA, etc. — want to use our Newfoundland territories, let them pay for it! Is there any sane person who would enter into a business deal knowing he was going to lose out? That is just what the government of this country has done... Regardless of whether the United Kingdom government is paying part of the deficit or not, it should not be so. I contend that if this had been handled properly in the beginning we should be making a profit, not a deficit. It is in my opinion a job of the first importance for our future government, whatever form. And we all know what it is going to be...
Now we come to our greatest industry, the fisheries, an industry with which I am closely connected. I was reared up on fish. I happen to live on the northeast coast. It has been suggested that here we have an industry doomed to failure. I cannot agree. Here we have an industry into which many cool, hard—headed businessmen are pouring tens of thousands of dollars for development and for the enlargement of existing developments. I give you an illustration — only November 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 695 a few days ago, a firm from Fogo proper acquired in Bay Bulls all the extensive naval buildings, dockyards and piers. I do not know what they paid for them. And what they have done it for? Is it for fun, as Mr. Higgins said? They are going in for the development of fresh fish, frozen fish, canning and all the rest. There is going to be a very big development in Bay Bulls in a few years. Earle and Sons are the business people who are doing it and they are men of vision. Now are we to take that as meaning our fish industry is doomed to failure? I hardly think so. We have men like Messrs. Crosbie and Job investing thousands in the fishery — not for now, but for the future. Is that a criterion that our fishery is doomed? One thing that was brought up here about the Labrador fishery — men going to Labrador and not bringing home any fish. No person can say how much each individual schooner is going to bring home. The fishermen would like to know it. What a person can do is to look around the world in which he lives and see what can be done for the fisheries with capable handling and administration. New processing, new ways of improving existing processing, especially in fresh and frozen fish industry, there I contend lies the future for our fishing industry. Another thing that can be done is finding bigger and more profitable markets. That brings me to a subject which has been discussed by Hon. Mr. Job at great length; but to quote our absent friend, Professor Wheare, "at the risk of being an echo", I wish to mention this question of markets in the USA. I firmly believe that there is a market big enough to take just about every fish we produce, and that that market could be secured if we could get at it. I think we can, providing we had the proper government and we are going to get that government in the future. The USA was granted territories in this country for 99 years for practically nothing without the consent of the people. It is my belief that when we get our own government....
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, I have overlooked that point of order. I have overlooked several such references from Mr. Watton; references to "when we get our own government" are completely out of order. If Mr. Watton can do it, I can do it, and so can any other member. I ask you to rule it completely out of order, what he has said in that line, and what he is likely to do. He is simply not supposed to do it.
Mr. Chairman I must sustain Mr. Smallwood on that point, I was about to check you myself. Forms of government are not the concern of this debate. That was laid down by the Chairman a few days ago, and it must stand.
Mr. Higgins Would they not be permissible in elaboration of the argument of the speaker? I don't want to embarrass you in any way, but would they not be permissible in that case, sir?
Mr. Watton Mr. Chairman, may I make an explanation? Remember, I am expressing my opinion, not yours, but mine. I am trying to express what I believe in, and I am trying to bring it to bear on this Economic Report, and I don't think Mr. Smallwood has any right to object to it.
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, to a point of order. I have a perfect right to raise a point of order. I raised a point of order to the effect that Mr. Watton, and no other member of this Convention, during the time that this Economic Report is being debated, has any right whatsoever to be talking about forms of government, and to be advocating forms of government. You have ruled him out of order Mr. Chairman, and he has no right to be advocating forms of government, or making allusions to it and getting in wisecracks about it. That will come in its time, and not when the Economic Report is being debated...
Mr. Watton I will let it go.
Mr. Chairman What is the point of order?
Mr. Smallwood It is this: Mr. Watton, in the course of his discussion of the Economic Report...
Mr. Hollett That point of order has already been ruled on by the Chairman, and you have no right to bring it up. The point of order has been ruled on, Mr. Chairman, and you have no right to do so again.
Mr. Chairman I am sorry. I understood that the point had been raised, but no ruling has been made.
Mr. Miller I rise to a point of order. For the matter of information, sir, just the word "government", or "Canada", or the word "confederation" is required to put a person out of order, and if our deliberations are words, and if these must be taken from the dictionary, we might as well stop.
Voices Hear! Hear!
Mr. Chairman Gentlemen will please refrain 696 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1947 from any comments. Kindly take your seats. A word is known by the company it keeps, and if there is, on this discussion of the Economic Report, any reference whatsoever to the political situation to be superimposed upon the economy of this country it is definitely out of order. We are engaged at the present time in determining what the economic potentialities of the country are... Let us confine ourselves to the Economic Report and I think no words will go wrong if we avoid any reference whatsoever to the institutions. Mr. Miller Point of order again, sir. I would like to be very clear whether or not we are to be permitted to refer in our economic deliberations to the program of reconstruction that has been carried out by the Commission of Government. Is that out of order?
Mr. Chairman No, that's definitely an economic matter.
Mr. Miller Well, it is a question of government.
Mr. Chairman It is not a question of government at all.... Reconstruction undertaken by any government is one thing, and must not be confused fused with reference to the government that undertakes that policy of reconstruction, which is something entirely different.
Mr. Hollett Still on that point of order which has been raised. I agree with Mr. Miller, at least I don't know if I agree, but I am in doubt as to just how far a person can go in debate on this particular point.
Mr. Chairman I am not going to speculate. If you don't mind I will deal with any remarks, if there are any made in the chamber. If a remark is made by any member, and if it is taken exception to by any other member rising to a point of order, then all I could say at this time, Mr. Hollett, is that I will deal with it then. I can't be asked to generalise at this time.
Mr. Watton I am sorry that I created all that discussion, but may I proceed?
Mr. Chairman Yes, please do, Mr. Watton.
Mr. Hollett Point of order. I was about to make an observation. Am I not to be allowed to make a simple observation? I was going to draw your attention sir, to one of the concluding paragraphs in the address given by the late Chairman, Mr. Bradley, when they arrived in Ottawa, wherein he stated that the basic economy of this country was sound, provided we could get the government. ment.
Mr. Smallwood I rise to a point of order. Mr. Hollett is refen'ing to something not said in this chamber, but in Ottawa. What's this got to do with this debate?
Mr. Chairman I must sustain that. I am not concerned with any observations made by any member outside this chamber. I am simply concerned with any remarks which may be addressed by any member on this Economic Report. What Mr. Bradley said in Ottawa, or any other place, is a matter of complete indifference to me at this time.
Mr. Watton Again I ask if I may proceed?
Mr. Chairman Please do, Mr. Watton.
Mr. Watton What I am going to say now is contained in this report... Speaking about the United States and our fishing industry, I believe, as the report states, that the American government and people will give serious and sympathetic consideration to any representation made by this country, if it was run by a duly and properly constituted government (that's in the report, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman What part of the report are you quoting from? If members would only quote the part of the report on which they wish to base their observations...
Mr. Watton ....Page 27, last paragraph:
We are of the definite view that if proper  representations were now made, by a properly constituted government of Newfoundland, that the American government as well as the American people whom we consider fair and just, would certainly seriously consider giving Newfoundland some favourable tariff concessions for our fishery products.
Mr. Chairman Now the observations on that portion of the report, Mr. Watton. You were about to make one?
Mr. Watton I agree with that. That's all I want to say about it — I agree with it. I could go on to some length regarding the fisheries, but it has been dealt with very competently by other speakers. But what I want to express is that I do agree with the Report of the Finance Committee on our economic position, in their review of our fisheries, past, present and future. That's what I want to get across, Mr. Chairman...
I can see nothing in the future of our principal industries to give me cause for gloom and despair. It is to these major industries that we November 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 697 must look for our future economic stability. They are in a sound position, and are likely to continue as far as we can see... In my opinion all that is necessary now is this: just the five letter word F A I T H, faith in ourselves as individuals, and in our fellow man, and above all, faith in our country....
Mr. Northcott Mr. Chairman, with your permission, and hoping Mr. Smallwood won't interfere, I would like to congratulate Mr. Hickman upon his excellent speech... What of our future? Some 14 months ago we were sent here by the people of this country as their representatives. For what? To try and find out the true condition of our island home. We started, and after a day or two a monkey wrench was thrown in. Confederation tion came on the scene. What happened? Confusion has reigned ever since. That is the sum and substance of this Convention today.
Mr. Chairman Order, please.
Mr. Northcott We were sent here to see if our island home is self-supporting or not. We have not got anywhere. After we came here we realised our task was immense. Committees were set up to try to ascertain the true facts of our economy, and whether our country was self-supporting or not. Mr. Chairman, for months we worked in committees, and after many months we brought here the various reports. They were approved, debated, and 45 or 44 members okayed each report in its turn. And so, by piecing together these various reports, did we not piece together at the same time the Economic Report? If we did not, it does not make sense... They became law, as it were.
Mr. Smallwood No, sir. Point of order. That is absolutely incorrect. No report has yet been adopted — not one.
Mr. Chairman Your point is true, but by virtue of the fact that they have been debated and not objected to, they are tacitly accepted. That is a point, I think.
Mr. Crummey I understood some time ago that no member on the floor, whether he was correct or incorrect, was to be interrupted.
Mr. Smallwood It was a point of order.
Mr. Crummey The point of order was not a point of order. It was questioning a statement made by a speaker on the floor.
Mr. Chairman I have ruled against Mr. Smallwood, so I think it has been disposed of.
Mr. Northcott I don't see why Mr. Smallwood can get up every few minutes and say what he wants to. He has got a lot to say.
Mr. Chairman I beg your pardon. Did you say the Chairman of the Convention had too much to say?
Mr. Northcott No sir, I did not. Mr. Chairman, I am absolutely satisfied that if ever this country was self-supporting it is self-supporting today. When one can pay his bills he or she is solvent. The same can be said of this country. If we can balance our budget and have a surplus left we are financially sound, and Newfoundland today is just that. I wish to refer you to page 5 of the Economic Report. Unfortunately Major Cashin is not here, but perhaps...
Mr. Chairman I would say that if you have any questions, it has been decided by the Steering Committee that it would save time if members might address them, and I will have the Secretary record them, and we will have Major Cashin deal with them in a few days time.
Mr. Northcott You mean all the questions, Mr. Chairman? Thank you. That will cut my time pretty short... The first I was going to ask was this: page 5: "In 1930 an approach was made to the Canadian government with respect to the payment of a subsidy in connection with the operation of our ship on the Gulf service." I was wondering if Major Cashin took that matter up with the Commission of Government, as to why there was no subsidy given since 1933. The second one was in connection with Gander.... I was wondering if the Committee could find out how many millions of gallons of aviation gas was hauled from Lewisporte to Gander during the year 1946?
Mr. Hickman The answer is no, Mr. Northcott.
Mr. Northcott Some ten million gallons. If they got one cent a gallon it would increase the revenue of the country. I may say though, that there is no duty on aviation gasoline, and I can't see why it should not be. It is very sensible and important to this country, especially when fishermen men have to pay high taxes on their gasoline...
Mr. Spencer I have no desire to spend much time in debating this Economic Report, but I am convinced that this committee of the whole is the place to speak of it. There can be no doubt that we are at the moment in a sound financial condition, due in large part to the boom of prosperity 698 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1947 we experienced during the war years; also to the fact that we did not have to finance our own war effort as we did in the first Great War... We are all aware of the fact that the economics of this country have always been very unbalanced. We have always had to depend too much on the returns of one industry — the fisheries. This condition has changed somewhat in recent years. We have such major industries as mining and logging, and also in very recent years our fishing industry has been diversified with the coming of modern fresh fish processing plants, the manufacture and sale of fishery products other than cod; and there are good reasons for believing that the returns from our mineral resources, especially the iron ore deposits on the Labrador, will help in a large measure to balance our economy.
But what I would like to find out is how far we have come towards having a more balanced economy during the past 12 or 13 years. We still have around 50% of our people engaged in the fishing industry, and with this thought in mind I would like to draw the attention of members to page 32 of the report, which reads as follows: "At the present time we figure that not less than 25,000 of our people are engaged in the fishing industry; 15,000 in the pulp and paper industry; and 3,500 in the mining industry", and then they give the value of these industries. I am of the opinion that it would have added to the value of this report, and helped us to more clearly evaluate the economic conditions of our country, if they had gone a little farther with this paragraph and shown in a comparative statement how the percentage of our people engaged in the various industries has changed in the past 12 or 14 years. According to the census figures of 1935 those gainfully employed in the various industries were as follows: in the fishing industry 36,900 persons; in the logging industry, including those engaged in paper-making, 9,700; and in the mining industry, 1,800; or if we take them by percentages, 46.7% fishing, 12.4% logging, and 2.3% mining. I do not know how these percentages would compare with those engaged in the different industries at the present time, but glancing at the totals we find that the number of those engaged in in the fishing industry has decreased by about 50%, while those engaged in logging has increased by about 65%, and those engaged in mining has nearly doubled. Judging from those figures it would seem that we are beginning to have a more balanced economy. I have no wish to paint either a bright or gloomy picture of the economic position, but I want to get, and I want the people 10 get, a true picture, and I am convinced that such a comparative statement as I have outlined would help us in getting that picture. I realise that the Committee has done a tremendous amount of work in getting this report to us in such a short time, but I pass this thought to them for their consideration.
Mr. Bailey Mr. Chairman, first I would like to congratulate the Finance Committee on this report because I believe in the light of the other reports that have been tabled, this very clearly sums up the information gathered therein. One cannot help being struck with the brief and clear way the facts have been presented so that the common man can understand them. Perhaps more could be said if we go back to 1897 and find out where we stood with regard to our way of life, and compare it with today.... First, I'll paint a picture from memory and forget the records. Let's take the doctor, with 14 miles to go on either end from where he practised. I'm speaking of my own locality, New Chelsea, and to get the doctor to a patient it was shanks's mare in the winter, if it wasn't dog and slide. And the mails, one a week; the old courier did his best — 17 miles up and 17 miles down with a large haversack on his back. Lighthouses? None. You found your way through the shoals by guess and by God. Now, I know that these conditions still exist in some parts of the island, but there have been great strides made and I believe we are at the turn in the road, and should go ahead as much in 15 years as we have in the last 50 years.
Take our income. In 1900 — I am speaking from memory now - gross exports, less than $9 million; government's income, $1.25 million, and nearly 7,000 miles of coastline to service, not counting the interior. Well, either our fathers had the nerve and faith of their sites, or as we say in the British navy, "where ignorance is bliss, it's all my 'blooming eye'." But anyway, I'll bet there was less weeping and wailing about the three square meals and the tight roof, beri-beri and what have you on the whole 7,000—mile length of that coastline, than there has been in this chamber since this cod-vention started. One can be pretty sure that when men who have sung the November 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 699 praises of their country for 30 or 40 years suddenly turn around and vilify her before the whole world, then there's more in it than meets the eye.
I was thinking yesterday, as I looked at the end of this report, if it was only possible to locate a modern Witch of Endor who would raise up our leaders of the beginning of this century and put them in this chamber with a revenue of $40 million, then they'd do something, they would build something, when we see what they built with the little they had. I must admit that if they did not plan well they built well, and had it been followed through the story of our island home would have been different today.... More could have been done during the past 50 years, but one thing we can be thankful for, we have the mistakes of our leaders of the 1920s, l930s and 19408 to guide us. Experience is a dear school and a hard teacher, and if we cannot learn there then nothing can teach us. We have a country that we can all be proud of, and one of which 1 am proud, although I have spent almost a lifetime going to and fro in this world. It has been and always will be home to me.
I believe all the debts we have accumulated have assets to cover them, many times over.... I am satisfied the country today is self-supporting and can be made more so. I have gone through the different reports and have done work on two of them. I was a member of the Transportation Committee and that has been a revelation to me. I don't hold to be an expert. but since I made my first trip around Cape Bauld in 1902, l have been actively engaged in fishing and transportation, and a man should learn something about all this in 45 years, especially when I have made a study of those matters together with the trade of the country generally, and the countries that I visited. I have gone into marine transportation as thoroughly as any layman can and while I'll move over and make room for any man to find out, for example, why the railroad doesn't pay, I still believe I am capable of putting my finger on a lot of the money that in this one case has gone up in the air, through the authorities not being able to adjust themselves to change.
Last week we had to listen to a tirade on why we shouldn't have a mercantile marine because we would have to sell the ships three years from now for half of what we'd pay for them. Now, I am going to try and show Newfoundland why our very life depends on us getting a national merchant marine, and that as quickly as possible. The first time I put this belief forward, then the cry from the street was that we could not operate ships as cheaply as the Greeks, the Norwegians, the Swedes and the Danes. I guess the US would have been a sorry country if they had said we cannot make tools or machinery as cheap as the British or the Germans, and got the latter to make the tools and machinery for them.
Let me try and show you what the lack of a mercantile marine cost Newfoundland up to say 1923. We did not feel it so much as in our local foreign-going fleet, we had a fairly good freight- carrying potentiality — but the picture after 1925, that's something else again. First I'll try to get to the root of the cry that we can't carry freight as cheaply as other maritime countries. Ignorance had a lot to do with it. Let's take the Railway ships and see where their dollars go up in the air. The Kyle, built around 1912, is a good example. That ship has cost the government of this country an average of $12 a ton for the 25 tons of coal she has burned daily. Give her 150 steaming days on average, every year of her 35 year lifetime, and the cost of coal is $1,575,000. Now had this ship been converted in 1930 her running cost would have been cut from $300 daily to $177, or a saving to the country in 17 years of $314,000. Then the Northern Ranger, which consumes 18 tons a day. This could have been cut in proportion. and so on with the other ships. And I'm sure that those that were sold could have been put under diesel propulsion with a stupendous saving. The logical thing for the government, when it took over the Railway, was to have secured a diesel electric engineer and started a school at the dock shops. Today we would have a trained staff and the most modern and efficient kind of transportation which in years would pay off. Instead of this, the only solution appears to be tojump up the fishermen's fares and freights. There wasn't any need to sell the ships that were sold. Otherinterests bought them and put them in the trade and made them pay. Take the little Sagona. Foreign interests bought her, changed her to oil and the cost to them was $350,000. But she paid for herself in three trips in the banana trade, while all she had done here was lie up and rust for years. "We should not have a merchant marine," says the critic, while the Brigus has 700 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1947 gross earnings in ten months of $293,000. and a net profit of $107,000; the Random has a gross of $304,000 and a net of $145,000. Why, last year the Baccalieu grossed $285,000, net $23,000; the Burgeo grossed $328,000, net $72,000. The wages paid alone on those two latter ships went to $66,000 a year. The total wage bill paid to crews of the Railway ships last year was $625,000 and to the Splinter Fleet $150,000,[1] a total wage bill for both fleets of $775,000. One thing I can assure you, that this country, before she can begin to take her place in the world, needs two things. First a merchant marine, that's essential... In the debate on the Fisheries Report I spoke about four ships, each about 3,000 tons gross and carrying about 5,000 tons of cargo with about 1,000 tons of refrigeration space for frozen and perishable cargoes. These ships could be built for the ice and should have their chill-rooms aft. They should have three decks for carrying barrelled goods and cutting down on lumber dunnage. For in the future we are going to have a fishmeal and mackerel trade which, as 1 said before, with a flour and feed mill will give us a chance to barter in trade with the Argentine and Australia, so that in the years to come our people will be assured flour, and our cattle will feed from our fishmeals which is the most expensive part of those feeds.
We can export too, there is nothing unsound in this. Also with woods operations, in carrying wood from the east coast to the west, we can find employment for ships like the Brigus; also in the general trade carrying coal etc., we will never have to see those ships, we can extend that trade. There are today 20,000 quintals of fish waiting shipment to Portugal, waiting for a Portuguese ship to come for it. Half of that fish should be eaten by now, and instead we are waiting like a beleaguered city for the Portuguese to come and help us. Shades of Captain Thomas and Captain Dingle, to see this state of affairs in a country which produced men who could drive a two- master schooner to Oporto and back home in 28 or 30 days. Too long, Mr. Chairman, we've had journalists and lawyers in the seats of government. It's time we got men with more practical vision.
I picked up a paper the other day and saw that renders were being called for the Thackeray,[2] now anchored in the harbour here. The government could buy her and next spring we would have a ship for less than $300,000 for the trade of the country that perhaps would net the Railway $100,000. I interviewed the government authorities on it. They said they investigated but were not interested. If they bought her they would have no deficit on the docks this winter as she would give work. The actual cost to the country would be little as the cash would be left in the country. No, the government cannot go into the business that pays, only the non-paying services come under their glance... If we are going to feed our people we must plan what is best for them and the country. The laissez-faire ways of the past must go as far back as the "Indian meal" days of our grandfathers' time. Now we must plan, and I believe the country has the resources. All we want is the brains, brawn and capital, and we have the last two. Is it possible that we haven't got the brains to plan? We have the resources. There's no doubt about that. We must awake to the fact that we must combine scientific knowledge with skill and change from the worn-out ways of the past.
We are fishing the same way as in my grandfather's day when a horn lantern and a compass, an open galley on deck, a jigger and dabber was about the whole equipment. Most places fish now with nets known as traps for fish to swim into. If the fish don't swim in, all is lost. That era is past. The trap today must go. In my day, as a boy, the cod-seine was a part of the equipment of every second schooner. Today there is not a cod-seine around Newfoundland. If there is, I haven' t heard of it this last 30 years. The trap is going the same way, believe it or not. Take the increase of fish caught in Greenland. Fish are changing their habits, and this is where scientific knowledge and planning must go hand in hand, and we have to do it. Take our competitor, Iceland; 80% of her exports are from the sea. The money the government spent there paid off. And now they've had a bond issue of $40 million, which works out at $308 a head, for the population to subscribe. I wonder what would happen in Newfoundland if November 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 701 a government started to raise a bond issue of nearly $100 million. Yet what they've done in Iceland will have to be done here. In 1946 the exportation of Iceland fish and fish products amounted to 244 million kroner equal to 80% of its total exports... That's what they've done in Iceland, with one-third our population. I am critical, but I hope it's constructive criticism I offer.
But now let me leave this, and pass to what in my opinion is one weak link in our economic chain, the lack of a merchant marine. No country, especially an island can do without one. Let's do a little figuring, and see what the country has to offer in the way of freight to keep us from selling our ships at half-price. I'll only take a few essentials, over roughly the life of a ship. First I'll say figures don't lie, but liars can figure. If you doubt them, you can check them. First I'll talk salt for the years 1925 to 1942, 16 years, not quite the life of a ship. We imported 762,503 tons at a freight rate of $2.80 per ton — that's peacetime freight rates — an annual freight bill on salt of $132,438. For 16 years that makes $2,119, 008. Now coal, for the same period we imported 5,792,191 tons of coal at a peacetime freight rate of $1 per tort, or an average of $321,788 annually. Next let's take flour. It can all come in by ships. Over a 21 year period, still in the life of a ship, we imported 8,249,000 barrels of flour at a freight rate of 60 cents a barrel: $4,949,000 in freights on flour or $235,686 a year. The last of the four commodities I'll refer to is fish. And it won't be the least. From the period 1924-25 to 1944-45, we exported dried and pickled fish to a total of 24,532,550 quintals. At a freight rate of 70 cents per quintal, it cost us $17,172,785: an annual average of$817,751.
Now this means that an annual freight bill went to outsiders totalling $1,507,563 on these four commodities alone. That money was lost to this country, wages were lost to our seamen, and wealth to our internal trade. In ordinary peace time that meant a loss to the country, a total loss, due to the lack of a merchant marine, of $31,033,384 over the period referred to. If the government had built those three ships of 2,000 tons in 1925, what a different story. We can easily see how over that period this country paid out $80 million in freight, 99% of it going to outside interests. So that way too, did Newfoundlanders help to bring this cod-vention into being, if it wasn't the main cause. How can 300,000 people afford to take in $31 million from poor countries mostly, and then pass it out to outside interests, just on essentials? Can we afford to play Santa Claus to outside interests? Only the "B block" can do that, a red-blooded Newfoundlander can't. No! The figure is too heavy, $2-3 million annually for freight, gone clean. Not one cent left in the country, and that sometimes out of a total export of less than $25 million in some years.
That is a sum we can't afford to lose, the trade loses, the government loses and worst of all the seaman loses, he has to eat the dole while in many cases govemment-owned or subsidised ships carry away his livelihood. And you have to have seamen in a national emergency, They are the first line of defence, and they must be trained. You cannot make an officer or an engineer overnight or a helmsman either. And a ship that is sunk because an officer doesn't know his job is just as much a casualty as if sunk by enemy action. I think I have shown without a shadow of a doubt that there is cargo to be had for a merchant marine, and we should have one. Our flag should never have gone from the seas. There is always work for ships to do. Besides the things I have mentioned, the freight potentialities have not been scratched. We have the brawn, and the capital; I say again, do we lack the brains? Can't we plan like the Icelandic parliament? Why the defeatist attitude? Only when we do plan like this will the man on the bill of Cape George and all the other bills get his three square meals, his suit of clothes and his tight roof. We can't get it out of baby bonuses and old age pensions. Let the people of the country demand that we get it. Let us learn by our mistakes of the past. We have the resources here. Let us at one blow lick what we have always been up against. Let us pledge her to the hilt. Men can do it, cowards can't. Men looking for fame and opportunity won't let us cut out the uneconomical. If a fishery doesn't pay, let's get rid of it. I heard my friend in the "B block" the other day speaking about the state of affairs in his part of the island, putting up a poor mouth because the Labrador fish are not to be caught, and is a drag on the market to sell when it is caught. 15 that any reason why this cannot be changed, when without going 100 miles from their homes they can come to the finest fishing grounds in the world? All the schooners that are 702 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1947 seaworthy could go in the offshore fishery either as draggers or dory fishermen. It's balderdash that a man cannot change to another kind of fishing. What is there to learn about it? In two years any man who has his health and strength can change from an expert trap fisherman to a trawl fisherman, and I guess in a month to an expert drag ger fisherman. For he knows this time he has got to be helped, I know. But ifa man has a schooner of 60 tons and upward and is well- found, there's no need for him today to put her on the auction block. If he has the will and is willing to learn, of course; then perhaps in a few years he can look back and say those three bad years were the best thing that ever happened to me, and to the country as well.
I believe in this report and can only say that in planning it is not bold enough. It smacks too much of the past, it holds too much to the old traditions. In fact it has the old ship of state dragging her chains behind her. She has broken out her anchors, but the Finance Committee forgot to heave them in. Let us stow the chain in the lockers and go ahead full speed.
In referring to the merchant marine, the genial delegate from Bonavista Centre spoke about the difference of opinion between myself and the Hon. Mr. Job about the powering of ships. I wish to congratulate Mr. Job and-his associates on the pioneer step they have taken, and I'm sure they are setting an example that will vindicate both myself and Mr. Crosbie in our opinions. I refer to the installing of diesel engines in the Sable Island. I'll make a guess this innovation alone will mean a long step forward in the coming maritime age of this country, and it will mean that Water Street will once again be seen at its best, from a launch that is, and not from a taxi. The trade of this country will be carried in our own bottoms. The firms along the streets will once again be mercantile firms and not calico vendors. Had the government done what the firm of Job Brothers and Company is doing today, with the fleet of ships it had, with the services of a diesel electrical engineer, plus their new shipping, both the docks and the coastal services would be in the black now. This could have been done during the last 25 years.
In conclusion, in the light of the information before me, I can only come to the opinion that this country is not only self-supporting now, but was always self—supporting. The only reason for the hard straits we have been in has been the human element, which reflects on all of us from the government down to the last citizen. We've had the brawn, the capital and the resources, but seem to have been lacking in the brains or the vision. After my extensive study of the natural resources of our country, in my comparison with those of other lands, particularly Iceland and Norway, 1 can only come to the conclusion that in view of the way our affairs and resources have been mishandled so far, its a wonder to me not that she survived, but how she survived. As I said before, the Finance Committee has only broken the anchors from the ground. Let's haul in the chains and full speed ahead.
[The committee rose and reported progress]
Mr. Higgins I beg to move the resolution, notice of which was given, and which was included in the order paper today. I give the undertaking, in case there is any doubt about it, that if the motion is passed, it will not be discussed or debated until me motion that Mr. Bradley has given today is debated.
[The Secretary read the motion of which Mr. Higgins had given notice.[1] After some procedural debate, the motion was deferred]
Mr. Higgins I would like to give notice of motion, sir. I give notice that I will on tomorrow move the following resolution:
That this Convention request His Excellency the Governor in Commission that paragraph 2 of the National Convention Act, 1946, be amended whereby provision may be made that any member or members of the Convention incapacitated by reason of illness from attending sessions of the Convention may have his or their vote recorded in his or their absence, provided he or they have signed and executed the proper instrument to give effect to this purpose. Such right to vote by proxy shall be exercised only during the debate on forms of government and the recommendations to the United Kingdom government arising therefrom to be put before the people at a national referendum.
[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 11:425. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] The Splinter Fleet was a group of ten wooden ships built at Clarenville during the mid-1940s. They were owned by the Department of Natural Resources, but operated by the Newfoundland Railway.
  • [2] S.S. Thackeray, of English registry, was wrecked on the Newfoundland coast in 1947.
  • [1] Above, p. 685.

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