Newfoundland National Convention, 17 November 1947, Debates on Confederation with Canada


November 17, 1947

Mr. Chairman Order please. Since resuming the Chair this afternoon, I received the following letter:
J. B. McEvoy, Esq, K.C., LL.B., Chairman, National Convention, St. John's, Nfld.
I have to refer to your letter of November 13, setting forth the resolution of the National Convention requesting that the Governor in Commission arrange for the amendment of section 2 of the Convention Act, to enable members of the Convention, absent from sessions because of illness, to vote by proxy upon certain matters.
The Commission of Government have given consideration to this request. Section 3 of the act sets forth the duty and function of the Convention, and empowers the making of recommendations to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom as to possible forms of future government to be put before the people at a national referendum. There is no provision that the recommendations of any particular proportion of the representatives should form the recommendations of the Convention, and the Convention is not empowered to make any decisions as to the forms of government to be put before the people. It is the opinion of the government that, as in the case of committees and commissions having power to investigate and make recommendations, but not having power to make decisions, members of the Convention who hold a minority view on any question are entitled themselves, or with other members of the Convention, to have their recommendations go forward from the Convention. It is therefore difficult to see what purposes could be served by making the amendment requested. Members absent by illness can no doubt communicate with the Chairman or Secretary of the Convention and have their views on forms of government noted in any and all recommendations.
In view of the foregoing the Commission are unable to agree to the request of the Convention.
I have the honour to be, sir, Your most obedient servant, W.J. Carew, Secretary.
Mr. Higgins I wonder Mr. Chairman if we could have copies of that mimeographed and distributed to members?
Mr. Chairman By all means, Mr. Higgins I should also like to inform the Convention that, arising out of your decision to continue evening sessions on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evenings, the Broadcasting Corporation has been contacted by Mr. Ryan. In fact he has been intermittently engaged in negotiations with that body since Saturday morning. The result is that all evening sessions will be recorded and the Corporation undertakes to rebroadcast the proceedings as nearly as possible, in view of point of time, after the sessions have taken place, as exigencies may reasonably permit and require.
I should also like to inform members that all questions, and in one particular instance, notices given, have been attended to. We decided, or the Information Committee decided, that since the notice of question was given at the last session, and would in the ordinary course be put today, and since it has a bearing upon the Economic Report which is now before the house, that the usual technical formalities ought to be raised, and therefore all questions and notices of questions up to this time have been submitted and attended to so far as we are concerned.

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

Mr. Bradley This discussion is a debate upon the economic position of Newfoundland, and in view of its irregular and somewhat wandering development, it may be well to remind ourselves of what it is not, as well as of its true and only useful purpose.
It would seem clear it is in no way concerned with forms of government, or with the merits or demerits of any such form, for these things lie in the future. At the referendum our people will have to select some form of government to apply to our economy. They will need all the information obtainable about that economy to reach a sound decision. Surely then, our first and only duty in this discussion is to ascertain what that economy is, how it has developed, whether it is satisfactory or not, and what degree of stability it possesses. Equally certain it is that efforts to advance the cause of any form of future government to which we may be partial, or to abuse a form which we dislike, are not only highly improper, but tend to confuse the real issue, and render the whole issue completely worthless. Anger, and a display of party spirit, exclude calm analysis and destroy sound judgement. Smart jibes and sly innuendoes shot into the debate in an effort to secure a hit against some form of government which we dislike, and made in the face of the Chairman's ruling, cause the whole discussion to degenerate into a partisan contention. When such a situation arises, and we cannot deny it has done so on more than one occasion, the Convention departs entirely from the only purpose for which it exists, and for which the people sent us here. The thing becomes a gathering of warring political partisans, each bent upon advancing the cause dearest to his own heart, and completely incapable of forming any sound judgement on questions which may arise. In a battle between the mind and the heart, sir, particularly when opposition intensifies enthusiasm, often to the point of antagonism, the mind never wins. To that impasse I fear this Convention has, on more than one occasion, deteriorated. We have lost sight of our duty to discover and inform the people of cold facts, and have developed into standard-bearers of one or other particular form of future government.
On every such occasion we have prostituted our true and only purpose and duty and, with that involuntary dishonesty which so often accompanies elevated enthusiasm and political partisanship, we cease to be analysts of things that are, and become crusaders of things to be. We have ceased to be one body in search of truth, and have broken up into factions, each following a faith. I have no desire to go into details of such derelictions of clear duty just now; perhaps they are already too well known. That much of our activity, both in and out of this chamber, has not tended to foster public confidence, must surely be abundantly clear to every one of us by this time. On the contrary, it has brought upon us much justified criticism from John Citizen who is in search of truth, and confidence in us has failed. As a body there remain to us but a few short weeks of existence. Only in one way can we hope to recover that confidence, to be of any real value to the people who sent us here. Only by leaving our faiths and our factions, our shibboleths and predilections, our prejudices and passions on the outside every time we enter this chamber to discuss matters such as lie before us today, can we hope to reinstate ourselves in public esteem and leave a creditable record on the pages of history. We are not here to espouse any cause or to fight for any faith. We are neither St. Georges nor Sir Galahads; we are investigators of facts and seekers of truth. And it is in this spirit only that we should come to a consideration of this report which purports to portray the economic position of Newfoundland.
It is a remarkable document in many ways - remarkable for its too casual analysis of figures; its too ready acceptance of comforting conclusions drawn from such figures; the avidity with which it translates possibilities for the future into probabilities and even into certainties; and the superlative assurance with which it predicts progress and plenty for Newfoundland and Newfoundlanders in the days to come. In a word, sir, it is remarkable for the rosy hues in which it paints the utopia of our past, and the blithe optimism with which it envisions a New Jerusalem for our future. it is full of fair figures and happy hopes.
I have no intention of entering into any detailed discussion of intricate figures of the past, or of any nebulous or speculative calculations propounded for the near or distant future. Figures are useful things, but unless they are used with the utmost caution are likely to lead us to dangerous conclusions. This is particularly true where the figures of the past are used as a basis upon which to build castles for the future. It is equally true where such figures are but arbitrary estimates of a future and presently non-existent economy. In the latter case they are the child of a fervent and often fatuous hope, a stark unreality, a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
To the ordinary man masses of figures are always confusing and seldom illuminating. He gets lost in the multiplicity of detail. His vision is befogged, his perspective is distorted and the proportions of that which he seeks to evaluate are lost. He bogs down in frustration and disgust. If he is to obtain a reasonably true picture of our past he must sweep away most of these confusing details, whose tendency is to mislead, and view the situation not through the tangled web of meticulous detail, but from the vantage point of distance, which will enable him to see the whole picture in broad outline, with its highlights and its shadows, its peaks and its valleys. To put the matter in another way, he must determine if our past as a people was an experience we would care to repeat, and whether it holds probabilities, not mere possibilities, for the future of an adequate, countrywide standard of living, having regard to the age in which we live. Was that past, on the whole, a period of prosperity or adversity, of comfort or poverty, of happiness or grim and drab monotony for the people?
To put it shortly, he must determine the way of life which the country's economy has thus far provided for the people who have kept that economy going, and what its prospects are for the future, having regard to the present and in the light of human experience. Some days ago my good friend Mr. Keough gave the clearest exposition of the meaning of a sound economy that I have heard since this Convention opened over a year ago. He showed beyond all question that balanced public accounts — even surpluses — are neither the cause nor the proof of a sound economy. They are not necessarily even the result of such an economy, for the public accounts may show a surplus while the people starve. In fact, such balanced accounts or surpluses are nothing but proof that the government has taken enough of the people's earnings to pay the bills which it has incurred, while in truth its operations may have had a disastrous effect upon the very national economy upon which it lives.
Before I mention any of the figures which this report contains, perhaps in the interests of peace it may be well for me to reassure any who may incorrectly interpret my criticism as charges of dishonesty. Let me say at once that I have no intention whatever of charging anyone of falsifying figures or of a deliberate attempt to deceive. For my purposes it is completely unnecessary, and I am quite willing to accept the position that in their calculations and their predictions they believed the former were correct, and the latter were rational deductions. Moreover, if I am to assume that every calculation and every prediction which this report makes has been placed there with dishonest intent, it surely follows that I credit its framers with infallibility; for if all their inaccuracies are dishonest and known to them when they make them, it necessarily follows that they themselves are never in error. That is a supernatural faculty with which I must decline to credit them, or even this whole Convention when speaking as a whole, if we can ever reach that apparently far-distant goal where this body will speak as a unit. I prefer to assume that in their figures and mathematical calculations they may be in honest error, like ordinary mortals, and that in their predictions they have allowed their optimism and enthusiasm to outstrip their philosophy.
Let us then have no further charges of imputing dishonesty, and in the name of commonsense let us have no more of this childish, this petulant flaring up every time our figures are questioned; no more of this display of peevishness and bad temper when our conclusions are disagreed with.
I have said that it is not my intention to enter into any detailed discussion of intricate figures of the past. But there is at least one portion of this report's calculations to which I must make some reference. It seems to assume that a solvent public treasury is unmistakable proof of a solvent people — a people solvent in the sense that they are able to pay all the bills which they must incur to give November 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 741 them a reasonably adequate living. In other words, it is proof of a sound economy. And so the report proceeds to lay its proof of governmental solvency before us. The relation of that solvency (assuming that it exists) I shall examine later.
The whole point of this so-called Economic Report — if it has a point — is set forth in unmistakable terms on page 43. It was to make this one point that the report was compiled, I will quote the words of the report:
Now, making every allowance for the momentum of war expenditures carrying on after the close of hostilities, and allowing for the gradual recession of this boom period, it is yet an obvious fact that our present revenues cannot be something dependent on war boom. There must be some other cause, and on examining the matter further we found that a great portion of our present revenue is coming to us because of the growth of our main industries. Now, these industries are wholly peace industries and are not dependent for their prosperity on war conditions. It is clear therefore that we can properly regard our present revenues as being anything but a result of war boom.
Their whole point is admirably stated in that final sentence: "It is clear therefore that we can properly regard our present revenues as being anything but a result of war boom." That is what they ask this Convention and the people of this country to believe. There is nothing exceptional, nothing abnormal about these swollen revenues, they tell us. They are normal and ordinary, war or no war. And that being the case, as they are based upon a solid foundation of the normal growth of our basic industries, they may confidently be expected to continue. The future is assured. Such is the burden of this report's song, and we are told that it is unpatriotic to question their conclusion.
Now it is worth spending a few minutes of our time in an examination of this contention, and the first fact worth noting is set forth on the first and second pages. Then the writer of the report gives us what we are expected to regard as a sort of average balance sheet of this country's financial position. This so-called balance sheet is based upon a set of figures for a span of 50 years of our country's history which began in 1897 and ended just a month ago in 1947. We are told that in those 50 years our government spent a total of $500 million and had a total revenue of $496 million. This left them short $4 million. But paltry as that deficit amounts to, it is even less than that; for a sum of $20 million must be taken off that total expenditure of $500 million. This is $20 million of capital expenditure made by the Commission government since 1934, and deducting this from the half-billion dollar expenditure, it reduces the amount to $480 million for the 50 years. And that means, for the 50 years, a total surplus of $15 million, instead of a deficit of $4 million. And $15 million works out at an average surplus of $300,000 a year for the 50 year period.
Such is the encouraging picture painted by the report. This favourable and solvent position, we are told, is really a normal growth — that the swollen revenues of the government are not at all due to the war, that they are the result of anything but the war. The war, they tell us, has little or nothing to do with it, and we can therefore leave the war out of it altogether.
Well, that is exactly what I propose to do - to leave the war out of the picture. I'm going to accept the figures and follow the ideas and methods used in the report itself, and draw up a balance sheet for 50 years of our government's life, exactly as the report does it. But so that I can leave the war out of it altogether, I'm going to take the report's 50 years and push them back exactly eight years. That is to say, I'm going to take eight years off the latter end of the report's 50 years, and put on eight years at the beginning of the period. In short, I'm going to look at the 50 years which began not in 1897, but in 1890; and ending, not in 1947, but in 1939. Thus we avoid the war altogether; and thus we can get a clear picture of our govemment's balance sheet as it existed without being influenced by the war at all. Thus we shall see whether our present condition has been affected by the war.
Sir, in those 50 years which ended in 1939, just before this war began, the Government of Newfoundland spent a total of $306,800,000.
Mr. Miller Point of order, Mr. Chairman. Is it not a part of our duty to determine the extent to which the war had an effect on our economy?
Mr. Chairman That is exactly as I understand it. What is your point of order?
Mr. Miller We are getting away from the matter in hand.
Mr. Chairman I think he is coming indirectly to that point.
Mr. Bradley I am going to make a comparison of the economy of the country without a war period and with a war period. I repeat that for the 50 years which ended in 1939 the government spent a total of $306,800,000. There are a few odd thousand dollars which I have not included, because I did not see much necessity of it, and in that respect I have followed the methods of the Committee itself. That then was their revenue — $306,800,000. But capital expenditures made by the Commission of Government in the years from 1934 to 1947 is added, and so then in the years of Commission which come within my period, namely the capital expenditures from 1934 to 1939.[1]
Now I admit quite frankly that I have not been able to estimate the amount of such capital expenditure accurately from the report. I would judge it to be around $4-5 million, but I will be generous in the matter. In my period, Commission was in office about five years only. In the period taken by the report, they were in office 13 years. It is obviously fair to say that their capital expenditures were much greater in the last eight years of their term when they had vastly greater revenues and heavy surpluses. Therefore, if the expenditure on capital account in the whole 13 years of Commission was $20 million, the first five years, which was all that my period of 50 years include, would not account for more than $7 million. Deduct this $7 million from the total expenditure of $306 million and we get a net expenditure during that period and up to the beginning of the war of $299.8, say $300 million in round figures. In that same period they had a total revenue of roundly $280 million. Therefore, in the 50 years ending in 1939 they fell $20 million short of meeting expenses on ordinary account. That is to say, they ended the half century with not a surplus but a deficit of $20 million.
Then came the war, six years of it, and two years not of peace, but of armistice and armed watchfulness. Prices soared to unprecedented heights and wages followed painfully in their wake. And we find that a miracle has happened.
By 1947 that deficit of $20 million on ordinary account in 1939, has become a surplus of $15 million in 1947. Our position from a governmental standpoint was improved in eight short years by roughly $35 million. What was the cause of this providential change in our government's position? The war? Not at all, says the committee. Making every allowance, they say,
for the momentum (whatever that may mean) of war expenditures carrying on after the close of hostilities, and allowing for the gradual recession of this boom period, it is yet an obvious fact, that our present revenues cannot be something dependent on war boom. There must be some other cause, and on examining the matter further we found that a great portion of our present revenue is coming to us because of growth of our main industries.
It would be relevant, sir, to have set out some of the details of that growth. But we haven't got it. And is the present price of some $14 per quintal for shore fish to have none of the credit when we recollect that in the immediate pre-war years it fetched about $5 only? And so this Economic Report asks us to believe, and what is more important asks this country to believe, that present revenues are due to anything but war. Such, sir, is the optimistic assumption of the committee. That assumption will be received by the people of Newfoundland, I fear, with amused incredulity. They know the difference between $14 and $5. They are watching, watching with anxious hearts, for the first indication of a break in price.
We have heard a great deal in this Convention, sir, about the desirability and the possibility of getting the Government of the United States to grant to Newfoundland some kind of special trade concession. The idea has been repeatedly expressed that this concession might take the form of special low customs tariff rates on our fish or fish products entering that country. Such special concessions would, of course, prove to be a very great value to our fishing industry, and therefore to the whole country. But what are the practical possibilities of our getting such a special concession from the United States? I used the word "special" advisedly. To be of any real value November 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 743 to us, such a concession must be special. It would not be of very much value to Newfoundland if the United States lowered her customs tariff on fish or fish products going in there from Canada and Iceland and Norway and other countries. It would not serve our purpose very much if the United States abolished those duties altogether on fishery products and did the same thing for all our powerful competitors. No, any concession to us along these lines must be given especially to us, else we will realise very little in the way of advantage from it. The question is, just what practical chance is there of Newfoundland persuading the United States to give her such special, such preferential treatment? The argument used by those who say they see such a possibility is what I might call the bases argument. Nobody has yet suggested that out of the goodness of their hearts the Americans are likely, at our request, to give us such specially favourable treatment. Those who tell us of these possibilities of getting preferential treatment for our fish always use this bases argument. This is the quid pro quo argument. The British government and the Newfoundland government in 1941 signed agreements with the Americans giving them 99- year leases of certain small areas of our territories on which to construct defence bases. Newfoundland got nothing in return — save, I suppose, what all those who are engaged on our side of the late war got, the advantage of the defence construction that was actually placed here by the Americans. But that is the argument, sir, Newfoundland got nothing in return and so now we should go to the Government of the United States and ask for something that we should have had in 1941; and the Government of the United States is likely to agree to our request, so we are told. That is the argument.
Sir, the first hard fact that faces us when we consider this matter is that we are proposing to lock the stable door after the horse is gone. The lease agreements were signed in 1941. This is 1947, nearly 1948. The lawful government signed the leases, not under any compulsion from the United States of America, but gladly, and with the feeling that they were doing something to help in time of dire peril, and with the feeling also that they had the people of Newfoundland with them in their action. The leases are signed, the deal is closed. The bases are here. There has not been the slightest scrap of evidence to hint that the Americans would even consider opening up that deal again.
But suppose that in spite of these facts, the Government of the United States, who are not woolly-minded sentimentalists remember, but hard-headed men of affairs, suppose that they went so far as to agree that we had a good case in equity. Would they then give us that for which we ask? Certainly the high permanent officials of the State Department and of the Department of Commerce, and of the United States Treasury, as well as the members of the Cabinet, would give careful consideration to all aspects of the matter before granting our request. And just as certainly as they would take those special aspects into careful account, so it is wise and prudent that we should consider them in this Convention. One aspect which the Government of the United States would be bound to weigh is the fact that they have defence bases in other places besides Newfoundland. Those bases were acquired by the United States at about the same time as those in Newfoundland. If they give Newfoundland special trade concessions because they have bases here, must they not in consistency and justice give similar concessions to those other countries? That is something for us to consider. Another aspect which the United States government would take into account is their policy of never mixing trade concessions with military, naval, and air concessions. That is a definite policy of the United States of America. To do so in Newfoundland would be quite a novelty and would be to create a precedent which, as they would be quick to note, might be fraught with all kinds of possibilities for the future.
Still another aspect which the Government of the United States would undoubtedly consider carefully is the effect that special trade concessions to Newfoundland might have upon the greatest cash customer the United States has in the world. I refer to Canada, which buys many hundreds of millions of dollars worth of goods from her each year. The United States and Canada are each other's greatest customer. The trade, financial, political, and defence relations between them are probably closer than any other two countries in the world. Each of these two great countries is represented by an ambassador in the capital of the other, and the relationship 744 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1947 between them is peculiarly intimate and friendly. Is the Government of the United States at all likely, in return for bases which they acquired seven years ago in the hour of great common peril, to give special trade concessions to Newfoundland which she will not give to Canada on at least equally favourable terms? But the most important aspect of all that the Government of the United States would take into account, is the fact that if they did give Newfoundland special concessions over and above those given to other countries, the United States would thereby be deliberately turning her back on a trade policy which she strained every effort to establish, which she has striven very hard to get other countries to accept and which she has advertised widely throughout the world as her policy. I refer, of course, to America's well-known policy of multilateral trade and tariff agreements. A policy of giving no trade concessions to one country without offering them to all other countries on exactly the same terms.
It was, we must not forget, the Government of the United States that called the trade conference at Geneva last spring. It was that government that invited the other nations to take part. It was that government that took the lead in the conference which met for many months, and at which Newfoundland was represented. We all know the story of the ups and downs of that conference, of the difficulties, of the narrow escapes it had from disaster, of the herculean tasks it had to perform. We know that on the 18th of this present month, tomorrow, the world is to learn how successful or otherwise the United States government has been in establishing its policy of multilateral trade agreements throughout the world. For on tomorrow 105 trade and tariff treaties are to be published in all the countries concerned. To give Newfoundland special trade concessions in such circumstances as these would mean that the United States would have to retrace its steps over the trail it has blazed in its efforts to stabilise its own and the world's trade.
Finally, there is yet another aspect to which, whether they liked it or not, the Government of the United States would have to give most careful consideration, and that is the powerful pressure which America's own vast fishing industry would exert against allowing our fish or any one country's fish into America at such low rates of customs duties as to depress the price of American fish and the wages of American fishermen. That pressure, coming from the masters of the American fishing industry, and from the powerful trade unions of American fishermen backed by the whole trade union movement of the United States would carry a political significance, a political threat which no American government has ever yet been able to ignore. We all remember how just a few years ago a great fish development scheme on the southwest coast of Newfoundland was wrecked before it could even get going, by the pressure of those same American fishing interests who fought fiercly against any move to admit Newfoundland fish at special tariff rates even when it was to be brought into the United States by an American company operating in Newfoundland.
All these are hard facts Mr. Chairman, and they are facts upon which we dare not turn our backs. We must not give our people false hopes. I wish it were possible, sir, to get special preferential treatment for our fish in the United States markets, but I am not prepared to delude myself or the people of this country in this matter. It would be a shameful thing to lead the people on with false hopes. And though I regret to say it, I must, for the reasons I have given, state very frankly that I see no hope whatever of our getting trade concession from the United States of America that our much larger competitors will not get on exactly the same terms.
Now, there is another aspect of this debate upon which I wish to offer a word or two of comment. We have seen and heard a very thinly disguised attempt to impute a lack of patriotic feeling to those members who have declined to accept this so-called Economic Report and the rosy picture it paints of our present and future. An effort is being made to blow this report up into an infallible test of our patriotism and love of country. If you are a patriot you will agree with this report, if you are not a patriot, you will question it. Your attitude towards it is a sure and certain test of your patriotism, that is the attempt that is being made, sir, and nobody seems to have observed the complete absurdity of it. Have we sunk so low, Mr. Chairman, are we so lost to all sense of reality? Have we wandered so far from a sense of duty? When the report seems to us literally to glow with easy optimism for the fu November 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 745ture, is it really a crime against Newfoundland to express an honest doubt? When we venture to disagree with the report's pathetic attempt to convince us that we have been better than self- supporting all those tragic years of destitution, dole, and disease, are we to be denounced as traitors to our country? Has this Convention sunk so low that it is a major crime to remind ourselves of the fact, the indisputable fact, that this country went through a hell of suffering for nearly 20 years between the two wars? Is it not permitted to us to wonder where our country and our people would be today if this war had not broken out? And when we look ahead, is it the one unforgivable sin to doubt that all is well with Newfoundland — to wonder whether there may not be dangerous shoals ahead? I think I know how our Newfoundland people will answer all these questions, with their hard-headed practical minds and their vivid and bitter memories of their privations up to the outbreak of the war in 1939. They are not going to be swept into any easy-going agreement with the optimistic speculations of this Economic Report. They know exactly what value to place upon any report that tells them that their country was self-supporting and better than self- supporting all through those long years of hunger and despair. They know exactly what to call a report that tells them, with cheerful complacency, that our present prosperity, such as it is, is due to anything but the war. And any man who imagines for one moment that our people would be led by the report into its mood of easy optimism is making the mistake of his life.
As I read through the pages of this report, sir, I can allow my imagination to carry me along in company with the report's high hopes and pleasing predictions. I can hear the tread of marching feet, I can see in imagery column after column of presently worthless Newfoundlanders joyously marching towards the paradise of the future, and singing as they go that grand old evangelical chorus, "We are marching to Zion, beautiful, beautiful Zion." Would that it were so, sir, but alas I am brought back to the matter-of-fact world by another mental picture. A picture which is founded on reality. It is a picture of Mr. Average Fisherman's home of 40 years ago. I lived among fishermen then as I do now. I know their homes, their work, their flakes and their stages, their boats and their nets, the hardships and the dangers they have endured, what they ate and what they wore, their education, or lack of it, their many labours and their few and limited pleasures, their hopes and their fears, the roughness and monotony of their simple diet, their utter lack of luxury and most of the amenities of life. It was a dull, drab existence; an inadequate reward for their skill, their fearless courage, their iron endurance of heavy labour, chill and drenching spray. In those days the average fisherman who earned a couple of hundred dollars was reasonably fortunate. And yet, sir, he possessed a pride and independence surpassed by few in more favourable circumstances in life. Did the child of a distant relative or connection become orphaned? He willingly assumed the added burden of that child's maintenance, if at all possible. It was something in the nature of a reflection upon him for a relative to be sent to an orphanage. He put all he had into life, and received but a pittance in return. All that was perhaps nobody's fault. The product of his toil was a cheap commodity, consumed for the most part in the least wealthy market.
That sir, is the picture of 40 years ago, a picture I know well from close personal observation. It persisted with uneven variations until the first world war, in the latter days of which, and for a couple of years after its end, that fisherman enjoyed phenomenal prices for the fruit of his toil levelled substantially however, by an increased cost of production and of living. Then came the first postwar slump when he went on the dole in his thousands. Then a short partial recovery during which the bite of poverty was not quite so sharp. Then the crash of the early thirties, when for eight long years he knew the grinding bitterness of dire destitution, and the torture of seeing his children grow thin from malnutrition and crippled with rickets. Beri-beri and tuberculosis stalked through the land. The government, both responsible and Commission, battled with this economic plague as best it could with the limited means at its disposal. But there was little if any improvement in the general conditions. Even as late as 1939, the year of the outbreak of the war, more than 40,000 people were still on dole after some $20,000 of British money had been pumped in in grants-in-aid to help keep the country afloat.
And then sir, then, at the end of that terrible period, we experienced one of the bitterest 746 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1947 paradoxes of history — the paradox which drenched this world in blood and at the same time was the means of giving our people enough to eat, and placing a few dollars in their empty pockets. Yet we are asked by this report to believe that our swollen revenues are due to anything but war. During those terrible years of conflict and their aftermath, Mr. Average Fisherman has enjoyed a turn of comparative prosperity and again I use that word "comparative" advisedly. Let no one imagine that he has been living the full life during that period. He had a long leeway to make up to regain what the latest period of privation had taken from him. His home was dilapidated and in serious disrepair. Household utensils and essentials of all kinds, the very clothing on his bed had worn thin or disappeared altogether. Even his boat, his traps, his net, his engine, those things which claim priority of attention, for by them alone he could hope to live at all, suffered sadly. Yes he had a long leeway to make up. And it is a source of satisfaction to know that to a large extent at any rate he has been successful in that endeavour. And for that, wartime scarcity of food, high wages on transient defence works and high prices for his staple products have been fundamentally responsible. That, sir, is the story of the Newfoundland fisherman as I have known him intimately for over 40 years. And yet, we are asked to believe that our present levels of comparative prosperity and our revenues are due to anything, anything but the war.[1]
That story is the acid test of the economy of Newfoundland — the way of life of the fisherman and of those directly dependent upon the fishery, the bulk of our people. And the same story with obvious variations holds true in all essentials for the logger, the labourer and the miner.
Mr. Jackman Point of order. Does Mr. Bradley mean to say that these conditions are peculiar to Newfoundland only?
Mr. Chairman What is your point of order? What irrelevancy are you referring to?
Mr. Jackman The conditions that exist in Newfoundland exist everywhere else...
Mr. Bradley That is not a point of order. If Mr. Jackman, or any other member disagrees with what I say he will have an opportunity to state his opinion later on.
Mr. Chairman Quite.
Mr. Bradley Not balanced budgets, not satisfying surpluses, not trust and sinking funds, not these things, but the way of life of the people: that is the supreme test of our economy. Truly has it been said by a great British statesman that Newfoundland has been the sport of historic misfortune.
We have had a great deal of chatter about optimism and pessimism and realism, and the more we talk the further away we seem to get from the simple realities of the situation. We bandy about figures of millions and hundreds of millions, and roll our tongues over our industries and commerce; we talk of Marshall Plans and of exchange problems — and the more we talk of these things the further away we get from the simple truth, a truth so simple that it is lost in the mountain of figures over which we pore so painfully.
This country is not made up of budgets and deficits and surpluses. There are 300,000 living souls in the land, and they are Newfoundland. Not the soil, the rocks and the water that constitute the island; nor the great companies and corporations; nor even the government itself. Are these 300,000 living souls the slaves of that government? Do they exist for the primary purpose of paying taxes and balancing the government's budget? Or does the government exist to serve them, the people, who make that government possible? 300,000 living souls, fashioned in God's image, for whom all material things in this land exist. They are the yardstick of value, and the only yardstick. Anything which benefits them, anything which serves them, stands justified. A company or corporation is good for Newfoundland if it operates to the benefit of Newfoundland's people. Natural resources are valuable only if they serve the people's needs. A government is good if it functions in the people's interest. Under God our people are supreme over all in this island, and any institution or interest that does not serve their welfare stands condemned in the sight of the Almighty and in the sight of all just men. The people's interest, and their condition, are the acid test of this country's economy.
Sir, that is how it should be: that is what divine law ordains it should be. But that is not always what it has been in our history. Our companies November 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 747 and corporations have not always operated for the benefit of the people. Our natural resources have not always been developed and exploited in the interest of the people. Our government has not always functioned for the welfare of the people. In too many cases the people's welfare has been the last consideration. Have we so arranged our system of taxation as to make it fall with the utmost gentleness on the shoulders of toiling bread-winners, so that they may live in frugal comfort and Christian decency? Or have we so arranged it as to crush all hope and initiative out of the lives of many? Is there a great hue and cry when the very government itself wrings $18-20 million a year in customs duties out of our production? Or when the commercial interests wring more millions out of it in profits on those duties? No, we don't talk about these things - we prefer to talk of budgets and surpluses and foreign exchange, Marshall Plans, and anything and everything but those simple truths that stare us in the face.
I have wondered during the course of this debate, what has been in the minds of our fishermen and other working classes as they heard from speaker after speaker that their country is prosperous, has been prosperous, and will be prosperous. I have thought of the way of life of these men, of their unending struggle against the mounting prices of everything they buy, and the fear which they must entertain of a drop in the prices of what they sell. I have thought of the decades and even centuries of the grim battle they have had to wage with life. Is it supposed, Mr. Chairman, that these people are impressed by all this discussion in terms of millions, all this supposed prosperity of today? $40 million is roughly the amount being presently wrung out of our production annually — roughly half our whole export trade. But is there any indignant shout in this chamber over these terrible figures? Is there even an exclamation of disgust at this crushing burden placed upon the shoulders of our people? On the contrary, the govemment's revenue is hailed with delight and cited as evidence to show how prosperous and self-supporting the people are.
In the year 1945, the latest for which we have the figures, 318 companies admitted to the income tax assessor that they had made profits that year amounting to $17 million. $17 million of taxable profits made in this little country by 318 companies in one short year! Is this likewise to be taken as further proof that Newfoundland is prosperous and self-supporting? Can it be this that is meant when we are told that there is not a shadow on the road ahead? Some of us must be excused, sir, if when we hear of all this prosperity, and when we see these figures of big trading profits, some of us must be excused if we ask who has all this prosperity? Who is enjoying it?
True, the government is prosperous, and it cannot be denied that Newfoundland as an official entity, a corporate body, is self-supporting today. It is equally two that a number of individual citizens, and many companies and corporations are prosperous. But does that make Newfoundland prosperous? Does that make the people prosperous? Or are the people poor because of that very prosperity? And yet it is their prosperity, or the lack of it, which makes up our economy. They are the measure of that economy. They are that very economy itself. Their prospects are the prospects of that economy. The trend of what lies ahead of them is the trend of Newfoundland's economy. And what are those prospects? Those trends of today? Little consideration has yet been given to the possibilities which have agitated the minds of many statesmen, economists, manufacturers, financiers and merchants for the past two years, and which are regarded by many as an imminent probability, and by some as a practical certainty. I refer to the possibilities of post-war depression.
The chaotic conditions of world trade today are already plain to be seen. Nearly the whole of Europe lies prostrate in the aftermath of the most devastating war in human history. World statesmen arc struggling with hope, but hardly with confidence, to solve problem after problem arising from day to day. And in the offing — we hope the far-distant offing — the grim spectre hovers of a struggle between the rival forces of communism and democracy. We have to depend upon that world for any degree of prosperity, for we are first, last, and all the time an exporting and importing country, and have little or no control over the prices we receive for what we sell, and no control at all over the prices we pay for what we buy. Already we see indications that all is not well. Cracks and rents are beginning to make 748 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1947 their appearance in many aspects of our economy. The prices of what we buy seem to be continually rising, while on the other hand we begin to see indications of a recession in the prices of those things we sell. And some are presently unsaleable. There is said to be a much larger quantity of our staple product of this year still unsold and in the hands of the merchants than for many years past, and there appears to be hesitation about making further purchases from the fishermen.
All these points and observations I have made, Mr. Chairman, and others like them that I have not the time to make today, are the stark considerations which are in the minds of our people and should be in ours. These are the considerations upon which we must, if we are true to Newfoundland, base all our thinking about our country's economy. It is a time when every factor must be taken honestly into consideration, and this time the people shall know the truth, and the truth shall set them free.
Mr. Starkes A few days ago, when I spoke on this Economic Report, I had hardly taken my seat when Mr. Hollett stood up and reeled off a whole lot of figures to show how much more prosperous our industries are than they were last year. I want to fill in some of the gaps left in Mr. Hollett's account of our industries. I want to tell you that at this moment many hundreds and thousands of producers are experiencing some of the worst misery they have ever known. Take a look at our biggest industry of all, the fisheries. Only last week a man from St. Mary's tramped Water Street, from one end to the other, trying to sell 1,000 quintals of good quality shore codfish, and had failed to sell any of it up to the time I was speaking to him. What about the truckloads of codfish brought in here last week by the fishermen, and carried back home again because nobody would buy it?
Mr. Hollett I rise to a point of order. I have been thinking about this ever since Mr. Starkes brought it up. Any figures which I quoted the other day were based on this, and were actual figures taken from the report. Why he imputes this statement to me I would like to know, and more than that, he spoke of somebody coming in with a truckload of fish. I wonder, could we have an official report of that? I would like to know. These are things we want.
Mr. Chairman I think 1 must sustain you on the first point. By the process of elimination my very definite recollection, Mr. Hollett, is that any figures quoted by you were from the Finance Report or the Economic Report. Their accuracy, of course, would obviously be decided when these reports come before the House. On the second point, however, I have to sustain Mr. Starkes, because I feel that any member must be free to express an opinion. I must assume that the opinion is honestly expressed, and he shall not be required to defend it simply because his opinion is not shared universally by other members of the Convention. Therefore 1 don't think he is out of order, because I don't think I can allow this Convention to be resolved into a court of judicature where every member would have to provide independent corroboration. That would be a very serious state of affairs, Mr. Hollett.
Mr. Hollett On that point again, if I may. We must remember that we are speaking to the people when we speak here, and if Mr. Starkes is going to make a statement about somebody bringing in a truckload of fish and not selling it, it will cause alarm in this country. I think, therefore, that any statement of that kind should be substantiated.
Mr. Chairman I see the seriousness of what you say, Mr. Hollett, but as I see it I am powerless to prevent consequences which may follow from any member's making an ill—advised statement. I think the members would be well advised to seriously consider every statement that they make before it is made; but on the other hand, unless and until the remark is out of order, I can't deal with it, and I think, in the circumstances, Mr. Starkes, I can't do anything.
Mr. Starkes I was not contradicting Mr. Hollett's figures, I was just filling in the gaps that he left out.
Mr. Hollett These are not my figures, they are from the Financial Report and the Economic Report.
Mr. Chairman I must sustain you, Mr. Hollett.
Mr. Hollett The gaps then that you are proposing to fill in are the gaps left by the Economic Report and the Finance Report, as the case may be.
Mr. Starkes Why is it that our salt codfish exports fall short over 100,000 quintals as compared with the same period last year? What about November 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 749 the fish stores that are filled up today with fish that has not yet been sold, and if and when it is sold, who can tell us what price it will bring to the fishermen? And what about the hundreds of fishermen who can't sell their fish, and can't even batter it for food? From January 1 to the end of September last year we exported over $4 1/2 million worth of fresh and frozen codfish, but for the same period this year the value was only $1 1/2 million, which is $3 million less. That is a big difference in my eyes, and it tells us a lot...
Mr. Chairman There is altogether too much commotion in this chamber. Members and visitors will please refrain from commenting at all, because it is with the greatest difficulty that I am able to follow the speaker, and at any time I may be asked to rule upon a point of order which the speaker is trying to address to the Chair.
Mr. Starkes That's a big difference in my eyes, and it tells us a lot, for had we exported as much fresh frozen fish this year as we did last year we would have that much less salted fish to try to get rid of now.
Again, take our herring. From January I to the end of October last year we exported over $4 1/2 million worth of herring; but what do we find for the same period this year? Our herring exports are only $2 million, that is over $2 1/2 million less that last year. Take lobsters. Our expert of lobsters this year is $150,000 less than last year. Look at dried squid. Out of 10,000 barrels packed this year only 2,000 barrels have been sold, leaving 8,000 barrels still in the country, mostly in the fishermen's hands and practically unsaleable. Look at the salmon. Last year salmon exported in the first ten months came to $800,000. In the same period this year it is only $550,000, that is $250,000 less. And if you look at the pulpwood industry, what do you find? Practically all the camps cutting pulpwood had their quota reduced this year, and speaking of the district I represent, a very large pulpwood operation at Springdale has its camps at present all closed, while at Roberts Arm, where there is another large operation, they expect to close this week.
With all these facts staring them in the face, Mr. Chairman, I can tell you that thousands of our producers are today up against conditions worse than any they have seen for many years past. Not very many of them would give a plugged nickel for all the rosy pictures painted in this Economic Report. I am compelled to base my figures on those produced by the Fisheries Board, and not on the figures in this Economic Report which is in my opinion absolutely wrong. As proof, in the fisheries this year we exported less than we did last year as follows:
Fresh and frozen codfish $3,190,396
Pickled herring, all types 2,522,623
Fresh and canned lobster 168,207
Salmon 245,157
making a total of $6,126,383
less this year than last year, to say nothing of our salted codfish, and as over 60% of our people are dependent on the fisheries for a living, speaking as their representative, and considering the facts as stated, I say that this rosy report is not worth the paper it is written on.
Mr. Penney larn going to take a chance, without any notes or preparation, to take issue with two matters that Mr. Bradley brought out in his extended talk. One of them is that he used a lot of "ifs" in his arguments about getting into the United States market. "If", and the result of it was there was no possible chance for Newfoundland to do anything there. Well, I want to say to him, although he is not in the House at this time, and to the delegates, that if we had the chance to send an official delegation to Washington, and spent one-third of the time there that the delegates did in Ottawa, then we would see and then we would know what could be done.
Another matter that Mr. Bradley stressed was speculation. There was speculation in our Eco< nomic Report, and speculation in this and that, and everything. I say to you that no man or woman who speculates in any walk of life, they never got anywhere, and Mr. Starkes should bear me out in that matter.
Now then, in regard to the Economic Report itself, I was a humble member of that Committee, and I want to say, notwithstanding the slurs that were put across this House about the report and the personnel of the Committee, we served honestly, unmoved by exterior motives of any kind, and I claim that the report is a good one. Lots of the information contained in that report is taken from all the reports of this Convention, compiled by all members of the Convention, and moreover they were also taken from official sources, and I believe they are right; and when one member says, "It was not an honest report", I 750 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1947 differ with that. I don't claim to be any special angel, but I am not dishonest, and Mr. Smallwood can search the records of the court, or the statistics of debtors, or the Economic Report, and he won't find anything there showing dishonesty. I am convinced from what I have seen and what we did, that this country is self-supporting, no matter what people may argue or say to the contrary.
Mr. Vardy Mr. Chairman, it does not matter how we obtained the prosperity we have, but rather what are our chances of holding it. It matters not to a country whether an earthquake, war or even a revolution brings prosperity. What does matter in deciding on a plan for the future is whether the prosperity is real. Is it lasting? Have we a reasonable chance of continuing to be self- supporting? Surely we do not expect a drop of 25% in our revenue in the immediate future.
Frankly, I fail to see what purpose it serves to be debating these reports in committee of the whole. Most of us could have used up much more valuable time talking, bickering and arguing over something we ourselves, and the whole country, know has been prepared in such a manner as to do full justice to all the circumstances surrounding it. Each member should have spoken once only and then the vote taken. It has been very difficult for some of us to hold our seats when we see so much valuable time wasted. I am in full support of Mr. Job's suggestion to get on with the job, and I must reiterate that this whole business should not have lasted six months. In my opinion we are all justified in suggesting corrections or minor alterations, but when we appoint committees to do a job, we should not question the honesty of the reports, but rather the purpose they serve, and vote according to the dictates of our own consciences. In my opinion, anyone who votes against this report is betraying the land that gave them birth; regardless of whether we recommend that we carry on on our own or join hands with some other country, it is and will still remain our bounden duty to keep the torch of Newfoundland burning high, and never let us accept an inferiority complex at any time, but insist that we are, and will always be equal with our neighbours of the same race. We are all only too conscious of the fact that all is not well with the world, and we cannot expect to escape our full share of the aftermath of the war; but we are prepared to adjust ourselves to new world conditions, just as other countries must; and this will not be altered by any particular form of government.
It is my definite opinion that the USA would renew negotiations concerning the base leases, or grant reciprocal trade tariffs, owing to the fact that the USA did not get 99 year leases from other countries who are seeking free entry for their products,
Mr. Kennedy Mr. Chairman, I do not intend to waste the time of this Convention with my opinion of members who consider their own blocking has any bearing whatsoever on the economic, or indeed any other standing, of our country. The general public, and indeed you yourself, must by this time be heartily sick of would-be statesmen and their egotism, so enough of this nonsense. I make no pretense of being an economist, but at the same time I claim common sense, and I trust that my claim will be substantiated.
The direct aim of any business involving the public is to bring to that public the things that it needs most. If stocks held are the stocks in demand, then that business, regardless of whether its neighbours sink or swim, is bound to thrive - and if it doesn't, no one is going to blame the finance minister's estimates. Apply this principle to countries at large and what have you? This island is producing commodities for which the whole world is clamouring from resources which, far from being worked out, are not even as yet tapped. It is indeed unfortunate that the sterling crisis affects our would-be market in Europe, but why in the name of heaven sit back and wail like a man with one theory, whose theory has been blown sky high? Every pound of fish, every cord of timber, every ton of ore sent to Europe must be shipped — using foreign fleets, note you! — at least 2,000 miles.
The United States needs our food in the form of fish. Transport and other difficulties regarding this commodity have in recent years been overcome, and I think I'm safe in saying larger strides are under plan, and soon the term "direct from fisherman to consumer" will become fact. With the appropriate trade agreements, we can derive from this need of the United States all the essentials which our now precious dollars are purchasing from a country unable to buy anything which November 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 751 we can produce. In other words, millions of dollars are yearly leaving this country without one dollar returning in remuneration. Mr. Job has already attempted to emphasise to you that the largest and most sought-after market in the world is ours for the asking. Is our economy such that someone else is needed to do the asking for us? Why fritter away our precious dollars, which belong as much to the humblest fisherman in Bonavista Bay or any other bay as to the country at large, on a dead market? Summarising, Mr. Chairman, the whole affair is a one-sided gain. That side does not happen to be ours.
As far as the agricultural aspect of our economy is concerned, this report itself showed all too clearly that much in this country is to be decided in this respect. Encouragement of veterans into agriculture but a year ago, and today these same veterans have practically everything they have grown still on their hands, while foreign produce pours into this country — no economy of any country will stand this lack of planning and foresight. Granted, this island a mere 200 years ago was a barren waste; but these 200 years have witnessed considerable advance. With the institution of a good marketing system and the promise of a sale for goods produced, farming will substitute another answer to the unnecessary outside expenditure on goods which are here on our doorstep. I would remind certain members that three meals a day are more easily acquired by even the poorest, when two or more of those meals are to be found in the back garden.
Mr. Chairman, a depression is forecast by our members; just when, even the most pessimistic souls are not able to state. I wish to ask the member for Bonavista Centre if he considers that from the whole world, this small island of ours is to be singled out for starvation? Any fool knows that the economy of any country fluctuates from time to time. In the event of international crisis, is manna to drop from heaven in every country but Newfoundland? If there are to be soup and bread lines as before, are other countries to be spared them? Mr. Butt put forward what I consider to be a concrete fact when he stated that in economic spheres, material possessions may have more bearing on a country's prosperity than existent dollars. The value of the materials Newfoundland possesses has increased beyond doubt; not alone because of the war which ended two years ago, but because this war inevitably exhausted supplies and in some cases even the sources of those supplies for all time. Now the occasion is opportune to release to a world hungry for raw materials such as we possess of the natural resources at our command.
Any member in this Convention who expresses no faith in his country infers only lack of faith in himself; and who with such a line of thought can ever hope to gain for Newfoundland international respect? May I remind the member from St. George's that the hope and charity theme accentuated in his eloquent delivery of yesterday, fails to make sense when one perceives that he ignores that equally important factor of "faith".
I shall make no attempt to wrangle with the figures so ably provided by Major Cashin and his Committee. I, for one, am certain that fooling is implied only in our discussions with outsiders. After much thought and with deep sincerity, I am satisfied that our beloved country is self-supporting at the present time and will be for as far into the future as any human being is able to foresee. I wish to take this opportunity of congratulating Major Cashin and his Committee on their fine work. With faith in my country and its people - may God bless them — I submit my wholehearted support to this report.
Mr. Chairman Order, please.
Mr. Fudge Mr. Chairman, before recess there was a point or two on which I felt that I should comment, and that is in connection with our fish. Our trouble with fish is caused by our customers in Europe who trade in sterling, and the inability of Great Britain to convert the sterling into dollars. This of course applies also to the woods situation. As far as the woods are concerned, I regret that the cut for this year is very near completed, but I think it is only fair that I should explain as best I can why it is that the cut is up so soon. It is because of the fact that due to a poor fishery we have had such a flow of men to the woods as we have not had for years and years, with the result that two weeks ago, in one week's cutting, Bowaters had 27,000 cords of wood cut and piled. The like was never known before in their history. It must be understood that the forests cannot stand that...
I remember in the days before the war that our earning power was not very good, and therefore the economic position of Newfoundland was 752 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1947 none too good, because of the fact that our people were not getting sufficient for their toil. Wood was cut at $1 a cord, and you worked a long weary hour for $1.60, but today I find that matters have improved and the economic position is much better, and therefore the economic position of the country has come up also. The fisherman and the woodsman are well aware of what is going on. They are aware that there's been a lot of people who have done fairly well off the fisherman and the labourer, and some of those have made statements in this House today. They are aware of that, and I say that those things don't help the position in any case. I fear that by the words that we use, and the gloom that we are prepared to cause, we may have some effect upon our people. I realise that there are businessmen who are willing to allow a person two or three months groceries ahead to carry them over the winter; but with the pictures that we are painting here, why the wolf is living at their doors, and they will wake up in the morning and say, "I am sorry we can't give you anything, because those fellows in the National Convention know it all, and poverty is right at our door". We should be careful in the way we express ourselves. I feel confident that this thing will right itself and I have taken a course perhaps opposite to others, and I am prepared to see what I can do about the future in Newfoundland. Along with the rest of the labour organisation I think those of you who are in doubt can leave it in the hands of those who represent labour, especially this winter.
Mr. Burry I would like to make a few comments on this report. First, I would like to give my congratulations to Mr. Bradley (he is not in the House at present), because I feel he has given a very able and masterly and well balanced address. The report, sir, as you pointed out at the beginning of the debate, is one that is of utmost importance, the most important document before us in connection with the main purpose of this Convention. It was with a great deal of eagerness that we looked forward to it. I remember clearly the disappointment I received, before we adjourned last spring, when the Finance Committee thought it would not give an economic report. But the report is before us, and in anticipation of it I tried to draw up in my own mind a picture of what the economy was like, and to project it into the future. I did it for my own satisfaction, and to my own satisfaction. I came here two weeks ago and heard this report given by Major Cashin in his characteristic way, and I was very much interested in it, but I must say that I was keenly disappointed, because it did not match up with the things I had in mind.... It has been said often that the Finance Committee has done an excellent job in marshalling the facts and presenting them to us in the Finance Report that they presented to us some time ago. I subscribe to that, and say that it is a very comprehensive and able report....
Now this report that is before us is an interpretation of these facts, and an interpretation of the facts coming out of the other reports and I am not enthusiastic about the work of the Committee in interpreting the facts that we have discovered.... I think the weakness of the report is that it does not give sufficient consideration to the smaller units of production in this country, and their relation to the economy. I refer to the individual farmer, fisherman, trapper and miner — the primary producer, or what Mr. Keough likes to call the "little man". Now it may be argued that his capacity to produce is reflected in the millions and millions of dollars that have been referred to in this Economic Report and in the Financial Report. It may be that the farmer's ability to produce is reflected in the $12.5 million that the industry is worth in the estimation of the Agricultural Committee; and that the ability of the individual fisherman to produce is reflected in the number of quintals of fish, etc. That may be true in a sense, but it does not tell the whole story of the ability of the individual man to produce, and how it reflects upon the actual economy. The farmer, for instance, how is he equipped to produce? What is the state of his equipment, and how modern is it, and how well is he provided to bring the best possible contribution? The fisherman, much has been said about him and his ability to produce. We have heard it said, and it was brought out in the Fisheries Report, that the equipment he has today, in some parts of our country at least, is outmoded — it is old fashioned. I wonder if we realise just how outworn and dilapidated that equipment is and how much he is handicapped in his ability to produce because of that.... Someone has said that the equipment of the fishermen has reached a very high stage of efficiency. I have no doubt that he was sincere in making that statement, and that November 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 753 he was referring to some of the fishermen he knew, but I am just as sincere in saying that the fishermen I know, and the equipment I have seen them use in the past, certainly cannot be described in that way. I rather think that if an efficiency expert were to pass judgement on some of the equipment our fishermen have to use, and I am not thinking only of the Labradorians, but of the fishermen who go to the Labrador, that at least 50% of it would be thrown on the scrapheap, and the other 50% would not reach a very high stage of efficiency.
And not only is the equipment of the fisherman a handicap to him, but I think it can be well said that a man cannot do his best unless he is well-fed and well-housed, and well cared for in that way. On the bread and tea economy that our fishermen have had to depend upon, they are not able to bring their best possible contributions to our productive life. It is true that that man's bread and tea economy has been varied, as far as he is able to have a meal of fish and brewis two or three times a week, and on Sunday he can have a meal of puffins and turrs, but that kind of diet does not enable him to bring his best possible contribution. We all know that when England had to reduce on her rations the authorities saw to it that the men who had to go down in the mines, and the men who had to work in the factory, and the fishermen, were given an extra ration. It has a bearing upon his ability to produce. The same is true of our people. If they had better equipment, and were better fed, they could bring a better contribution to the economy of this country.
When the member from Bonavista Centre made that speech here two weeks ago on the opening of the debate, on the way out I offered him my congratulations. I thought he was rendering a great piece of service to this country. It has been backed up several times by other members, and especially by Mr. Bradley this afternoon, I offer him my congratulations because I thought then that he was "on the beam", as some other individual put it. I hasten to explain that in giving my congratulations to Mr. Smallwood, I am not giving blanket approval to all he said that day. He has a way of saying things sometimes that perhaps I don't like, and perhaps others don't like, but nevertheless who am I to say what he should say, or how he should say it?....
There have been letters read here, I think the member from Bonavista Centre has read letters, from individual members of their constituencies, and I suppose if the rest of us were to gather together our letters and read them it would take up a great deal of our time, and I am not going to do that, but what I want to say is this: that there is none of us in this Convention who is so shortsighted as to think that because there is an individual family or two somewhere on the coast of Labrador, or somewhere in the bays of Newfoundland, who are living in squalor, poverty, distress, and hunger, that because of that the whole background of this report should be darkened.... But when there is forced in upon me the fact that these are not isolated cases, that there is a great deal of hunger, and has been in the past, and a great deal of poverty, and a great deal of distress in our island, I think that that fact, which our Committee members must have known, should have made them shade in some dark lines in the background at least in the report, rather than presenting only the highlights.
It is not a waste of our time to look at this country through the spectacles that so many, many people on the island and the coast of Labrador have to wear through all the year, and see the position we are in through the shady spectacles that they have to wear. I think it is not a waste of time, and I think we would have spent some portion of the 14 months we have spent here more valuably, if we had tried together to see the country as it really is.
It was with a great deal of concern and regret that I read this morning in the Daily News of the fact that another of our industries in Labrador has had to declare itself insolvent. That company touches in a very vital way a large part of the coast of Labrador. The people along that coast have had a very hard and very difficult existence all through their lives. A few years ago this industry started. It did not have a very good beginning. It dropped out of existence for a while and came back again, but when this company came into existence these people saw an opportunity whereby they might be able to make a few dollars other than through the fishery. In the long winter months they might work and make a bit of money, rather than have to rely upon the dole which they know so well. It was a very bright spot to them. Now to most of us it would not be a bright spot. It is not an easy thing to have to make 754 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1947 a living by working, week after week, month after month, year after year, cutting wood to get a mere living. That's not an easy thing, but to these people who have had such a dreary existence, this was a great light, and they rejoiced in the fact that an industry was started. It had a very checkered beginning, but it did do good. And now this morning I was shattered in my hopes for these people to hear that this company has gone into liquidation. It is something more than another company gone broke. The coast is left stranded at a late part of the season, when the fishery was very, very poor, so poor that there was nothing left on the coast as a result of the fishery, or practically nothing. All supplies for the winter depended upon the industries, upon Goose Bay and the Labrador Development Company,[1] and upon the government. There is very little upon the coast by way of groceries and supplies to carry them through the winter.... The people were depending, on this part of the coast, upon the work that would be given them by the Labrador Development Company. In that area the population is 400 people, 165 children. In the immediate vicinity there are 500 people, another 160 children — north and south there is a large population coming to the Labrador Development Company to look for work rather than depend upon the government to supply them with dole. Even before the fishery stopped as many as 200 men poured into Port Hope Simpson in the hope of getting work. The usual quota of the company is 150 people; that is quite a strain upon the supplies — 250 men calling upon them. Consequently the food had been all used up even before the boats left the coast for the year. They are in pretty desperate need.
I am not in a position to make any pronouncement upon what has been done — upon the wisdom or justice of the company's going into liquidation. This is how it strikes me. Here is a company cutting wood in Labrador; there is plenty of wood, plenty of labour, the market is open, prices are generous, and this company is not absolutely broke. They have some credits on the other side of the Atlantic in sterling. They have applied to the government for some help. As I understand it the government has not seen fit to grant their request — a mere $200,000 — to enable them to carry on, to send supplies in and to engage all these people. The government has not seen fit to help them out to this extent. There is one thing certain: the government will have to do something. They will have to send a supply boat to feed these people. There are about 900 of them in that particular area — north and south of that many others depend upon the company and now they have nothing to depend on but relief. The people cannot be allowed to starve this winter. It will cost $150,000 to get supplies in. I wonder if it would not be better for the government to find some way whereby they might help this company out by sending in supplies and engage those men, enable them earn as much as $300,000 — unless of course this company is not reliable. I understand this company is composed of genuine, reliable, honest men of this country — no question about that — this company is in good circumstances, or would be but for the inconvertibility of sterling. I do not see why the government is not able to tide them over, let the company send in supplies and let the men earn an honest living rather than be humiliated by going on the dole as they will have to. Some may say that is not a matter for the Convention. That is not the way I see it. It is the job of the Convention to consider that there is another one of our industries not going well at this particular time.
I do not want to be unkind, but it seems rather strange that the Economic Committee could write such an optimistic report when, while they were writing it, our most northerly industry was going into liquidation and our most southerly industry — the mining operation at St. Lawrence — has been closed during the summer for want of hydro-electric power. That is a thing which shows there is a very vital weakness in the economy and its inability to work up industries, the shortage of hydro-electric power. It is portrayed now in the bigger industries. Our most northerly industry is going into liquidation, there is our labour leader telling us that the camps are just about finished cutting, and we have been reminded that so many of our men rely upon that cut to tide them over; in view of these facts, I cannot but help thinking that the Committee should have shaded in a few dark outlines and shown the people that everything is not rosy and there are some discouraging things about it. There are some encouraging things about it too.
I am not a pessimist. There are a certain amount of encouraging things and given a fair amount of stability, these encouraging things are going to come to the forefront and make things a little more easy for our people. We have to go a long way to set up a standard of living as comfortable as we would want to enjoy life with. There has been a great deal of vying with one another as we have shouted about our great race of people; the great stock they came from...
Mr. Fudge Better than the best.
Mr. Chairman Do not interrupt the speaker unless you have a point of order.
Mr. Burry Better than the best. We have talked about their courage and dogged determination. I have experience enough to know, and I cannot close my eyes to the fact that this great stock of people have had to undergo some of the cruellest, gruelling experiences, hardships and privations during this generation, and I have seen the blush fading from their cheeks; I have seen the sparkle go from their eyes and I have seen them reduced to discouragement and despair, and they cannot go much further; a certain percentage of our people have had just about as much as they can stand and still maintain their dogged determination.
I have great faith in the future. I really believe we have seen the worst, given a fair amount of world stability. But it is no use for us to paint a bright, glowing picture and think we are doing justice to the people. Those of us who would like to see a few shady lines in this picture are not unpatriotic. We are not backing down on the people just because we are trying to see the thing in its real state — the realities as they exist today and the prospects we have for the future. I have figures which I could give you to tell you what happened even last year in my own district, of the amount of privation and need that existed: 641 individuals receiving dole last winter, and that did not include the Indians, 300 of them, most of them were on dole rations last year. Somewhere around 900 people receiving dole out of a population of 5,500, one out of every six. From some places men could get to Three Rapids Estate and the Labrador Development,[1] so we can imagine the very much more concentrated privation and hunger there were in other places, and from what I can gather, things are even worse. You would have to go back into the worst dole days to find anything comparable, even providing our government can send in the necessary supplies.
Mr. Chairman I am sorry to interrupt you, Rev. Burry, but it is my proposal to rise until eight o'clock, when I shall be glad to hear you continue your address. Before doing so, I direct your attention to the following letter:
Broadcasting Corporation of Newfoundland
November 17, 1947.
Francis J. Ryan, Esq., Assistant Secretary, National Convention.
Dear Sir:
Replying to yours of November 15, I have arranged to have the Monday, Tuesday and Thursday evening sessions recorded and they will be rebroadcast as quickly as it is possible to do so, bearing in mind our present obligations of contracts.
Yours sincerely, George R. Williams
[The Convention recessed until 8 pm]
Mr. Burry Mr. Chairman, when the session closed this afternoon I was about to observe that this Convention is very anxious to have its work completed and I am in sympathy with that. I would like to have it over as quickly as possible. But I am wondering if fate has not had some hand in delaying this Economic Report. Perhaps if we had had it last fall or spring we would not see the true position of the country as we see it at the present time....
I was about to say also, that in treating this subject in a bright and cheerful way, we are not treating the people of this country fairly. We have to recognise the struggle that they have had in the past and the struggles that they are bound to have in the immediate future. I do not want to be too pessimistic. I do not want to dwell upon this too much; but the other side of it has been given such importance that I feel someone should show that not every side of our life and economy is as bright as some would have us think. It was pointed out here the other day, in all seriousness, that 90% of our people own their own homes. That fact was taken from the census and is an interesting fact. But that does not tell the whole story. We know 756 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1947 perfectly well that 90% of these homes are not equipped with the conveniences and comforts that people of this age and generation have come to expect. A great number of these homes are not equipped with furniture that might be described as the chesterfield suite, on which the breadwinner might be able to recline at the end of the day to rest his weary bones, or even on a Sunday afternoon. A lot of the furniture are hard-backed chairs, home-made couches; not only that, the kitchen range is still the Waterloo stove in a lot of them. I could take members of this Convention to homes where there are not even hard-backed chairs, but packing cases to sit on, and where stoves are still strung together with wire and sometimes local cement or mud. These are isolated cases perhaps, but yet they are cases we have to recognise. It was also said that even if our people do not make very much money, they do not need as much money as other people — they are able to get their own fuel by their own labour. That was true in my day, in our childhood days perhaps. But it is not true in larger sections of our country, unless the man is willing to take a hauling rope on his back when the early snow comes in the fall and use it throughout the long winter months; then he might be able to do it, by hauling wood from long distances. There are very few places where firewood can be obtained without putting in the whole winter, and I am sure we are not prepared to have our people do that and say it is the justified and right thing for them to expect.
I do not want to take up any more time on this debate. There are several things in the report I would like to call attention to, but the time is rapidly going. I would like to know where they get their authority for some of the things that they have quoted here, especially the picture they have built up with respect to the Labrador Mining and Exploration Company's work in Labrador and its possibilities for the future. I have always had an optimistic view of that future, but they have outdone me in my optimism. I wonder where they get some of the figures when they give this inflated picture. It seems to me it is a proposition of great magnitude and we certainly hope it will mean a lot to the economy of this country and to Labrador. I wonder what they mean when they say, "Upwards of 10,000 Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will be able to find employment in the production of iron ore".... It seems rather optimistic for them to say, "It further means, that the great Grand Falls water-power will finally be developed and from statistics shown by a survey conducted a few years ago by the Aluminum Company of Canada, it is estimated that this waterpower when developed will produce somewhere in the vicinity of one and one-half million horsepower." They are very optimistic, it seems to me, in saying that this water-power will be developed. I have not found anything to encourage me to think that this water-power is going to be developed by this company.... The impression I have received from people in authority is that it is very doubtful yet; no conclusion has been arrived at to lead anyone to believe this water-power will be tapped at all. It is a gigantic undertaking and if power for this job can be obtained at less expense, it will not be tapped at all. The Committee says it will be tapped. They say it will be 1.5 million horsepower when it is tapped. As I recall it the Committee gives the estimate of 1.16 million horsepower. Of course it is true that the Mining Committee did point out that if the waters of Michikamau Lake flowing into the Hamilton River were tapped, 20% would be added. Since it is doubtful that the falls will be tapped, it is optimistic to say 1.5 million horsepower will be developed — used in the production of iron ore and exportation of power to the Quebec area.
There is just one other thing I would like to say. As far as this country's being self-supporting is concerned, I am not in a position to admit that because the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs makes a bare statement that we are self-supporting; or because a former Commissioner for Finance also makes the bare statement, without any qualification; and because the majority of the Finance Committee makes the same statement.... I am not able to accept that and many other things; it seems to be an inflated opinion of the economy. I do not feel justified in supporting the passage of this report through the House at the present time.
Mr. Ashbourne The time has come at last to consider and discuss the economic position of Newfoundland. I was sent here as an elected member, elected by one of the outports of Newfoundland, with a duty to perform. I find in the terms of reference ... that our duty is three-fold or November 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 757 perhaps four-fold. Firstly, to consider and discuss. Secondly, to examine the position of the country. Thirdly, to make recommendations. We have been considering the changes that have taken place in Newfoundland since 1934 and we have entered into considerable discussion. I think, in view of what has been said by members, that there is little need for me to say much more on the economic situation, but yet I consider that perhaps my time might be well spent in referring to the reports which have been presented and in giving my ideas on them. I shall try to do this in the shortest possible time, but I would like the indulgence of the members of this House because I have no definite prepared speech....
....In discussing the economic position, which is the backbone and lifeblood of our national life, I would like to refer to two reports — the report of Chadwick and Jones,[1] which was distributed to us before the Convention met, and the Report of the Finance Committee.[2] The former report is a comprehensive survey and I think it would have been greatly to our advantage if instead of going out and making another Economic Report, we had accepted this Chadwick-Jones Report and had debated it. It contains 15 tables, and while it was prepared before the Convention met, we could have these tables brought up to date by the government. That is the least we could expect of them. Perhaps, seeing that we are in the closing hours of the Convention now, that might be overlooked. But anyone who has considered and studied this white paper has been struck with its comprehensiveness. It is a factual report and contains a considerable amount of information.
Regarding the Economic Report of the Finance Committee and also the Finance Report, I consider these reports have good points in them, but as far as I am concerned the Economic Report is not broad enough in its scope. I consider it a little too budgetary.... It seems to me we should keep in mind the fact we are not a government, but elected representatives sent here to do the job according to well defined terms of reference. We have the past to guide us. We are told history repeats itself. We all know we are living in a changing world. We are getting newer ideas. The age we live in, with aeroplanes, radios, cars, trucks, travel, motorboats and all the other inventions of our age, have all played their part in adding to the changing order. As far as I can see, the term "foreseeable future" has about it a sort of unreality which is unconvincing.... I do not know whether we were sent here to see what the future of Newfoundland is going to be. I do not think we were. I think we were sent here to assess and examine — that is the present tense — the country as we find it today. Who knows the future? God alone knows it.
There are several matters I would like to speak about in this report. The need of a good standard of living for our people is an essential, a great essential. We want taxation lifted from the necessities of life, and I would not want to be a part in the future, or even in the present, of a government which would seek to extract $17 million in duties from 300,000 people. There should be a great revision of the tariffs. I think it was about a year ago that the government made some reductions in the tariff, and I hope it will not be very long before we have further reductions, so that it will in some way try and offset the rise in the cost of living which must be a source of deep concern to our people. We know it is. I speak as one from the outports, rubbing shoulder to shoulder with the fishermen, for in our section people depend practically wholly upon the fisheries. There are some people who augment their earnings with the amount they earn from the lumberwoods. I am sure these people are anxiously awaiting the day when this great amount, I think it was $20 million last year, will be considerably lifted from their shoulders. We have heard recently about the request of the dairymen for an increase in milk. The fact that there is $4.75 a ton placed on imported hay is excessive. I see no reason whatsoever why the government could not reduce or remove altogether the duty on hay.
We know that people are wondering when the economic recession is going to get an impetus such as the World War brought along. Those of us who went through the experience after World War I, and knew the collapse of firms as a result of the drop in price of fish, wonder today when this recession is going to strike us again. Personally, I do not think there will be such a drop in price as was experienced at that time. I think the demand for proteins, just the same as the 758 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1947 demand for oils and fats, will help considerably to stabilise prices. But we must not forget, Mr. Chairman, that we are absolutely impotent and powerless to say what we are going to get for the fish and other commodities which we export, particularly to countries which have been devastated by war and whose populations are living a little bit above the verge of starvation.
We also know of the inflationary processes which are at work, which have been controlled to a certain extent by rationing and by rigid government control. These forces of inflation are forces over which we have very little control; and we find that there is a tendency for these things to encroach upon our economy. Not only are these controls being exercised over foodstuffs, but also over foreign exchange, and that has a tendency to stagnate trade. When the time comes when goods will flow freely, then we know trade will prosper. Progress is limited by how much debt load the people can carry. I am not unmindful of the fact that when Newfoundland lost its credit, it lost its government. Governments depend upon money to finance them and governments have to extract certain amounts from the people in order to finance not only their ordinary expenditures, but also to provide as best they can for capital expenditures. When we consider the revenues and expenditures of the governments of the past, when we see the total revenue on the one side, I would like to see the total expenditure on the other side. How can I draw a fair picture, if I see a total on one side and do not see a total on the other side? That is why it is rather difficult for a layman to understand the intricacies of government finance.... That is one thing I would like to ask Major Cashin. Having given us the total revenue, could he give us the total expenditure?
Mr. Cashin In recent years the budget speeches included capital expenditure as well as ordinary expenditure. It is difficult to segregate them. It would have taken considerable time if we had. In the Finance Report we did our best to separate the capital expenditure from the ordinary expenditure. In the Economic Report we have attempted to point out that we consider $25 million to be the ordinary expenditure, to pay the ordinary expenses of the country; anything over and above that would be capital expenditure. Is that what you want to know?
Mr. Ashbourne I thank the Major for that. I see here in the Finance Report that the total revenues from 1897- 1947 were $496 million while expenditures for the same years were approximately $500 million. What are the total expenditures?
Mr. Cashin I cannot tell you offhand. I will check up.... Since Commission of Government came they have included in their total expenditures all capital expenditures as well as ordinary expenditures. For the period of the last 12 or 13 years, particularly during the last five or six years, they spent a considerable amount in addition to the ordinary administration of government. They have spent, so far as we could tell from the accounts, approximately $20 million, probably more, on capital or construction or special expenditures. You will find it in the estimates for each year. You will find estimates for expenditures have always been exceeded, as well as estimates of revenue. In 1946-47 they budgeted for $30 million in revenues, and the revenues went up to $34-37 million. They also budgeted for expenditures of $34 million. When the accounts were wound up, we find the expenditures were $37 million. So while the revenues have increased, the expenditures have increased proportionately each year.
Mr. Jackman Is it fair that the chairman of the Finance Committee has to give an accurate forecast for years to come?
Mr. Chairman That is up to the chairman of the Committee. If you have a point of order, state it.
Mr. Jackman My point of order is, no man here has a crystal ball.
Mr. Chairman That is an expression of opinion, not a point of order. I must ask you to resume your seat.
Mr. Ashbourne I am speaking about the 50 years past, not the future. I am glad we can look forward with a certain amount of assurance to our exports keeping up in value. We realise that as far as the fisheries are concerned, the marketing end is being looked after far differently from what happened after World War I, when cutthroat competition and poor marketing resulted in great loss to this country. When the exports of a country drop, we know very well that a government is hard put to it sometimes to augment the money which comes in, by having to find loans and make capital expenditures and that, to my mind, has been the cause of a big increase in our national debt.... I realise that since 1934 we have November 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 759 been fortunate in having a reduction of our interest rates. This was brought about by our friends across the water taking over or guaranteeing our debt with a saving, I believe, of about $2 million. I sincerely hope the time is gone forever when the people have to pay interest on loans raised by the government to keep the country going. It is the bondholders who get the benefit, and the tax payers have to pay the piper. Should we be in the position to float a large government loan in Newfoundland, then the interest would be coming in to our own people; not to people outside the country, but to Newfoundlanders themselves.
I notice that the Economic Report does not mention the serious Labrador fishery. The failure of that fishery will bear hardly upon quite a few Newfoundland fishermen this year. This is an important industry, the Labrador fishery. It has been said ... that it is uneconomic. I do not hold that view. No matter what fishery you have, there will be years when there are plenty of fish and there will be hard, lean years as well. Unfortunately we have not been able to work out yet a plan whereby in years of plenty the surplus would be able to take care of the lean years. I believe that the time will have to come when either through social legislation or some scheme ... some plan will have to be evolved whereby the decline of the fishery with its consequent hardship upon those who are engaged at the time, would have to be worked out for the benefit of the people concerned and also for the benefit of the country. I do not know how the government would go about it — probably the Fisheries Board might have some ideas. I feel that something special should be done this year for the people who have come back from the Labrador without their usual voyages.... Clearly, if our economy is going to be built on solid foundations, some such plan should be evolved to take care of years such as this year. These men do not want dole. They do not want relief. I do not think the report speaks very much about relief, but I am informed that in September month in the city of St. John's, 314 families got relief at a cost of $7,873; in the outports, 401 families at a cost of $1,102. That was in September. I feel sure that there are sections that probably very soon will need some relief. My idea would be to work out a plan different from giving relief — something so that these men would be able to provide themselves not only with the necessities of life for the winter, but also perhaps be able to provide themselves with twine and other essential necessities, so that their fishery could be carried on next year in the accustomed fashion. It is to the producers of Newfoundland that we as a country must look. These are the men who wrest from the sea and from the forest and from the land, the wealth of land and sea, and with the surplus that the government has in hand today, I think they might well provide a fund to look after these people.... I am sure that any money spent in helping these people would be money well spent. With the surplus the government has on hand a considerable easing of taxation should be given and, as I said before, this would offset the rise in the cost of living. I speak as a representative of the outports, and our standards of living in the outports are different from the standards in St. John's. I know we cannot expect all the amenities of city life, but there are so many things in the outports that people have to do without, that we see, or think we see, a great difference between the two — between the outports and the city.
The people, who are today being taxed to provide the revenues, are asking when relief from taxation will be forthcoming.... What is the use of piling up huge surpluses, while the government has to give out relief? We want to know where the people of Newfoundland, who are the producers, where they are going to balance their budgets. It is all very well to say the government should balance its budget. If the government does not balance its budget it has to resort to loans, but the ordinary John Citizen has a budget to balance, and his budget is balanced by his expenditure meeting his income....
Though dependent on the fisheries, we are also dependent upon the forests and other natural assets and resources. The question arises as to where we are going to get the capital to develop our natural resources. If we do not have the capital here, we must try to get it outside, and in the past we have depended very much upon the scientific experience of outsiders, to come in and help develop our resources. By our dependence upon these people we have built up paper-making and other resources, and I am glad to see today our own men are being trained, so much so that our dependence on outside scientific experts will be greatly lessened, and that will be to our ad 760 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1947 vantage. While we have to import labour and management to help run our big industries we are not giving our own people the money returns that these outside people are getting.
[The committee recessed for 15 minutes][1]
Mr. Ashbourne I was speaking about the capital necessary to help develop our industries, and about the scientific experience we needed for our men. I thought about mentioning the fact that we were going to have a technical college or institute as a result of the extension of the men's vocational training scheme which will be, I hope, available in the future for any young men who wish to get some training and experience to equip them to take up these necessary occupations. We have natural resources to develop, but our lack of available capital, I am afraid, may interfere with their development, which will perhaps react upon our ability to take full advantage of our maritime position.
As regards the matter of a mercantile marine mentioned in the report, l think we have in the past lost quite a bit of money, which might have gone into our economy, by not having such a fleet, but on the other hand we are a small country, and we cannot be reasonably expected to provide services as if we had a population twice or three times the size. I believe we are underpopulated and our present transportation system and highroads could serve a far greater number of people. We are a small country, but yet it seems that we cannot provide full employment for all of our people even at the present time. Surely this problem should not defy solution. If we are to survive, this should command the earnest consideration of all of us. We want full employment in order to realise full production. Our main sources of wealth come from the land and the sea. We have to study the problem of production as well as the problem of distribution; and while we want to try and get the maximum production, we also want to try and provide full employment for our people, for these are complementary and both very important.
We hope that the world's complex distribution system will not break down. Our national economy needs to be kept at a maximum not only in times of war, but also in times of peace. We have been aided by scientific invention and research to harness many of the forces of nature and thus have been able to procure greater wealth from the land and the sea. We are told that our power to produce wealth has increased thirty- fold in the past 50 years. But to bring production and distribution to an equilibrium is a complicated and extremely difficult problem.
What is our dollar worth today? It has been said here already that the current index, or yardstick, was a barrel of flour for a quintal of fish. Today a barrel of flour is $20. The fisherman, who is the backbone of Newfoundland, has to get a barrel of flour a month, which means he needs $240 a year for one item of food — flour. The cost of living index continues to rise and the question, is when will it start to fall? People are looking with anxious hearts to the time when the cost of living will start to come down, for we cannot expect big prices for fish. The big prices we got during the war years will not continue. When Iceland, Norway and other fish-producing countries did not catch the fish, it was a matter practically of transportation for us — we could sell all the fish we could get providing we could get the transportation to carry it to the markets. When these countries get into full production, we shall not be able to get the prices for fish which we have been getting in the past. This whole problem of cost of living is a very, very important one and really enters into our economic picture.
I have spoken about the tariff. I do not want to belabour the question. I consider that in 1942 Newfoundland became technically self-supporting and for five years now has been self-supporting.... I believe we need a planned economy, not a hit-and-miss policy.
We have heard just recently from the north of the storms which have ravaged our shores. We know that the fishermen have to meet the storms and stress of the sea and of life. We have been very sorry to hear of the destruction which has been caused by the high seas and by the loss to these men of their stages and gear and equipment which is vital and necessary. Our sympathy goes out to these men in their loss and I hope that something may be done to assist these men to recoup that loss, or to encourage them to build up their fishing gear and property. I hope and trust that the intense economic storms and depressions that have swept Newfoundland in the past will be a thing of the past.
Mr. Banfield Mr. Chairman, I will not take up much of the Convention's time, but I feel that I should express my sentiments on this Economic Report. The report is so optimistic, and so many optimistic speeches have been made in praise of it, that a man may well hesitate before he dares to express a word of doubt about the rosy future that is held out before us. No man likes to be called a traitor to his native land, but at the same time I look upon it as my duty to speak of facts as I find them. It makes no difference whether these facts be bright or gloomy, they have to be expressed. The people do not expect us to hide unpleasant facts and concentrate on pleasant ones. They want to know the whole truth, and I do not feel that this report contains the whole truth.
I have recently read through all the budget speeches delivered in the House of Assembly between 1920 and 1932. Those were probably the worst years this country ever went through. We all know how our people suffered during those years. Yet in all those budget speeches not one word, not one single word, admitted that times were bad. They were all hopeful and optimistic. To read them you would never guess that Newfoundland was in the depths of depression. Those speeches were only trying to fool the people. Now, I want to be fair. When I say that Newfoundland has had more prosperity in the past half dozen years than ever before in our history, I am only saying what everybody knows. We have experienced some prosperity these past few years, since the war broke out. So we did in the last war. But a year or two after the last war, hard times fell upon Newfoundland. Can anybody get up and tell me that the same thing cannot happen again? Is depression something that cannot happen to us in future? I think we would have a big job on our hands to persuade our fishermen that depression is out of the question. I cannot agree with this report when it tells us that our present degree of prosperity is due to anything but the war. I think it is very much due to the war, and our people know it.
The report tells us that our fishery exports will be worth $25 million three years from now. I wonder how they know that? Suppose the figure is only $20 million, or even $15 million. After all, they were worth only $8 million just eight years ago. I don't suppose they'll fall that low again, but between $8 million and $25 million anything can happen. Fish has dropped before and it can drop again, in spite of the Finance Committee and the Economic Report. Of course, we all hope that fish prices will stay up, but we are not justified in taking it for granted that they will stay up.
I want to say a word to those who keep telling us how prosperous this country is today. I'm very much afraid that there are some amongst us who seem to know very little about some parts of this country. There are places in Newfoundland today where it is anything but prosperous. I will make you a prophecy right now, Mr. Chairman, and it is this, that this coming winter we will have more people on the dole than we have had at any time since the war broke out. Right in my native Fortune Bay the bright bloom has disappeared from our wartime prosperity. Many a family will be forced to take dole again in Fortune Bay this winter. And Fortune Bay is not the only part of Newfoundland where dole is lifting its ugly head again. With all the millions of money that poured into Newfoundland from the United States and Canada these past few years, some people had forgotten all about the dole — in fact some shortsighted people told us that we'd never see a poor day again. The way things are going in some parts of Newfoundland today, we're in for another period of dole unless something is done to stop it, something to make dole unnecessary.
The picture is not all black. The paper mills will prosper for the next two or three years. The mines also seem to be pretty safe for the next year or two or even longer. And some day down in Labrador we're going to have a big development in iron ore. It is satisfying to see these bright spots, but we must not make the great mistake of imagining that because these industries are prosperous now, and will probably be prosperous for the next few years, that everything else is prosperous and will be prosperous. And we must never forget that over half our population lives out of the fishery. There can be no true prosperity for Newfoundland without a prosperous fishery. That is something which we must never forget.
In conclusion, I want to say this: I am quite satisfied that our government is self-supporting today, but not so sure that our people are all self—supporting. I am satisfied that some of our main industries are prosperous and will stay prosperous for another while, but that our main 762 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1947 industry, the fishery, already shows dangerous signs of slipping back. I am satisfied that most of the prosperity we now have is directly the result of the war, and that this prosperity is almost certain to die away when the full effects of this war die away. I am all in favour of facing the whole truth, and I'm quite sure that it's the whole truth our people want, and nothing less.
Mr. Hollett If I am in order, sir, I would like to ask the last speaker if he expects or wants the people to accept a prophecy which he has just made about dole and about the dark days — if he expects them to take that as the truth? He has said we are in for bad times — we may be. That is a prophecy, but is that the truth? Is that the truth he wants to spread around this country? I maintain it is only a prophecy.
Mr. Chairman Except that there are two schools of thought. As I said before and I repeat, if it is the conviction of a member that — for instance, some people think Cabot should have been hanged instead of being paid ten pounds for discovering this island; that is merely a question of judgement upon which men might differ. I suppose he is entitled to enter into the realms of speculation or conjecture.
Mr. Hollett What I want to get at is this, that statement, does he expect people to regard that as truth or as his own personal opinion? I take it this report was based on facts; it is true they did make some prognostications as to the degree of prosperity for the next three years. We do not have to accept that. Mr. Banfield says the fishery is slipping down into the dole stage again, the woods industry is good only for another two or three years, in spite of the fact, in the considered opinion of the Economic Committee and in the opinion of the people who are looking after the woods industry, it will be prosperous for the next ten years. Do we want the people to accept that Economic Report based on facts, or does Mr. Banfield want them to accept his opinion?
Mr. Chairman That is beyond my competency. It is his right to draw any inference or conclusion he desires. Whether or not he will be able to sell his ideas to the people next May or June, I am not going to make any pronouncement upon, for the obvious reason that I cannot.
Mr. Smallwood I have no intention of making any speech at this time on the debate now before the Chair. After leaving here at six o'clock today and picking up my mail, I found this letter which I think may help to throw some light on the present economic position of Newfoundland in at least one of its aspects.
Mr. Chairman To what do you refer?
Mr. Smallwood I was about to read a letter, the author of which is willing to have her name used.
Mr. Higgins I strongly object.
Mr. Chairman If you do not mind, I have permitted a certain amount of latitude in this connection. In fact I might very well and very properly be accused of permitting too much latitude. I want members to remember that the expression of outside opinion to them is one thing, and must not be confused with expressions of opinion by members on matters before the Chair, which is something entirely different. Therefore I have to state that I cannot concern myself with anything that happens outside the House and therefore I do not propose to allow expressions of opinion originating outside the House, in permanent form or otherwise, to have any bearing at all upon the deliberations of the House. The only thing with which I am concerned is to ensure that members shall observe the standing orders and regulations covering debates on matters which come before the Chair. Therefore, Mr. Smallwood, I am compelled to draw the line and make a general ruling: I will not be concerned with any expressions of opinion outside this House unless the document referred to is of an official nature, which is calculated to lay the foundation for the consideration of some matter which is before the House.
Mr. Smallwood I accept your ruling. This letter is not an expression of opinion. This is a letter which describes the condition of economic affairs.
Mr. Higgins Point of order. That is not an official document as far as we are concerned. Therefore I object to anything being quoted from it.
Mr. Smallwood There was no such ruling ever made and I have not been out of this House ten minutes since the Convention started. Time and again members have quoted from documents which were not official. Mr. Hollett has just quoted from a book written by me...
Mr. Higgins That is official.
Mr. Smallwood Time and again documents have been quoted in this chamber which were not officially compiled. Here is a bit of first hand information from a part of this country describing November 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 763 the economic condition of the people here.
Mr. Chairman My position is, I have only to concern myself with expressions of opinion by members on motions before the Chair. I am therefore not concerned with expressions of opinion outside this chamber, from members of the public to members who comprise this National Convention. I am afraid, Mr. Smallwood, in consistency with the line of demarcation I have drawn, I cannot allow you to read the letter.
Mr. Smallwood I will not read the letter, but I shall proceed to give a description of the conditions as they exist on the island of St. Brendan's. [Applause from the gallery]
Mr. Chairman This is not a matter for applause. Mr. Smallwood, would you please address your remarks to me and not play the gallery. If you want to express an opinion on St. Brendan's or on any part of the island, it is your right.
Mr. Higgins Providing it is based on facts.
Mr. Chairman Not being inspired and therefore not knowing what is coming, I cannot make a pronouncement upon what is going to be said. It is Mr. Smallwood's right to express his opinion on any question pertaining to any section of the island covered by the Economic Report. With that in mind, you may proceed.
Mr. Smallwood St. Brendan's Island is one of the largest islands on the coast of Newfoundland. It is entirely a fishing settlement. The people do some inshore fishing, some Labrador fishing and some squid fishing. This year they were encouraged at the outset to concentrate on the squid fishery. They were offered 35 cents a pound for dried squid, and many of them dropped everything else and went at the squid fishery. They did very well, but having caught and made the squid, they now find they cannot sell any of it whatever; that no buyer will take any of it; no shopkeeper will trade any food for it, and these people cannot get any food whatever for their squid. They are living, many of them, on the kindness of their neighbours. They have no food for the winter. There is now no flour in St Brendan's and the people are at their wits' end as to what they are going to do. They cannot get any labour; they cannot get work at Gander; they cannot get work in the lumberwoods; they cannot get it in St. John's; the fishery is over; the fish is useless to them; they have no food; they have no money, and yet these people are told it is a prosperous country and that its future is assured. The people down there, as in many other places in the island today, are wondering what is going to happen; whether they will be driven back on the dole, the thought of which they hate, or whether work will be found for them; or whether some arrangement will be worked out whereby cash can be put up — if not cash, then food — for the productof their toil all through these summer and fall months. I have no intention of making a speech. I was not permitted to read a letter describing at first hand the economic conditions among these hardy and very fine people on the island of St. Brendan's. So I have given you a description of it and now the country knows it.
Mr. Hollett Could I ask Mr. Smallwood the authority for that factual statement he has just made?
Mr. Smallwood I will be happy to give the authority; it is Mrs. Ed White of the island of St. Brendan's.
Mr. Butt ....I have listened attentively to the debate for the last four or five days, and whether this man is an optimist, whether this man is a pessimist, whether this man is a realist, and all the other words which can be so contentious; but I always ends up with the feeling, "So what"? Since we have been an island, our people have suffered. The millennium has not come for Newfoundland any more than for any other country, and I beg leave to express my doubts on the future of Newfoundland. I express my doubts on the future of UNO. I express my doubts on the welfare of the United Kingdom in the years to come. But what do I do? I sit down and think what I can do about it. I do not allow myself to get into the doldrums. I face up to the situation as I see it, hoping to God that I may be able to do something about it.
If I had written this Economic Report, the wording and the approach might have been somewhat different; but in the end I should have wound up by agreeing with it substantially, and I would not think of myself as either an optimist or a pessimist in ending up that way. I would have looked at the terms of reference and found that what we are supposed to do is to discuss the changes that have taken place in the financial and economic situation of the island since 1934.... I would have asked myself, what was the position of the fishery in 1934 and what is its position 764 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1947 today? And I would have looked at the problem in such a way as to estimate the chances for the future as far as the fishery is concerned I would have come to the conclusion that we are better organised today; prices are higher and are not likely to drop to where they were before, if the world keeps on a sound basis at all. I would have pointed out that there are a greater number employed directly in the fishery today than in 1934 on a percentage basis. I would have pointed out that our fisheries are more diversified than they have ever been, and I would have ended up by realising that the people of the world, as well as in Newfoundland, are in need of food and I would have then said, "We have got to make that better; we have to organise it better still and we have to convey that food to the people who need it". I would have concluded, so far as we are concerned in 1947, that we are somewhat better off in the fisheries than we were in 1934.
I would have looked at the forest resources - as the Committee did — and I do not propose to spend much time on them. We know our resources are very much more considerably developed that they were in 1934. The people concerned with that development are putting more of their capital in it because they have some faith in the future of that industry. We have therefore developed our timber resources to a greater extent than ever before in the history of the country. I would say we have extraordinary market prospects. There may be a drop in prices when things get back to normal. You cannot take your resources and blast them out of the earth without paying in higher cost of foodstuffs and higher cost of living. If you take up any magazine from any country you will find that the high cost of living is worrying everyone, just as in Newfoundland, and will continue to worry us until we have worked out our stupidity as a world for causing such a war as in 1939. I would point out that as far as timber resources are concerned, that there are at least a number of people earning more wages than ever before in that industry.
I would take serious note, if I happened to be a government, of the position of the Labrador fishermen, who have suffered. I would take note of the failure of the Labrador Development Company to which Mr. Burry referred, and I would attempt to do something about it. I would not give the people the impression that because there are some cracks in our economy, our country is going to the dogs. That is the point about which I feel as keenly as any man, the suffering of our people, but I do not want to get into the condition of gloom where we will do nothing about it. As long as you have not got faith and hope, you have nothing. That is what I resent about the gloom all over the place.
If we take the mining industry, I would have said, as far as the ordinary workings are concerned, it is not much better off than in 1934. But I would have said, as the report says, the world needs our wealth. Therefore potentially we have market, if we have the vision and courage to go after it, and we will have extra earning power for our people in the future.
Agriculture — I would have shown the present position which is very little better than 1934. But I would say, we have not given to agriculture the thought and sympathy that it should have had, consequently we suffered because we have not had the production we should.... If we have the will and vision to go to work on the land, we can produce in the future ten millions, possibly more, even when prices have found their normal range.
I think the Finance Committee was perfectly right in putting in the last part of its report this question of faith. You can call it faith or you can call it morale — and you would need to call it some other things in different circumstances — the one thing you must have in the economy is faith, the will of the people. If you look at Alfred Marshall's first book, in it he gives a definition of economics — "the study of wealth on the one hand and the study of man on the other". In the study of political economy you must take into consideration the human element which is the will to push forward and do things.
Now I shall look at our financial and other resources. I shall refer and not too strongly, to the $70-80 million in the bank. It may be worth in real wealth only $25 million, according to what you can buy for it. It is a backlog. I would point out the increase in life insurance in this country. It is a backlog. It is worth something to us. In regard to the investments in securities, I raised that question with Major Cashin, I do not think he gave enough credence to that question. In my own work I find the amount in savings banks deposits and the amount in life insurance held is November 1947 NATIONAL CONVENTION 765 probably, from what I can judge, a very small part of our savings in comparison with the investments in securities. I realise it is impossible to get it with any degree of accuracy; but because we cannot get it with any degree of accuracy, does not mean we cannot depend upon a certain amount there which can be used as collateral against loans raised to develop the country or used to bring in income, and it is doing it, year after year. I would have pointed out the better position of our capital assets throughout the country — our business premises, our barns, our homes and other equipment and I would have pointed out this — and this may be a strange thing to bring in an Economic Report — the development of the radio. Radio is not just a means of communication. If you can use your means of communication to further the enlightenment of the people, you have created an asset which is something you did not have before; just as you say our health and education are assets which ought to be brought into questions of political economy. I would point out something else which has helped our economy, that is the development of trade unions and the development of the cooperative movement. Not only on its financial and business side, but in the spirit which it is bringing about in our country and the education which it is doing. I would also add a word about the service industries to which nobody seemed to have paid much attention.
In all, the conclusion reached from my point of view is that we are considerably better off than we were in normal times, and much better off than we were in 1934, the date given in our terms of reference. In saying that, I am well aware of the fact that if we look too far into the future, it may be that Newfoundland will strike hard times. The people of this country are not fools. They know that as well as I do. And when some people say they want the truth, they know it is the truth. They also want to know about our chances of the future. I think the Economic Report gives that very reasonably, although as Mr. Burry said, it might have had some shadows put in it.
Having done that, I would ask myself, "Is this economy of ours the result of the war?" I would say, "Yes, to a large extent". It is also the result of our having got back to our normal export position. I would add that when the war is over you go into a peace economy and it may be entirely changed; because of what happened in the war, that peace economy may take a long time to settle back into the condition it was before the war started.
Having done that I would enquire into the relationship of our economy with government expenditure. As I see it, and reducing it to its simplest terms, it is this: if a group of people have some way of producing wealth which is measured by money, they have two courses open to them. One (which is as old as the first fog) is for each individual man and family to do things for himself, like looking after his own sick, educating his own children, building his own roads and other things which have to be done in order to make existence possible. Or he might say, we have a lot of things in common — we have education, health, roads, protection of property and of persons, we have communications. All these things we have in common. Now, out of this we can produce, either as individuals or as corporations, or co-operatives, we can produce a certain amount of wealth, which can be measured in money, out of which we take so much to give — not to some big ogre, as some people look upon the government, any government, but to ourselves — so that we can spend it on the things which we have in common, and relieve ourselves of the private and individual need of doing it. That is why I say it does not make much difference where you set the point of revenue and expenditure as long as you base it on your taxable capacity, or your own ability to produce that which allows people to live and pay for the things they have in common. In assessing our position in relation to 1934, I would state quite frankly one thing, I would say from 1920-33 — what is commonly known as the "roaring twenties" — we in Newfoundland, in common with other countries in the world, went on a binge of extravagance; we built for ourselves overheads which we were not entitled to build up and for which we could not pay....
Looked at in one way, our public debt and its burden brought Newfoundland to her knees because at the time we borrowed money we paid 5% and 5½%, and I would point out today we have $80 million with interest payment halved, because we are now paying 3%, therefore we do not have to carry the burden of $2½ million which would have helped us considerably in the 766 NATIONAL CONVENTION November 1947 years 1920-34. I would look at the cash surplus, say $30 million. Never before has our country been in a position where she has been able to have a nest egg. I would look at the accumulated surplus and the sinking fund which is set aside, and I would be forced to conclude, as the Finance Committee did, that as far as finance is concerned we have much better conditions than we had in 1934.
I would say also government plant in the form of school buildings, public buildings, bait depots, wharves, hospitals, the demonstration farm, postal telegraphs and the railway are in much better shape than they were in 1934, and the expenditure on them will not have to be as great. But we have also increased our permanent government expenditure. What are our chances of maintaining and increasing our services? In view of the betterment, as I see it, of our economy, stimulated by war but projected into the future, it is my opinion that we have a reasonable chance of maintaining and increasing these services.
I would like to ask Major Cashin if, in the process of compiling the Economic Report, he had recourse to the memorandum from the Commission of Government, and the first page on the Reconstruction and Development Scheme?
Mr. Cashin I remember the document. In compiling the report I did not even look at it. I do not think any member of the Finance Committee looked at it. It was received in here and it showed a programme of reconstruction for the next number of years and there it ended. We did not even debate it.
Mr. Butt I am glad you did not. This scheme in all amounts to $60 million over the next ten years — the government put in $26 million to be carried out over a period of three years, and it made a tentative programme for the next seven years; each of the next seven years would average $4,700,000. I do not want anyone to say we would have revenue enough to meet current expenditure over these ten years, and this much money over afterwards; but I would say that we would be able to meet our expenditure — balance our revenue and expenditure — and take care of something on behalf of reconstruction....
My point in bringing this up is to show that a party independent of the Finance Committee had the temerity to set down a plan for ten years. They have also done what I consider reasonable, and set a plan for three years. If you will refer to the estimates you will find in the first year they spent $10 million on reconstruction and they expect to spend next year $6.5 million, which is one of the years included in the Finance Committee's report. I do not want to be accused of having invoked the government programme to support the Finance Committee report in any way. But I do think it shows there is a reasonable expectancy in the years to come of meeting expenditures by the current revenues and providing something for reconstruction.
I would like to end up by saying that whatever your natural leanings, whether optimistic or pessimistic, we have been down before; we are not very high now; we will probably be down again. When I was a boy my father used to say to me, "It is nothing against you to fall down flat, but to lie there, that is a disgrace".
[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 11:425. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] The following section is taken from the recording of the proceedings.
  • [1] The section taken from the recording ends here.
  • [1] Volume II:61. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] Three Rapids Estate and the Labrador Development Company were small timber companies operating in Labrador.
  • [1] Volume II:16. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [2] Volume II:369. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] This recess was called because only a single stenographer was on duty.

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