Newfoundland National Convention, 19 January 1948, Debates on Confederation with Canada


January 19, 1948

Mr. Chairman Before we begin the order of business for today, may I direct the attention of members to the fact that the broadcasts of sittings are just about two days behind time, and if we continue with regular night sessions it is an ticipated that we will be about a week behind time when the formal closing, which is scheduled to take place on January 30, does in fact take place.
I am ready and willing to sit in regular evening sessions Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, or on January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1231 Wednesday and Friday if members so desire. I realise time is running out, but if it is the wish of members to have their speeches broadcast after the same have been delivered in the chamber, they should take notice of the fact that the evening sessions will of necessity have to be cut down. If, on the other hand, we continue with evening sessions, it may very well be no longer news, but history, by the time it reaches the people of the country, bearing in mind the fact that we will eventually get to the stage where the broadcast will be about seven days behind the actual proceedings....
Mr. Cashin With Mr. Higgins' permission, I want to draw your attention to the fact, first, that two of my questions have not yet been replied to, particularly in connection with the Newfoundland Savings Bank.
Mr. Chairman Captain Warren says he has just received them.
Mr. Cashin We can get it in a minute or two. Another point I would like to bring up is this: as you know we had a private meeting on Friday, in which it was agreed that this Convention would be shut out, so to speak, by His Excellency the Governor on Friday, January 30. I bring up this matter because when the delegation went to England, Lord Addison, when a question was put to him regarding say two or three forms of government there, about making up his mind on it, said ... he might have to seek further advice from the Convention. Well, if the Convention is out of business, then there won't be any Convention to appeal to, and I bring the matter up because I feel that the Convention should not be dissolved.
I realise, Mr. Chairman, there's possibly legal technicalities which say that once we have made our recommendations, the Convention closes off. But I feel that the matter should be brought to the attention of the Governor, so that we would know the result of these recommendations in one way or another. Surely if we make these recommendations we should know what is happening, and we should remain technically a body, not under pay, so that it can be called together at a moment's notice if necessary. I know some gentlemen will be gone, but as Lord Addison pointed out and I am not breaking any secrets, he would probably have to ask the Convention for further advice. If the Convention is disbanded he won't be able to ask it. I bring this to your attention so that you can bring it to the proper authorities, and see what is going to happen. Say we make these recommendations, we are told that within 30 days we should know what is going to happen from the Dominions Office, etc. How long it will take them to do this and that I do not know, and I feel that before the Convention is officially wiped out these things should be settled. I suggest you take it up with the Attorney General, or His Excellency the Governor.
Mr. Smallwood I am rather glad Major Cashin raised that matter. As I understand it, the National Convention Act, which created this Convention, contains no provision for the dissolution of the Convention, and certainly the Convention cannot dissolve itself. It has no authority to do that. To be dissolved I suppose one of two methods would have to be adopted; either the government would enact a statute to dissolve the Convention, or else His Excellency, when he comes here on the closing day next week, will issue his proclamation dissolving the Convention, and in either way the Convention would be dissolved. But the question arises — should the Convention be dissolved before the referendum is held? His Excellency, when he comes here next week, could prorogue the Convention instead of dissolving it, and as Major Cashin says, we would go on back to our own business or work, and would not be meeting. But we would still be a Convention for as long only as there would be any point or sense in our being so, and certainly we would not be under pay.
I am glad he mentioned that matter of not being under pay, because I have been waiting for the right moment to point out that there seems to be a lot of misunderstanding in the country amongst the people on this question. A lot of people seem to think we get paid every day, even when we have holidays, even when we recess for Christmas, even when the Convention is not meeting, a lot of people seem to think that our pay goes right on as if we were sitting here all the time. The truth is that is not so, and when Major Cashin says that if the Convention were held together until a later day we would not get paid, I am glad he made that point, so that nobody would think that the only reason we would have this thought in our minds now is trying to hook more money out of it. We would get no money at 1232 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 all. The question is, when it closes should it be dissolved for all time or should it be prorogued? It seems very desirable from a number of standpoints, that when His Excellency comes to close the Convention, he should prorogue and not dissolve it, because, as pointed out, it may become necessary for the British government to come back to us and ask for information or advice on some point connected with the referendum. Well, if we are dissolved next week, the British government cannot come back to us — we will not be in existence, so that I think that is a matter which you, as Chairman, might take up if you have not already done it. I am sure you have already given the matter some thought, because I know it was in my mind even before it happened. There is not a word in the act about dissolving the Convention. We can go home, but we are still a Convention until we are dissolved.
Mr. Chairman No, I can't accept that position....
Mr. Smallwood We can make our recommendations and go home. I am not a lawyer, but it seems to me that the Convention Act which created us leaves us in existence and does not provide for our dissolution. It only provides for the discharge of our duty. Once we have discharged that duty are we not still in existence as a Convention until we are dissolved by statute or by the Governor's proclamation? It is certainly a matter to think over.
Mr. Chairman The reply to Mr. Cashin, and I think my learned friends Mr. Higgins and Mr. Hollett will bear me out in this, in going though the transcript of the London proceedings I did not notice where Lord Addison did proceed on the presupposition that this Convention would be available for him to refer back any questions which may occur to him during the hiatus between the making of the recommendations and the holding of the referendum. My own opinion, for what it is worth, is that under the National Convention Act this Convention is brought to an end in either of two ways: either by repealing the legislation, the National Convention Act, or by this Convention completing its work as set forth in the prescribed act. In other words, that this Convention would cease to exist after the time it had made its recommendations. With these opinions in mind, I promptly took the matter up with His Excellency the Governor, and my respectful submission to him was that if my interpretation of the section was correct, then I was at a great loss to understand how Lord Addison proposed to refer back, to a nonexistent body, questions which would arise between its dissolution and the holding of the referendum, if my contention was that this Convention would come to an end instantly when the recommendations were made.
My opinion is that this Convention is in substitution of a royal commission, and if a royal commission is set up to do a certain job, certainly it comes to an end after that job has been performed. Therefore, under the present state of the legislation constituting the Convention, the Governor has no discretion as to whether the house will be prorogued or formally dissolved.
I think that if the Convention is to be prorogued or dissolved an amendment to the act is essential. Therefore, if it is the desire of members, I will contact the Hon. Mr. Walsh, who is now the Acting Chairman of the Commission of Government, and I will place your views before him, first for the purpose of determining whether or not he agrees with my interpretation of the act, and if not, whether or not he is prepared to have the necessary legislation put into effect to have the Convention dissolved, and I will pass his report back to the house.
Mr. Bradley I am rather inclined to agree. This Convention was brought into existence by statute, and the first observation I would like to make is that there is no such thing as prorogation of this Convention. It is not a legislature in any sense of the word, and the Governor has no more power to prorogue it than I have. Now when it was brought into existence by statute it was given certain powers — to investigate and make recommendations to the British government. Just when it will have made all its recommendations I don't know. I understand that, within the next ten days or so, the intention of the Convention is to make certain recommendations to the British government with reference to forms of future government in this country, but I have no assurance that by the date named all the recommendations which the Convention will want to make will have then been made. If not, it seems to me that the Convention will still have a further function, and consequently will be legally in existence, sir, even if its functions have been January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1233 completely fulfilled and its powers completely out of existence. It is still there, and although it may have nothing to do and no power to function in any way it is still a Convention, if you like, with nothing to do.
It might be just as well if you are discussing the matter with the Attorney General, you might take up with him the necessity of an act of Parliament to put this Convention out of existence. In any event, even assuming that its work is done, it is still a Convention by statute. What is there on the statute book to say that it does not exist any more? There is nothing to say that having made its recommendations the Convention shall cease to exist. It is quite possible that the Governor in Commission may want it to do some more work. If so, it is still there, and the Governor can empower it to do that work. I think that should be taken up with the Attorney General when you see him.
Mr. Chairman Thank you, Mr. Bradley.
Mr. Cashin Following that matter I have received some replies to questions, some of which I have not asked, but I still have not received any reply regarding the Newfoundland Savings Bank. At least I am pretty sure it is not here, and I would like to draw you attention to the matter again, Mr. Chairman, so that the Secretary can be requested to ring up the Secretary of the government and ask him if we are going to get it or not.... I would like to have something on the Newfoundland Savings Bank.
Mr. Smallwood Have they actually started now to answer questions which Major Cashin did not ask at all?
Mr. Cashin I asked these questions long ago, I think some of them were asked by yourself. I find one or two that I asked, but the one with regard to the Savings Bank has not been answered.
Mr. Chairman I think that the last one was asked a week or ten days ago.
Mr. Cashin They said it would be a few days or so.
Mr. Chairman Yes, this is the second or third time you have directed my attention to this.
Mr. Cashin Yes, it is the third time I have brought it up.

Motion to recommend to the United Kingdom Government that the wishes of the People of Newfoundland be ascertained as to whether it is their desire that Responsible Government be restored or Commission of Government be continued

Mr. Higgins Mr. Chairman, before going into the motion proper,[1] and so that I won't use up time when I may need it, I want to draw the attention of members to the two sheets I have taken the liberty of having placed on their desks. I am sure they are known to most members, but some may not be as familiar with it, and I thought it would not be any harm, in our discussions, to have them actually prepared. You will notice the first page, "United States Concessions to Newfoundland", and the word "Secret" marked on it. On that page are concessions given to Newfoundland for which she had to pay certain concessions to United States. On the other two pages are the concessions that were given without any consideration on our part whatsoever....
Mr. Chairman, in moving the motion which appears under my name on the order paper this afternoon, I would remind you once again of the terms of reference under which this Convention is constituted, and in particular section 3, which makes it necessary for this Convention to recommend forms of government. My own inclination in the matter, would be to recommend one form of government only, namely responsible government, but to conform to our terms of reference under the Convention Act it is necessary to recommend forms of government. Therefore this resolution means, if it passes, that two forms of government will be recommended to His Majesty's Government to be put before the people at a national referendum.
Let us review briefly the steps that led to the formation of this assembly of which we are members. In the years of the world depression, beginning around 1930, Newfoundland, in company with the rest of the world, got in deep water. This condition was by no means peculiar to Newfoundland, as you all know. The government of the day, under the late Hon. F.C. Alderdice, became worried about the condition of the country, and approached the United Kingdom in the mat 1234 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 ter. As a result of this application the famous royal commission presided over by Lord Amulree was appointed. It is of interest to note at this time that in the last election for responsible government the party led by the late Mr. Alderdice won by a sweeping majority, and only two of the opposing party were elected, the present member from Green Bay[1] and the member from Bonavista, Mr. Bradley, and voicing all your sentiments, I say we are all glad to have Mr. Bradley back with us today. There was also elected for the Alderdice party at that time Mr. K.M. Brown, another member of this Convention, although not with us just now unfortunately; and also at that election we have another member of this Convention contesting a seat, in the person of the representative from Bonavista Centre, Mr. Smallwood. His opponent at that time was Mr. Quinton. I feel fairly safe in saying that had Mr. Smallwood been elected at that time it is possible that we would never have lost responsible government, because we all know, particularly in this House, what an ardent exponent of responsible government Mr. Smallwood was all through the years of Commission government, and up until a short time before this Convention opened. In newspaper articles, which I would read to you if permitted, Mr. Smallwood demonstrated himself as the most eager advocate of responsible government. In his "Barrelman" programmes he spent many years helping along the cause and, in fact, it was not until he came in close contact with residents of Canada at Gander that his ardour cooled, until now he is the most destructive opponent of responsible government as we knew it in 1934. Who among us here will forget his damning speech at the introduction of his confederation resolution on October 28, 1946? Let me quote from that speech:
Compared with the mainland of North America we are 50 years, in some things 100 years, behind the times. We live more poorly, more shabbily, more meanly. Our life is more of a slruggle. Our struggle is tougher, more naked, more hopeless. In the North American family Newfoundland bears the reputation of having the lowest standard of life, of being the least progressive and advanced of the whole family. A metamorphosis steals over us the minute we cross the border that separates us from Newfoundland. We are not indignant about them; we save our indignation for those who publish such facts, for with all our complacency, with all our readiness to receive, to take for granted, and even to justify these things amongst ourselves, we are, strange to say, angry and hurt when these shocking facts become known to the outside world.
I do not know who is making them known. Gentlemen, to me these are just the vapourings of Mr. Smallwood. I well remember Mr. K.M. Brown standing up there and saying, "These words pierced me to the heart."
However, to return to events leading up to this Convention. The commission under Lord Amulree was constituted by a royal warrant dated February 17, 1933. It consisted of William Warrender MacKenzie, Baron Amulree, Charles Alexander McGrath and Sir William Ewen Stavert with Peter Alexander Clutterbuck as Secretary. This commission assembled in St. John's on March 13, and began its sessions on March 20, 1933. During its collection of evidence, it also visited Canada, arriving there on April 29, and leaving on May 27, 1933. During that time the commission had interviews with the Canadian government and took evidence of witnesses. They adjourned their sittings in July and began to compile a report which was presented on September 14, 1933.[2] This report, which was the basis for the formation of our present Commission of Government, was contained in a volume of 283 pages, complete with maps and other exhibits.
As you are aware, the reason for this commission was the inability of the Newfoundland government at that time to pay the interest on the bonds. A number of people in Newfoundland thought and still think that there would have been nothing wrong in Newfoundland defaulting on its bond interest at that time, and as events proved later, some of the major countries of the world did so. However, little Newfoundland could not do so because it would be a disgrace to the Empire. I would quote to you paragraph 513 of the report:
We have been content to dwell on the January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1235 consequences of default to the Island itself and to pass over the effects which default by a part of the British Empire would be likely to produce on other parts of the Empire and even elsewhere. The people of Newfoundland would not, we are sure, be prepared to ignore this latter consideration as a matter of no concern to themselves. As we have said, default by a British community would be without precedent, and such a step would at once retard the general recovery and tarnish the good name of the British Commonwealth. Alike in its own interest and out of loyalty to the Commonwealth, the Island should take every possible step to avert so great a misfortune.
I would draw your attention also to paragraph 551 of the report, which I quote to you:
After much anxious consideration, therefore, and in spite of a strong pre-disposition in favour of the maintenance of established representative institutions and of responsible government, we have been forced to the conclusion that only by a radical change of regime for a limited period of years can the Island be assisted to effective recovery....
And also paragraph 557:
After examination of all the alternative courses that have been put before us from time to time and of the variants that have suggested themselves to us, we have no hesitation in saying that, in the circumstances now prevailing in Newfoundland, the proposal that a system of "Government by Commission" should be established for a limited period of years affords the best hope of enabling the Island to make a speedy and effective recovery from its present difficulties. We proceed, therefore, to outline the plan of reconstructions which we propose to recommend, a plan which has been specially devised to meet the present emergency and which is based on the understanding that, as soon as the Island's difficulties are overcome and Newfoundland is again self-supporting, responsible government, on request from the people of Newfoundland, would be restored.
And also the summary recommendations contained in paragraph 562:
1. The suspension of the existing form of government until such time as the Island may become self-supporting again....
6. Your Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom would, for their part, assume general responsibility for the finances of the Island until such time as it may become self-supporting again, and would, in particular, make such arrangements as may be deemed just and practicable with a view to securing to Newfoundland's reduction in the present burden of the public debt.
And further to sub-paragraph 3 of paragraph 634:
It is essential, if this object is to be achieved, that the country should be given a rest from party politics for a period of years, and we have no hesitation in saying that, in the circumstances now prevailing in Newfoundland, the proposal that a system of "Government by Commission" should be established for a limited period affords the best means of enabling the Island to make a speedy and effective recovery from its present difficulties.
And also to sub-paragraph 4 of paragraph 634 sub-paragraphs A and G:
A. The existing form of government would be suspended until such time as the Island may become self-supporting again.
G. It would be understood that, as soon as the Island's difficulties are overcome and the country is again self-supporting, responsible government, on request from the people of Newfoundland, would be restored.
To go further in this description, in January 1934 the Legislative Council and Assembly, in a joint address to His Majesty the King, requested suspension of the Letters Patent, and the issuance of new Letters Patent to provide for the administration of the island until such time as it became self-supporting again. On January 30 1934, by the Newfoundland Act, 1933, provision was made for the administration of Newfoundland during the period whilst the operation of the former Letters Patent was suspended, and so Commission of Government was brought into being.
You will thus see quite clearly that it was the intention of the compilers of this report and of our House of Assembly and Legislative Council, and furthermore of the British government, that Commission of Government should only be a temporary measure. I should like to give you my opinion, for what it is worth, on the legal position 1236 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 arising out of the agreement made with this country when we agreed to relinquish responsible government.
The strict legal position is that this country was entitled as of right to demand the return of responsible government as soon as we were self- supporting. The only justification for this Convention is to present the facts to the people of the country, to enable them to make up their minds as to whether or not they wish to advise the United Kingdom government that it was their desire that responsible government be restored. The only choice that can be put at the referendum is between responsible government as it existed prior to 1934 and Commission of Government as it presently exists. I am quite certain that the act constituting this Convention was never intended to cancel the agreement between the Newfoundland and United Kingdom governments and that the words in our Convention Act, "forms of government", must and can only mean two forms, Commission of Government or responsible government. I say this, Mr. Chairman, in spite of any contrary interpretation given by our constitutional expert, Professor Wheare.
To buttress my opinion, I would refer you to the White Paper, namely the Report on the Financial and Economic Position of Newfoundland presented by the Secretary of State for the Dominions to Parliament in June, 1946.[1] On the first page is stated, "Under the agreement made with the Newfoundland people in 1933 a pledge was given that as soon as the island's difficulties had been overcome and the country was again self-supporting, responsible government would on request from the people of Newfoundland be restored."
Mr. Smallwood What White Paper?
Mr. Higgins The Chadwick-Jones Report. I would refer you also to the statement made in the House of Commons on December 2, 1943, by Mr. Emrys-Evans, Under-Secretary of State for the Dominions during the debate on Newfoundland affairs:
The arrangements made in 1933 included a pledge by His Majesty's Government that as soon as the island's difficulties had been overcome and the country was again self- supporting, responsible government, on request of the people of Newfoundland would be restored. Our whole policy is governed by this undertaking. As soon as practicable after the end of the war, that is, the war in Europe, machinery must be provided for enabling the Newfoundland people to examine the future of the island and to express their considered views as to the form of government they desire, having regard to the financial and economic conditions prevailing at the time If the general wish of the people should be for a return to responsible government, we for our part shall be very ready if the island is then self-supporting to facilitate such a change. If, however, the general wish should be either for the continuance of the present form of government or for some change of the system which would fall short of full responsible government, we shall be prepared to examine such proposals sympathetically and consider within what limits the continued acceptance of responsibility by the United Kingdom could be recommended to Parliament.
And now, gentlemen, to enable you to express your considered views as to the form of government you should recommend, I intend to read to you the summary of the reports on our three main industries — mining, forestry and fisheries, and the concluding paragraphs of the Economic Report. The most important one first — the fisheries. I would direct your attention to the mimeographed sheets which are on your desks entitled "United States Concessions to Newfoundland," and "Reduction in Tariffs of interest to Newfoundland other than those obtained in direct negotiations."
Previously the quota for fresh-frozen fish was an annual one beginning January 1 each year. The quota was always used up within the first few months of the year.... Our main operations do not start until May, so Newfoundland was getting very little if any benefit from the reduced quota rate. Now the quota is subdivided into four quarterly periods which improves our position tremendously. The credit for making this arrangement goes entirely to Mr. R. Gushue, Chairman of the Newfoundland Fisheries Board. I asked Mr. Gushue his opinion of the future of our fresh-frozen fish in the United States as compared with that of other countries. He told me, January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1237 "Because of its freshness and quality, there is a strong demand for Newfoundland fish." I direct your attention to the note on page 2 relative to fresh-frozen fish: "The head of the National Fisheries Institute of the United States has predicted an increased consumption this year." The explanation is that the United States authorities estimate their annual consumption for a three year period as 180,000 tons and of that, quotas permit 15% or 27 million pounds to enter the United States at the low rate of 1 7/8 cents per pound, the remainder at 2 1/2 cents per pound. As the rate of consumption increases, the amount coming in at the lower rate increases. Whilst the former rate was the same, it was not bound. The agreement cannot be varied for three years and then if it is not denounced it carries on indefinitely.... On being asked what effect this agreement would have on Newfoundland, Mr. Gushue said, "It gives security to fresh-frozen fish operators and the advantage of a quarterly quota. It will mean that more fresh-frozen fish will be produced than last year and so on from year to year. It is bound to mean increased employment." On being asked how our fresh fish business compared with similar kinds elsewhere, he said, "Newfoundland has made progressively greater gains than any other country. The standard of our plants is higher than that of any other country." "This", he said, "was confirmed by two Norwegian experts who came here two months ago and came back again." "They tell me", said Mr. Gushue, "that there is nothing like our plants on the North American continent."
This year we are going to have a record for saltfish going to Puerto Rico and this month we are making the first direct shipment to Cuba. The chairman said, "we can look forward to an increased demand in America, both north and south, for saltfish." The great reason that is important is that we will be paid for the saltfish in dollars.
In summing up the Cold Storage Industry Interim Report, the Fisheries Committee says:
To sum up the position it seems clear to the Fisheries Committee that a very strong case can be worked up for special consideration in any negotiations for improvement in trading relations with the United States of America as well as with Canada and Great Britain on the following grounds:
1. The future welfare of Newfoundland is without doubt mainly dependent upon a free market for her export products, especially those from the fisheries.
2. The future ability of Newfoundland to secure and maintain for her fishermen and other inhabitants a fair and decent standard of living is largely dependent upon such free markets.
3. The strategical position of Newfoundland as disclosed by conditions arising out of the recent world war, is of the utmost importance to the millions of people in the United States of America and also to those of Canada and Great Britain, and all these countries have a definite interest in assisting the people of Newfoundland to improve their standard of living for the following reasons:
(a) In the case of Canada the importance of a prosperous Newfoundland is of special interest owing to the fact that Newfoundland's imports from Canada amount to a very large percentage of the total imports into Newfoundland, whereas unfortunately she is not in a position to provide in her own country a market for Newfoundland's chief exports. It is therefore to the interest of Canada to help and encourage our export trade in other directions, in order to retain and increase her present exports to Newfoundland. Moreover, Canada has already received important concessions from Newfoundland.
(b) Great Britain is obviously anxious to assist us. In recent years she has supplied grants-in-aid to Newfoundland provided from the taxation of her own people, but it is quite likely she may not be in a position to continue these in future years. She can assist us in making better tariff arrangements not only with the United States of America, but with other countries. Moreover, it can be borne in mind that it was with her authority that sections of our territory have been ceded to the United States of America without any suitable quid pro quo for Newfoundland.
(c) In the case of the United States of America leases of Newfoundland territory for military and naval bases for 99 years, and at the same time facilities for free entry without taxation of any sort on products im 1238 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1984 ported into this country for use of these bases, were conceded to the United States of America without the provision of any direct quid pro quo for Newfoundland.
4. It would seem to be extremely important to the people of Newfoundland that endeavours should be made to secure favourable trade arrangements for Newfoundland with the United States of America, not only on the basis of reciprocal tariff concessions, but also as a quid pro quo for the concessions already granted by way of 99- year leases and free customs entries.
I refer you next to the conclusions of the Committee on Mining:
From our investigations we are satisfied that the country has a great future in mining. We say this for the following reasons:
(a) Whilst Buchans has only known life of seven more years, the management feel hopeful that more ore will be found at Buchans. This ore has an assured market;
(b) Bell Island has practically unlimited resources. Providing the ore can continue to be mined at a price to meet outside competition, the market is assured. There is every indication that this condition will be met;
(c)The prospects for continuous employment at St. Lawrence appear to be excellent;
(d) Employment at Aguathuna is expected to maintain its present standard;
(e) The smaller industries, brick, limestone, etc. will, it is expected, continue their present production;
(f) The iron ore deposits of Labrador, we believe, will be a great factor in the future economy of the country;
(g) The asbestos development in the Lewis Hills has good promise of becoming a success;
(h) The mine at LaManche, we believe, will go into production during the present year;
(i) The option of Tilt Cove by the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Co. Ltd., may indicate a re-opening of this mine;
(j) The prospecting program planned for the next four years by the Buchans Mining Co. Ltd, may very well give us a new mine;
(k) The cement proposition at Port-au-Port and the Pilley's Island pyrites are developments that might well be considered by the Newfoundland Industrial Development Board;
Apart from the iron ore in Labrador, your Committee is of opinion that this territory has excellent mineral prospects...
And, gentlemen, the summary of the Forestry Report:
In concluding this report, we give for the information of the Convention as well as the country as a whole, the following summary of our findings:
(1) The pulp and paper industry in Newfoundland at the present time is in a most flourishing condition.
(2) Plans by the two companies for the future envisage a total annual saleable production of approximately 550,000 tons of both newspaper and sulphite annually.
(3) We estimate that at the moment the annual earnings of our people from the pulp and paper industry is around $15 million.
(4) It is estimated that within a period of another two or three years, the pulp and paper industry will employ about 12,000 of our people, and that their annual earnings will be close to $20 million...
(11) Recapitulating the entire forest operations of the country, both Newfoundland and Labrador, we find that at the present time some 14,000 of our people are engaged in this major industry; that the total earning power at present amounts to some $16 million yearly. On the most conservative basis we visualize that within a period of three years at least 15,000 people will find employment in our various forestry operations, and that the total earning power accruing to them should be not less than $20 million yearly.
With respect to the other primary industry, agriculture, I understand that the committee found when they made up the report that the value of that industry to Newfoundland in 1946 was some $12 million, but this year, I believe, the Director of Agriculture informed the chairman of the committee, Mr. Butt, that it will reach $15 million, so you can see that also is on the up.
And now, gentlemen, to conclude the summary of the reports — after all, the Economic Report is the summary of all the reports that came before us, it is the findings from these reports by the Economic Committee. I would draw to your attention that it is the only report of the nine or January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1239 ten reports presented at this Convention that was adopted. You will remember that the other night it was actually passed and adopted unanimously.... Now, gentlemen, I go to the summary:[1]
Now the first matter which engaged our attention was the question of whether Newfoundland was self-supporting. The Report of the Finance Committee of this Convention indicates that we are. In 1945 the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs, according to the British Hansard, stated in the British House of Commons that Newfoundland was self-supporting. And Commissioner for Finance Wild, when he appeared before this Convention one year ago, distinctly stated that Newfoundland was self-supporting. During the discussions of the delegation from this National Convention to London with Lord Addison, he told us the same thing. We think therefore that we can, without further discussion, accept the fact that Newfoundland is now a self-supporting country.
But the terms of reference of this Convention contain the following qualification: "to consider our present financial position hearing in mind the extent to which the high revenues of recent years have been due to war time conditions." In this connection we have the following observations to make. In the first place the war has now been over for over two years and we find our revenues even greater than our highest war time revenues. 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 merefore that we can properly regard our present revenues as being anything but a result of war boom....
Reviewing therefore the results of our in vestigation, we arrive at the following conclusions:
(1) That Newfoundland is at present a self-supporting country based on sound economic factors;
(2) That all the evidence available to us indicates that this position of self-support will continue in the foreseeable future.
In view of the above, we feel that it is not beyond the province of our report to conclude with the observation that it would seem to your Committee, in reviewing their investigations, that it is to be regretted that the list of our assets does not contain in greater quantity, one which we cannot place in the columns of our Economic Report; we mean faith in ourselves, the faith and confidence which every man owes to himself and his country. This lack of faith, of course, is not so with all of us. Our farmers cannot understand the mystery of growth, yet by faith they cast their seed into the earth and God gives a bountiful harvest. Our fisherman knows not the fortunes which await him on the bosom of our waters, but each year finds him ready to venture with faith and confidence upon his quest, and it is proper that this should be so. For faith and trust are in the inescapable laws of both individuals and nations. To use the words of the late President Roosevelt, "We have nothing to fear but fear itself."
That, gentlemen, is the summary of the findings of the Economic Committee, which has been subscribed to unanimously by the members of this House. Now to get back to the motion. I think I have ten minutes, Mr. Chairman, if I am right. I don't want to go over the time.
Mr. Chairman You have nearly 20 minutes, Mr. Higgins.
Mr. Higgins Thank you. Well, gentlemen, if this motion which is tabled before you now passes, and it is the only recommendation that goes to the United Kingdom, where does this leave us? It puts the country exactly where it was before this Convention started. It puts the problem clearly up to the United Kingdom government, where it should have been from the first. It says, in effect, that the people of Newfoundland, through the voice of its elected representatives, is requesting the United Kingdom government to honour 1240 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 its bond, because the agreement under which this country agreed to relinquish responsible government was indeed a bond subscribed to by the United Kingdom government. Then you say, "Has this Convention been a complete waste of time and money?" I for one, and I know that most of you here will agree with me, think that this is not so. I submit that if it has done nothing else but awaken this country from its torpor, from its long sleep, from its lack of interest in all things political, then it has more than justified its existence, but I say that it's given to the people of this country not only that awakened interest, but a lot of valuable facts that in a large measure and to great extent a number of us never would have acquired. We may say that they have gotten them in capsule form, through the radio, but nevertheless they have gotten those facts. I would say that the members have put a lot of hard work into this Convention, at great inconvenience to themselves and in many cases at financial loss. If, at times, tempers have flared and matters have gotten somewhat out of hand, this was only to be expected, and it merely proves to me how seriously the members of this Convention were taking their duties.
All things being considered, I am satisfied that this Convention has justified its existence, and a lot of thanks are due to the radio operators and to the gentlemen of the press, because all the talking we have done would have been to naught if it had not been broadcast. It is true that at times we have been abusing the radio, but at all events, whether it has prolonged the Convention or not, whether some people think it has been a pretty high rate of entertainment they have received, I say that what they have heard on a number of occasions is not the true worth of this Convention, and that the members have done a good job, and that the end has justified the means.
However, to return to the motion, and my own opinion that we assume our true obligation of responsible government. We have heard, here and outside, the members of responsible governments of the past slandered. This has not been confined only to our own countrymen, but it appears in the columns of that famous Amulree Report as well. With all due respect to our own countrymen and the compilers of that report, I want you to consider the revenues of this country and the revenues that the men who ran our responsible government had to contend with. Responsible government was attained in 1855, and it is very difficult in this day of big money to realise that in 1855 the first responsible government of Newfoundland had a total revenue of not more than $500,000. And all you have got to do for the other figures is to go to the Finance Report, where you have the figures from 1897 up to the present day. In 1897 there was merely $1.7 million in revenue, in 1902 there was $23 million, in 1909 $3 million, in 1914 $3.9 million. The first time we got up to $10 million was in 1919, and back it went again to $8 million for a number of years. In fact the highest revenue that responsible government ever had to run the business of this country was in 1929-30, when they had the enormous sum of $11.5 million.... So gentlemen, all I can say to you is that to run this country on the amount of money that our past governments had to run it with, was nothing short of miraculous. Where else in the world could it have happened? Where else could you get the men to do the job? I might be permitted to paraphrase Mr. Churchill: "Never did so few do so much with so little"; and I might add, "for so little."
What did they get out of it, I ask you? Nothing, except the satisfaction of sewing their country. All the way down the line from Dr. Carson, the ancestor of Mr. Job, our government had good men and true, and what did they get for their services of this country? Abuse in their lifetime and slander of their names after their death. So I say to you in all sincerity that Newfoundland has a debt you can never repay to these great men of our past governments, who served this country only too well at the expense of their own happiness and well-being. Let us in some measure, as some recompense for their work and as a tribute to their memory, resolve to once again relight the fires that they so well lit, and so valiantly and nobly created. Let us keep our trust with them, and have faith in ourselves and in our country. I move the motion, sir.
Mr. Vardy Mr. Chairman, I have much pleasure in seconding the resolution moved by Mr. Higgins. It is, in my opinion, the most important business yet brought before the Convention, so important in fact, that it behoves the most flexible mind to examine soberly and carefully the stark realities of what might be the outcome January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1241 of a hasty decision. If I had worded this resolution I would have said:
1. Be it resolved that this Convention recommend to the United Kingdom government that the wishes of the people of Newfoundland should be ascertained at the earliest moment as to whether it is their desire that a revised form of self-govemment of not more than 15 men elected from 15 districts to constitute the local government of Newfoundland, be restored; and that, in view of our important strategic position and the unretrievable commitments of the Commonwealth Office with respect to American and Canadian bases in Newfoundland territory, an international committee of three be appointed from the respective governments of Great Britain, the USA and Canada, to take charge of our foreign policy in matters of defence only, it being understood that this is not to be construed as giving any right to any outside power to interfere with our domestic or economic control of all local or foreign economic affairs.
2. Or that the present form of Commission government be continued for a period of not more than four years.
However, as the first and most important part of this resolution can be properly taken care of by the first duly elected government, I am prepared to support the motion as it stands, as our people must perforce either want selfgovemment or they do not want it, and I am fully prepared to accept their judgement on the matter. There is one reason why I would agree to putting Commission of Government on the ballot paper. At any time after 1936 to 1941, when we began to feel the effect of the war time prosperity, it is the generally accepted opinion that the big majority of our people would have readily agreed to the return to self-government without modifications. Under the unprecedented prosperity of our country, through circumstances over which the Commission of Government had neither influence nor control, a large number of our people have lost sight of the true causes for the influx of foreign capital and the high prices for our commodities, and they have been giving credit to a form of government of which neither the personnel nor the form had anything whatever to do with it. I do not quarrel with anyone who disagrees with me, not even the members of the Commission themselves. That is their right. In my opinion most of them on the Commission at present are fine men, and I have a high opinion of them; but they and others who have served that unpopular body have agreed openly that the form is wrong for any country in this modern age, when all people, regardless of race or creed, are clamouring for the right to choose the form of government under which they will live. But for the fact that I know our surplus would be gone in four years unless it could be locked up outside their reach, I would like to see them suffer for some of the sins for which I know the government of that four years will be held responsible, but for which resettling world conditions will be to blame. By that time I feel we will have our feet on terra firma and be able safely to carry on without the aid of any surplus.
For the last time in this Convention I shall repeat paragraphs 2 and 3 of the Atlantic Charter:
2. They desire to see no territorial changes that do not accord with the freely expressed wishes of the peoples concerned Territorial changes did take place in Newfoundland without the freely expressed wishes of the people. If it was the wish of the people, Newfoundlanders were not consulted and these wishes were therefore never expressed.
3.They respect the right of all people to choose the form of government under which they will live; and they wish to see sovereign rights and self-government restored to those who have been forcibly deprived of them.
What greater authority could we have that our cause is just, that we are not infringing on the rights of others, than the signed statement of these two great world leaders and statesmen? This famous declaration was made in Newfoundland waters. So far, I refuse to believe they were not sincere; but less than two months from now will prove whether it was an empty, fake promise to Newfoundland or a friendly sincere pledge, conscious of the very great wrong that had been perpetrated against our people. I stated in my radio address of December 20, 1947, "Great Britain has a solemn obligation to perform toward Newfoundland, that obligation must and will be kept or she will be condemned forever in the eyes of the civilised world. No political excuse will save her. We, the people of New 1242 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 foundland, are holding her to that written and spoken word, and it must be our duty afterward to decide our future destiny as a free people." I do not need to point to Newfoundland's loyalty. This has been amply demonstrated on numerous occasions and will be again if Great Britain does now, in what I consider her very last chance, give the freedom, rights and honour to Newfoundland for which we have paid for many times in blood. I could not honestly call it a privilege or a favour, it is a just and honourable debt for which we, with her, side by side, gave the lives of the bravest and best of Newfoundland's manhood and womanhood. That debt can only be repaid by speedily undoing a wrong, by immediately granting what costs her nothing, not even her pride, self-government without delay to the people of Newfoundland. I have stated that in my opinion this will be Britain's last chance to do the right and proper thing If she fails in this crucial hour, she will do what the vast majority of the English- speaking world in the west is expecting, drive Newfoundland into the arms of the United States of America. There is a parable that says, "Children obey your parents." Again, "Parents provoke not your children to anger lest they rise up against you." It is a common expression these days, that if Britain does not very soon wake up to her responsibility toward her oldest colony, Newfoundland must appeal to that great democratic republic to the west to save us from our friends. We are conscious of Britain's plight financially, but she is yet a great nation and what will make her greater still is to command the highest respect of all her people and especially her vast colonial empire. Many great sons have left unbearable home conditions only to become greater in the larger expanse of opportunity when the shackles of intolerable home life were released. Many depressed colonies of people have matured to great nations when the shackles of remote control were, at very often great sacrifice, lifted from their domain. Surely it must be admitted that if Newfoundland is forced to seek a more democratic institution, she will only do it in desperation, after the mother country has ignored all the principles of the rights of man.
[Mr. Vardy than read a poem which is printed on page 1243*]
Mr. Chairman, I am not critical at this time of any other form of government; there are many forms which could find a place in our economy. But surely to every sane, sober, sensible, normal Newfoundlander there are certain basic fundamental principles which must, of necessity, be adhered to at this time. If Newfoundlanders are to be kicked around like footballs they will fight like demons the party who starts the kicking. Through perservance, endurance, sacrifice and a long history of struggle we obtained self-government. Our constitution was only temporarily suspended. It must and will be restored, if it costs thousands of the lives of our people. If it becomes necessary the supreme sacrifice will be made. Our people are true British stock, and history has proved many times that serious repercussions and most unsavoury situations might have been avoided if the heads of state had not been too stubborn to believe the inevitable could happen, and their refusal to recognise the rights of others. Someone must take the risk of stating these unpleasant facts in the hope that the Commonwealth Office will see the wisdom of honouring her obligations toward Newfoundland before it is too late. Hatred and revenge in the hearts of our people will be a far greater enemy than an equal share in the Christian democratic institutions which we have so nobly built up together. I would at this time appeal to their sense of justice, to establish if necessary, a precedent in British foreign policy and "Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you."
I have spared no efforts to study every report brought into this Convention soberly, fairly and honestly. It is on the facts in these reports that I base my arguments for self-government for the country. To those of us who have conscientiously taken advantage of this opportunity to become really conversant with the potential wealth of Newfoundland, it has been an education at the expense of the treasury for which some of us at least are most grateful. We have delved deeply into matters for which we previously had no concern or knowledge, and although with the limited time of one hour I cannot attempt to give any review in detail, nevertheless I feel I should digress for a few moments to outline some of the reasons why I feel Newfoundland should return to self-government.
1. Newfoundland is a British colony, the oldest member of the British Commonwealth of Nations, outside Great Britain herself.
And were they not English our forefathers, never more English than when they shook the dust of her sod From their feet for ever, angrily seeking a shore Where in his own way a man might worship his God. Never more English than when they dared to be Rebels against her — that stem intractable sense Of that which no man can stomach and still be free, Writing: "When in the course of human events ..." Writing it out so all the world could see Whence come the powers of all just governments. The tree of Liberty grew and changed and spread, But the seed was English. I am Newfoundland bred. I have seen much to hate here — much to forgive, But in a world where England is finished and dead, I do not wish to live. What could I do but ache and long, That my small country, peaceful, brave and strong, Should go and do battle for England's sake, What could I do but long and ache, And my friends' letters I hid away, Lest someone should know the things they'd say. Silently, subtly they inspire, Most of our youth with a holy fire, To shed their blood for the British Empire. We'll come in — we'll fight and die Humbly to help them and by and by, England will do us in the eye. We're so darn simple, our skins so thin, We're a down-trodden people but we'll come in.
I thought of her colony far away Where my friends were starving on six cents a day, And I said, My God, can it ever be, That a will to fight is born in me. What do I get but a crust of bread Or a crude wooden cross placed over my head. If we are equal in brains and pay, Why are we not equal in what we say? We fight a dictatorship so we are told, We are classed with the best and just as bold, But when it's all over the Allies are free, Newfoundlanders return to a sham liberty. May God in his greatness direct from above A democracy true for the land that we love. Why is it that we have to keep reminding Britain now and then That other countries breed other men? We are not children, we know our sire, We're the kind of people the world admire. So let us in peace be brave and true, And democracy will come to Newfoundland too.
2. She has always been as patriotic as any member of the group.
3. The circumstances surrounding our unfortunate position in 1933 were very largely brought about as a result of patriotism in the first world war, and the ultimate cost of pensions and allowances for those who survived.
4. The general world depression being the other main factor, we were tied to Canadian currency, and were therefore at the mercy of Canadian banking institutions for our survival or otherwise. Also the countries to which our exports were destined were unable to pay for our products.
5. The person who conceived the idea of a commission form of government for Newfoundland was not a Newfoundlander and it was done, in my opinion, mainly as a spiteful gesture to prevent his political opponent from returning to power, with little thought or regard for the serious implications of his act.
6. Our country is now self-supporting and will be within the reasonably foreseeable future.
7. Our main industries are in a very healthy condition. The reports of this Convention have unquestionably brought out this fact. It is true the codfishery is still undergoing a process of modernisation brought about chiefly as a result of the machine age, but the irregularities of the moment will right themselves in a short time and the subsidiary industries being created from the by-products will more than recompense the country for any reduction in the sale of the basic article.
8. It was a definite commitment on the part of Great Britain...
9. It was a solemn pledge from the two great leaders of the Allied cause that self-government would be restored to Newfoundland.
With a sound government of about 12 or 15 men of strong character, not afraid to put more in work than they would try to take out in cash, men of vision with ability of leadership who would command the respect and confidence of the electorate, men who would be far-sighted and courageous enough at times to hurt in order to do their people good, and I am convinced the hour will produce these men, Newfoundland will survive the Gethsemane of the past 14 years. To put it mildly, it has been humilating, and closes the most shameful chapter in the history of British justice. God grant that it shall never happen in an English-speaking colony again. No one in Newfoundland seriously expects a bed of roses to lie on, and if they do they must be careful they do not find themselves among the thistles instead, for they also look lovely from a distance.
Our country is not developed, and we do not owe money. We can have social security, a modern way of life and plenty of remunerative employment for our people, if we are prepared to take on a national debt equal to what we would take over by joining any other country. In 1933 our national debt was a serious item in our economy, but in 1948 even the $100 million would not be a great source of worry. There are hard days ahead, but I have faith in our people, and in our ability to survive. The lesson of 1933 is one we should never forget, and in my opinion both the United States and Canada regret to this hour they did not act at that time to save Newfoundland from losing her democratic institutions. I never could understand their lack of foresight and interest in their weaker, friendly neighbour at that time, and I would urge all Newfoundlanders to unite at this time and guard your heritage. We have been elected to recommend a form or forms of government. I have given many forms serious consideration. To preserve our own respect and the love and respect we have always had for the mother country, there is only one I can honestly commend to our people, namely, without reservation whatever, the restoration of self-government for Newfoundland.
There will be a second choice for me, however, and that will still be self-government with modifications as outlined in the beginning of this address, and if outside powers or interests control our sovereign territory they should compensate the people of Newfoundland for the right to use our children as targets in the first line of defence of the western world. *[See bottom of next page]
Mr. Smallwood I do not want to see the debate drag, as there are only four days in which to carry it on. I am going to vote for this motion proposed by Mr. Higgins and seconded by Mr. Vardy, because it is my duty to vote for it, because all the motion asks us to do is to recommend to the British government that Commission government and responsible government be submitted to the Newfoundland people in the referendum January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1245 this spring. The motion does not ask us to be in favour of responsible government or Commission government. It does not ask us voters, as citizens, to vote for either of these two forms of government. If it did, I would not vote for this motion. It only asks us to recommend that these two forms of government shall be laid before the people of the country to vote for or against, in the referendum. I believe that the Newfoundland people have every right in the world to pass their verdict on these two forms of government in the referendum; so I am going to vote to give the people that right.
I want it to be clearly understood that in the referendum itself I shall not vote for either responsible or Commission government. I shall vote against both of them, as a citizen of Newfoundland. I shall vote against them in the referendum as a member of this Convention. I do not think our people will vote for either one of them; but I think they must have the right to do it if they wish.
Sir, I am against responsible government coming back to Newfoundland. In principle, I think responsible government is right, but in practice, I think it is wrong. I think if we went back to responsible government we would bring misery and suffering on our people. I think it would be a terrible gamble to take. When I say that responsible government is all right in principle, I mean that all people should have the right of self government, all people should have power over the government — the power to elect it, and the power to put them out if they don't do right. But when I say that responsible government is all wrong in practice, what I mean is that I see no chance whatever that responsible government would be any better for us than it was those last 20 years that we had it.
Under responsible government our country went broke.... Our government's credit was gone — we were bankrupt and insolvent. Our people were on the dole in the tens of thousands. Our children went hungry and naked. Our standard of health fell very low, and TB increased by leaps and bounds. I see no chance at all that we could ever keep clear of those same terrible conditions if we went back to responsible government, which means that Newfoundland has cut herself clear of close organic connection with any other country. Under responsible government we would be on our own, ... without help from anyone. We tried that before, and where did we end? I, for one, am not willing to go through all that misery again, and I don't think our people are willing to try that again, for a "burnt child dreads the fire". Where would people be once our little cash surplus was all gone? Where would we turn then for help? It is no use anyone telling me we would never need help, because I don't believe it. When the price of fish falls, as fall it will; when the icy blast of depression strikes again, as it will; 1246 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 then this little country will need help. Where will we turn for help when it comes? Will we come crawling again to the British government, or will we go first and crawl to Canada? No sir, I shall not vote for responsible government in the referendum.... So far as Commission government is concerned, I want that to be submitted to the people too. I think they should have the right to vote for it or against it if they want to. I shall vote against Commission government in the referendum, but here in this Convention I shall vote to give the people the chance to vote for it if they want to. I am not one of those who are going around damning Commission government. I am not one of those who can't see any good in the Commission's 14 year record, who refuse to give them any credit. They have done some good you know, and I am happy to give them credit for it. They have not done so much good as some of our people think, but they have done some, and we should praise them for it. Commission government, sir, is the price we paid for mining our people and our country under responsible government. We made a mess of things under responsible government, and Britain had to take us over, but first responsible government had to go, and Commission government had to take its place. We needed help back in 1933-34 in the worst kind of way. Britain was in a position then to give us some help, in those days before she was washed up and plunged into poverty by the war; she was able to help us, and she did help us. We should be eternally grateful to her for it, and we should be eternally proud of the fact that we were able to help her a little bit with our money during the war.
I am not one of those who go around saying Great Britain forced Commission of Government on us in 1934, nor am I one of those who go around trying to say that Great Britain is trying to force any kind of government on us now. I don't think that. I am firmly convinced that she wants all of us to have a thoroughly free choice in deciding what form of government we shall have in Newfoundland. We have been told that Britain would like to see us join up with another British country. I don't know about that, but if she would she is not trying to force us to do it. I dare say it is true that the mother country would like us to throw in our lot with another British country. It seems reasonable enough; but that she is trying to force us to do it, I simply don't believe.
Sir, in the referendum I shall vote against Commission government. I am all in favour of our people having the chance to vote for Commission if they want to, but as for myself ... I don't think that Commission government ever can succeed, nor can ever give our people the kind of government they need and want. The Commission government are straight and honest. They don't rob the public chest — of that I am quite sure. I believe they are trying to do their best, but their best is not good enough. So long as we stay under Commission form of government, or if we are under responsible government, we shall have our present unjust system of taxation. They cannot change it. This unjust system of taxation crushes the life out of our people, drives up the cost of living, and the cost of production in our main industries, makes it impossible for Newfoundland's main industries to compete with the industries of other countries, unless they pay our producers just barely enough to exist on. So long as we have this unjust system of taxation the only way our main industries, especially our fisheries, can compete with the industries of other countries is by paying our producers, our fishermen especially, a smaller share than the producers and fishermen of other countries get. Our fishermen are forced to have a lower standard of life.
Mr. Chairman, it matters not what form of government we may have in this country, so long as that unjust system of taxation is kept on us; so long as our wicked customs duties are kept on; so long as our government uses customs duties to collect the bulk of their revenue... I will give you just one example of what I mean. Last year, 1947, our bank fishery was pretty successful. The fishermen who toiled on our highliner in the bank fishery, the Freda M, what did they get? Around $1,550 per man. That was counted pretty good, wasn't it? And yet what do we find? We find that other Fortune Bay fishermen, toiling on other vessels, Nova Scotia bankers, who got about the same quantity of fish in the same year, were paid $1,000 more than the Freda M's men, I mean $1,000 per man more — in fact over $1,000 per man. I am not blaming the owners of the Freda M; I am not saying one word against them, because I know that it cost a lot more to fit our the Freda M than it cost to fit out the Nova Scotia January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1247 bankers of the same size. That is what I mean when I say that our unjust system of taxation drives up the cost of production. The customs duties drive up the cost of production, and after paying more to fit up the Freda M than it cost the Nova Scotia bankers of the same size, it was impossible to pay the crew the same wages as the Nova Scotia men got for the same amount of fish. It could not be done. This is only one example. I could give you thousands of others if there was time.
I am against the Commission of Government, not because I think they are dishonest — I think they are honest. Not because I think they are not doing their best — I think they are doing their best; but because I know they cannot do away with out unjust and unsound system of taxation. They cannot do away with our customs duties. They can reduce the duties a bit here and there, but they must go right on getting the bulk of their revenue from those customs duties, and so must responsible govemment.... So long as we have the Commission form of government, or the responsible form of government, so long as we have either of them, we shall have those customs duties and the profits on the customs duties, and these customs duties will be the bulk of the government's revenues, so I am against both responsible and Commission government. I am willing to give our people a fair chance to vote for those two forms of government, either one of them ... but I shall not vote for either one of them myself when the referendum rolls around. I will vote for this motion to place those two forms of government before the people, because I know it is my duty to do so, the duty of every member of this Convention, but that is as far as I can go.
It will be up to our people to decide for themselves in the referendum; if they want to vote for responsible government well and good, if they want to vote for Commission government well and good, but it will not be with any encouragement from me. If those two forms of government happened to be the only two forms on the ballot paper; if we had only two forms, responsible and Commission, in the referendum, then I will vote for Commission in the referendum. I would not be happy doing it, and I would not do it very willingly, but between the two of them ..., my vote in the referendum would go for Commission government. I would hate to be limited to those two forms, and by casting my vote for Commission I would do it just to take the lesser of two evils.
Some people say, Mr. Chairman, that responsible government means political freedom, but not economic security; some people say that Commission government means economic security, but not political freedom... I don't believe it. If responsible government failed to give us economic security, and it has failed, then it is precious little political freedom we would have. How can we have political freedom if we have no economic security and stability? What is the good of a vote to a man who is hungry? What is the good of elections to a man on the dole? No, I am afraid it is very little political freedom we would have as a people under responsible government if we had not full bellies and decent clothes to protect us, or what my good and respected friends Mr. Newell and Mr. Keough call three square meals a day, and a suit of clothes and a roof over their heads... Oh yes, it is all right to have the glorious right to vote and take part in elections, but I am afraid an awful lot of the glory just oozes out of it when you are hungry, and your children are hungry, and you have nothing to depend on but the dole. No, Mr. Chairman, I don't think it is true at all to say that responsible government means political freedom without economic security, because without economic security you just can't have political freedom, and I think there is very little in the other part of the saying that Commission government means economic security without political freedom. I think that day is gone, if we ever had it. Just when did Commission government give us economic security or stability? Commission government came here to Newfoundland in the winter of 1934. For the first six years they were here they certainly did not give Newfoundland any economic security. Don't forget that right up to the outbreak of the war we had tens of thousands of our people on the dole under Commission government. Don't forget that just a bare eight or nine years ago the total value of all our fish and fish products exported out of Newfoundland, the whole lot of them together, had a value of a paltry $8 million — just eight years ago. Don't forget that in the first six years of Commission government at job was the hardest thing in this world to get here in Newfoundland, that we had thousands of our young men leaving school without a 1248 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 chance of getting a job. Don't forget that under the first six years of Commission government we had no economic prosperity or security or stability. Then the war broke out, and hundreds of millions of dollars poured in here from Canada and the United States to build all those bases. There was lots of work then. You could sell anything. Now since the war ended, and with the whole world short of this and that, we could still sell our fish and our oil and ore, and we don't feel like thanking the Commission government for that. They did not start the war. We can't praise or blame them for that. We have had Commission government for the past 14 years — six years before the war, six years during the war, and two years since the war, and what economic stability have we had? We had a bit during the war, and a lot less since the war, and already it has started to wear very thin for a lot of our people. It has started to wear very thin, this wonderful prosperity, for the 13 or 15,000 of our Newfoundland people who are on the dole tonight. Prosperity is wearing very thin for them, but if Commission government gave us full economic security up to now, what chance is there that they will give us economic security in the future? None at all, Mr. Chairman, not a bit. The Commissioners would be the first themselves to admit it. There is only one thing that the Commission government can promise us or guarantee us, and that is that they will collect taxes from us and they will spend the money honestly. That is, they won't rob the till. They can't even promise that they will do these two things wisely: wisely collect the taxes, and wisely spend them. As for guaranteeing economic security in Newfoundland, it is out of the question altogether. So you see, Mr. Chairman, the Commission government means neither political freedom nor economic security, neither one or the other, and responsible government does not mean political freedom without economic security, because there can't be such a thing as political freedom without economic security, and in any case, what I want in this country and for our people is a form of government that will mean political freedom and economic security, both, for one is useless without the other. I can tell you that is what our people are looking for. First and foremost our people are looking for economic prosperity and security. They are looking for a form of govern ment that will give them those three square meals a day, and a second suit of clothes, and a tight roof over their heads, and the chance to rear their families in Christian decency and frugal comfort. They are looking for political freedom, but always remember that the three square meals and the rest of it comes first, before the political freedom. It is a cruel mockery to talk political freedom to a people who are harassed by want, and don't know where to turn for the next meal, a people who are anxious and eager to work, not lazy, anxious and eager to work, but can't find work.
We will make the biggest mistake of our lives here in this Convention if we think that our people are bothering their heads about voting and elections and governments, or even National Conventions, ahead of that more pressing problem of three square meals a day and a chance by their labour to live decently as Christian human beings. No system of government is of the slightest use to our people unless it gives them that chance to make their living as decent Christians. We here can talk till we are blue in the face about forms of government, but it will all be a waste of breath unless we can show the people that some particular form of government will give them a better chance to live and rear their families.
Our Newfoundland people have long suffered from a sense of injustice. They have long felt that they were denied a square deal. They are unalterably convinced that they have been kept down all through the decades and centuries. They feel that they have never gotten a square show in this country. Our people, sir, are not lazy, they are hardworking and loyal fathers and husbands. They ask for nothing big and outrageous and extravagant, but only a fair chance to earn a fair living.
Truly this is one country of which it can be said, "to him that hath shall be added; from him that hath not, shall be taken away; even the little that he hath." Our Newfoundlanders look yearningly for a new deal. Their deeper instincts cry out for justice. That is how our people feel and I share that feeling to the last fibre of me. I am of the people and for the people of the working class, to the last drop of my blood in my veins, the last ounce of flesh on my body. I came from the working class, I belong to them. My brothers January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1249 toil for a living. I share their feelings and the feelings of the toiiers of this country. They have never got a square show and a deliberate attempt has been made to stack up the powers of government and powers of taxation against them, so as to keep them down. I share that belief. Ihave no shame in saying it. There is nothing aristocratic about me. There is not a single ounce of blue blood in me.
But, sir, there is another reason why I shall vote against Commission government in the referendum. Whatever little help the old mother country was able to give us when we needed it so badly before the war — and I repeat that we should be forever grateful to Britain for what she gave us before the war — what hope have we of any help from her in the future, should we need it? Never, in the history of mankind upon this earth, never did a country suffer as did the mother country this past ten years, since 1938. Never did people sacrifice as the British people sacrificed and as they are sacrificing today. They gave their all. They threw it into the fight gladly; they stripped themselves to the bare bone; everything went until they were naked and empty of hand. The whole world has stood in speechless amazement over the prodigious sacrifice of the British people; such effort, such sacrifice and such courage! I am reminded of the words of Winston Churchill, "Let no man underrate the abiding power of the British Empire, not because you see 46 million people on our island harassed about their food supplies, or because we have difficulty in re-starting our industries and export trade after six years of war effort, do not suppose we shall not come through these dark days as we have come through the years of the past or that a half century from now you will not see 70 or 80 million Britons spread about the world united in the defence of justice and way of life." These are brave words, sir, and true words. Britain will come back. Of that I have no doubt. It will not be soon, but she will receive help from her sons and friends around the world and she will strive as no other people ever strove, and some day she will stand among the nations of the earth.
But meanwhile, we here in Newfoundland must vote this spring, this very spring, to decide what form of government we shall have for our country. We cannot lean on the old mother country. We cannot look to her for help. We may have some in our midst who are satisfied to have Britain share her poverty with us. We may have some who would hold on to the Commission of Government in the hope that through them Britain would, out of her own poverty and need, help us if we should need help. I hope that the number of such persons is small in this country.
Sir, I shall vote for this motion to place these two forms of government before our people in the referendum this spring, for I know it is our people's right to decide. I have no right whatever to deny our people their right to vote for responsible government or Commission government if they wish, and I shall not oppose their having that right. I shall vote against these two forms of government myself in the referendum. I shall hope for a chance to vote for a form of government nearer to their hearts' desire.
Mr. Fogwill I move we adjourn until tomorrow Tuesday.
Mr. Higgins Might I interject, unless some members here now intimate they are prepared to deal with this motion now, it might be as well to defer it; some members who intend to speak to it are not ready.
Mr. Chairman I am entirely in the hands of members. It seems to me you are in a position of what I may term an unpleasant alternative. The sands of time are running out and from that standpoint I must assume that time is of the essence. However, I am entirely in the hands of members and with that in mind then, I put the motion to adjourn.
[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] See debate for January 16, 1948, p. 1229.
  • [1] Mr. Roland Starkes.
  • [2] Newfoundland Royal Commission 1933 Report, (Cmd. 4480, 1933).
  • [1] Volume 11:16. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • [1] Volume II:443. [Volume II is not in The Confederation Debates Collection]
  • *
    Newfoundland stands at the crossroads, she is humble, not naked or bare, She begs leave to enter the Allied world and can proudly pay her share. Who will deny her admission, who'll put the bar on the door? Will Great Britain, the one she bled for, for whom she fought two wars before? Will America who is always a neighbour, will Canada who claims kith and kin? God grant not the one or the other will stop Newfoundland coming in. Then why all the fuss and the turmoil; why begrudge what is rightfully ours? We gave of our best and our freedom, we helped earn what now is their powers. Heaven guard every step of our journey, may our watchword be freedom not fear, And may every true Newfoundlander, mark his "X" for self-government here.

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