Newfoundland National Convention, 21 January 1948, Debates on Confederation with Canada


January 21, 1948

Mr. Smallwood I have replies to a couple of questions we directed to Canada, questions, that is, that were put by me. Some of these I put more or less on my own, and others in response to questions by members throughout the debate. One question was to ask for statistics showing exports of salt dried codfish from Canada to the foreign markets over a period of years, together with some explanation of why salt codfish exports to the Mediterranean markets have fallen off in recent years. That answer, sir, is rather long, and I don't think the copies are on the desks of the members, and if not they certainly will be. It says:
Canada's exports of salt cod to countries in the Mediterranean area were of considerable extent in the 1925-29 period, when they averaged about l5% of total Canadian exports of this commodity. The fish involved was product of the Gaspé fisheries mainly, and almost all of it was exported to the Italian market, with negligible quantities to the Spanish and Portuguese markets. This trade declined after the period mentioned as a result of several influences...
Then it goes on to say that the reason it fell off in Europe was that the hard times there dried up the demand for fish, and because of the sanctions that the League of Nations imposed on Italy at the time of the Ethopian war. It points out also that in the same time period the current exports from the Gaspé coast and Newfoundland exports fell off at the same time.
There is another question: "Whether, in the event of union, existing or other privately-owned broadcasting stations would be permitted to operate, and what is the policy of the Government of Canada as to power output to such private stations." The answer is short:
The policy of the Canadian government authorities is, receiving the recommendation of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in each case, annually to renew licences for private commercial broadcasting stations, unless there is a special reason for non- renewal, and to grant new applications for licences for such stations where they appear advisable and technically possible.
A general ceiling of 5 kw on the power of private commercial broadcasting stations has been in effect, but there have been exceptions to this and it is expected higher power will be allowed in some other cases where it appears desirable.
In the event of union the same policies in these matters would be applied to Newfoundland as in the rest of Canada.
The ceiling of 5 kilowatts is 5,000 watts, which is ten times more, I think, than any private broadcasting station in Newfoundland at the present time.
Then there is another question: "Whether existing specially low rates charged to fishermen travelling by Railway trains and steamers between Newfoundland and Labrador would be January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1277 continued in the event of union." I forget who it was, I think it was Mr. Bailey who mentioned the matter — under confederation would our fishermen get the old rates travelling down to Labrador as they always got. The answer is this:
The nearest existing Canadian parallel to the above arrangement would appear to be the special reduced rates afforded by the Canadian National and Canadian Pacific railways for the movement of harvesters to the Prairies and return. These reduced rates are provided directly by the railways and not as a matter of governmental arrangement.
In the event of union, there would appear to be three possible ways in which existing specially low rates charged to the fishermen travelling by Railway trains and steamers between Newfoundland and Labrador would be continued:
(1) The Railway could provide the reduced rates directly;
(2) The Newfoundland government could make an arrangement with the railway under which the railway would provide the rates; or
(3) The federal government could make such an arrangement.
It is suggested that the question as to which of these alternatives should be adopted is one which could in due course be settled by the appropriate authorities in Canada and Newfoundland.
I think Mr. Fudge raised this question: Where does an unemployed man, under the Unemployment Insurance Act, have to report? The answer is this:
(a) An insured person under the Unemployment Insurance Act, on becoming unemployed, reports at the nearest National Employment Office set up under authority of the Act. The insured person reports at this office in order that he may register for employment, and make a claim for benefit if he so desires.
(b) When first unemployed, an insured person claiming benefit is required to report in person, unless the cost of ordinary return transportation from his residence to the nearest National Employment Office exceeds $1.20.
So long as an insured person continues to claim benefit he is required to prove that he continues to satisfy the conditions for the receipt of benefit, for example, he must prove that he is unemployed, capable of work, available for work, but unable to obtain suitable employment. An insured person is required to report once a week, if the cost of return transportation to the nearest office is 30 cents or less; where the cost of such transportation is 31 cents to 60 cents, he reports every two weeks; 61 cents to 90 cents every three weeks, and 91 cents to $1.20 every four weeks.
Where the cost of return transportation from an insured person's residence to the nearest office is more than $1.20, he makes his claim on becoming unemployed by mail, and proves that he continues to satisfy the conditions for the receipt of benefit by mailing a declaration to the office each week. This declaration must be certified by two responsible persons who have knowledge of the statements which the insured person has made.
(c) The movement of labour in general across boundaries is much greater in some areas than in others. This results from the fact that some industrial centres are located near to provincial boundaries. The labour is attracted to these centres, and the crossing of a provincial boundary is incidental. Clearly the insured person might be offered employment within the province in which he resides which would involve his moving a much greater distance than to accept employment in an adjoining province.
In deciding whether an insured person should be required to move to another district, whether or not the new district is in the same province, many factors would be considered. A single person without home responsibilities would be expected to move more readily than a married man with a family, for example. One of the most important considerations would be the insured person's prospects of employment in his own district. The length of time he has been unemployed, the distance of the new district from his place of residence, and the possibility of obtaining suitable living accomodation would all be weighed carefully.
The relevant section of the Unemployment Insurance Act, copies of which have been supplied to the National Convention, (section 40) outlines, inter alia, the basis upon which an insured person may be disqualified from receiving benefit on account of neglecting an opportunity to engage in suitable employment. It will be noted that employment in this connection is not regarded as suitable if it is employment in his usual occupation at a lower rate of wages or on conditions less favourable, than those observed by agreement between employers and employees, or failing any such agreement, than those recognised by good employers; or employment...at a lower rate of wages, or on conditions less favourable, than those which he might reasonably expect to obtain, having regard to those which he habitually obtained in his usual occupation, or would have obtained had he continued to be so employed.
Also until a reasonable length of time has elapsed, employment is not regarded as suitable if it is employment of a kind other than employment in his usual occupation.
The only persons who have so far been moved from one province to another under the Unemployment Insurance Act have been single persons over 21 years of age who have themselves been willing to make the move. They constitute a very small fraction of the total number of persons insured and the federal authorities have paid their transportation expenses wherever this was considered necessary, In short, while an insured person who is unemployed can be required to remove to another province to accept employment, there are numerous conditions which must be satisfied before this can take place, and in fact the only such movement which has so far occured has been on a voluntary basis.
There was only one other question, but I think that has already been answered: "Whether, in the event of union, it would be the policy of that government to reduce the number of personnel employed by the Newfoundland Railway system." They go on to give the anwer which I have given before...
Mr. Hickman Mr. Chairman, I don't want to take the time of the House, but there was one short question which I asked on November 25, I think:
In the event of federal union with Canada would the vessels known as the Clarenville vessels remain in the ownership of Newfoundland, or would they be passed over with other assets to the federal government of Canada?
And for the information of the House the answer is:
It is understood that the Clarenville vessels are owned by the Newfoundland government, but are operated for the government by the Newfoundland Railway. In the event of federal union of Newfoundland and Canada, the Canadian National Railways could operate the vessels, either under arrangement with the Newfoundland government, should the vessels remain in the ownership of Newfoundland, or as operators and managers for the federal Crown, should the vessels remain in the ownership of Newfoundland, or as operators and managers for the federal Crown, should the vessels become federal Crown property.
Since these vessels appear to some extent to fall in a special category, it is felt that it would be impracticable, without a more complete examination of the matter than has hitherto been possible, to attempt to settle the question at this time. It is suggested that this matter which could in due course be settled equitably and to the satisfaction of both parties by the appropriate federal and Newfoundland authorities.
That was a question, sir, which I asked through Mr. Smallwood when he was piloting through the terms from Ottawa, and while I may be under a misunderstanding, I thought the question was to include whether the federal government was to continue to operate them in the present service that they are in today, if they are taken over. I thought that was to be part of it. Why I mentioned it was this: the answer again is evasive, it does not give the information we were looking for. If the federal government took over those Clarenville motor vessels, and operated them as such, there would be no reason why the Quebec or Nova Scotia governments could not demand part service of them, and they are of irreplaceable service to Newfoundland to take January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1279 our fish to the West Indies and bring back salt and molasses. Steamers cannot get into these small outports due to their draft, and if we did have part of these taken away to serve the Nova Scotia people in the West Indies it would be to the detriment of the Newfoundland people, because they have saved us time and money, and I am afraid that many of us did not realise the impact of this on our export trade if they are taken over by the federal government, and not maintained in the same service. That was why I wanted an answer to that, but apparently they cannot give us an answer to it.
Mr. Smallwood I may be mistaken, but I thought it was Mr. Job who raised that question.
Mr. Hickman ....Mr. Job mentioned it, but I raised the question.
Mr. Smallwood Who owns the Clarenville boats? To be quite frank with you I felt a bit ashamed, for myself only, not for the other members of the delegation, that I had not got that matter made absolutely crystal clear when we were there. These boats do not belong to the Railway — they belong to the Government of Newfoundland. The Railway, for a fee from the government, has been managing them, but they do not own them, and when they take over the Railway system they don't have to take over boats which the Railway does not own, so it seems to me that they would continue to belong to the Newfoundland government. The reply he has just read out from the Government of Canada shows clearly that they think that they belong to the Newfoundland government, and under confederation why should they not continue to remain the property of the Newfoundland government? The provincial government of Newfoundland could make an arrangement for the Railway to go on managing these boats, or for the federal government to manage them, but in either case they would be managed in the interests of Newfoundland, because Newfoundland owns these boats.
Mr. Hickman The Canadian government got some officials to value these boats in the event of taking them over, and the value was considerably lower than we have put on them today. I realise our value is higher because of the fact that we had to first build a shipyard. The most important part of the question was: In the event of their taking them over would they maintain them in the present service? That was not asked, and we have not got an answer to it.
Mr. Smallwood Frankly I don't think we need doubt that.
Mr. Hickman I am afraid I am full of a lot of doubts.
Mr. Cashin Because in the Grey Book it says they are going to take over the Newfoundland Railway, including steamship and other marine services of the government. And also I would like to point out in this respect that another section definitely states that our government would not be permitted to subsidise any industry which would be in competition with a similar industry in any other province of Canada. If we had our own steamers we would, in a sense, be subsidising the industry.
Mr. Smallwood There are literally thousands, as Major Cashin knows a lot better than I do, of boats, ships in Canada privately owned and operated, that are subsidised by the Government of Canada. Every little twopenny-half-penny boat in the Maritimes is subsidised every year by the Government of Canada.
Mr. Cashin Even at the present time they are subsidising them, and not in competition with the Newfoundland Railway.
Mr. Hollett I rise to point of order. I understood we were supposed to be discussing Commission government and responsible government, and now we are discussing confederation.
Mr. Chairman I think the point is well taken, we are getting far afield. Before I advert to the orders of the day, for the particular benefit of my learned friend Mr. Bradley K.C., Major Cashin and Mr. Smallwood, and members generally, I would now like to direct the attention of the House to a letter I received today from the Commissioner for Justice, arising out of observations made by these gentlemen on Monday afternoon last:
J .B. McEvoy Esq. K.C., Chairman, National Convention.
Dear Sir:
I have considered the question concerning the continuance of the National Convention, raised at a recent session of the Convention, to which your letter of January 20 relates.
The Convention, is constituted by the National Convention Act, 1946, with the duty and function in that act set forth. A conven 1280 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 tion is a formal assembly and the elected representatives with the Chairman form the convention when assembled for the performance of the function assigned by the act. The Convention will have completed its function with the making of recommendations as to possible forms of future government to be put before the people at the national referendum and will thereupon cease to exist as a convention or assembly. It therefore follows that, after completion of the function set forth in the act, any meetings of representatives with the Chairman would not be sessions of the National Convention.
In these circumstances legislation is not necessary for the purpose of terminating the National Convention, and I have so advised the government.
Yours faithfully, A.J.Walsh Commissioner for Justice and Defense.
....The motion before the Chair is that this Convention recommend to the United Kingdom government that the wishes of the people of Newfoundland be ascertained at the earliest possible moment as to whether it is their desire that responsible government as it existed in Newfoundland prior to its suspension in 1934, be restored; or that the present form of government be continued.

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. Cashin Mr. Chairman, as I moved the adjournment of this debate yesterday afternoon I take itI am entitled to the floor this afternoon, but Mr. McCormack, who has to go out of town this afternoon, has asked that I yield the floor to him first, and on the understanding that I can have it next I am prepared to do that.
Mr. Chairman Mr. McCormack spoke of it to me, and it is of very great importance to him, and I think the House would have no objection.
Mr. McCormack Thank you, Mr. Chairman. In speaking in support of this motion I might say that our Letters Patent of 1934, wherein we were promised the return of our former status on the request of the people when we again became self-supporting, has caused me considerable perplexity, especially in the early days of this Convention when we heard so much talk of the constitutionality of almost everything before the Chair. At that time I was quite concerned, and was most desirous to have the constitutional angles ironed out, and as yet I fail to see why some of our legal minds did not have the position clarified for the benefit of the electorate. However, this issue appears to have disappeared with the disappearance of the constitutional expert, Professor Wheare.
Mr. Chairman, the electorate of this country is awakening to that political interest which was drugged into insensibility during 14 years of non- representative government, and I feel that this much criticised Convention will have fully justified its existence if it thoroughly awakens in our people a realisation of the purposes and duty of government. Incidentally I feel that this Convention, with all its shortcomings, has been unduly censured. We were given a job that usually requires experts and expected to do it without the necessary assistance and co-operation that experts usually receive. However, we are about to finish our work and in a short while the people will be asked to register their decision on the form of government they desire, and in my opinion it should be made as easy and clearcut as possible, it being our duty to give them a factual and true position.
Under the motion we are to concern ourselves with two forms of government — responsible and commission, and I wish to say that it is my conviction that the people of the district which I have the honour to represent are concerned with only these two forms, and because of the small minority who have mistaken ideas about the latter form — commission government — I choose to deal with that first. I would point out to these few that, to use a very common and oft-repeated expression, government by commission has outlived its usefulness. Granted we were in a position of default in 1933 — so were others. Anyway, it was fine to have Britain underwrite our obligations, but in giving credit where it is due, we must also realise that in making a com January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1281 parison of the work accomplished by Commission government and our old responsible governments, we must bear in mind the unprecedented revenues the former had to work with, as against the meagre revenues of the old days. Also, that prior to wartime prosperity, we still had dole under Commission government.
Most people realise now that the stabilisation of fish prices was not due to Commission government; and to those who talk of our additional social services, I would say that the millions spent on dole made necessary many of these services — I have in mind the undernourishment of our people as a cause of the present high cost of Public Health and Welfare. I feel that these highly-spoken-of additional services may be a burden of expense which any future government may very well find it difficult to maintain. This degrading dole business brought to many of our people a lack of that independence and initiative so characteristic of Newfoundlanders, many of whom are now willing to wait for government assistance or accept bonuses from other countries. Mr. Chairman, Commission government personnel, as someone has said, are but puppets of the Dominions Office and are not at present in a position to assure us of those guarantees given in 1934; and considering the magnificent role played by Britain in the recent war, we must realise that she is in the worst position of her history, so we cannot expect her to underwrite our finances. Most of the evils of Commission were due to the set-up rather than the personnel, as in all matters of policy they were subject to the Dominions Office, and in my opinion the English Commissioners were never left here long enough to get a thorough grasp of the problems of our economy or the requirements of our people. Certainly, they could not expect to get a knowledge of the former, with their behind- the-scenes policy, having no consultations with the men who make possible our trade and commerce, and most certainly not the latter, when people were completely ignored and disregarded on all matters pertaining to their welfare. To put it simply, it is practical dictatorship from Dominions Office, the heads of which were quite satisfied with balanced budgets, and that no loud protests reached the British Parliament. In passing from Commission government, I might say that we fully appreciate Britain's war effort, and in her emergency of 1941 any Newfoundland government would have approved the lease of bases to the USA. But we feel that she should not have given territorial concessions for 99 years without our consent; and might have given them for the duration, as Iceland did.
Mr. Chairman, before I deal with responsible government, it might be well to point out that whilst the primary function of government is to provide rules and safeguards for law and order, to secure freedom and liberty and protect the rights of the people, it should also provide an efficient administrative service, advance the causes of public health, education and other social services; provide communications, endeavour to raise living standards, assist trade and commerce and help develop natural resources. When this country first got responsible government, its population was something over one-third what it is today, whilst its revenue was only about one- eightieth, Yet our forebears had the courage to want to govern themselves. Today, with a record revenue of $40 million, when we are enjoying the greatest prosperity in our history, some of our people are so lethargic as to shun the responsibilities of self-government. We undoubtedly have made steady progress since the beginning of this century. We have a much larger population; our standard of living is higher, and many of our natural resources are being developed, and it is time that we realised our importance. We should remember that from the very discovery of this island we have had something that others wanted. In our early history, it was our teeming waters, today it is the key position of strategic value in the defence of the western hemisphere. The recent war really put us on the map, and our country has become known and its value appreciated by the occupation forces from all over, both the USA and Canada. This factor alone, gives us a strong bargaining power. It is quite unnecessary for me to dwell further on this point, as it has been thoroughly covered by other delegates, particularly by Mr. Higgins and the Hon. R. B. Job. Coupled with this is another factor of equal importance, the vast mineral deposits of our northern dependency, Labrador. This point has been stressed by Major Cashin, but it well merits repetition, without becoming tedious.
Considering these facts, gentlemen, which 1282 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 even Mr. Smallwood won't deny, we might well ask ourselves which of the two forms of government which we are discussing would be able better to capitalise on such assets. In my opinion it is responsible government, and I doubt if any delegate thinks differently. Mr. Chairman, in addition to this great bargaining power which a responsible government could use to our advantage, permit me to point out that the demand for pulp and paper is practically guaranteed for some years to come. Our mining prospects are exceptionally good. We have considerable employment at the different bases and at Gander. We have a nice surplus and our national savings are high. Our immediate outlook for the future must look good to the business brains of the country, considering the amount of capital expended in the construction of fish processing and canning plants; and given a government responsible to the people, with the initiative to inaugurate a continuous and intensive program of research and experimentation, we could very well build up the national income to the point where the earnings of the people would guarantee sufficient revenues to provide adequate social services. Mr. Bailey's idea of more intelligent buying merits consideration. He says, "Take more from the countries who can and will take more from us." Import grain from countries who will take our fish in exchange, and mill it ourselves, giving employment in the mills and using our own ships for both the export and import. Shipbuilding, I might say in passing, is an industry which deserves every encouragement from a maritime people, and the Clarenville shipyards have proven the quality of Newfoundland workmanship. Before concluding, Mr. Chairman, I wish to refer briefly to our main industry, the fisheries, which affects directly and indirectly almost every class of workmen in this island. Government should endeavour to reduce the cost of supplies, production, processing and marketing, in order to give our young men some incentive to return to the most vital industry. In conclusion, I would tell the people of this country, particularly those from my own district, it is my sincere conviction, after mature consideration, that responsible government would better advance our political, social and economic welfare.
Mr. Cashin Mr. Chairman, in rising to support the motion before the Chair, I feel there is not much that I can add to what I have already said on this matter. This House well knows, as I believe does the entire country ... where I stand today and where I can be found tomorrow. When first this Convention opened its doors, there were many who were inclined to believe that my attitude was somewhat unreasonable, if not wholly prejudiced. They accused me of not being in possession of that priceless thing called an open mind. They insinuated that I had not given this country's political condition proper study, that I just didn't know what I was talking about. Now, all this, of course, was entirely incorrect. It is true I did not have an open mind. I don't think I ever had such a thing in my life. As a rule, I could make up my mind on such matters that called for a decision. To me, an open mind is like an open mouth. It catches all sorts of flies, and the owner sometimes does not know when to shut it up. I did not have to wait for the opening of this Convention to give thought and study to the political situation of our country. Indeed, for nearly a year previous to the Convention election, I had been broadcasting my political doctrine to all who cared to hear me. The conclusions which I voiced were arrived at for the simple reason that the bare facts and the truth of things left no other course open to me, that for Newfoundland, the proper, logical, only course open to her was as a first step, to recover that former status and political position which was hers previous to the loss of her political freedom in 1933. And so I came as one who had already added up the sum and found the answer. And if I had wanted any further proof that my decision was the right one, and that I had the right answer, I was given ample proof of it in the course of the debates which have taken place in this chamber. Every report on our industrial and economic position went to verify it. Every figure in the Financial Report came as a further endorsement. And, although I have heard the endless speeches of those whose political opinions differ from mine, I, and the country, have yet to hear any sound, reasonable or logical arguments advanced to prove to me or them that this country is not now fitted to assume once again the proud mantle of democracy which was unjustly torn from her weakened shoulders in the dark days of 1933. And after all, I submit that my attitude will not seem at all strange to anyone who has given any sound consideration to our political January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1283 history; because if he is at all impartial or fair- minded, he must inevitably come to the same conclusions.
First, let us consider why Newfoundland should have lost responsible government at all. Let us ask ourselves why we, of all the British dominions, should have suddenly had the control of our country taken from the hands of its people and passed over to those of outsiders. If we read the Amulree Report ... we will find in that document many strange and peculiar statements, made by men who had been sent here at the instance of the British government, none of whom, as far as I have been aware, had set eyes on this country in their whole lifetime. I found in this report many harsh, reckless statements about our living and our dead. I found an amazing distortion of facts and figures, obviously all directed to justify that final condemnation and judgement which was to put Newfoundland democracy to death and condemn our people to a national debtors' prison for an indefinite term of years. I asked myself, could such a harsh judgement be justified? Was there, perhaps, some reasons which I could not perceive or understand which would justify this pillaging of those political liberties for which our forefathers had struggled so valiantly and so long and which, for over 80 years, had made this island of ours the freest land in the world? I wanted to know what was the underlying reason as to why this should come to a disgraceful end on a dark winter's day in February 1934, at the dictates of a handful of outsiders.
I asked, "Why did this thing happen to us?" In what respect had we been wanting? What had we failed to do, or in what qualities were we, as a people, so deficient as to disqualify us from governing our very own land? Was it that Newfoundlanders had neither the mental capacity, the executive ability or the vision to govern themselves? To answer this question, let your minds travel with me back through the pages of our long island story and recall and estimate the calibre of men who figured in our public life — men whose names I need not speak, for these names speak for themselves. The records of their greatness are ploughed deep into the soil of our national history, their names stand out like mountain tops on the dim horizons of our yesterdays. Would they have us believe that these men were not pos sessed of the qualities of leadership? Do not their lives and their actions serve as a denial of such an assumption? Well do we know the path they travelled was no easy one. No lush revenues nor $40 million budget was theirs to make smooth the rough paths of the country's beginnings, to make the job of statesmen something within the mentality of intelligent office boys. Yet we see them in the face of the monstrous handicaps of small revenues and a numerically insignificant population, measuring up to their task of being both pioneers and statesmen. To them there was the task of not merely having to run a country, they had first to build one. And the fact that we sit here representing some 325,000 people is perhaps the best evidence that they succeeded and built better than they knew; that out of the harsh wilderness of the past they had hewn the solid foundation of our present, our mines, forests, fisheries, roads, and railway. For every single industry that we have with us today, we have to look back in thanks and lay our tribute on the honoured graves of these great Newfoundlanders of the past. Executive ability, you say — leadership, capacity to run a country! Why, if these giants of the past were here today and were asked to take over this country and look after it and its people, they would regard it as mere child's play. And at the same time they would smile at us, half in pity, half in contempt, at the timidity and fear which some of us express when asked to face up to the responsibility of running our own house. No, sir, the records of our people just won't bear out the truth of those who say that we are not now, nor were we in the past, capable of running our own affairs. Our history gives the denial, written in letters too large and too brilliant to make any such statements acceptable to the minds of real Newfoundlanders.
But, you may say, even if we are competent, have we as a people the courage, the endurance, the ambition to govern ourselves? And was it because we lacked these things that we lost our government? Again let us look at the record: we find that if there is anything for which we Newfoundlanders can claim a pride, it is for the courage of our people. Indeed, we find that perhaps more than any other single people in the world, Newfoundlanders, if they would live and survive, had to live with the spirit of courage. It is a spirit which sits with the fisherman in the 1284 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 stern of his dory as he voyages over the storm- lashed ocean. It strides with our sealers over the perilous icefloes. It marched shoulder to shoulder with our soldiers along the "Trail of the Caribou" and to the bloody glory of Beaumont Hamel. Out from the white cliffs of Dover, it has flown in the cockpits of the Newfoundland pilots, it has paced the decks of the heaving destroyers and has answered the stand-by signal of our gunners on the desert sands of Africa. No, sir, if the red badge of courage be the price of democratic freedom, then to paraphrase Kipling's words, "Lord God, we have paid in full."
If, then, it was not for the lack of either our mental or physical fitness that we lost our democratic freedom, then why was it? I ask the question, but I think that all of you have the answer. The people of the country know it, and the outside world too is aware of it. The answer is that we lost that last final reward of democratic living because we were found by Lord Amulree and the British and Canadian financiers guilty of the unpardonable sin of being poor. For this alone we lost all that our forefathers had treasured and fought for. For this the proud title of "dominion" was stripped from us. For this these very legislative halls were sabotaged of the symbols of a proud free people.... But did those who sat in judgement on us give any thought to the things which had made us poor? In those days we saw the rest of the world justify their financial disasters by placing the blame where it rightly belonged, at the doorstep of the world depression. Not so with Newfoundland, no such excuse was accepted from us! On us was pronounced the verdict of guilty — guilty of being corrupt in our leaders, both in church and state. These things they said, and the bad old politicians were responsible for our downfall. Other and bigger nations could ignore and even default on their gigantic national debts, on the pretext that they were war debts. This they did and believed that they were keeping their self-respect. Yet could we not claim the same defense? For was not nearly $40 million the price we handed out to help our allies in the war of 1914-18? Over $30 million, nearly a third of our national debt in 1933, which if we had possessed at that time would have saved us from national misfortune — dollars which this country and its people freely gave in a spirit of generous patriotism and for the defense of democracy. The Scripture says, "Cast your bread upon the waters and it will come back to you after many days." But, alas, the bread which came back to 80,000 of our people in the dark thirties was the bitter crust of the dole. The millions we had freely poured out to ensure the freedom of other small countries like ourselves was the tragic reason that we lost our own freedom. In Newfoundland democracy died, that it might live with other peoples!
Before I continue with my prepared script, I would like to bring our minds back to this place in 1931. On many occasions I have repeated what I am going to repeat now. I feel that my remarks will not be tedious repetition, for this reason. In 1931, I happened to be Minister of Finance of Newfoundland — Sir Richard Squires was Prime Minister. We passed an act in this very hall authorising the government to borrow, on the credit of the colony, some $8 million. When the time came round to ask for tenders on the loan, we were turned down. The executive of the government met — Mr. Bradley was a member of the executive — and it was suggested that myself and the Prime Minister should go to Montreal to consult with our bankers, the Bank of Montreal. We did this, and after considerable difficulty we were able to negotiate a temporary loan, so to speak, of $2 million to meet our semi-annual interest coming due on June 30, 1931. Before we did this the General Manager of the Bank of Montreal took occasion to write myself and Sir Richard Squires, pointing out that we should then and there bring about commission government in Newfoundland, and if we did, they would guarantee us any kind of money we wanted, or words to that effect. Mr. Chairman, you are now sitting in the Chair occupied by your predecessor, Hon. Mr. Justice Fox, who was in Canada at that time and who drafted a reply to that letter. Our reply was "No". After we got the $2 million, we came back. We took our political lives in our hands. We had to strip the public services. Mr. Bradley served on committees with us. We stripped the Railway, education, soldiers' pensions, everything. What was the result? In December, 1931, we were short again; $2 million had to be found. That was found by the British government and, I think, the Canadian government. What happened then? The House opened in February, 1932. I had resigned as Finance January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1285 Minister, but (I am coming to a very important matter) for political reasons the members of the Opposition, some of whom now hold responsible positions in the government, organised a deliberate attack, physically and otherwise on the government of the day, with the result that a general election took place in June, 1932. Statements about that general election have been repeated over and over again. After the election in 1932, it was pointed out to the people of this country that immediately after Commission of Government assumed office, they would restore our financial stability; they would establish new industries and, if necessary, appoint a royal commission to go into our position. But (and this is the real thing!) they told us that ... under no circumstances would our status as a dominion be surrendered without first consulting the people. Mr. Chairman, I don't want to go into the history of it any further.
Mr. Smallwood Would that be a plebiscite?
Mr. Bradley The words were, "Nothing will be done".
Mr. Cashin I am just speaking from memory: that nothing will be done unless by way of plebiscite or referendum.
Mr. Bradley That's right.
Mr. Cashin But what happened? The next thing we find ourselves saddled with is a royal commission. There were no new industries started, in spite of the fact that many prominent men in the country went into the matter and were promised that as soon as this government was returned to office this would be started. The next thing we find is the Amulree royal commission, and the Amulree Report will go down in history as — well, I can't think of anything bad enough to call it. Lord Amulree has passed away since that time and many of the men of the government of that day have passed away, but I say now that was done deliberately, not mind you by the people who voted for it in there, they were merely used by half a dozen, used to take away our integrity. Now the other day Mr. Smallwood stated that we were bankrupt. Mr. Chairman, I contend that we were not bankrupt. We had not got money, but did the British government have it, or Canada, or any other countries in Europe have it? No, they all defaulted on their war debts, and the war up to that time had cost us nearly $40 million and we were sweating to pay the interest on that, and the other countries were defaulting on it. And I want to condemn the Amulree Report because in one paragraph it states that no British dominion or part of the British Empire had defaulted. Why the man who wrote that knew he was lying, because three months previous the British government itself had defaulted on a payment to the United States of between $75-90 million, and the individual who was principally concerned with writing that report is now High Commissioner for Great Britain in Ottawa, and I refer to a gentleman called Mr. Clutterbuck, and I apologise for calling him a gentleman.
Commission government took over here in 1934. Mr. Smallwood said the other day that they were honest. I say they are the most dishonest government that ever administered the affairs of this country. Now I have proven it, and I think I have already proven it here before and we are going to have a little tedious repetition.
Mr. Chairman Don't have any criminal libel, now.
Mr. Cashin I am able to take care of myself in that. The dole was given right from 1933 to 1940. If you look at the records of the Financial Report which I have compiled you will find that $17-20 million were advanced by Great Britain in that period, and the interest on our national debt during that period was more than the advance made by Great Britain. Now what is the answer? Out of our own revenue we got the money to pay the six cents a day dole, and those monies that they advanced (the British government) were really paying their own bondholders in England, and they were defaulting on their payments to the United States at the same time.
Now we come to 1940-41. Here was a trusteeship created in 1934. What is a trusteeship? Mr. Chairman, you know all about it better than I do, and so does Mr. Bradley and Mr. Higgins. A man comes in and runs an estate, and if he is out any money he is liable. Now what happens? In 1940-41 the Commission government and the Dominions Office there gave away to the United States government 99-year leases on these bases for nothing. Now I have no objection, be it understood, as pointed out by my friend Mr. McCormick, to giving these bases for the period of the war. I would give it whole-heartedly; but I object to any government, particularly this government who are acting as the trustees of the 1286 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 people of Newfoundland, taking our assets and giving them away for 99 years, and Newfoundland not reaping any benefit. It has been pointed out by members that the least we should have received was a quid pro quo in concessions for our fishery products.
They went out and, I state deliberately, gave indirect instructions to the American contractors not to pay our people the same rate of wages as the Americans and Canadians. They are doing the same thing now in the Gander territory. There are Canadians and Americans out there today who are getting more money for doing the same kind of work; and they are doing the same thing at the Torbay airport. Our men are getting 45 cents an hour today, and the lowest rate paid in St. John's, if I am correct, is not less than 50 cents to 60 cents an hour; but the Canadian government, backed by the Commission government, are paying our men 45 cents an hour.
Expenditure went to wing. Expenditure in 1940-41 was around $6.5 million, and it is up today to $40 million. That is what we are going to have, and we are going to have a deficit this year — we are told that. I charge the Commission government now with deliberately attempting to dissipate the treasury of Newfoundland. When this Convention opened, September 11, 1946, I made a statement that Mr. Attlee stated in the House of Commons, when he was bringing in this White Paper which created this Convention Act, that his understanding would be that under no circumstances would any change of government take place in Newfoundland under ten years, because the Commission government had a programme that they wanted to go ahead with without interruption. Well how far out was I? It is three years now. There will be no change in any wise until this fall, and it may not even take place then, because we are a powerless group with no courage. Would you mind telling me, Mr. Chairman, how long I was on?
Mr. Chairman You have half an hour to go.
Mr. Cashin Thank you. Now reverting again to the passing of this act, these resolutions that went over to England to be confirmed by the British government. I don't intend to read the full resolution, but I will draw your attention, and the attention of the house and of the country to it; I have drawn it before, but I am going to do it again, because I am suspicious of Commission government, and of those who brought it into existence. If you take the annex to the resolution, sub-section 8, it says definitely: "The existing form of government would be suspended until such time as the island would become self-supporting again." That is sub-section 8. Turn to sub-section G, which is the last one. What does it say? "It would be understood that, as soon and the country is again self-supporting, responsible government, on request from the people of Newfoundland would be restored."[1] Now sir, why was it necessary to stick in sub-section G when they had the thing covered in sub-section 8? I have very suspicious ideas about that sub-section, and I have talked with many gentlemen who were in this House at that time, and they understood that when Newfoundland was self-supporting responsible government would be handed back; but now they stuck that in, in the last section. I have seen funny things happen in this House once in a while. I feel that "there's something rotten in the state of Denmark" in connection with that sub-section.
I think therefore, Mr. Chairman, that in a general way I have outlined what brought about Commission government — we were poor. But that was not so in 1931 and 1932. It took another government to come in here and barter it away — I call it the great betrayal of 1933-34. I have heard people say, "What could we have done?" What did the British government do? What did the Government of Saskatchewan do? What did other countries do? They defaulted. And weren't we as much entitled to default as they were? Couldn't we have carried on and paid six cents a day dole on our own? Why Professor Plumptre said that Newfoundland would have been justified in defaulting then! And whilst this report I am referring to was being written, which said that no British dominion had defaulted, it is a fact that Great Britain herself had defaulted to America three months previous to the writing of that report.
What happened in 1894 in the bank crash, and in 1895? Did the politicians of those days accept a royal commission from Great Britain? Certainly not, because they knew what was behind it. But we did not have courage enough in our government in those days. It was take the line of least January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1287 resistance. I feel if you are not prepared to help yourself, no one else will help you. We had to help ourselves and not outsiders. We had no right to let them in here at all. And so it is that today, after 14 years, we sit here in these same legislative halls, this same House of Assembly that battered away our liberties in 1933, whose walls once re-echoed to the voices of our illustrious men. Where we sit today the fervent oratory of our ancestors urged our people to eternally fight and battle for the protection of their democratic rights. It is a tragic twist of fate that in this very place we should also sit, and have placed before us the strange question as to what form of government we want for our people and our country. As if there were any form but one that any intelligent, any reasonable, any patriotic Newfoundlander could think of asking for either himself or his people.
To understand how misguided such a question really is, just consider what would be the reaction if the same question were put today before the parliament of Great Britain or Canada or the USA, or for that matter any country, whether big or small, whose people know what it is to enjoy the priceless privileges of self-government. Do you think that any of them would consider the surrender of their liberties for the boon of any form of commission government? That they would think of giving a small group of strangers a free hand to do as they wish with their treasury and their territory? That has been done. I have already pointed out that the Commission government gave away our territory. Mr. Smallwood said they were honest. Again I am reminded of the Labrador mining concession given out in 1937, whereby certain concessions were given to the Labrador Mining Co., and for which Newfoundland was to receive in return a royalty of ten cents a ton on ore when the mine came into production, but what happened? Two years ago this same company approached the government, and what happened? They cancelled this royalty and instead took an agreement to be paid 5% on the net profits of a company that is going to cost $140-150 million to go into production, and it will be years before there are any net profits arrived at. What is that but dishonesty?
Again, I pointed out here during the debate on the Economic Report and on the Finance Report the manner in which our various monies were handled by the Commission government, and I re-point out now that I consider personally, that the Newfoundland treasury has been plundered of $4-5 million since 1940-41, and if anyone wants to take me up on that I am prepared to meet them. The talk is too extravagant, too far-fetched, too ridiculous to even contemplate, and yet that is the crazy proposition which is put before us today, and which we are asked to calmly consider.
Can you imagine, Mr. Chairman, what our forefathers would have done in such a situation? They would have regarded the whole thing as a black insult to themselves and their country, and would have probably thrown it out of the window and those who proposed it after them. These men are in the cemetery. We must face the facts as we find them, disagreeable though they be. We have to recognise that we are allowed to sit here at all only by the grace and permission of a dictatorship government, and consequently that we can only move and act to the extent and limits which our chains of bondage will allow us. So recognising these facts, we find that we must include in our recommendation, not a form of government mind you, but forms.
My first reaction to such a proposition was that the terms of reference which contain such a stipulation were, and are, absolutely contrary to both the letter, spirit and substance of the agreement made between the government of this country and Great Britain in November, 1933. I regret to say that such a condition is an absolute violation of that contract, and of the laws governing relations between two governments. The question has been asked here many times as to why the British government did not and does not carry out the contract which it made with our government in 1933; further, on what grounds we are supposed to ignore this solemn international pact and allow it to be kicked aside. That question has been asked but we are still waiting for the answer.
I directed that question the other day to His Excellency the Governor through the medium of this Convention, that on his visit to Great Britain he ascertain why they did not carry out the 1933 agreement up to the present time. All that has come back to us are trick evasions and flimsy excuses. They tell us in effect, as if we were so many children, that we have no right to ask such embarrassing, impudent questions. What a 1288 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 brazen effrontery to our country! Here we are a body of men representing all Newfoundland, brought here apparently, so we are told, for the express purpose of deciding on our country's future form of government; we ask a highly relevant and important question about a contract to which we ourselves are party, and under which we lost our former government, and we are politely told, Mr. Chairman, to mind our own business. Every intelligent person knows that the ballot which by force of law and under the terms of the 1933 agreement should be put to our people is simply this: "Do you or do you not want the return of responsible government?" That is the choice. That is the legal and the only option which is provided for in this agreement to which the British government attached its hand and seal. That is the choice they promised us. Under what right do they withhold that choice from us? Under what law are we deprived of our legal rights? What is behind all this international double-dealing and chicanery anyhow? It is a pity that those Newfoundlanders who can afford it have not long ago taken steps to bring this whole matter before the Privy Council, and in this way found out whether the contract which Great Britain made with Newfoundland in 1933 is a proper and decent transaction, or whether it is a worthless joke played at the expense of a helpless people.
Mr. Chairman, I am voting in favour of the motion before us because, under the circumstances I have outlined, I have no choice to do otherwise. Now some may say, "Is not this ballot in effect carrying out the terms of the 1933 agreement?" Does it not give our people the opportunity to ask for the return of responsible government if they want it?" I tell them it is not. There is no reference whatever in this contract which asks us to vote on the retention of Commission government. It is something imported and foisted on us. As I said before, the ballot which this contract provides for is a simple request for the return of one form of government. If more than one form of government goes on the ballot then I say it goes beyond the powers provided in that contract, and to be consistent the British government should be ready to put every conceivable form of government on the ballot. For all we know there may be people in this country who may have elected Commission of Government, representative government, union with Great Britain, union with the USA, etc. Yes, the whole thing is obviously impracticable, even ridiculuous, but as I have observed, we must do the best we can in spite of the obstacles which have been placed in our path; and as the motion before us seems to me to be the only method by which our people are to be given the opportunity of requesting the restoration of their lost political rights, I have no option but to support the motion. In doing so it is my fervent hope that if such a ballot is placed before our people they will regard it in its true light. They will see it not as a choice of being asked to vote for two equal forms of government, but rather as an opportunity for demanding that the British government fulfill the pledge that they gave this country in 1933. Let us see to it that we Newfoundlanders live up to our solemn contractual obligations, and if the pact of 1933 is to be broken and made a scrap of paper, let us not allow ourselves to be willing parties to such a breach of faith.
In dealing with the matter of forms of government to go on the ballot, I cannot ignore the fact that what we recommend, when it reaches London, may be thrown in the waste-paper basket if it does not suit the fancies of Mr. Attlee, or be in accord with the future which he has planned for us. And that reminds me, Mr. Chairman, with reference to Mr. Attlee, that when this legislation of 1933 was being passed in the British House of Commons Mr. Attlee viciously attacked it, and when the Commission of Government was appointed he called them a bunch of bum bailiffs. Somewhat consistent with his attitude today isn't it, Mr. Chairman? In which event all our work here will have been for nothing, and we will become once again placed in a farcical situation which we are helpless to prevent. As for myself I am prepared to believe that the Commonwealth Secretary has our ballot made out long ago and poked away in his rolltop desk till the time comes to send it on to us. I saw it when I was over there.
Mr. Smallwood What is on the ballot?
Mr. Cashin It is poked away up in the attic in the Dominions Office.
Mr. Smallwood You said you saw the ballot. What is on the ballot?
Mr. Cashin I said I saw the rolltop desk! And in reply to my friend Mr. Smallwood, the other day when he was speaking to this motion he said, and I quote him practically verbatim, that "he was January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1289 voting for this motion, but that he would not vote for either of them if they went on the ballot paper". Well, assuming that the two of them would be on and the other is left off, Mr. Smallwood is going to be in an awful position, unless he has the inside dope from the Dominions Office. He might have that, because you know how I feel about the Dominions Office. I say now about this ballot that I said is tucked away in the rolltop desk, what a pity that individual did not send it on to us 12 or 14 months ago, and save us the trouble and expense of this long drawn out Convention. However, let us hope that we have gotten some benefit out of these sessions. Now in making that statement, much as I have condemned this Convention, and I have called it everything, I think there has been some good come out of it. One thing came out of it, we as members of this National Convention, from various sections of the country, have met here together and we have made warm friendships whichI feel will last for life. Some of us who have not had any parliamentary experience have learned considerably about it, and a lot about government affairs, which without this Convention they would never have learned, and consequently I feel that is one bit of good the Convention has probably done.
Mr. Smallwood And the people, too.
Mr. Cashin And the people have been informed, Mr. Chairman, as I said this afternoon, by me, that this government which Mr. Smallwood said was honest, I claim was the most dishonest government we ever had, and I want to tell the people and the Convention that now.
Mr. Chairman You have eight minutes to go, Mr. Cashin.
Mr. Cashin All right, sir. I have often heard "two minutes to go", and my friend Mr. Bailey often heard that too. If we have succeeded in showing our people that Newfoundland is today a prosperous and self-supporting country, if we have brought to their notice the great potential wealth of Labrador, if it has enabled us to remove some of the smear campaign which has been directed on our public men of the past, then I believe to that extent the work will not have been in vain. I have every confidence that a majority of this Convention will vote for the motion now before the Chair. Perhaps some of those who vote for it may do so for reasons of political strategy rather than because they favour either responsible government or Commission of Government; but I am sure that the great majority will vote for the motion because they feel it is the only way open to them to show their support to the form of government which the majority of our people want.
Now sir, for a few minutes I will just refer briefly to our Economic Report, which was based on every report that was brought in here during the past 14 or 15 months, our Economic Report which says that this country at the present time is self-supporting. That report was unanimously adopted by this Convention — the only report that was adopted unanimously. When we presented our Economic Report, we were most conservative in our views. We felt that the future of Newfoundland is better really than we could take the chance of telling the people; they would think we were faking the report. We did not take into consideration the potential wealth of Labrador, that in Labrador, within five or ten years, there will be developed the most outstanding iron ore mines in the world, on the North American continent at any rate. Nearly 10 million tons of iron ore, or possibly 100 million tons a year. I also wish to point out to Mr. Smallwood, who tells us the Commission government was so honest, they gave away this water-power on the Labrador practically for nothing.
Mr. Smallwood I did not say they were bright and intelligent.
Mr. Cashin I say they are dishonest. I still say it. They must be fools. Here we have the greatest water-power, and the Commission of Government, prompted by the Dominions Office, gives it away for 15 cents a horsepower and right alongside in Quebec, they have to pay $1 a horsepower. Honest? I do not think they are fools. I challenge anyone from the Dominions Office to show me they are honest in handling the sinking fund, honest in the handling of the interest-free loans; honest about the reduction in interest charges; honest in applying the interest-free loans in the reduction of our debt. Why, it is the biggest piece of plundering I ever heard of! If an ordinary Newfoundland government pulled off any stunts like the Commission government did — talk about the raid which happened in 1932! You would never hear the like. You do not see the same people marching on the Colonial Building 1290 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 or Government House or anywhere else today.
Mr. Chairman I have no jurisdiction over members directing their criticisms towards the government or any members of the government, but I would suggest that members keep themselves within the limits of fair comment.
Mr. Cashin The 1943 retroactive income tax legislation, would you call that honest?
Mr. Chairman We are not trying the Commission government here at all. We are not a jury.
Mr. Cashin I am prepared to take them on as a jury.
Mr. Chairman You are not trying them now.
Mr. Cashin I am giving my views in connection with the Commission of Government during the past seven or eight years.
Mr. Chairman Let us hope you will not be called upon to prove your statements.
Mr. Cashin I have proven them. All of us who have given any thought to the matter, all of us who have approached the question in a spirit of sincerity and patriotism, will realise that once we get the control of our own affairs, the financial and economic doors of the world will be open to us. But without self-government, all doors but one will close in our faces. And if we enter that one door, which Heaven forbid, it will clang behind us with the awful finality of the prison portals which closes behind him who has said goodbye to freedom forever. Whether Newfoundland enters that dungeon cell to serve a life sentence, or whether she takes her place as a proud dominion amongst the free peoples of the world, is for our people to say. And knowing them as I do, I am convinced that we can safely leave the final verdict in their hands.
Mr. Chairman Before giving you the floor, Mr. Keough, I would like to direct the attention of members at this time to standing order 39 which reads: "In discharging its duty to make recommendations to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom, as to possible forms of future government to be placed before the people in a national referendum, the Convention shall include in its report to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs the opinion of each several member of the Convention as to the form or forms of government which, in his opinion, should be put before the people, together with any preference which he may choose to express as between one form of government and another."
It is therefore the duty of this Convention to record the opinion of each member of the Convention on two points: (1) As to the form of government which, in his opinion should be put before the people of Newfoundland, together with (2) any preference he may choose to express.
I simply mention the rule at this time because there is a double-barreled motion before the Chair. The motion covers responsible government and Commission government. It may very well be that some members may have a preference as between the two forms of government, and therefore would perhaps be hesitant in expressing their views by virtue of the fact that in supporting the motion, they would be supporting one form of government with which he or they did not find themselves in agreement. I want to make it clear. I propose by a series of polls or divisions on this motion to find out, first, the members voting for or against the motion, and secondly ... it will be my duty to carry out the order to have their views recorded on both questions. Therefore, any member desiring to support this motion will not be precluded from expressing his preference as to either of the two forms contained in the motion. Indeed, it is the other way about. It is the duty of the Convention, after and when a member votes for the motion, to decide whether or not he has any preference for either of the two forms of government contained in the motion.
Mr. Smallwood Would that polling be done after adoption or otherwise of the present motion or after the adoption or otherwise of both motions on the order paper?
Mr. Chairman I am not certain at the moment; but my intention is to ask for a brief meeting of the drafting committee — they have to draft the report and I want to facilitate them if I can. As far as I am concerned, you could very well have discharged your duties under standing order 39 without bothering to decide the matter at all. I could simply ask members to stand up and ask who has any preference.
Mr. Bradley Would you mind reading section 39 again?
[The Chairman read standing order 39]
Mr. Chairman I read it this way: in its report, the Convention shall include:
(1) The opinion of each several member as to the form or forms of government, which in his opinion should be put before the people; and,
(2) Any preference which he may choose to express as between one form of government and another.
Mr. Vardy We are not compelled to express a preference?
Mr. Chairman No. The language employed is "which he may choose".
Mr. Hollett Excuse me, sir. I give notice that on tomorrow I will move that section 39 of the rules of procedure of the National Convention be amended: In other words I am only giving notice of a motion to amend rule 39. There's nothing wrong with that, sir, is there?
Mr. Chairman No. If the House by a two-thirds majority wants to wipe out these rules and modify, alter or amend them, that is all right.
Mr. Hollett I know that, sir.
Mr. Higgins At this time, while we are on the subject, and it is a matter of voting, 1 am not entering into the present controversy, but sometime ago the matter of giving the right to vote to absent members was considered, and we had some correspondence and it was brought up with the Commission of Government. I wonder now, would the House be prepared to accept a motion in this respect at this time?
Mr. Chairman Not at the moment, Mr. Higgins.
Mr. Higgins Well, I don't mean right now, sir.
Mr. Chairman The proper time for you to introduce that is afterwards, when the present business before the Chair is terminated. That is to say you are giving notice that in accordance with the discussions which have already taken place on this subject, that you are going to introduce a motion today, so as to permit members who are absent because of illness or for a good and sufficient reason having their views recorded on rule 39.
Mr. Higgins Yes, sir.
Mr. Chairman Well, would you mind introducing that when the debate on the present business is adjourned? Mr. Keough.
Mr. Keough Mr. Chairman, we are come to the last scene of all, that will end this strange eventful history. As she was about to pass into her 450th year of history, Newfoundland called 45 of her sons to gather in National Convention to serve a great cause. And now in a little while New foundland will know whether or not we who are gathered here did serve that great purpose with intelligence, honour and integrity of conscience, and even at this moment history waits with poised pen to write upon immortal tablets whether in these last days we proved to be men of great or little souls.
However, the final test of all will come not so much upon this motion as upon the next. We have completed the first part of the task to which we are committed. We have examined and discussed among ourselves the financial and economic changes that have taken place in the island since 1934. With what degree of confidence we have executed adequate to this hour, all that is now for history to judge. And so we are come to the completion of our mission — the recommending to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom possible forms of future government to be put before the people at a national referendum. In the matter of this great final debate based upon systems of government I had been hoping for a better bargain. I had been hoping that the form that would be taken would be different from that which has been taken. I had been hoping that it would be a three-in-one affair, and that the three forms of government that this Convention has elected to concern itself with could have been discussed within the compass of one motion.
As matters stand the motion now before the Chair does not admit of any discussion of confederation in conjunction with the two forms of government with which the motion is concerned. It is a bit of a bother that the motion does not do the obvious thing and raise the three issues at once, for the same yardstick must be applied to measuring the admittability for referendum purposes of the form of government proposed by Mr. Smallwood's forthcoming motion, as to the measuring of the admittability of the forms with which Mr. Higgins' motion is concerned; I should have preferred to make one definition of that yardstick and get it all over with. Indeed, I think I may just as well do so, and what l have to say in preamble to discussion of this motion I ask you to consider as being likewise in preamble to Mr. Smallwood's motion presently pending. That would eliminate any need for me to reiterate myself.
I take it that I am expected to do here what I was sent here to do, and that, I hope, is not an 1292 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 unreasonable assumption of prerogative unto myself, since it was written in the bond that what I should do was recommend possible forms of future government to be put before the people at a national referendum. That was what the people of my district sent me here to do — to recommend possible forms of future government. I ask you to note particularly the words, "possible forms". "Possible", mind you, not impossible, and "forms", mind you, not form. "Forms" — note the "s". A great deal of misunderstanding has arisen about that "possible" and that plural; and in particular one hears arguments these days that for the Convention to have to recommend the maximum of possible alternatives would mean that we should have to recommend every form of government known to man. Carry that sort of thing to its logical conclusion, the argument goes, and the sky is the limit. The referendum ballot should run the gamut of government from aristocracy to theocracy. However, that is an argument calculated merely to confuse the issue. It is rooted in either inability or unwillingness to see the distinction between recommending for the referendum ballot all the possible forms of government, and all the forms of government possible. In the latter instance the sky would indeed be the limit, but it is not to the latter enterprise that we are committed. Our concern here is with all the possible forms of government, and within that compass the alternatives open are few. Broadly speaking there are three ways in which we are limited in the forms of government that we may recommend: we are limited in conscience, by tradition and in fact. We live in a Christian country. There is behind us a long Christian tradition; our way of life is Christian to the core, and so we are bound in conscience to recommend for purposes of the national referendum constitutions that will not be in conflict with Christian ethics. It is consequently not within our competency to recommend any of those totalitarian forms of government that put the state before the individual. This is a free country. There is behind us along tradition of the rights of all men to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Our way of life is democratic to the core. We are consequently bound by tradition to recommend for purposes of the national referendum constitutions that are not in conflict with the democratic ideal. It is consequently not within our jurisdiction to recommend any form of government that would encroach upon the liberties and prerogatives and wishes of the common man, in consequence of centuries of parliamentary government and striving to be free. And finally, we live in a British country. There is behind us a long and intimate association with the mother country, and our relations with Britain at this time are of a very special kind. As we are all aware, the final decision as to what will appear on the ballot will be made in Downing Street, and to my mind we are limited by that fact to constitutions not incompatible with our remaining within the structure of the British Commonwealth of Nations. I think it unlikely that Downing Street would consider for referendum purposes constitutions to the contrary. As I see it, we are limited in fact. We could recommend union with the United States, but I doubt that in Downing Street it would receive a second thought, and as far as I am concerned quite properly so.
The truth of the matter is that the sky is not the limit when it comes to recommending constitutions. All the forms of government possible are not all possible forms of government for us, and we are limited in conscience, by tradition, and in fact to a few alternatives, and in my opinion it is our solemn duty to determine among these alternatives, and to recommend those that ought to be submitted to the people of this island.
In proceeding to the determination of these alternatives, there is one further thing to be remembered — that there is reason in all things. Notwithstanding the limitations imposed by conscience, tradition and fact, there is a goodly number of constitutions that we might recommend, but not all of them are relevant. Not all of them could be superimposed on the economy of this country without severe dislocation. Not all of them are suited to the temperament of our people, and so it becomes us to exercise such discretion as to avoid the recommendation of a multiplicity of irrelevant constitutions, which, if they were to appear on the referendum ballot would only confuse the electorate.
As far as I am concerned there are, in addition to the form of government we now know, but two other constitutions that may safely and justly be imposed on our economy, our institutions and our people. I am compelled to dismiss all other constitutions we hear suggested as being beside the January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1293 point, even those that we hear mentioned most. True Crown colony status would go too much against the grain; Not-them Ireland status would be merely avoiding the issue; so too would be representative government — we might as well retain our caretaker government as replace it with a kindergarten government; and union with the United States would raise matters of conscience for our people to which I for one will not be a party. As far as my own conscience is concerned, I am satisfied that I can recommend for submission to the Newfoundland people in national referendum not less than the forms of government proposed in the motion before the Chair. In other words, the least that we dare recommend is responsible government and Commission government. When I say Commission of Government, I mean Commission of Government in its present form. I cannot see wherein any worthwhile modification of Commission of Government can be achieved, for if you modify it you have to do one of two things: provide for the election of enough Newfoundlanders to carry a decision in case of dispute, or provide for a preponderance of Commonwealth Office appointees. In a modified Commission in which elected Newfoundlanders would be in the majority you would have, in effect, in all but name, responsible government; so why not have it by name, and by restoration of our suspended constitution? It may be that "a rose by any other name would smell as sweet", but not in this island, if what would be in effect responsible government were still called Commission. But on the other hand, in a modified Commission in which elected Newfoundlanders would be in the minority, you would have in effect representative government, and you would have in addition all the furor, all the dissension, all the bickering that went with representative government before. Yes, and no throwing into the balance advisory councils or anything else would make for peace, quiet and good government in a body partly elected by the people, yet preponderantly appointed in Whitehall.
I am convinced that one of the choices to be submitted to the Newfoundland people should be retention of Commission of Government in its present form, but before I go on to say why, let me say this. Because I like to give credit where credit is due, I have not joined in the diatribes against the Commission in which this Convention has from time to time indulged. Some of the criticisms of Commission that have been mouthed have been justified, for the Commission did fall far short of making the most of the golden opportunities that Came its way; but hardly a word of credit has been given to the Commission, and that has been just simply the old game of playing politics. In order to redress in some little manner the injury the Commission has suffered at our hands, I avail of this opportunity to say this much in its favour; that notwithstanding its shortcomings, Commission of Government has done as much, and perhaps more, for the ordinary people in this country, the fishermen and farmers and the loggers, than any government within living memory; and in saying that I am voicing the opinion of people all over this country whose memories can go back much farther than my own. It would serve no useful purpose for me to enumerate here the excellencies and negligence of Commission of Government. The ordinary people of Newfoundland are not likely to forget overnight wherein the Commission of Government has served them well, and this Convention has done its best to see to it that they will not forget wherein it has failed, and so I will forego any recital of hallelujahs and lamentations. There is this, however, that I think deserving of special mention.
We hear it said these days that the British government promised that we would have political education during the days of Commission government, and that that pledge was not honoured. That, as far as I am concerned, is something decidedly open to question. It seems to me that during the days of Commission of Government Newfoundlanders have grown to a greater political perspicacity than has ever been there. Commission of Government has been criticised as dictatorial, and whilst definitely an oligarchy, it has put into effect policies that have made the people more politically adequate than they have ever been. These policies have led to the growth of many small organisations wherein many Newfoundlanders have learned the rudiments of parliamentary procedure, how to talk on their feet, how to think their way through to resolutions of a community's problems, what to look for in a proposal to make it worth their concern, how to select leaders from among them 1294 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 selves — organisations such as co-operative societies, agricultural societies, regional library boards, Jubilee Guilds, adult education study groups and all the rest of it. And as a direct result of the Commission's specific policy of encouraging local government a score or more communities have taken upon themselves the status of municipalities, formally incorporated. All this has naturally strengthened the competency and increased the capacity of Newfoundlanders for the political, and when again politicians take up the telling of their fairy tales where they left off 15 years ago, they will find themselves up against this increased capacity for the political. The historic assumption that the electorate was too green to burn will have to be revised. It is no longer quite so green.
Of course, the relative merits of the Commission's worth must ever remain a matter of dispute. The Commission has been in office during two abnormal periods of our history, an abnormal period of depression and an abnormal period of what some have been pleased to call prosperity. It has not been in office during what might be termed a normal period. In consequence it is difficult to make comparisons, and therefore difficult to judge of the absolute value of its work. That is not a good and sufficient reason for withholding credit where it is due, and in many matters the Commission did act with advantage to this island and to its people, and I think that a fair verdict is that we have had good value from the Commission, and I think that will be the verdict of history.
It has been suggested to me that aside from the fact that Commission is government without representation, that there is a further reason why this Convention should not recommend Commission for referendum purposes. The Commission system carries with it the guarantee of Britain to meet our deficits, but for seven years now we have been able to balance our budget and have something over and to spare. It is contended therefore that it would be perhaps immoral of us, and certainly would not be honourable, to seek a continuation of the Commission system and thereby hold Britain to a promise given in altogether different circumstances. To put it bluntly, it is held that we should be without honour to forego self-govemment merely to have the assurance that somebody else would pay our debts, when there are reasonable hopes of being able to pay our own way in the future.
The validity of that argument any fair man must admit, and I have to commend it to the conscience of the people for their consideration at the time of the referendum. But it is a matter for the conscience of the people, it is not a matter of honour with us. We have no choice but to let the people have a choice among other forms of government — Commission. True, the thing was loaded upon our people in the beginning without consultation, but they did accept it. Not only does silence give consent, but so too does acquiescence. Indeed, nobody doubts now but had the people been consulted during those grim Gethsemane days of 1933, that they would have accepted Commission. In fact it was welcomed on every hand with open arms, and there is no doubt that most of our people have found it good. In any case, if we are going to give the people a choice of anything, we must surely ask them if they want to keep what they already have. To propose alternatives you must begin with what you already have. A great many people believe that the specific term of years for which Commission is to be retained, if it is to be retained, should be decided in advance. They argue that any retention of Commission that may materialise from the referendum should be conditional upon review of the whole position at the end of five or ten years. I really cannot see much point in making such a proviso. If the Newfoundland people decide to retain the Commission system, and at the end of a term of years want to examine the situation, they will have merely to take the necessary steps to bring about such review; if there is no popular feeling and agitation for re-opening the question, then the people should not find themselves com mitted to such a procedure
Obviously we have to recommend as a referendum alternative responsible government as it existed in Newfoundland prior to its suspension in 1934, in form that is, if not in substance. Not to would be to seek an abridgement of the undertaking given by the British Parliament to restore responsible government at the request of our people. But I do hope that if we come to see responsible government restored, it will not get to be a matter of the same old story all over again. If in the past responsible government was not always all that it should have been, I think that January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1295 perhaps one of the greatest contributing causes was that the Newfoundland people never did have a choice of political philosophies. True, they did have a choice of political parties, but in essence the only choice they offered was a choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledee, a choice of political tenants not poles apart, but only the width of the street apart. It was never to distinct political faiths that Newfoundlanders had occasion to give their allegiance. At the best what they had was political personalities. There were no political parties held together by any bonds stronger than the desire to win the next election. There were certainly none held together by the belief that the political briefs they stood for were overwhelmingly right and true and worth holding out for against all odds. For if there had been, those parties would have held together and preserved their identity, but they did not. Not one of the old political parties that we used to know has survived — not one. As a matter of fact, none survived longer than it took the Commission of Government to move in. The Commission was appointed and the political parties were never heard of again. They had not that within them which could hold them together overnight, once there was no more chance of winning an election. And in that connection may I offer this advice to my political parties that may subsequently arise in this land: if any one of them can appeal to our people with a concrete vital platform that can touch their lives in terms of three square meals a day, they will likely go a long, long way. And if in the past responsible government was not all that it should be, particularly towards the end of its days, it was mostly because what we used to have every four years was not an election but a revolution. You will remember what would happen at election times: brother was set against brother, community was set against community, class was set against class, deliberately and with malice aforethought to serve political ends. Hatred was engendered that lasted for years and wrought disturbance of the people's peaceful way of life. Then to crown it all, if a new government was elected, almost its first move was invariably to disrupt the civil service with many discharges and new appointments of party hacks and of the faithful. Irrespective of all the whitewash that has lately been spattered around the corpus delicti of responsible government, it is an unassailable fact that for a term of years immediately prior to Commission of Government the spoils system was in great effect. I do hope that we have done with all that forever, and particularly the spoils system.
Come what may in the shape of government, our people should insist on the civil service being placed, as I believe Mr. Hickman suggested yesterday afternoon, under a nonpolitical, independent civil service commission, and they should keep on insisting upon just that until they get it. Otherwise we will never get good government, and every four years the national interest will be sacrificed so that to the victors may go the spoils.
Now I have suggested that responsible government as we knew it was not at all times all that it should have been. I should like to make it quite clear that in doing so I am not suggesting that responsible government as we knew it was never all that it should have been. I think it only fair to say that not all our politicians were concerned only with the grinding of their own axes, and the feathering of their own nests. If I had to prove that any single one of them was not all that he should have been, I am quite certain that I should be unable to do so, and again I think that a fair verdict is that a great many of our public men of yesteryear were sincere men who did the best that they could with the little that they had. The supreme tragedy was that they did not have enough to work with. Otherwise the story of responsible government might have been much different. I have said before that in the last analysis it was not our politicians who failed us, it was our economy. Yet notwithstanding the meagemess of the resources and the facilities drey had to work with, there were men in our past who wrought monumental works in this land. Men who were born to greatness, and set the mark of their greatness upon the causes they espoused, men in consequence of whose living we have all come to be at great advantage.
Mr. Miller Mr. Chairman, I take pleasure in supporting this motion, and I base my decision on the reasonable supposition of our ability to maintain self-government. A second reason for doing so is the fact that the condition for the correction of which the Commission of Government was introduced, now no longer exists. As to whether or not they can be credited with success, 1296 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 I have a divided opinion. In some instances, yes; in others, definitely no. Could a continuation bring about a greater achievement on their part? That I greatly doubt. It would appear on the face of things, and I believe would be borne out by deeper investigation, that a government so constituted may make progress in its early days and then become routine. This, I fear, is the condition today; and I have much the same opinion of monotonous routine as I have of tedious repetition.
When the British government adopted the recommendations of the Amulree Commission, I believe they did so in the best interests of Newfoundland. If in some way their own interests, which might have been impaired by their association with us, were protected, in that I see no great wrong. Viewed in these later years, the recommendations they submitted have helped us along and we are willing to give credit where credit is due. I feel quite certain we will be glad to see continued much of the organisation they set in place and it was meant to be that way. For they were to undertake to strengthen our economic and financial structure which would, in time, put our country in good standing and having done that, the government would be passed back to the people.
Many things have been said about that transaction. As it came into effect it displeased many, if not all; and strong opinions were expressed as to other possible ways out. Truly, they could have left some vestige of representation with us. We yielded, believing that we would have sent here men of the highest calibre, men to develop our industrial life as well as play watchdog on our treasury. No barriers were created by us in the selection of these men. If the good and useful did not come, the fault is surely that of the Dominions Office. All this can be excused on the ground that they were taking things in their stride. Just when they planned to get us out of the woods seemed very obscure. However, perhaps everyone's purpose is served today.
One thing for which we can be thankful today, is that we did not suffer impairment of our form of government permanently. Written into that original recommendation and subsequently into the Letters Patent constituting Commission of Government, is the promise of restoration, if and when the people request it. A proviso to this is that the country be self-supporting to the extent that reasonable assurance of its ability to maintain self-government be evident. We first heard of Newfoundland being self-supporting from the outside world. And in fairness to the British government, it may be said that they lost no time in setting up machinery to determine the people's wishes. Perhaps the invidiousness of their position out here was all too well realised.
Now we have reached the point where we are to decide the extent of their usefulness and the possibility of further advancement under Commission government rule. For my part, I believe they have done their job and should go. First because I see no justification in the continuance of a dictatorial form of government, and secondly because I want to see it supplanted by a responsible government with full dominion status. It is to me a tragedy that we cannot negotiate our external affairs. Witness the many attempts made by the Hon. R.B. Job in trying to get outside the curtain — not but that I am fully aware of the lift along which Great Britain gives in world markets. I do not suggest anything but the closest friendship with the mother country; but our position has been so unsatisfactory, having to sell in one currency and buy in another, that I look for some solution to it. That solution I can see only in economic ties with the USA. There, to a nation of 130 million people, we should be able to sell largely, and purchase all our requirements. This may be wishful thinking. I do not for a minute entertain the thought that the USA would want us to enter political union, and I would definitely be opposed to it. But there should be a pooling of advantages, with greater returns to our country. For that is just what Great Britain did in the base deal, with greater return to Great Britain.
If we are to have a night session tonight, I could resume at that time.
Mr. Chairman I want to remind you again of the time limits which the members decided on last Friday; and that tomorrow, in the ordinary way, will be the last day open for the debate on this motion now before the Chair. I want to resolve this tonight. We could therefore resume the session at eight o'clock. We have to uy and facilitate quite a number of members.
[The Convention adjourned until 8 pm]
Mr. Miller It seems to me that in this Christian world a people who work and produce, as do our January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1297 people, should not have to worry or know want. They play their part. I feel their government should have no restriction in facilitating the marketing of their products and that all bargaining powers should be applied to this purpose.
Those who would deprive the people of self- government advance a great variety of reasons, and perhaps their greatest and most effective one is the recalling of the misdeeds of the last years of responsible government; whilst in the same breath they say, "Responsible government! Why, what has that to offer?" It is when I hear such remarks that I doubt the wisdom of restoring self-government, for it portrays, as I see it, a great misconception of the duties and functions of government. The reason for this is given in the fact that we secured national government before we had come to appreciate its capabilities by a closer view of municipal government. I believe that to be largely correct, but I try to outweigh it with the advancement, in om age, of education, and in the great advantages of radio and press distribution. I further try to outweigh it by the ability of our people to grasp the intricacies of any situation. I know they can do it. I have visited people's homes where, in the war days, the advancement of the allied armies was charted and recorded with marvelous enlightenment. I have been astounded at their ability to constructively estimate world reactions. We are indeed a great people, but we have to outlive a period of our history when we were a spoiled people. We have to outlive a period in our history when we believed our government to be capable of unlimited handouts, when we seemed to shut our eyes to the fact that a government can give back to the people only part of that which they take from them. We did not seem to realise that the more gratuities a government bestows, the more taxes it must collect. This was not a deliberate wrong, but it certainly was an error and it gave rise to serious reactions. And now, as we consider a return to self-govemment, we must check the credentials of our people as well as the resources of our country. My faith in both I have already indicated.
The investigations of the committees and the reports submitted on our natural resources are very encouraging. There is evident, however, a dependency of too large a proportion of our population on the main industries. This tends to make our position highly susceptible to world conditions. It is to be hoped that the future will see a greater application of our energies to the elimination of many items from our import list and their manufacture in this country. We could even start a button factory. Time does not permit me to repeat the many encouraging features of these reports. I feel, however, that your memory will serve you well, and that they are set in permanent vision before your mind.
Generally, I would say that Newfoundland's position today is a coveted one and that our progress offers further promise. We have a better marketing system for our fish, which should serve us well in the years ahead, whilst consolidating our position on these markets, and we continued to enjoy high price for this commodity. How unlike this is to other countries, some of which were marketing their products, for example wheat, at slightly in excess of one-third of its current market value in an effort to hold down post-war business. Let us stop a moment to appreciate our position.
It was a satisfying feature, in the days of committee meetings, to see the way many of our industrialists considered themselves a part of this land of ours; to hear them tell of things that give promise and to weigh their earnestness and determination in developing industries. In one instance only did we meet an antagonistic attitude and what could be described as a refusal to cooperate. I take this opportunity to interject a word of praise to the civil servants who assisted the committees on which I worked; and of whose integrity and ability I formed a very high opinion. It is matters such as these that strengthens one's outlook and faith.
Yes, Newfoundland's position today bears little or no resemblance to its past; and confidence, hope and trust should swell the hearts of her people. Today, the great nations of the world shudder under the weight of debts contracted because of war, and countries of our own kindred have the sufferings of want added to their sorrows. Nor in the near future, will this condition be corrected. Through it all, through their dismantled industries, through their disrupted mode of life, through their great human sacrifice, they cling tenaciously to the right of self-government. They show a belief in themselves, a belief in their neighbours and a perseverance that will lead 1298 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 them to success. Can we be so different from those people? Are we the kind who refuse to honour obligations? Will we fail to make our country a respected one? For posterity, what do we provide? Of that which we have! If we cannot add to it, let us not take from it.
We pass on — the man, the country; the great and the small fill their places in the universe, some willingly, some strugglingly, some with endurance and forbearance, some with vigour, some with viciousness, some with languor, disease and deterioration. The man, the country, are but one; and fame or glory but a line in history's pages. Quo vadis? Whither goest thou? And whence and wherefore the struggle? For that line in history's pages? I think not. For the pleasures of the day then, for three square meals and a tight roof? Not there does man's duty to man begin or end. Somewhere it is said, "Man doth not live by bread alone." There is a call, a challenge born in the heart of man to rule, to govern. This must find an outlet, or the man, the country, deteriorates. This instinct, strong and lasting, is patent; and its suppression can but activate more strongly. Sometimes it is that suppression that guides it on to a predetermined destiny, if such there can be. It was suppression that many years ago urged our forefathers to seek this new land. It was the suppression which followed them here that urged them to fight for the freedom and justice and the right to govern, which was theirs. They have won their cause. They have passed to us the torch. Will we fail to hold it high?
Mr. Chairman Mr. Job, I am reminded of your recent illness and of your convalescence; and we all hope, please God, that your convalescence will come quickly and permanently; but while addressing the Chair, to do you justice, it might be well for you to do so sitting down. If you would prefer to do that, I shall be glad to hear what you have to say.
Mr. Job I appreciate that very much. I think, perhaps, I can make my address better while sitting down.
Mr. Chairman, under Mr. Higgins' motion as it stands, we are invited to give special attention to a return of responsible government in its old form; and a continuation of our present form of Commission government. I very much regret that so much time has been spent over the confederation issue and so little time left for a thorough consideration of what, in my opinion, are the very much more important matters referred to in the present resolution. However, I suppose this cannot be helped now.
In following the cue of Mr. Vardy, the seconder of this motion, I do not suppose I shall be accused of digressing if I also discuss some suggested alterations or improvements in these forms of government...
Mr. Chairman The forms of government before the Chair?
Mr. Job Yes. And some suggestions which, in my opinion, should accompany any report that is sent to the authorities prior to their coming to a definite decision as to the forms of government to be placed on the referendum. I propose to make brief reference to the question of return of responsible government. Much abuse has been heaped upon the head of the late Hon. F. C. Alderdice, as well as upon those who supported him in accepting the recommendations of the royal commission which resulted in the installation of the Commission of Government, which appeared to be the only choice except the one of facing default on our bond issues, which was the clear alternative. I knew Mr. Alderdice very well, and believe that we never had a more sincere or a more honourable leader of our government; but in my opinion, he did make a mistake in not referring the recommendations of the royal commission to the people of Newfoundland prior to accepting them. I was aware of his view, and that of his supporters, that there was not the slightest doubt that the scheme would be approved by the electorate, but as a matter of principle it should certainly have been submitted. The urgency of the situation, however, had convinced Mr. Alderdice and his government that they were following the right course, and as history shows, the proposals were carried in the House of Assembly, rightly or wrongly, with only one or two dissenting voices. One of these was that of Mr. Bradley, whose efforts to get some revision of the proposal are on record, and I fancy that history will say he should be given credit for those efforts to improve the system outlined by the royal commission.
In November 1933, when I was a member of the Legislative Council discussing the resolution regarding suspension of our constitution in favour of a temporary period of government by January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1299 Commission, I find that I uttered these words:
As a temporary measure, I am wholeheartedly in favour of the changes proposed, drastic as they are. My reasons for supporting them are:
Firstly, because the report of the royal commission and the proposals of His Majesty's Government breathe deep earnestness and great sympathy with our situation throughout its many pages, and because the offer is an especially generous one.
Secondly, because I believe that stringent and drastic measures alone can save us from ourselves in this serious crisis, and
Thirdly, because I see no other alternative except the disgrace and increased misery that default would bring in its train.
I believe that it will probably be found necessary, as time goes on, and possibly within a decade, to resort once more to some form of representation, and I also believe that when the need is evident, this will not be grudged to us by those who are offering a helping hand at this present juncture.
What form this representation may take I dare not prophesy, but it has been shown beyond doubt that our present form of full responsibility is not suited to a large country with a small population. A large section of our population is so scattered and isolated and out of touch with its fellow citizens, that it is extremely difficult for it to understand and digest the principles of good government. We want something more simple and must endeavour to avoid what has been aptly described as "the trappings of an elephant on the back of a cat."
I do not think there is any need for me to take back these words, sir, as I am still of that same opinion. I did not believe then, and I do not believe now that there was any deep-laid plot to deprive us of our rights, and on the other hand believe that Great Britain was conscientiously anxious to help us, and that although the Amulree Report was in many respects wrong, its motives were, on the whole, perfectly honest and designed to help us. It must be remembered, sir, that at that time no one for a moment contemplated that the period of Commission of Government, with its lack of representation, would extend as it has done for a period of nearly 14 years; but I think it will be agreed that circumstances beyond our control have been mainly responsible for this, namely the recent war. The utmost limit of time envisaged for its continuance when introduced was ten years.
Commission of Government was considered by many to be a means of providing a thinking period during which, with the assistance of the Mother country, our finances would be straightened out and our departments reorganised. It was thought that this could be achieved without the bickering, and oftentimes unfair attack that is and must be associated with party government. It was also thought that government by commission would still be government in the interests of Newfoundland and we were not, in view of the scheme suggested under which three of the Commissioners were Newfoundlanders, afraid that strictly Newfoundland interests would be disregarded.
As you are aware, sir, it seems to be clear from opinions expressed at this Convention that Newfoundland interests have been, in some cases, neglected, especially in connection with the leasing, without consideration for Newfoundland, for 99 years of certain of our territories to a foreign government, though an admittedly very friendly one. Owing to the secrecy of the Commission's deliberations we do not know to what extent our Newfoundland Commissioners fought for our interests in these matters; but it is fair to assume that as Newfoundlanders they did their best in at least mildly protesting against long leases; and probably felt that anything stronger than a mild protest would be, and perhaps was quite useless in view of the fact that they were in a minority on the Commission. Moreover, it must not be forgotten that they must have been influenced while the war was in progress by the fact that everything was of minor importance except steps for winning the war; and one can quite understand their disinclination to make themselves strongly objectionable at that time, entirely apart from any personal considerations.
The Commission government, in the appointment of whose personnel the people of Newfoundland have had no say, is admittedly all wrong in principle, and this our Commissioners themselves will admit and have admitted. Again, it is impossible to argue that some form of responsible government would not be right. I would 1300 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 certainly favour responsible government in some amended form, a much simplified form, more suitable to our conditions.
In spite of what I have stated, however, I feel I would not be doing my duty if I did not suggest that the electorate would be very well advised to carefully consider before marking their ballot the possible advisability of waiting a few years more before taking a leap in the dark, and diving again into the dangerous waters of the old form of responsible government, at a time when the whole world is so very seriously upset politically and economically. I am not definitely advising this course, but I do believe that the electorate should take it very seriously into consideration when they come to mark their ballots.
Now sir, I am going to suggest that it should be recommended in our report that in the event of the electorate possibly deciding in favour of a continuation of Commission government for a few years, some machinery should be immediately set up in the form of a royal commission, or a special committee, whose duty it would be to spend the next few years endeavouring to formulate an improvement upon our old form of responsible government with a view to making it more suitable for our peculiar needs, and also in studying the confederation issue. I have often wondered, Mr. Chairman, whether in actual fact party government is necessary at all in a small community like ours. There is no party spirit or division in our St. John's Municipal Council, although there is lots of bickering and difference of opinion; they seem to do very well under the chairmanship of a mayor who, whatever his faults may be, has a singularity of purpose in his devotion to his job of administering, with the assistance of his councillors, the affairs of our city to the best advantage, financially and otherwise. There is room for thought in this.
This royal commission or committee which I have suggested would, I hope, also study the practicability of forming some arrangement under which Great Britain, Canada and the USA would take a joint interest in our affairs, for reasons which I have many times pointed out. It is probably not generally known at this Convention that the USA and the United Kingdom set aside, at the time they were taking over certain bases in the Caribbean and West Indian districts, a large sum of money to be spent on satisfying the people of that region that they were going to take a special interest in their affairs in return for the concessions granted, with a view to improving the standards of living in these areas. This is being administered by what is known as the Caribbean Commission, and I am informed that the Canadian authorities have been also cooperating with it. The amount of money set aside for the purpose was large, many millions of dollars. I believe the committee is still sitting and has not yet concluded its work. Is not this a precedent for Great Britain, the USA and Canada to get together to see whether our people are not entitled to some consideration with a view to the improvement of our standard of living, in return for the concessions which Newfoundland has also yielded for the benefit of those countries and of democracy in general? The royal commission or committee which I have suggested might, perhaps, also act as a link between the Commission of Government and the people of Newfoundland. The absence of such a link has been one of the causes of dissatisfaction with the Commission.
I am not unconscious of the fact that the amounts at present being expended by the Commission appear to be extravagant and I have no doubt that this is giving serious worry to our Commissioners. If a responsible government takes over at an early date, this worry will be transferred to their shoulders, and if I were a party politician, I would hesitate before taking on the job of reducing this expenditure and thereby, perhaps, reducing the efficiency of social and other services to our people. A part of our surplus is certainly disappearing in consequence of the necessity of advancing part of our own dollar surplus to provide payment in dollars to our fishermen for their produce, but to be fair to the Commission, it is reasonable to ask, what would a responsible government do in such a case?
I cannot wholeheartedly support Mr. Higgins' motion as it stands, but would support it wholeheartedly with a slight amendment limiting the continuance of Commission government to, say, four years, and with the hope that a provision would be made that if a renewal of Commission of Government should be the choice of the people, then a royal commission or something of that sort, with economic experts thereon, would be appointed to further investigate and report upon:
1. Suitable amendments to our old form of responsible government, a matter which I notice several supporters of responsible government have advocated during recent addresses;
2. Investigation of the practicability of the so- called Con-Dominion suggestion, and of closer fiscal relations with both the USA and Canada; and
3. Investigation in much more detail of the impact of confederation with Canada.
The weak part of Commission government, in my opinion, has been the control of our affairs by a British department (often by subordinates in that department) 2,000 miles away from what should be the real seat of government. I cannot altogether subscribe to the charges that the Commission has been wilfully wasteful; and in that respect they have certainly not been worse than many of the former responsible governments, whose spending was, in most cases, only limited by their revenues, plus the amounts they could borrow. True, their revenues were limited. There is bound to be an end of lavish expenditures, and even amongst our more wealthy neighbours this must come to an end — as witness the present so-called austerity programme now in force on the mainland. It certainly may be necessary in Newfoundland and every other country to reduce public expenditures before very long; and it would seem to me that any party politicians taking charge at the present time and being obliged to cut expenditures, would very quickly become unpopular.
Before leaving this question of Commission government, which has received some hard knocks during our deliberations, I would like to emphasise at least a few good things which I think it has accomplished. Its deficiencies and mistakes do not require setting out by me as they have been amply exposed during our debates, but I think we would not be doing our duty if we did not remind the people of Newfoundland of some of the accomplishments which have benefited the country during the Commission years. These seem to me to be as follows:
1. The refunding of our debt, which was only made possible by the guarantee of the British government and which has saved a very large amount of interest.
2. The payment out of funds taken from taxpayers of Great Britain of sums amounting in total to over $16 million as grants-in-aid, free grants from the Colonial Development Fund, and loans from that fund which were eventually converted to free grants.
3. The payment by the British government of the remuneration of the three British Commissioners for a period of 14 years.
4. The setting up and supporting of a sane and most useful marketing system for our fishing industry, which has definitely resulted in a more stable position and which, in my opinion, could not have been attained under responsible government as evidenced by the failure of a similar attempt by a responsible government after the end of the first world war.
5. The formation of co-operative societies, with their most useful study clubs, which have encouraged and are still encouraging careful thought by that most important section of our people, our fishermen.
6. The constitution of many municipalities whose constituents are learning in a practical way the meaning and difficulties of local government, and whose experience and influence must have a marked effect in future years on the responsibilities of the people in connection with responsible governments.
7. The extension of our social services, especially the medical and hospital services all over the country.
Surely, in common decency we owe a large measure of gratitude to the British people for their assistance, from their own funds, of the substantial and generous financial help detailed in the paragraphs which I have just quoted. Let us be fair, Mr. Chairman, in view of the facts and admit that these seven accomplishments listed warrant the thought that perhaps three or four more years of Government by Commission might do us no harm, and I am not at all sure that the wisest words spoken at this Convention were not those spoken by my friend, the member for St. George's, or from the bill of Cape St. George, when he suggested that perhaps we were about five years too soon in starting the deliberations of this Convention. I am personally convinced that the institution of municipalities and co-operatives, as well as recent developments and improvements in connection with our trade unions, are going to be determining factors in helping the future thinking capacity of the Newfoundland 1302 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 electorate, and that a few more years of this sort of self-education will help Newfoundlanders to weigh more carefully than they have been able to do in the past, or even than they can do today, what is best for the future welfare of their beloved country.
As I do not wish to delay matters by moving an amendment to the resolution before the Chair, I support it with the definite expectation that the suggestions I have made will be taken into account when our report is being formulated. Let us look, and advise the electorate to look carefully before they take their leap. God grant them guidance.
Mr. Northcott It gives me much pleasure, sir, to speak to the motion so ably moved by my learned friend, Mr. Higgins and seconded by my good friend, Mr. Vardy.
The time has come, sir, at last when we as true Newfoundlanders can talk on forms of government now before the Chair and make recommendations. In reviewing the many reports of the Convention, I with many others am satisfied that this country is not only self-supporting, but is in a very good, sound, healthy condition, financially and economically; and under good, wise counsel and leadership, we should continue to be a strong, happy, contented and a prosperous people.
My mind goes back to 1932-33 when, as it were, our backs were up against the wall due to the scarcity of dollars to run the country. Cannot the same be said of many countries of the world at that time? And did not a great many nations default? If we had gotten a little help at that time from our so-called good neighbours, there would have been no need of the National Convention today and Newfoundland would still have retained responsible government, and I have not the least shadow of a doubt but that our country would have been very prosperous and happy today. However, since 1933 a lot of water has gone under the bridge. We have had many ups and downs, many broken hearts and homes due to the world war; but thanks be to God we are still a great people and a great country; and, sir, under Divine guidance, good government and real leadership we shall, as Mr. Fudge has said, sail our good ship safely to port and to safe anchorage.
Our great, friendly neighbour, America, is slowly but surely opening the way for our fish to enter into its markets, and when once we can ship a great many of our fishery commodities into that great republic, our people will obtain a better price for their fish, and a much better standard of living will be assured. But on the other hand, Mr. Chairman, we must insist on giving them a number-one article so that we can hold the market for all time. I understand too that provision is being made to take care of some of our saltfish. Therefore, with our fisheries in fair and improving conditions, our paper industries going full blast, our mines working to full capacity, our railway working full time, our farms doing well and being extended rapidly; and last but not least, with the very great iron ore deposit with its many, many millions of dollars worth awaiting to be developed on Labrador, how in the name of common sense and decency can one do otherwise than support wholeheartedly the restoration of self-government?
We are the crossroads of the world today, and I pray that we, as real men, will see to it that we remain as such; and may we use our bargaining power wisely and well and for the betterment of the country as a whole, and not for a mere few.
God gave us this great land to use to the best of our ability, and not to abuse; and today our country is only in the making. It is true we have weathered many a storm, but as free men, and as never before, may we march ever onward to make Newfoundland and Newfoundlanders one great happy family; and I am sure that if we do just that, we cannot go far wrong, and there will be no place for greed or graft in our midst.
And now, sir, in conclusion, about Commission government. It came in Newfoundland when our government, shall I say, faded out. The Commission of Government was given grants- in-aid by the mother country to tide us over the terrible times we were then passing through. They have made much progress. It is true they have made many mistakes — what government doesn't? But we should be ever grateful for their strong arm in time of weakness.
The time is ripe, Mr. Chairman, for us to take up the torch ourselves and wave it high, and to see that it is kept waving for all time. Gentlemen, I shall support the motion now before the Chair.
[Short recess]
Mr. Butt I just noted that Mr. Job is a generation older that Mr. Northcott; Mr. Northcott is a generation older than I am; and I thought this January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1303 might be a good time to make a few observations.
The National Convention, which is now coming near its end, came into being as a result of the existence of another organisation. It might never have been called into existence if there had never existed in Newfoundland a regime known as "Government by Commission". The main reason for the existence of the National Convention lay in the desire of the United Kingdom government to ascertain whether Newfoundlanders wanted a continuation of Commission government or some other form in its place. In my opinion, the problem is probably stated in this motion of Mr. Higgins to which I now speak. I support that motion because I can admit of only two forms of government known to and experienced by contemporary Newfoundlanders — self-government and Commission government. There are other forms of government existing in the world today, all the way from Russian communism to British socialism to American or Canadian federalism, and other forms operating within the British Commonwealth which may be possible or suitable forms of government for Newfoundland. But these forms are outside the practice of government in Newfoundland and at the moment we have no means, in my opinion, of testing them accurately and fully enough to warrant asking the people of this country to make a decision on them, apart from the two which I have mentioned. Furthermore, Mr. Chairman, I do not believe that any people should be asked to choose between more than that form of government which they have and one other, at any one time. Will any delegate please tell me any other people who have been asked to do more anywhere at any time? Normally to make a radical change in the form of government requires many years of actively educating the people for that change. Mr. Higgins' motion covers the choice that I think should now be put to the people of this country.
Some 20 months ago when the Convention was being born, I had the privilege of telling groups of people now within the sound of my voice, that if they elected me as their delegate they would understand that I would be looking for that form of government which would give the greatest possible freedom, consistent with a tolerable standard of living. As this Convention comes to an end I feel that I have now a duty to perform. And after some 20 months of getting information, comparing, studying and discussing facts, I am now ready to discharge that duty. I am ready, fully aware of the import of this matter, to give my most serious and considered opinion as to what form of government is in the best interest of Newfoundland.
Some 20 months ago, I confess, I had my doubts as to whether full self-government, which offered the greatest political freedom, could give us a tolerable standard of living. In common with other Newfoundlanders I had been conditioned, consciously or unconsciously, by the economic depression which struck me as it did many other Newfoundlanders. I had been conditioned by the obvious weaknesses of the democratic way, which had earned the phrase "decadent", until a war against dictatorship awoke the democracies into galvanised action. Like many contemporary Newfoundlanders, I had also been conditioned by the provincialism of living in an island, and I think I may also add, by the insidious propaganda of those who were weak in courage but strong in playing safe. I had almost come to believe that there were none so poor as Newfoundlanders in that depression; none so depraved as Newfoundland's politicians of that period; none so poorly endowed by nature with natural resources to work on as this island home of ours.
Later, I began to have my doubts as to whether Newfoundland poverty was even as bad as that of the depressed areas of England, or of the "Grapes of Wrath" areas in America, or many other places that could be mentioned in other countries. Reading of the bosses of American politics or the Canadian equivalents, I had begun to doubt whether alongside them our politicians were not just pikers. Still, as I say, I was in doubt. I felt I knew what Newfoundlanders wanted — that is, political freedom consistent with fair security, but I was not sure which was the best way out; considering seriously, for instance, a modified form of Commission of Government as perhaps the possible solution. In other words, I entered the Convention with an open mind. In the 20 months to which I refer I have read a lot of Newfoundland history, a lot of present day economic and political papers, and I have, in common with all you gentlemen here, had the opportunity to study, and in some measure report on the economic state of our country. I had also the opportunity, in common with six other mem 1304 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 bers, of conferring with the United Kingdom government in London.
As a result of all this I have now made up my mind, with all the detachment and intellectual honesty of which I am capable, that full self- government would be in the best interests of Newfoundland, particularly at this moment in our history. My reasons for coming to this conclusion will, in some measure, be set before you now. Before I give my reasons, however, I would like to say that I am accepting without question the assumption that the political freedom which goes with self-government — with all its dangers, weaknesses, corruptions, responsibilities on the part of politicians and on the part of citizens — is the goal of all peoples like ourselves, nurtured in the democratic tradition. I therefore propose to give my attention chiefly to this matter of material security, which is not unnaturally agitating men and women and on which is laid the emphasis of our times, always bearing in mind, however, that too great a price must not be paid for the one at the expense of the other. There will be, as I think it is inevitable, some repetition in what I have to say at this time. Nearly all of it has been said before, perhaps on more than one occasion.
The most important point of all, the point which caused the turning-point in my thinking, arose out of our visit to London; and this was that it was only by getting our own government — I am giving the substance of what we were told by the Secretary of State — that we could raise the question with our friendly and wealthy neighbour nation, the USA, on some form of concessions, by trade agreement or otherwise, for the granting of extra-territorial rights to that nation without our consent. I am well aware that Newfoundland had to be, of necessity, whether she liked it or not, a factor in the defense of the western hemisphere, which she will have to be in the future, whether she likes it or not; just as Canada will have to be a factor, and in the end will be dominated by the USA in that respect. But I am also aware of the fact that a nation which today, in common with the British Empire, represents the highest ideals of "live and let live" in this world of ours, would not be unwilling to take the necessary measures to see that a small people from whom she has taken, in no small measure, a large part of her sovereign rights was vouchsafed some returns for her sacrifice. And I would point out here that what to us would be of tremendous advantage, would be a very small concession on the part of our great neighbour.
Now as I have said before, I am not satisfied to let the opportunity of approaching the United States, whether we get anything or not, go by default because we may not have the vision or the courage to see the possibility. It was for that reason that I pointed out on a former occasion, that we ought not to deliver into the hands of any other country the controlling power of our strategic position. But some sceptic may be formulating this question: "But what has that to do with the standard of living for Newfoundlanders?" If we let control go by default, nothing. If we do not, the answer is that our right to bargain for trade concessions would have infinite possibilities which would affect the earning power, and hence the standard of living of every individual citizen in this country. A trade concession, for instance, which would increase our markets or even create a new market for our fish of all kinds, could spell all the difference for our people between a decent standard of living and an uncertain one. Our ability to negotiate with any country could only be the highest under self-government; and I repeat that that was the definite impression on this matter that I received from the Secretary of State.
My second reason is this. I believe we are on the verge of a tremendous development of air traffic, and it so happens that Newfoundland is so strategically placed as to be of the utmost importance as a junction for one of the most important air routes of the world. In this connection once again it was made abundantly clear, and we got the definite impression, that that matter could only be handled if we were to get a government of our own, for the simple reason that it could not be done under the present circumstances, for political and other reasons, by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. In this matter of air control and traffic of the future, I again repeat what I have said before, that we ought to be able to extract certain material rights which ought to affect the well-being of every citizen in this country.
My third point is this, that during the last couple of years it has been abundantly clear that the USA as a nation has become of necessity, because of the depletion of her own mineral January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1305 resources, tremendously interested in the iron ore deposits recently discovered in the Newfoundland-Labrador. As that development takes place, no government however benevolent could look after the material interests to be derived from the situation as well as a government of Newfoundlanders fighting for Newfoundland's interests It is admitted on all sides today that the development of this mineral wealth can be probably one of the most important, if not the most important development that has ever taken place in the history of this country. To bring this home to us, let us suppose that the people of Newfoundland would be assured in the future of another industry which would be as valuable to Newfoundland as the development of the paper industry at Comer Brook. That is the position with regard to the almost certain development of the mineral deposits of the Labrador, if we can believe the facts which have been placed before us. The important thing to me is this: that we, the people of Newfoundland, who should reap the advantages from this wealthy resource, should be in a position to get all the material advantages for our own people.
The fourth reason which helped me to make up my mind in favour of self-government is the fact that the development of our fisheries, both on the side of marketing possibilities and the extension of the industry itself is, for a number of reasons, stronger today than it has ever been. In spite of the present difficulties, particularly exchange difficulties which I feel certain will be resolved, the over-riding consideration is that for no little time to come there will be a shortage of food in the world which Newfoundland fish will help to fill. I believe that our recent progressiveness in the fisheries has been due to a realisation on the part of Newfoundland exporters of the need for modernisation and diversification, and for a more co-operative approach to the marketing problem which found its instrumentation in the Fisheries Board and further, that a government of Newfoundlanders would not jeopardise these accomplishments, but would be anxious to advance them still further.
Further, since 1934 (which we were bound to take into consideration under our terms of reference) due to the goodwill and assistance of the British government, we were able to reduce our permanent burden of debt interest by 100%. I would point out that this amount of about $2.5 million yearly would, in our time of depression, have very possibly saved us the loss of what ought to be a very prized possession — political independence.
Further, I am convinced that if we could once get that spirit of national pride which pervades the more progressive nations, big or small, we would be in a position to take on to ourselves under present conditions the whole of the balance of our national debt. That national pride can best be fostered at this time by the feeling that once again we have had the guts to take our political and economic future into our own hands as an expression of faith in our country and in ourselves. There are a number of other things which have been added to the development of the economy of the country. They have been mentioned so often that I propose to skip over them.
Finally, there is still another reason why I feel that self-government is the best for Newfoundland. It is a reason which is less easily tied down, because it has nothing to do with tangible facts or figures. It has to do with personality, with human hopes, with that quality of man that pushes him onward through the generations toward a better way of living. I happen to believe that a man can best develop his personality, can best arrive at what happiness is possible in this life, through accepting all the dangers and possible catastrophes of independence. The man who relies on himself, we all know, takes a risk on everything that he has — his health, his ability, his wealth, his circumstances. But the man who relies on others, who has no thought or power of earning which is really his own, no achievements that he can regard with pride as his own, no victories over his own personal struggles — such a man can know no victory because he knows no defeat. So, Mr. Chairman, I believe it is with a nation or a counuy; countries, like men, can only achieve real maturity by accepting the challenge of free will to make or break themselves.
Life is a struggle, and only those who do not face this fact must escape into dependence upon stronger personalities. One gentleman said, "Responsible government is right in principle, but wrong in practice." He was expressing an escape into theory. Anything that exists in real life cannot be right in principle and wrong in practice. The most one can say of it is that it is 1306 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 being practiced with the hope that its weaknesses will gradually be overcome. It can be right in principle and imperfect in practice, but not wrong. By making such a statement the gentleman is being very naive. He is making the sort of statement that has no meaning in real life. Why it was made, people can judge for themselves.... It is not self-government that is wrong, that has its weaknesses, it is we who have the weaknesses, the men and women who in the last analysis make it what it is. But I happen to believe in Newfoundland men and women — no better, no worse than other men and women in their ability to progress and improve and work out a destiny for themselves. For the same reason I believe that that system of self-government can progress and improve. Otherwise I would not advocate it. I believe men and women no longer are satisfied with government which gives political freedom but denies freedom to carve out in an intricate world a means of making a decent living. Why should we assume, as has been done so often, that self-government is to be a stagnant, reactionary, dead thing? Does it not exist as a means of implementing the wishes of the people? When we are asked what is the good of a vote to a man who has nothing to eat, the answer is, "It is no good." But the question itself does not make sense. A man does not want a vote instead of food. Nobody ever argued that. Neither does he want food at a price which will bring the loss of his self-respect, his power to develop and live more fully. In short, most men who are men at all feel that they are entitled to both. And I think they are right. I think also, under self-government that they have at this moment in our history the best opportunity of getting both. Otherwise I would not be advocating it.
"But", says my timid friend, "who will guarantee that he will get both? Who will guarantee that his interests will not be forgotten? Who will guarantee him against inefficiency in government, corruption among politicians, preferment among certain classes? That is a $64 question." It is indeed a $64 question. And the answer is, "Who other on this earth but you and me, sir, who other but the little fellow, the fisherman, the farmer, the logger, the teacher, the office clerk?" He and his fellows must see to it that the politicians they vote for — or even more effectively sometimes, the politicians they refuse to vote for — the economic planning they agitate for, the values they would set store by, will be implemented; and if we ordinary citizens do not see that this is done, then forms of government in themselves are meaningless and all our work and talking in this Convention for the last 20 months, in my personal opinion, futile.
If we as voters do not want corruption, we must throw out those who practice it. If we are offered the kind of candidates whose integrity does not satisfy us, then we must organise to replace them by others whom we the people will prevail upon to offer themselves, at our request, to the service of their country. If politicians, on the other hand, do not want to be hampered in their desire to be statesmenlike by job-seekers, by incessant requests to spoonfeed certain communities, then they must initiate certain safeguards against such weakening paternalism.... The people must encourage the formation of decentralised government through councils, boards and municipalities.
In discharging my duty as a member of the Convention as a result of no little study and thought, by giving my opinion on the question of forms of government, I am in honour bound to say something else which is of great importance. Whilst I think that Newfoundland and Newfoundlanders have most to profit from a form of government which is free and independent, I am duty bound to say that I believe that that form of government does not necessarily offer the easiest way. I believe it demands more sacrifice, more native ability, more self-administered checks and responsibilities than any other form considered in this Convention so far. I feel it would be wrong to recommend self- government to the people of Newfoundland as the easiest way out. But just because it is not the easiest way out, and because of the future potential of this country, I feel, after 20 months of study, that given the effort, the results will be the most rewarding from self-government.
In speaking to another motion a short while ago, a gentleman here said, on the same point to which I have just referred, that another form of government would not necessarily mean that we would not have to struggle for an existence. I would like to bring that in to emphasise the last thing I propose to say and it is this: that only by knuckling down to our problem, by doing it our January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1307 selves, can we hope to bring about in Newfoundland that decent standard of living and certain independence which we all desire. One great man, now passed to his reward, said it this way — a man who devoted his life to achieving small steps towards the future betterment of Newfoundland, a man whom Newfoundlanders have reason to respect, Sir Wilfred Grenfell; what he said was this: "What this country needs is not infallibility, but courage."
Mr. Vincent I move that the debate be now adjourned until three o'clock tomorrow.
[The motion carried, and the remaining orders of the day deferred]
Mr. Higgins As Iintimated yesterday afternoon, I proposed, with the consent of the House, to introduce this evening a motion whereby members absent through illness or for good and sufficient cause, would have the right to have their wishes recorded at this stage of the proceedings. As you will remember, sir, I intimated some months ago that Mr. K.M. Brown had made a request to me that provision be made whereby his vote could be recorded. You are aware of the details of our application at that time time to make provision in this respect. Because of that, and I think it is imperative, if the House is satisfied to receive the motion I think we should pass it as soon as possible, and perhaps I could make the motion now.
Mr. Chairman In that case, I will try and endeavour to ascertain the wishes of the House. As the House is aware, this is a motion of urgency, but I am not expected to receive a motion without previous notice. In this particular connection the matter was gone into at a private session held approximately a month ago, and I think it was agreed that some machinery should be set up whereby Mr. Brown, because of illness, would not be deprived of the privilege of recording his vote. In fact, I would be prepared to record it now under rule 39. I must assume Mr. Brown is in good standing, at all events, and the nature of the motion has already been made known to the house.... The motion therefore is that the operation of rule 13 be suspended so as to permit Mr. Higgins to introduce the motion, the substance of which has already been made known to the House, without the necessity of giving notice.
[The motion carried]
Mr. Higgins I beg to move the following resolu tion:
Whereas section 39 of the rules of procedure of this Convention requires the Convention, in discharging its duty to make 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, to include in its report to the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs the opinion of each several member of the Convention as to the form or forms of government which; in his opinion, should be put before the people together with any preference which he may desire to express as between one form of government and another;
And whereas no provision is made in the Convention's rules of procedure for recording the opinion of any member absent from the Convention;
And whereas by section 54 of the rules of procedure, when any matter arises in the course of the proceedings not covered by the rules of procedure of the Convention, then the rules of the House of Assembly shall apply;
And whereas by the rules of the House of Assembly it would be imperative that a member be present for the purpose of voting;
Be it therefore resolved that section 54 of the rules of procedure of the National Convention be amended by adding to paragraph 54 the following words: "save and except that in the event of a member of the Convention being incapacitated by reason of illness or some other good or sufficient reason from attending the meeting of the Convention, such member shall have the right to have his vote recorded by delivering to the Chairman of the Convention an expression of his wishes. The wishes of such member may be conveyed to the Chairman by letter or by telegram from and bearing the signature of any such member."
Mr. Vardy I second that motion.
Mr. Chairman In putting this motion, let me again remind members that no man can afford to disregard what each needs for his own protection. Since it is of general application and concerns everybody, I presume at this time that the nature and substance of the resolution is clear to all.... Is 1308 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 the Convention ready for the question?
Mr. Hollett Before you put that — it is clearly understood, I take it, that such indication by any member, by telegram, letter or otherwise, will be available to the members and to Hansard or in some other manner?
Mr. Chairman ....The opinions of all members will be recorded and the opinions of such members who express a preference will also be recorded. Therefore, if I receive from any member any expression of opinion on either or both of these two questions, by letter or by telegram, from and bearing the signatures of any such member, it will be my duty to see that his vote on either or both questions will be in the records of the House.
[The motion carried]
Mr. Higgins May I advance a little further along so that I can have it understood — I intend to communicate with Mr. Brown. I take it, when we finish this debate tomorrow, if the motion is carried there and then, the members will not have to express their preference?
Mr. Chairman There is another point and I want to make this clear. If any member of the House has any objection to it, I want him to state it now. Suppose for argument's sake a poll is taken at 5 o'clock, and 30 minutes after the poll has been taken the letter or cable arrives from Mr. Brown. I intend to record the views expressed by Mr. Brown whether or not the document containing his expressions has reached me at the time the poll is taken....
Mr. Vardy I take it, the deadline would be the time the Drafting Committee had completed its report.
Mr. Chairman That is my view. Any time between now and when it goes to the Drafting Committee, any letters or telegrams directed to me from any members, like Mr. Brown, who are unavoidably absent through illness or any other circumstances, I will cause their views to be be recorded the moment I receive the letter or cable, and the deadline can only be at the moment when you pass the matter over to the Drafting Committee for finalisation,
Mr. Hollett On that, would it not be passed over to the Drafting Committee after voting is taken? Would that allow much time to record his vote?
Mr. Chairman ....As you know, it was agreed that Monday and Tuesday would be devoted to the final order now on the order paper and that means the matter would not go before the Drafting Committee before Wednesday morning. At all events, it is proposed to submit the draft to the Convention for ratification and adoption on Thursday. Any time up to next Thursday, before it comes up for ratification, anything I receive definitely will be recorded.
[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] Great Britain, The Newfoundland Act, 1933. 24 Geo. 5, Ch. 2.

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