Newfoundland National Convention, 22 January 1948, Debates on Confederation with Canada


January 22, 1948

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 Goverment be restored or Commission of Government be continued

Mr. Vincent Yesterday I moved the adjournment of the debate with the hope of getting precedence to the floor; since then I have been told that there are quite a few members who wish to speak on this motion and I may say that I propose to finish my address within 20 minutes.
As the Convention fast draws to its long-expected end, its conduct has indeed become commendable; so much so that one of my delegate friends yesterday called it the glad-handers club; and in speaking to the motion certain members have even waxed poetical. My respected and close personal friend, Mr. Hickman, at the con clusion of a very fine address a few days ago, invoked in his usual masterful way the poetical phraseology of our national ode. Mr. Vardy, my associate from Trinity North, content with nothing less than the original, wrote a poem which he quoted in support of his arguments, and seriously, Mr. Chairman, our poet of the year, your friend and mine, delegate Ike Newell,[1] had better look to his laurels or Mr. Vardy with his free verse may supplant him — that verse was entirely free, I am sure, Mr. Vardy!
Now, as the Convention is about to conclude its findings and make its recommendations; as January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1309 Newfoundland, the land we love, finds herself at the crossroads, a bit hesitant as she reads the signpost plainly marked, "A Date With Destiny", I too would become poetical and quote from a little poem which I have carried in my scrapbook for some years now. I do not know the author, sir, but it does seem timely and appropriate as Newfoundlanders generally wait expectantly for the referendum day. It goes like this:*
It may be rather far-fetched, sir, to say that our date with tomorrow will be from there to forever, but certain it is that in the national referendum which is to be held next spring, we trust, the road we as Newfoundlanders take may determine to a great extent our way of life for years to come, and possibly the destiny of generations yet unborn. What of the future, then? Is the road ahead a clear one? Is it likely to lead to the uplands of happiness and prosperity, or is it still to be befogged and dimmed with hesitation and uncertainty? Does government play an important role in determining our way of life? Or is it true that our prosperity, our future place in the sun will be determined by economic factors beyond our control? One delegate speaking a few days ago pleaded for a government that would provide those elusive peaks of attainment called economic security and political stability. Mr. Chairman, I very much doubt if any government in the world can provide such blessings, and although I am inclined to agree with that gentleman that there is a form of government that might go a long way toward such an attainment, yet in the main, the responsibility for our future prosperity as a people and for our stability of government will rest entirely with us. For whatever form of government we adopt, there will still be those strong westerlies dashing the cold Atlantic spray in the face of the industrious fisherman as his boat navigates the stormy waters of Cape Freels. There will still remain those long and weary nights as fearless schooner fishermen keep their watch and hope for daylight, as their ships plough up the coast to the far-flung harbours of the Labrador. Yes, there will still be the elements to contend with, the vagaries of the weather to worry over for Mr. Fudge's hardwork ing farmer in the Humber valley. Forms of government cannot change this, yet good, wise government can and will help to a large extent in the alleviation of a great many of the vexing problems that now face our people. But we must not expect too much. And here I would quote the words of John Galsworthy, when he wrote: "History tells us that the status quo is of all things the most liable to depart; the millennium of all things, the least likely to arrive."
Mr. Chairman, I believe I am right in saying that there is not a man or woman of voting age in this country who does not believe in the concept of self-government. That almost legendary figure, honest Abe Lincoln, talked of a government of the people, by the people and for the people. Maybe such a government never did exist. Maybe it is like Sir Thomas More's Utopia, a myth, a daydream, which for its author meant having his head cut off by order of an unscrupulous monarch whose only philosophy was a blind belief in the divine right of kings.
In addressing myself to this motion, I am placed in a rather awkward position. As a member of this Convention, I ask myself what is expected of me at this juncture. A great-uncle of mine at the turn of the century contested a section of the district which I have the honour to represent. Unfortunately he was defeated. Asked some years later what caused his defeat, he said his defeat was the result of his having the courage of his convictions. At the risk of suffering a like fate, should I at some future date decide to follow Major Cashin's career as a politician, I am going to frankly state my convictions, although in order to be fair, I must first say that I support the idea of placing both forms on the ballot paper in the referendum. I would explain here, sir, that I am merely supporting the putting of responsible and commission forms of government on the ballot; I cannot and will not recommend them. Moreover, I want to make it unmistakably clear that in supporting them, I am not trying to place any restriction or limitation in the way of the people in their exercising a choice of a form of government not included in this resolution.
Mr. Chairman, speaking in this assembly in 1310 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 the early stages of the debate in the autumn of 1946, I said that if a referendum were to be held tomorrow I would not vote for a retention of Commission of Government. In January 1948, I see no reason to change my opinion. As Mr. Keough said, Commission of Government may have brought system and method to the civil service; Commission of Government may have introduced many long-wanted reforms; Commission of Government may have expanded our public health service. With that I entirely agree, but gentlemen, Commission of Government has outlived its usefulness, it has nothing to offer for the road ahead. It was a necessary expedient. But the measure of its performance in the past, under circumstances vastly different from what they will be tomorrow, can be no prediction of its achievement in the future. In fact, sir, the whole concept of such a form of government is wrong. Any form of government which is in itself the essence of naked power, and which shows scant respect for, and little concern with popular public opinion, cannot in my opinion be a good form of government — in short, it is a dictatorship. Let me illustrate, let me take you back to the northeast coast, where 15,000 people living between Gambo and Carmanville are isolated from December until April. Their economy is for the most part built on the fisheries. All supplies and local products are, of necessity, waterhauled. From time to time intelligent and progressive citizens have petitioned for a road system to link up those northern communities. Such a road system would naturally be a costly project and maybe not commercially profitable; but from an economic standpoint it might well lead to a wider diversification of the fisheries there; it might enable fishermen to rush their product to a centralised curing plant, and their salt product to a sheltered shipping point. It might well be a wise expenditure of public monies heretofore called 'dole', but petitions of popular opinion on such matters are given scant attention. In more cases than one, high officials of government have little inside knowledge of the real wants of the people. But yet without stint or scruple that same government will expend many thousands of dollars on a macadamised Road De Luxe,[1] while fishermen and labourers in Bonavista Bay and Notre Dame Bay wallow in mud, and get pushed around with a lot of other unfortunates in the cabin of a 40-foot motor boat to try to make the railheads at Gambo or Lewisporte some 40 miles away.
Mr. Chairman, our hard-working toilers want more than three square meals and a tight roof, and they deserve more, and I would repeat that they do not take very kindly to the policy of any member of this Convention or government that would put the Avalon first and the rest of the country afterwards. I see no earthly reason why we should retain the Commission government. Mr. Smallwood said a few days ago that there are many who would vote for it. I do not follow that line of reasoning. Do they believe that Commission of Government brought prosperity to Newfoundland? Are they forgetting the lean years of six cents a day dole? Do they think Commission should be credited with the upsurge of prosperity created by the influx of scores of millions of dollars of foreign capital into this country during the war years? Or would they credit the Commission government with world prosperity — a prosperity engineered by the warmongering of that misguided prophet called Hitler. Furthermore, sir, in the event of our being financially unsound in the not too distant future, are the adherents of this form of government asking themselves now, do they expect the brave but impoverished mother country, now battling inflation with a fierce austerity programme, to come to our aid? The Englishman is a gallant fellow, but just now he is up to his neck with his own worries, and it is just plain folly to expect help from the imperial government should we fall upon lean times. It is just not good cricket and it is unreasonable. With no assurance of help, financial or otherwise, let us ask ourselves, "Should we retain Commission of Government?" The answer should be emphatically, "No." It would indeed be a grave mistake. Our date with tomorrow is going to be a long one, not just another temporary expedient. We must take the long-range view, for our choice may well be the government of a century. In summing up this phase of the motion, I repeat that I will not vote for Commission and I will not recommend Commission. It has outlived its usefulness and should go. I repeat again, I am unable to recommend it to my constituents or to Newfoundlanders generally.
Responsible government was suspended in January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1311 1933. After a span of a natural lifetime, heavily burdened with debt, its people impoverished, its government confused, the oldest colony of the Empire gave up self-autonomy. Newfoundland did not give up reluctantly. The erstwhile dominion found herself in the hands of the receivers and little remained for her but to submit to the indignity of losing her suffrage and becoming the administrative agency of a country 2,000 miles away. May I review briefly some of the factors that led up to that drama of 1933?
(1) Newfoundland had an export economy, and there was then a world depression.
(2) Newfoundland was dependent on the economy of countries thousands of miles away.
(3) Newfoundland had no internal market for her products; moreover, she had to import even the everyday commodities of life from abroad.
(4) Newfoundland's chief industry, the fisheries, was replete with the vagaries and uncertainties that, for want of a better name, must be called in this country acts of God.
(5) Newfoundland never could raise any substantial internal loans; thus her debt for the greatest part was external. In other words, her financiers were investors who wanted their pound of flesh,
(6) With 6,000 miles of coastline and more than 1,300 settlements, she was burdened with a cost of government that, to say the least, was excessive; or as someone aptly put it, she carried the trappings of an elephant on the back of a mouse.
(7) Responsible government did not always adopt policies that were conducive to prosperity and the public weal.
Mr. Chairman, I hold that economically and geographically, the conditions that led up to the 1933 drama are not now substantially different. We are for the moment enjoying only a temporary prosperity, the impact of a war boom, and a recession must inevitably come. Already there are clouds on the horizon, and it may well be that in the not far distant future, our then finance minister will be off and away to ring the doorbell of some foreign capitalist, tipping his hat, with, "I would like a loan if you do not mind!"
Gentlemen, I am not a pessimist. I believe in Newfoundland, in her great fisheries. I have faith in Newfoundlanders; but faith is not enough. All the faith in the world will not enable that fisherman who sailed in my schooner this past summer to pay his account and buy for a family of five out of the $300 seasonal earnings that was his in 1947. All the faith in the world will not give him a position when there is no work to be had. Yes, that family allowance would give him a lot of faith and greater hopes....
But there is a destiny in store for our beloved island, a greater destiny than some of us perhaps realise, a destiny that will be of our own making, if we as a people choose wisely and well. Yes, sir, Newfoundland has a date with tomorrow; and in concluding I would repeat with some minor alterations, and with an apology to the immortal poet, a quotation from Longfellow's "Ship of State":
Thou too sail on, O Ship of State, Sail on in union strong and great, Thy countrymen, with all their fears, With all their hopes of future years, Are hanging breathless on thy fate! Sail on, nor fear to breast the sea, Our hearts, our hopes are all with thee, Our hearts, our hopes, our prayers, our tears, Our faith triumphant o'er our fears, Are all with thee, are all with thee!
Mr. Chairman, I support wholeheartedly the idea of putting both forms on the ballot paper, but I cannot support the motion.
Mr. Bradley It is not my intention to detain this Convention at any length this afternoon, and I rise purely for the purpose of making my position upon this resolution perfectly clear.
After a somewhat hectic and not altogether creditable period of existence comprising some 16 months, we have reached the final and most important stage in the life of this Convention. Within the next few days we shall decide what forms of government we shall recommend to the British government to be submitted to our people at a referendum. The first of two resolutions upon this subject is before us now and, if I am to judge by many of the speeches made upon the resolution thus far — and indeed by the resolution itself — the conviction is forced upon me that the intention wilfully to ignore our plain duty as set out in the terms of reference is as strong as ever.
Even before the Convention election in 1946, at which we were sent here to discuss the matters set out in the Convention Act, I made it quite clear to this country that I regarded the Convention as a completely non-political body — non-political in the party sense, at any rate. Of course we had 1312 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 to deal with political matters, but obviously and clearly and beyond all doubt, it was outside our jurisdiction to deal with them as partisans. It was not our business to advocate or oppose any form of government. Our duty, the whole purpose of our existence was simple and plain. It was to recommend to the British government forms of government to be submitted to the people at a referendum. Nothing more and nothing less. Obviously that task was to select and recommend such forms of government as might be suitable to the people of the country. It was the British government's inability to carry out this task that brought this Convention into existence. We were to do what they, 2,000 miles away, could not do.
Because of our closer associations with, and presumably greater knowledge of our own people — and remember care was taken to see that all sections of the country were represented — because of these associations, we should be able to judge more clearly not what the people actually wanted — that was for them to say — but what they might want, what might be suitable to them. Our own personal predilections and prejudices, our own party loyalties and antagonisms, our own political beliefs and faiths were all entirely outside the scope of that purpose and should never have been pemtitted to enter in. Indeed, if we had adhered strictly to our plain duty, we would have completed our task, made our recommendations, and up to the dissolution of the Convention not one Newfoundlander need have known what particular form of government was favoured by any individual member of the Convention. We are not here to express our political views or to advocate any form of government, but simply to study calmly, not as party hacks, what in our opinion might be suitable to the people of Newfoundland, and to recommend to the Government of the United Kingdom that the people of Newfoundland be given an opportunity to say which form might be suitable to them. They, the people, would choose.
Unfortunately it became plain from the outset that the Convention was to be the scene of a struggle of ideologies instead of one concerned for the wishes of the people, a political battleground instead of a forum of calm investigation. Indeed, at one stage of the proceedings there were plain indications that would shut out all but one form of government, do away with the referendum altogether; and it is fortunate indeed that the British government was far-sighted enough to retain the last word in their own hands.
Now I come to this resolution. The cloven hoof of partisanship is apparent in its very wording. It does not recommend that Commission government and responsible government or either of them be submitted to the people — I repeat, it does not recommend that either Commission or responsible government be submitted to the people. What it does do is to set these two forms in a class by themselves, and it asks the people to declare their preference as between the two. If it passes, and I am quite sure it will, because it has the support of the responsible government group which constitutes two-thirds of this Convention, if it passes it is plain that any other form of government is excluded. I want to repeat that, sir. If this resolution passes in its present form it is plain that any other form of government is excluded. If I vote for this resolution I cannot consistently vote for a resolution to place any other form of government upon the ballot paper, for I have already chosen to demand that the people shall make a choice between these two, and I can't now consistently add a third. I have asked that there be a showdown between these two forms of government, and a third and a fourth form of government has no place in that showdown.
Assuming that the resolution itself has passed, and that Mr. Smallwood's resolution to place the question of confederation upon the ballot paper also passes, and that some other member of this Convention proposes a resolution that representative government be also placed upon the ballot paper and that passes, now what position are we in? Isn't it an absurdity? The first thing that we recommend is that we have a showdown between responsible government and Commission government, and the winner of that duel is then to take up the cudgels with the other two. Obviously the position is an absurd one, and no man who votes for this resolution can, in consistency, vote to place any other form of government on the ballot paper.
Again, I would point out that our duty is to recommend forms of government to be submitted to the people. Nowhere in the Convention Act do I find anything authorising us to make recommendations to keep any form of government off January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1313 the ballot paper, and this resolution is clearly in that category. It is obviously restricted. You can only have two in an alternative, and this resolution is alternative in its character. "Choose ye", this resolution says, "between this form and that form." To read it in any other way would be, of course, completely senseless. Is it not an attempted interference with the prerogative of the British government to determine what shall and what shall not be put on the ballot paper? Obviously if there is to be a duel, a showdown between two forms, that is a recommendation that no others be submitted. It is only within the power of the British government to say that no others shall be admitted. It is not within our province.
I draw these matters, sir, to your attention. They are for your consideration. They are your responsibility and not mine. For my part I am here to vote for those forms which I think should be submitted to the people, and to refuse to vote for those forms which I consider should not be so submitted; but I have no right whatever, under the Convention Act, to ask the British government to keep any form off the ballot paper, either directly or inferentially, and that is the effect of this resolution. As to the forms of government for which I shall vote, the form which I shall support at the referendum, that is an entirely different question. I am not bound to disclose my political views to this Convention, or to anybody unless I so desire, and I shall not do so this afternoon.
I have only to say in conclusion that I favour the submission of both Commission of Government and responsible government to the people, but I do not favour a resolution which attempts to exclude everything but these two; and that is what this resolution does attempt to do. I consider that it is framed, not to put the two forms it mentions upon the ballot paper, so much as it is to keep all others off. I shall vote against the resolution, sir.
Mr. Hollett Mr. Chairman, I rise to speak to this motion, so ably proposed by Mr. Gordon Higgins K.C., and also very admirably seconded by Mr. Reuben Vardy. I might say, sir, at the outset, that I agree wholeheartedly with this motion made and I shall attempt to prove in a few moments why I believe it.
There are one or two things I would like to mention, and the first is that I have been very greatly impressed by the spirit of the debate on this motion and secondly, very greatly impressed by the quality of the various speeches which have been delivered. There is just one thing I want to say in connection with the remarks made by my friend Mr. Keough, yesterday I believe. Mr. Keough apparently wishes to establish himself and Mr. Newell as the two people, alone of all this Convention, whose wish and desire and hope is for three square meals a day. So far as I can gather they are convinced that the other 42 or 43 members of this Convention don't give a tinker's cuss as to what happens to the man on the bill of Cape St. George. Both Mr. Keough and Mr. Newell are workers in the co-operative movement, and I therefore cannot understand either of them thinking that nobody else in this Convention cares for what they term the underdog. He said yesterday, and I quote as nearly as I can, that "If the fisherman or the poor farther or the poor whatnot in this country could obtain his three square meals a day, little did he worry as to the man at the seat of government getting away with a draft." Now that is a very false philosophy, and I am surprised that any man who is supposed to be a leader in a co-operative movement should ever express it. "If you can get your three square meals all right, don't worry about the fellows who are ruling over you." That is the opinion expressed by Mr. Keough, and Mr. Keough is a friend of mine, and I sincerely hope he made a mistake and said something he did not intend to say. It is an absolutely false philosophy that you are going to make dumb, driven cattle of our people, or any other people. Is that all you want, to be fed and left alone like animals? I sincerely hope not, and I hope Mr. Keough and Mr. Newell will tell the people that in addition to being fed three square meals a day, and a mug-up at night, in addition to that they will teach our voters to think, and that they have to take an interest in the men that they send to rule over them. I hope they will not forget that...
Now, I had planned and had set out to prove the very thing, the very statement which has just been read by my friend Mr. Bradley. Some of the things which Mr. Bradley said I do not agree with, but I shall endeavour to prove that Mr. Bradley is absolutely correct, and that is that once having recommended these two forms of government, to do any other would be ultra vires, and I shall endeavour to prove it. First, I am going to speak from a text — not scripture — and I want to quote 1314 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 one or two things, I am quoting from the editorial in the Evening Telegram of 17 February, 1934.
Mr. Chairman I can't permit you to quote from a newspaper. You can summarise it, but you can't quote from the newspaper.
Mr. Hollett Well, this is the way it goes, something like this, since you won't allow me to look at the newspaper.
Mr. Chairman It is not a question of that.
Mr. Hollett I have the newspaper here, very carefully preserved in mothballs. Some papers smell better if they are preserved in mothballs.
Mr. Chairman I simply stated that you can't quote from newspapers.
Mr. Hollett This is taken from the editorial, which says, "Newfoundland received from His Majesty a pledge which will be faithfully adhered to. It will receive back its constitution, and its place among the dominions when it proves itself equal to the responsibility which such status requires." I quote you that, and I shall refer to it again in a minute. I shall quote also from the Hansard of the British House of Commons, 2 December, 1943.
Mr. Chairman Would you mind giving me the date again?
Mr. Hollett Certainly, 2 December, 1943. At that time the Undersecretary of State for the Dominions made this statement: "The arrangements made in 1933 included a pledge by His Majesty's Government that as soon as the island's difficulties had been overcome and the country was again self-supporting responsible government, on request of the people of Newfoundland, would be restored. Our whole policy is governed by this understanding."
I quote you these two things, and I don't call it my scripture, but you might call it that if you wish. I quoted first from the Evening Telegram to show the opinion which the people in this country must have held in February, 1934. I am sure that's quite plain to all of you. The editor was expressing the opinion not only of himself, but of the whole country, that Newfoundland had received a pledge from the British government that it would receive back its place amongst the dominions when it proved itself equal to the responsibility. And I quoted also Mr. Emrys- Evans, Undersecretary of State for the Dominions in 1943. Evidently the opinion which our people had in 1934 was also the opinion held by the British government in 1943.
Now I wish to make another statement of my own, which I shall endeavour to prove...that if Mr. Higgins had included in his motion any more forms than the two which he has or possibly one of them slightly amended, then he would have made the Convention Act ultra vires of the Letters Patent 1933-34. That is the statement which I hope to prove and that is why I said I agree wholeheartedly with Mr. Bradley when he made that statement.
Mr. Chairman Do I understand your position is that had the motion been enlarged on by Mr. Higgins by including another form of government, or an amended form of government, then the National Convention Act would be ultra vires?
Mr. Hollett Yes, if he had included three forms, or four forms, then I say he would have made the Convention Act ultra vires of the Letters Patent of 1933-34. Now I have the Consolidated Statutes. There are four volumes, but I have only brought in one, because I find there the Letters Patent from 1832 down to 1905 and 1917, including 1832, and 1855 and also 1876, and I take it that these Letters Patent were our constitution. I take it that around these Letters Patent are wrapped our very laws. These Letters Patent themselves gave our past legislators the authority to create these acts, every one of them. Not one of them could have been made unless there had been the Letters Patent to give the legislator authority, or the Governor authority to sign these acts. Whether you agree with me or not, that is definitely my opinion.
Now, sir, 1933. Up to that time the Letters Patent 1876 to 1905 were actually the constitution of this country. In 1934 these were suspended, and we had the Letters Patent 1934 in their place. I take it therefore as self-evident that all acts of law or otherwise that have been made by the Commission of Government since that time are made under and by virtue of the Letters Patent, 1934. I want, sir, your opinion on that.
Mr. Chairman That is correct. I think the effect of the Letters Patent of 1934 was to suspend our free political institutions under the several acts to which you have drawn our attention. I think that's a very safe and inescapable conclusion.
Mr. Hollett All our laws since are based on these Letters Patent?
Mr. Chairman Definitely.
Mr. Hollett Now I have here the Letters Patent of 1934, and I want to read a section. You see just what authority was given relative to this particular matter, or at least what was intended by His Majesty King George V. He issued his Letters Patent to this country in 1934, and in them he made certain statements and if the British government does not live up to these Letters Patent, then even my loyalty will get a rude shaking:
George V by the Grace of God of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the sea, King, Defender of the Faith, Emperor of India, To all to whom these presents shall come. Whereby certain Letters Patent under the Great Seal bearing date at Westminster, the 28th day of March 1876, Her Majesty Queen Victoria did constitute the Office of Governor and Commander in Chief in and over this Island of Newfoundland, and Whereas by further Letters Patent, bearing date at Westminster of 17th day of July, 1905 His late Majesty King Edward VII did amend the aforesaid Letters Patent, and Whereas (this is one of the important sections, sir) Whereas we have received an address from the Legislative Council and House of Assembly of the said Island, praying that we may be graciously pleased to suspend the aforesaid Letters Patent, and to issue new Letters Patent, which would provide for the Administration of the said Island until, until such time as it may become self- supporting again, on the basis of the recommendations which are contained in the Report of the Royal Commission appointed by us on the 17th day of February 1933.
This is the Amulree Report, sir. Let us see what it says. If you have it in your possession, page 224 under the heading "Summary of Recommendations", sub-section G: "It would be understood that as soon as the Island's difficulties are overcome and the country is again self-supporting, Responsible Government, on the request of the people of Newfoundland, would be restored." And His Majesty King George V states definitely in the Letters Patent that he is graciously pleased to issue new Letters Patent, which would provide for the administration of the said island until such time as it may become self-supporting again on the basis of the recommendations.
Now, if that is not plain to everybody there must be something wrong with everybody, or with me. Therefore this was the position. I have quoted the Evening Telegram, I have quoted Mr. Emrys-Evans, I have quoted the Letters Patent, and I have quoted from Lord Amulree's report, and all these documents indicate just one thing, that our constitution was suspended in 1933, and a new form of government put into being until such time as this country again became self-supporting, and then, and then, whenever thereafter the people of this country wanted back the former status, all they had to do was to ask for it, and it would be given to them immediately.
Mr. Emrys-Evans said something else on that same date, 3 December, 1943, and it is important, very important. He said this:
As soon as practicable after the end of this present war machinery must be provided for enabling the Newfoundland people to examine the future of the island, and to express their considered views as to the form of government they desire, having regard to the financial and economic conditions prevailing at the time. If the general wish of the people should be for the return of full responsible government, we, for our part, shall be very ready, if the island is then self-supporting, to facilitate such a change. If, however, the general wish of the people should be either for the continuation of the present form of government, or for some change of the system which would fall short of full responsible government, we shall be prepared to examine such proposals sympathetically and consider within what limits the continued acceptance of responsibility by the United Kingdom could be recommended to Parliament.
Their position is, therefore, "You have now Commission of Government, should you wish to retain it, very well. If you want return of responsible government, yes, or even if you want Commission government amended somewhat so that some representation may be given the people of your country, we will consider that." So I say that Mr. Higgins could have arranged his motion in such a way that we could put on the ballot paper responsible government or some amended form of Commission of Government, or he could do it as he has done it. Other than that, I see no room for any other matter to go on the ballot paper.
Mr. Chairman So that I can correctly anticipate you, I will remind you that the duties of the National Convention are set forth in section 3 of the Act.
Mr. Hollett I was just going to quote that.
Mr. Chairman I do not wish to disturb your argument — you are giving me considerable to think about. What I would like to know is what connection there is with any legislation outside the Act — what jurisdiction it would have under section 3? How are forms of government limited within section 3, bearing in mind the expression employed is "to make recommendations on possible forms of future government?"
Mr. Hollett You can have responsible government back, or some measure of responsible government back.
Mr. Chairman How do you delimit the expression "possible forms" — why not 62 or 52?
Mr. Hollett It is not stated by law; it is in the Letters Patent.
Mr. Chairman No. I will have to construe your remarks in the light of the act constituting the National Convention. What they do outside is of no concern to me. My only duty will be to concern myself with the interpretation of the National Convention Act.
Mr. Smallwood Point of order. My point of order is that every word uttered by Mr. Hollett to this moment is ultra vires under the Act. He is not entitled to argue at all in this matter, except upon the basis of the National Convention Act which is the only authority we have in this Convention.
Mr. Chairman I rule now as a matter of law, and from which any member is entitled to seek a declaratory judgement in the Supreme Court if he likes that this Convention has absolutely no right, no jurisdiction, no power to review the Letters Patent. The legislation passed by the Commission of Government does not come within the purview of this Act. By accepting election and serving under the National Convention Act you are precluded and estopped by your conduct from raising anything outside the Act. What you are entitled to think or do as private citizens, quite obviously no limit can be placed upon that... I rule definitely that this Convention has absolutely no jurisdiction whatever to review in any sense, shape or form any legislation outside the scope of the National Convention Act; and it is outside the National Convention Act unless and until it is incorporated by reference into the Act.
Mr. Hollett I hope someone is taking account of the time. When I set out to speak I told you I was about to try and prove that if Mr. Higgins' motion had contained any more than two forms of government, then the Convention Act would have been ultra vires to the Letters Patent, 1934.
Mr. Chairman There is no connection between the two. I am not concerned with your interpretation of the Letters Patent of 1934, I have nothing to do with it. I am concerned with the carrying out of the Convention Act. Anything else is completely irrelevant to my purpose. You are not going to review the Letters Patent, and as far as I am concerned you are not going to review the conduct of the British Parliament. What you choose to do outside this chamber, there is no limit to your views, you are free to express them as a private citizen. I would remind members that there is a limit under section 3 to what you will review here... Anything else is completely irrelevant, illegal, invalid and it is ultra vires to the section to which I refer.
Mr. Hollett I am not asking for your interpretation of the section.
Mr. Chairman I do not want to be cut off, and I do not want to be spoken to sarcastically when I am making a ruling on a point of law. Your only redress is to seek a declaratory judgement, and unless and until you obtain a declaratory judgement reversing my opinion, I am not prepared to brook any argument.
Mr. Hollett I cannot even mention the Letters Patent?
Mr. Chairman You have no right to review them.
Mr. Hollett I told you, sir, if you will bear with me, that I was not asking for an opinion...
Mr. Chairman I rule that the point of order was well taken; you are dealing with matters that are of no concern to you as a member of the National Convention.
Mr. Hollett I take it that it would be of concern to consider whether I, as a member of this Convention, can do something which is repugnant to the law under which we live. The Convention Act is in existence by reason of, and only by reason of, the Letters Patent 1933.
Mr. Chairman As far as I am concerned the National Convention Act is the result of the Commission of Government's exercising the legislative power which was conferred on it by the January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1317 Letters Patent which were proclaimed effective February 1934, suspending our free political institutions. That is the position in a nutshell. What I will be able to think and what I will be able to do after next Friday, and the very limited things I am permitted to do right now, I want to assure you will be two different propositions.
Mr. Hollett What was the point of order?
Mr. Chairman The point of order was that your references to the Letters Patent 1934 was ultra vires to the National Convention Act. On that point I ruled that the point was well taken. We have no jurisdiction to deal with it at all. Whether there has been a breach of good faith by the imperial government is a matter upon which I am not permitted to make any comment.
Mr. Hollett I did not make that statement. I pointed out that if Mr. Higgins had included another form in addition to the two, into that motion, I could not find myself for a moment voting for it, simply because if he had done so he would be doing something which was repugnant to the law under which we live, that is the Letters Patent of 1933.
Mr. Chairman I am not concerned with the Letters Patent.
Mr. Hollett It is a question of the law under which we live.
Mr. Chairman I have to construe the validity in the light of the Convention Act. I do not propose to concern myself with anything else. I am not on an originating summons reviewing any legislation other than the National Convention Act, that is the only thing. The validity or otherwise of Mr. Higgins' motion in its present or other form has to be construed in that light, and it stands or falls in the light of the interpretation to be placed upon the National Convention Act and nothing else.
Mr. Hollett I think some people in this Convention are deliberately misunderstanding me. I am not trying to talk out of order.
Mr. Chairman I do not know whether that remark is intended for me or not. The ruling which I gave is a matter to which I have given serious thought since I was in constitutional law, since 1933. Therefore I am going to discharge my duty, and members will have to discharge their duties under section 3 of the Act, whether they like it or not. It is too late now to say your are dissatisfied about it. I did not pass the Act. I take no responsibility for it. Your duties here and mine are regulated and determined by the National Convention Act, not the Amulree Report, not the Letters Patent, not anything else. Here it is. Here is what we are operating under. The validity or otherwise of what goes on here has to be determined in the light of this Act alone, nothing else but.
Mr. Hollett I want you to understand I was not speaking contraminded to your judgement or decision. I shall say nothing more than I want to make my position clear. The position which I took in the first instance was that if Mr. Higgins had included another form of government in addition to the ones he has there in his motion, that I should have had to vote against it simply because I think it would have been repugnant to the law of the land. I was endeavouring to do that, and in order to do that I am not allowed to quote the law.
Mr. Chairman I do not like your terminology. You are misconstruing something I have said and I am not going to have it. My position is that you have no right to review the Letters Patent or any other piece of legislation under this Act. You can vote how you like and as you see fit, but you cannot come in here and attempt to put a construction on section 3 of the National Convention Act, under which Mr. Higgins' motion was tabled, by reference to legislation which has absolutely no bearing on the National Convention Act.
Mr. Hollett I want you to understand me. As I said before, I have every respect and admiration for your judgement. I was about to say that I did refer to the National Convention Act in the first instance. The National Convention Act is an act enacted under our law, further than that I shall not go. How many minutes have I now, sir?
Mr. Chairman I have taken some of your time which I felt I had to do to rule on the order of business before the Chair. I think under the circumstances you ought to be allowed an extension of 15 minutes.
Mr. Hollett I want no extension of time. Section 3 of the Convention Act says it shall be the duty and function of the Convention to meet to consider and discuss amongst themselves the changes which have taken place in the economic and financial position of Newfoundland having due regard to the effect which wartime prosperity may have had upon it; and then to make 1318 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 recommendations to His Majesty's Government in Great Britain as to suitable forms of government for Newfoundland. That is as near as I can go to it without referring to the Act. Now, sir, forms of government may mean very little, they may mean a whole lot. But I feel that a proper approach to this problem can best be made if we keep in our mind's eye a picture of the growth of political theory down through the past years, and particularly the picture as presented to us from the time of James I by such philosophic writers as Thomas Hobbes, Rousseau, Edmund Burke and John Stuart Mill.
Time does not permit of a prolonged dissertation upon how men, by a slow process, arrived at the point of thinking in terms of democracy as we know it today. But briefly let us refresh our minds with regard to certain essential points. James I of England, like the Tudors before him, believed in the divine right of kings; in other words, the right to govern and regulate the actions of mankind was a right divinely bestowed. The Tudor monarchs claimed this divine right of supremacy over the lives of their fellow men, and so did James I, but unlike the previous kings he attempted to justify this claim to sovereignty by an appeal to the will of God as revealed in the Scripture, and as manifested in the order of nature. The conclusions he arrives at are summed up at the end of his book, The True Law of Free Monarchies, 1598. These are his words: "The King is overlord of the whole land. In the Parliament (which is nothing else but the Head Court of the King and his vassals) the laws are but craved by his subjects." You will remember how in trying to defend this philosophy one Stuart king lost his head, and another was deposed and banished.
The idea was growing amongst men that an elected parliament was more than a mere craver of laws — they were the cravers of the laws and framers of statutes as expressed by the will of the people. Thomas Hobbes in his book Leviathan said — whereas James claimed sovereignty from God, Hobbes goes a step further towards present- day thinking. He saw clearly that the divine right doctrine was a bankrupt trouble-maker, but he saw equally clearly that some person or persons not only do claim sovereignty, but must do so if society is not to disintegrate. However, he argues, sovereign power must be absolute. There must be a common power vested in one man, or one assembly of men, by all the people. All men, he says, must submit their will to this absolute will of one man or assembly of men, and their judgement to his judgement. Although he favours absolute power, a mortal god so to speak, he admits that the people from whom such power comes ought to reserve certain rights in case the sovereign authority or government should overreach itself.
John Locke, who tried to defend the revolution in England of 1688, rests his defence on the grounds that government depends upon the consent of the people. "There is", he says, "a contract between the government and the people. If the government violates this contract, revolution is justified." Both Locke and Rousseau — Locke in his book Two Treatises of Government and Rousseau in his Social Contract — claimed that an ideal government for any people is one which permits self-government by the people, and that true self-government is the imposition by each individual on himself of rules and limitations demanded by him of all others. The evolution of self-government, however, was slow. It took the American Revolution of 1775 and the French Revolution of 1789, as well as the teachings of Tom Paine and Jeremy Bentham, to instil into men's minds the idea of liberal, social and parliamentary reform. These latter writers argued that customs, laws, institutions and constitutions could be evaluated in terms of one standard only, and that is the greatest happiness of the greatest number.
Burke, who wrote about the same time, was most conservative, and held that the people should draw on the experience and wisdom of the most intelligent and most honest in the community. It remained, however, for John Stuart Mill in 1861, in his considerations on representative government, to outline clearly that political theory which most men in democratic countries believe in today. The form of government for any country, he argues, is open in some degree to choice. By what test shall we make our choice? The test, says Mill, is twofold. First, to what extent does a proposed form of government make for the moral and intellectual development of the people? Secondly, to what extent does it make use of the moral and intellectual resources at its command? On these grounds, he says, the January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1319 ideal form of government would be a complete democracy. But a complete democracy is not practicable. The device of government by elected representatives is, however. as close as a modern state can come to straight democracy. What, he says, are the distinctive characteristics of the form of government best fitted to promote the interest of any given people? One of the first conditions on which good government depends is found in the qualities of the human beings composing the society over which the government is exercised.
The first question in respect to any political institution is how far it tends to foster in the members of the community various desirable qualities, moral and intellectual. The government which does this the best has every likelihood of being the best in all other respects, since it is on these qualities, so far as they exist in the people, that all possibility of goodness in the practical operation of the government depends. The other constituent element of the merit of a government is the degree in which it is adapted to take advantage of the amount of good qualities which may at any time exist, and make them instrumental to the right purposes. The superiority of popular government rests upon two principles. The first is that the rights and interests of any person are only secure when the person interested is himself able and disposed to stand up for them. The second is that the general prosperity attains a greater height and is more widely enjoyed in proportion to the amount and varieties of the personal energies enlisted in promoting it.
Human beings are only secure from evil at the hands of others in proportion as they have been and are self-protecting; and they only achieve a high degree of success in their struggle with nature in proportion as they are self-dependent, relying on what they themselves can do, either separately or in concert, rather than on what others do for them. "If", says Mill, "we consider the influence of a form of government upon character, we shall find the superiority of popular government over every other still more divided and indisputable. The question really depends on another and more fundamental one, namely, which of two common types of character, for the general good of humanity, it is the most desirable should predominate, the active or the passive type; that which struggles against evils or that which endures them; that which bends to circumstances or that which endeavours to make circumstances bend to itself."
Now, are we Newfoundlanders of the passive type of character? It would seem so. "For", as Mill says, "there can be no doubt that the passive type of character is favoured by the government of one or a few (such as seven men appointed by one man 2,000 miles away — Commission of Government); whilst the active self-helping type by a government of the many." I am not in accord with the idea of government by commission, by the Dominions Office, andI think every man here will agree with me on that.
Irresponsible rulers (i.e. irresponsible to the people) need the quiescence of the ruled more than they need any activity but that which they can compel. The only government that can freely satisfy all exigencies of the social state is one in which the people participate. Any participation in government, even in the smallest function, is useful. And I want to indicate there, what part in the government today do our people share? What part do they take in the government of this country? None whatsoever! Absolutely none! We are all like the man to whom Mr. Keough referred yesterday: we do not care who sits in the seat of government as long as we get three square meals a day. Think that over and ask yourselves, do we or do we not want to be ruled by Commission of Government? But participation by the people in government should everywhere he as great as the general degree of improvement in the community will allow; and nothing less can be more desirable than the admission of all the people to a share in the sovereign power of the state.
In a commonwealth, however, says Mill, "exceeding a single small town, [all cannot] participate personally in any but some minor portions of the public business, it follows that the ideal type of a perfect government must be representative." That is to say, that the whole people, or some numerous portion of them exercise through deputies periodically elected by themselves the ultimate controlling power. Now, representative government must fulfill three fundamental conditions:
(1) That the people should be willing to receive it.
(2) That they should be willing and able 1320 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 to do what is necessary for its preservation.
(3) That they should be willing and able to fulfill the duties and discharge the functions which it imposes on them.
When, sir, people have not sufficient value and attachment to a representative constitution they have no chance whatever of retaining it. Representative institutions necessarily depend for permanence on the readiness of the people to fight for them in case they are in danger. When nobody, or only a small fraction, feels a degree of interest in the affairs of the country necessary to the formation of the public opinion, the electors will seldom make any use of the right of suffrage but to serve their own private interests or the interests of the locality, or by some one of them with whom they are connected as adherents or dependents. The smaller class who, in this state of public opinion, gain the command of the representative body, for the most part use it solely as a means of seeking their own fortunes. Representative government cannot permanently exist when you find such conditions.
I submit, Mr. Chairman, that is exactly what happened to Newfoundland in the years past. We were passive. We did not want to govern ourselves. We elected men and sent them to the House of Assembly and promptly forgot them for four years. And another crowd came along and said, "What about electing me?" And they elected them, to forget them again. You have to get people talking politics, and fighting over it if necessary, and until then we are not fit for responsible government or Commission government, or any other kind of government.
Can we, as a people in this Newfoundland that was ours, fulfil these fundamental conditions, or have we in order to advance in civilisation some lessons to learn, some habits not yet acquired, to the acquiring of which representative government is likely to be an impediment?
Now if we admit that a representative government responsible to the people is the best form of government, it would be wise to ask ourselves what actual functions shall be directly and personally discharged by the elected members. First and foremost. it is understood that the people have given to the elected body the control of everything for their common good. Now, there is a radical distinction between controlling the business of government and actually doing it. There are many things which the elected body cannot do well of itself, but it ought to take the best means for having it well done by others. In the first place bodies ought not to administer, though they can deliberate. The popular assembly is also not fitted to dictate in detail to those who have charge of administration. Every branch of public administration is a skilled business.
Legislation too must be framed by minds trained to the task through long and labourious study. The job of the representative is not that of doing the work, but of causing it to be done, of determining to whom or to what sort of people it shall be confided, and giving or withholding the country's sanction to it when performed. The whole function then of an elected assembly is to watch and control the government; to throw the light of publicity on its acts (something like the Commission of Government, you know gentlemen!). Now we want a government and people prating like I am today, throwing the light of publicity on all the acts of government — not seven men sitting down at Government House or some other place, and making laws and publishing them without the people having the chance to know anything at all about them.
Representative assemblies are often Charged with being places of mere talking. With regard to this Mill says, "I know not how a representative assembly can more usefully employ itself than in talk." When the subject of talk is the great public interest of the country, and every sentence of it represents the opinion either of some important body of persons in the country or of an individual in whom some such body have reposed their confidence. A place where every interest and shade of opinion in the country can have its cause even passionately pleaded in the face of the government and of all other interests and opinions, can compel them to listen, and either comply or state clearly why they do not, is in itself, if it answered no other purpose, one of the most important political institutions than can exist anywhere, and one of the foremost benefits of free government.
Such talk and free discussion coupled with skilled legislation and administration is of the essence of good government.
Mr. Chairman, I had considerable other things here, and I had to cut some of it out on account of the time. Now, what about us at this moment? January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1321 At this juncture I take it we are at the parting of the ways in this country. Our people have the power and the authority, or will have in May, to select a government of their own choosing, and it is most important that they give their every consideration to which of the two forms of government, or more if they are submitted, which will best serve their interests, and to which we can be most loyal. I am of the confirmed opinion that an elected government, responsible to the people, is the best form of government which this or any other country can achieve, and I hope and trust that when our people come to make up their minds they will also consider that too.
I might say that I am against Commission government. One thing about us, we have a bargaining power today, and we must use it. We can produce fish, ores and wood products. There will always be a world demand for these products. Our job is to sell, and to the highest bidder. If we have other tangible or intangible assets, such as a strategic position, let us sell that too, and to the highest bidder compatible with the best interests of the country. We have got to face facts, Mr. Chairman. We have just fought one war, and anybody can see that we are likely to have to fight another war sometime; how soon we do not know, but we have been told day in and day out that we occupy a strategic position, and it is as well for us to be realistic. People who live in strategic positions run the risk of dying a sudden death, especially in these days of atomic fission. We know our position in the Atlantic Ocean, and it is just as well for us to be realistic and face these facts. Our people are going to live in a strategic position. All right, let us elect a government and get for the people who are doing enough to live in this country, the best possible living that there is in it.
Mr. Chairman, once upon a time we were proud to call ourselves the cornerstone of Empire. I wonder now, cannot we visualise a prouder place in the new world structure to be? Cannot we aspire to be the keystone in the arch of freedom and friendliness between Canada, the United States and the western democracies of Europe? We can only become this keystone if we recover and retain our independence, and endeavour to exploit our resources without let or hindrance.
I will leave out a lot of this here. I am a bit upset at the moment.
I was referring to the Labrador. We are told that we have vast potential timber wealth there. What are we going to do about it? There's one thing about it, if we do not keep control of it ourselves it will do us no benefit whatsoever. Recently I read in the Atlantic Reporter in Canada, which has just been issued a few days ago, under the heading of "Iron and Lumber for Export": "The new discoveries of iron ore in Quebec and Labrador promise the largest source of this vital raw material since the discovery of the Mesabi deposits in Minnesota. Preliminary explorations of this ore body have gone far enough to invite both Canadian and United States governmental and industrial interest. The United States needs Canadian ore desperately, and the new mines open up challenging opportunities for investment of United States capital." I ask you to apply that statement to Newfoundland — Newfoundland ore and Newfoundland timber that's there on the Labrador. Let us ask ourselves, can we recommend any other form of government than one of the two in the motion of Mr. Higgins?
The United States of America, sir, needs all the timber she can get, and needs it badly. I ask you again to think of the potential market for fish and fish products in the United States. We have the fish, and we have the men to catch it, and our fisheries should be the great concern of all Newfoundlanders. By them the great majority of our people must live, and here let us shout from the housetops the praises due to the Fisheries Board under the able chairmanship of Mr. Ray Gushue, and those enterprising firms in St. John's and elsewhere in the country for their initiative in regard to marketing, and their faith in the fresh fish business. Take a walk over to the Southside and have a look at Job Bros. plant, and see one of the finest on the Atlantic seaboard. It is the only one I have seen, but there are many others in the country. Think on these things and again, I ask you, what other form can we vote for except one of the two in the motion? Come with me to Corner Brook and Grand Falls, or go with Mr. Fudge to Curling and Mr. Jackman to Bell Island, or go to Gander and Harmon Field, and back to Fort Pepperrell by way of Argentia, and count the Newfoundlanders as they toil, and the men who will make good money at the seal fishery. Let us think on these things.
Come back with me now to the year 1855. Well, you know your history. Two hundred thousand people, and no industry except fish and sealing. No railway, few schools, but withal a few gallant gentlemen wrestling, by force almost, from Great Britain the right of self-government. Mr. Chairman, I ask you, could these men see the frenzied efforts of some men in this House for the past few months, would they not cry out in scorn, "Oh ye of little faith"?
Yes, there can be only one form of government for this country, and that is self-government. For 15 years we have been politically dead. Men and women of 35 and under have never voted and it is for these I worry. They not only have not had political experience, but their minds have been poisoned by vicious stories. Was it done deliberately, I wonder? Their votes now will decide the issue. Will they snap out of their political apathy and jump into the breach and hold fast to their heritage, or will they allow themselves to be hoodwinked and lose it?
Never before in the history of this country was there such a chance for us to sell our products to a nation who can afford to buy them — I mean the United States of America. All history is tied up with economic strings. The destinies of peoples depend on what they have for sale and to whom they sell it, and I think an American dollar is still on a par with a Canadian dollar. Are we to get that American dollar, or must it go elsewhere? There is only one way we can get that American dollar, and that is by demanding by popular vote the return to our former status, by adopting the Statute of Westminster, and thereafter by doing business with people who will treat us fairly.
Sir, I think I have about used up the time I had. Is it completely gone?
Mr. Chairman You have four minutes, to be exact.
Mr. Hollett I just want to say this, sir, that if there is any misunderstanding between you and me, I apologise. I was doing what I deemed to be in the best interests of this assembly and the people of this country, and I still make this assertion, that I agree wholeheartedly with the statement made by Mr. Bradley, that if we pass this resolution we can recommend nothing else. That's my opinion, and I explained why. Mind now, I am in favour of passing this. I do not agree with Commission government — I think we should have our former status, and I appeal to you men to go out and tell the people that their only hope in the future is to get back their former status, and thereafter to see to it that the men that they elect and send to this assembly shall spend their time in the interest of the people of this country, and not in doing something which does not apply to the people. Sir, I am going to quote just two or three words from Robert Burns. It's Burns Night tomorrow. Burns was a common man like the rest of us here in this assembly, but he was a great man, and loved his country as I hope every one of you gentlemen loves yours. And with apologies to the spirit of Burns, and with the changing of but one word in his brief stanza, I say:*
Mr. Reddy Mr. Chairman, all thinking people in this country will agree that the time has come when we should arouse ourselves to a sense of our real responsibilities, and unite in a determined effort to steer our ship of state, storm- beaten though she may be, on the right course to safe harbour; to make sure that Newfoundland comes into her own, and that she should take her rightful place in these free-thinking, liberty- loving sections of the world to which her loyalty, fine principles of justice, and fair play entitled her. I feel that the newly elected government of Newfoundland should be different from the old responsible government. Its members should be limited to the lowest minimum. I would like to see the introduction of new social legislation, which would improve the standard of living for January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1323 our toilers on the deep, as well as our forests and our mines. I would like to see a scheme whereby our fishermen would become shareholders in the enterprise which through their efforts and long toil they had elected to build. This scheme is very much a reality in other countries, and is proving very successful. I have no hesitation in saying that the development in our fisheries, our mines and our forests, over the period of the next 20 years, will exceed our wildest imaginations. Let us go forward unafraid, for a greater Newfoundland is here.
Mr. Chairman, our position now is the same as it was in 1932. So I think that the great unsolved problem of Newfoundland is the economic problem — that of surveying, measuring and developing our natural resources, and of re-organising our existing industries. The difference is that now I know that if that problem is to be solved, it will be solved only by a government of Newfoundland elected by the people....
When the royal commission came here in the 19305 we expected a full and ungrudging recognition of the statesmanlike governments in office from 1931 to 1933 — recognition of their patriotic and really effective efforts to reorganise and finance our governmental machine, recognition of the magnificent new spirit, new order, and the change of heart of the government. In Newfoundland today not a dozen men would not disagree with this statement, that with the system of treasury control, the public debt converted to a lower rate of interest that would save $2 million a year, and the same degree of financial assistance which the Commission of Government had actually received, Newfoundland now would be in no sense or degree worse off than she is after rule by the Commission.
Who speaks for Newfoundland today? Nobody speaks for Newfoundland. Nobody has the right, nobody has been authorised. In the absence of a House of Assembly or an opposition, the Newfoundland people are left voiceless. Anything could be put over on them, anything, turning our country into an international settlement like Shanghai, or making another Hawaii of us. That is why the people must be organised.
In 1934 we made a mistake in surrendering our responsible government, but may I say we made a great mistake once before, in November - December, 1933. That was when the whole idea of suppressing self-govemment and substituting Commission government was flung at us. We did not dicker, we did not attempt to better it, we did not demand modifications. No, we took it all down, hook, line and sinker, and we appointed a deputation to go across to interview the British government — to plead for softening the proposals? No, we simply dotted the i's and crossed the t's. Let us not make that mistake again. We can get back responsible government, all we have to do is insist on it.... Let us all agree that this form of Commission government must be stopped. Does it automatically resolve our problems to scrap this system? What shall we have to replace this present form? Responsible government, you say. Yes, responsible government, but only in the sense that the government is responsible to a parliament elected by the people. The principle of responsible government is right. It is sound. No other form of government is right, or can succeed, but we are unworthy if we fool ourselves into the belief that the adoption of this sound British and democratic principle will automatically solve our problems.
Responsible government is the normal thing in the British Empire. It is practised in the United Kingdom, in Northern Ireland and in Eire, and in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and Canada. Under responsible government the government executives are responsible to parliament. Parliament is elected by the people, and the government can hold office only as long as it commands the confidence of parliament. Parliament itself, having been elected by the people, and having to answer to the people again when the term is up, is necessarily responsible to the public. That is the glory of responsible government; but it also possesses some dangers. Is it possible to set up a system that will prevent the evils of 1920 - 1934, or at least the more serious of those evils? Let us not make the mistake of attributing to responsible government the many evils and weaknesses which in fact are the results of other causes altogether. But having guarded against making that mistake we may yet honestly recognise the dangers that do lie in the practice of responsible government — recognising them so as to start preventing them, or cataloguing them, or classifying them, and then devising ways and means of heading them off. We have two great sources of knowledge in our effort to 1324 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 safeguard ourselves against repetition of the evils we knew before: our own experience, and the experience of numerous other countries who have practised responsible government.
Mr. Chairman, while Mr. Higgins was speaking here a few days ago, Mr. Smallwood criticised his remarks as being taken from Mr. MacKay's book on Newfoundland, without giving Mr. MacKay credit for it. I now have to confess to Newfoundland that the words of this address are those of one of our prominent public men, which I copied and repeated today. They were uttered by Mr. Smallwood himself, and I merely repeat them, use them, and give my support to Mr. Higgins' motion.
Mr. Chairman The motion is before the Chair, gentlemen, and time is running out.
Mr. Roberts Mr. Chairman, in rising to speak to the motion before the Chair, I wish to say I will vote for the two forms of government, namely responsible and Commission, to be placed on the ballot paper. Briefly I will endeavour to give you my reasons for so doing, by showing the merits or demerits of each form
Responsible government is the ideal for the people of any country to strive for. I wonder if Newfoundlanders are doing just that? I am sure they are not, otherwise there would not be so much talk of other forms of government, or, as we find all over the country, an indifference to any form. Probably there is a reason for all this confusion. It seems strange, does it not, when we see the peoples of many countries today, large and small — and the European countries especially, devastated by war, famine and disease, their natural resources — striving to the point of bloodshed to drive foreigners out so as to govern themselves; while we in Newfoundland with balanced budgets, a surplus, our resources barely scratched, seem afraid to govern ourselves, or too indifferent to bother what happens to us.
It must seem peculiar to the peoples of other countries, but it may not be so hard for us to understand the situation when we review our past political history, and think of what happened to us after almost a 100 years of responsible government. With all due respect to our politicians, some of whom were great men, there must have been too many amongst them who did not have the best interests of the country at heart, otherwise we would not have landed in the mess we did.
When the country became self-supporting, and it might seem that we are today, England was to restore to us responsible government. She did not do so, and consequently the mother of parliaments has been called by some people everything but a lady. But after 14 years of Commission of Government, to whom is she to pass back the reins of power? To the people who relinquished it? Where are they today? You can almost count on the fingers of one hand the men of the government who are left, or who would care to take control. Well, it may not be nice to say, but nevertheless it is a fact that the people of this country would think long and hard before trusting their destiny into those hands again, although, as I say, there may be some good men amongst them. Well then, who next? Probably the Responsible Government League we have heard of, consisting of good influential citizens of this city, businessmen and lawyers. Proper men, one would think, to run the affairs of this country, but the argument against these, especially in the outports, is the age-old prejudice of merchant versus fisherman, St. John's versus the outports. Why should St. John's run the outports? Very narrow views, and I wish I could say they don't exist, but unfortunately they do.
If that is the case, someone would suggest the National Convention, a body of men elected from every district, a cross-section of many trades and professions. Surely these must be the men we have been wanting for years. But what do you hear from all parts of the country, from all classes of people? We have been termed wranglers, wasters of public time and monies, incapables etc., and people hold up their hands in horror at the thought of trusting the affairs of this country to our incapable hands. How often have I heard the expression, until I am ashamed to say that I am a member of the Convention (although we don't deserve it), "If these are the sort of men we are likely to get to govern us, God help the country in a very few years." So the thought has been continually in my mind — how, after 14 or 15 years, could England give us back responsible government? Who is to take it back? The question has never been answered by the people who advocate it.
Still, if we wish to govern ourselves, we must have Newfoundlanders, and we must find the January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1325 men, sooner or later; and if good men do not come forward, then incapables will. It's a Newfoundland problem to find good men. Newfoundlanders go to other countries and do well, become clannish, and in war they are very loyal, but at home we are suspicious of our governments and one another, very divided in our opinions. Lord Ammon, of the British Goodwill Mission, who visited here some few years ago said, "If I talk to five Newfoundlanders I get five different opinions. How can I tell the British Parliament what Newfoundlanders want? They do not know themselves." The British Parliament knows the state of affairs out here, and regardless of what people might thing, I am of the opinion they are doing the right thing not to give us back responsible government. They will let us decide for ourselves at the referendum, and then if the majority should wantresponsible government we will get it. I have yet to be convinced that England will force us into any form of government, although we have given her plenty of provocation to do so. Throwing ourselves on her mercy in the 1930s after admitting we could not govern ourselves, she had every right then to attach us to Canada or any other country, on any terms. Instead, she tried to build up our economy and to give us another chance.
The time has arrived We have the resources, but have we the men with the courage to face the future on our own, remembering our mistakes, taking note of our failures, so as to apply a remedy? The men who will handle our affairs will need plenty of courage and brains. They will also need to be thick-skinned and hard, to keep in check graft, waste, dishonesty, the needless spending of huge sums of money on party politics, always keeping in mind the best interests of the country, instead of their own selfish interests. The leader will do very little if his party and the people are not satisfied to be led in the right direction. I want the people to note the quality of the men who will be putting themselves forward with the expectation of governing this country, and to demand nothing but the best; also to think of our huge government expenditures of today, our isolation, our backwardness, and think long and well before marking a ballot for a return to the responsibilities of self-government. It's no small thing we are about to tackle. We had an experiment before and failed. Will we do better another time? That's a question a lot of people would like to have answered. Will they trust the younger generation of today, even with the huge revenues we have? Time will tell.
After throwing in the sponge and admitting we could not govern ourselves, England set up a government by commission, a dictatorial government. But after the fiasco we made of our affairs we needed a bit of dictatorship, and it has been good for us in many ways. It's not the ideal thing for Newfoundland, and it was never intended to last any longer than necessary. They have made mistakes, and will continue to make them as long as they are in power, and in this respect they can be excused, as all governments make mistakes. The main thing is to see they are not repeated. But they have done a great deal of good, which fact cannot be denied by the ardent supporters of any other system of government.
The first seven years of their rule were the seven lean years — there was no corn in Egypt, and very little in any other country. What could any government do during these years to better the living conditions of the Newfoundland people? Many schemes were tried, many millions of dollars from the pockets of the British taxpayer were spewed out to keep our people alive. Many of the schemes failed, as was to be expected, but some were good and are functioning today. Then, after the seven lean years, came the seven fat years, brought about by a war which devastated untold millions of lives and property in other parts of the world. Their loss was our gain: money poured so fast that the government could not spend it. We created a surplus; we became to all intents and purposes self-supporting. But just as the people needed not seven years of plenty, but twice that time to get back on their feet from the poverty of the depression, so does the government, which required not seven years, but I should say 20 years to give us the social services we require.
$40 million of a revenue will not buy as much today as $20 million ten years ago, when we consider the rate of government pay then and now, and also the price of commodities. A cottage hospital, for instance, which cost $20,000 to build ten years ago, will cost $65,000 today. But there is one thing about all this spending, we can look around the country and see something for it. Ask the people of any district where they have 1326 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 cottage hospitals and district nurses, new highroads linking smaller and larger settlements together, bringing them in touch with new markets, inducing tourists to come into the country, bringing in new money. The introduction of the co-operative societies is enabling the working man to get every cent possible for the products of his toil. The setting up of our very capable Fisheries Board, with newer methods, is raising the standard of our fish products, thereby assuring to our fishermen higher prices. There are other things I could mention, but these are sufficient to warrant people voting for Commission of Government. But I want to warn our Newfoundland people that vast government expenditures have been built up to give us all these services, and while revenues continue to keep up these expenditures can be maintained, but if they fall, which we have every sound reason to believe they will, since a level of government expenditure once reached has a tendency to stay put, our surplus will soon melt away, and then where are we? Down and out again.
We had England to come to our aid in the 1930s, and pour millions into the country. England will not be in any position to help us for some years to come, she needs millions and billions poured into her. What help we can expect from her will be negligible, if any. She will do what she can, but it's my opinion she expects us to go our own way and bid Commission of Government farewell. Personally, I do not feel that the future of Newfoundland has anything to gain by the retention of Commission of Government, but I am in duty bound to vote that it be placed on the ballot paper.
Mr. Fudge Mr. Chairman, since the hour is late, before I make my few simple remarks I would suggest that the Convention recess until 8 o'clock.
Mr. Chairman Yes, and I would like all the members who intend speaking to the motion to please do so, because eventually, before the motion is put, I will have to call on Mr. Higgins, the mover of the motion, to reply, and I don't want any member to feel that he is shut out.
Mr. Higgins Could we have an expression from members now who wish to speak?
Mr. Chairman Are there any members who wish to address themselves to this motion, will you please give me some indication?
Mr. Higgins There are five speakers.
Mr. Chairman There are eight, and you, of course, will be nine.
Mr. Hickman There's another 20 minutes yet, sir.
Mr. Fudge Well, if you stay here till half past six, don't blame me.
Mr. Chairman There will be no Chair, Mr. Fudge.
Mr. Fudge Mr. Chairman, on behalf of the people whom I represent and for myself as well, I wish to make a few brief comments on the motion before the Chair. This motion is to the effect that in the forthcoming plebiscite, the people of Newfoundland be asked whether they want as their future form of government either the responsible government which they lost in 1933, or a continuation of the present form of Commission government. Now although I may support this motion recommending that these two forms of government be placed on a ballot, that must not be taken to mean that I think these two forms are equally good, and that whichever form our people choose we will be just as well off with one as we would be with the other. Not at all. I mean anything but that. I have long ago come to my own conclusions as to what is the best form of government to recommend to the people of this country, and further, sir, I am prepared to give sound reasons for my decision.
In my opinion there should be no need for any election at all over this matter. It should be simply a matter of giving back to this country something that was taken from her in 1933.
I am not going to criticise the Commission of Government, for I sincerely believe that the Commission has done a certain amount of good in the country, but I am prepared, as I have been for the past ten years, to try and see both sides and give credit where credit is due. The Commission of Government, as I said before, has done a considerable amount of good but I want you to bear in mind that those who I hear so often condemning and accusing the old politicians of yesterday were the very people who made it possible, who provided the machinery whereby those people could raise $40 million revenue.
I cannot overlook the fact that Commission of Government — I am more or less inclined to criticise the form, rather than the members of the Commission — grossly ignored my comrades of the Great War Veterans' Association some years January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1327 ago. They were looking for adjustments to heal their wounds and ease their dependents, and they were forced to apply to the general public of the country who, I am proud to state, so ably came forward and insisted that their rights be recognised. Labour is not being so badly treated with the Commission of Government, especially those who grew up and were strong enough to handle them. There are many places where the Commission might have done better, where the Labour Relations Office might have done much better. We find today the cost of living, as you all know, is terrific. But in spite of that we find men who were expected to work one day for $4 and the next day for nothing.
I have heard some things referred to in connection with the town councils, and I agree with the principle of town councils, provided they are not a burden to our people. I have in many cases heard old men, very wealthy and well able to afford it say, "Oh yes, we must have a town council — it's going to cost me $3-400 but nevertheless we should have it." But Mr. Chairman, that is not the same story. It did not cost them $3-400, it cost the people, unfortunately. The Commission made no provision whereby he or she could not pass it on to the poor man. I deplore that system of legislation.
Getting back to the old politicians, I wish to be fair in this matter, and I am not trying to prove that all our public men were angels — just as the public men of any other country are not, and were not angels. In every phase of human action you will find the black sheep, but is it fair to condemn all the apostles because there was a Judas? Is it fair to condemn a whole nation because they have convicts in their goals? Must we condemn humanity because all were not perfect? Yet that is just what they try to do with us. I would suggest to the commission which was sent over here to make an inquiry, that they should search the Scriptures, and they might find something suitable. They would find, if they took the trouble, that it is not fair to talk about the mote in their neighbours' eye, until they have plucked the beam out of their own. If our old politicians were the evil persons they say, then why was it that when they came here as a Commission they took into their ranks three of these old politicians? If they are correct in what they state, by this very act they condemn themselves. I hold no brief for the government of Newfoundlanders who gave away responsible government in 1933, but in fairness I do not hesitate to give it as my belief that if they had not been assured that responsible government would be restored to this country upon her becoming self-supporting, then they would never have voted as they did. Is this not proof, absolute proof, that when they condemned our politicians they were lying, and knew they were lying? People don't swallow their vomit unless they have to.
In heaven's name, when we discuss the past history of our country let us try to be fair, and not blind our eyes to the truth, I knew personally many of the so-called old politicians, and in 90 percent of the cases I found them men who had given much more to the country than they ever got from it. They sacrificed their business, their time and their money to serve the public. I know many who had to neglect their business to attend to their public duties, and as a result lost their business. How often have we heard the sad story of public men, who after having given a lifetime to public service, died in near poverty? There were public men who made money, but they were men who would have made money anyhow — they were merchants, like the Hon. Mr. Job and Mr. Hickman and Mr. Crosbie, but just because they were politicians, envy said that they were grafters. Why, the best proof of it is the refusal of so many ambitious men to enter politics. They know that if they enter public life they will have to make too big a sacrifice in time and money, which they could have been devoting to their own business. Forget it I say, this talk about this country meeting the disaster of 1933 because of bad politicians.
But apart from this altogether, let us remember that our task is not to deal with the past, but with the future. We have to look ahead, not behind. So then let us take stock of where we stand today and where we may hope to advance in the future. We have come a long way since 1933. Things have changed for us in such a way that we need never fear going back to the depths from which we have risen. Newfoundlanders today are in an era of prosperity, and it is much more than an unnatural post-war boom. It is, on the contrary, an era in which primary producers of goods have come into their own. The prosperous countries today are those countries which have natural resources 1328 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 at their disposal, and have the ability and initiative to develop them. This country of ours is a producing country, and if we continue to produce to the best possible extent, we too can take our place with the progressive nations of the world. In our forest industries we see just such a program of activity working out. Our pulp and paper mills are being extended, and a similar state of affairs exists in our fishing industry — newer methods of catching and marketing are being introduced. From our industries we are in the happy position of being able to produce enough dollars to pay for all necessary imports, and consequently our standard of living has reached a peak never known before.
Other countries, including Canada, are unable to obtain dollars, but with us the position is the opposite. For this reason we can be regarded as one of the most fortunate countries in the world. I have said nothing about our agriculture, or our tourist possibilities, but these two sources of income are ready for greater development. It is my opinion that the day is not far away when we will be able to produce sufficient to make us independent of foreign markets. As for the tourist traffic, we know what this means to countries such as Canada which have no greater — if as great — attractions as are to be found in Newfoundland. Under a government of our people I see the possibilities of developing all these sources of income. Are we to be so foolish as to sacrifice all these things for the doubtful prospects which may or may not be ours under any strange form of government, so to speak? If you had a business, would you be satisfied to hand it over to some stranger to run for you? Would you feel that he could run it better than you could? Do you think he would take a greater interest in you and your family than you would yourself? Of course you would not, you would turn your back in contempt on any such offer. Yet is that not just what we are being asked to do today? Are you going to fall for it? I am sure you are not.
Mr. Chairman, in asking the people to support the actions of those of us who are seeking self- government, I do so in the conviction that I am acting in the best interests of our people. I am a born Newfoundlander with a stake in this country. I have a home and a family which it is my solemn duty to safeguard. Their best interests are mine. Do you think I would support any form of government which I thought for a minute would not be best for them? Why should I support self-government, except for the reason that I was convinced it was best? As founder and president of a large union in Newfoundland, I have many obligations to contend with. It is my sworn duty to fight for the interest of every man in that union, and every working man in this country. Do you think that I am going to support a cause which I think is not in the best interests of the families of these union members? It would be absolutely senseless. And I say further, that if self-government is best for my union, then it is best for all other unions. After all self-government is, I believe, the very essence of labour organisations.
I think that it was unfortunate that the motion before the Chair is not so worded as to give me and other delegates an opportunity of comparing the benefits of responsible government with other forms of government. Mr. Chairman, it is generally recognised these days that Newfoundland is at a crossroads. For good or ill we who are living today have the great responsibility of deciding on what road our country will travel. I say therefore, that it is the duty of this house and indeed the duty of every Newfoundlander listening to my voice, to do his part to enlighten his fellow men, to assist those who are not fully informed on the real situation to see the light. We lost our government in 1933 because the people were kept in the dark. Let us see that it does not happen again. We have now a chance to rectify our past mistakes, but this time there will be no chance to undo our action. This time it will be for keeps.
Reviewing this whole matter, there is one feature which we must not overlook, and it is this: if in the future it should ever become necessary for us to unite with any other country (which I trust will never happen), then is it not necessary for us to have a free hand to make whatever deal we wish? For myself, if such a time ever came, I think it would be most advisable that we be able, for instance, to discuss matters with the United States of America. Do we want to shut ourselves off from such a position?
Mr. Chairman, if the people of our country had been sufficiently informed on this matter, there would be no need of me or anybody else making speeches. But as it is we must, every one of us January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1329 who has the interests of Newfoundland at heart, leave no stone unturned to show our people, the people who sent us here and are depending on us, the light, the truth. I know something of the common people of this country. I know that you can come along with a fairy tale and fool them for a while, but I also know that you can't fool them long. Soon their keen minds see through the sham. Soon they see the story behind the story, and when they do, they act quickly and with decision. Today Iceland is getting the sum of $13 million under the Marshall Plan — what is Newfoundland getting? Who is there to look out for her interests? Will we ever get anything? Will we ever get back the money shipped to England? How different things would be if we had had a government of Newfoundlanders! Yes, Mr. Chairman, I say a labour government would do no harm.
Mr. Chairman, I could go on in this way, giving you facts and reasons as to why there is and can only be the one proper form of government in this country, but I think I have said enough to satisfy the mind of every real Newfoundlander. If I have helped to do this in any small way, then I think I have done my duty to my country and the people whose interests I am here to safeguard.
Mr. Chairman, soon we shall leave this chamber to return to our respective homes, and it is not likely ever we shall all meet together again. To you, sir, and all present, I trust that at the end of life's disappointing road we shall be found ready and worthy of entering into that holy chamber where there is no need for divisions and where the "ayes" have it forever. Thank you, sir.
Mr. Fowler I move we rise until 8 o'clock.
Mr. Chairman I think at this time, as the chamber is very hot, we should rise. It is ten to six, so we will rise till 8 o'clock.
[The Convention adjourned until 8 pm]
Mr. Smallwood Before the debate proceeds, I rise to ask your direction. In view of the statements made this afternoon by Mr. Bradley, I would like to know from you what the position is under the terms of the National Convention Act and the rules of the Convention, with regard to the motion that is on the order paper in my name should the present motion before the Chair be adopted. What I mean is this. The present motion in its present form may or may not be adopted. Assuming that it is adopted, does that mean that my motion proposing another form of government be submitted to the United Kingdom government — recommended to them for submission to the Newfoundland people in the referendum — will not then be received by the Chair and debated and voted on, or any other form of government? Does it mean that all members who vote for it cannot then vote for, or propose any other form of government to be submitted to the people? Or if any of us do not vote, are we then free to consider any other form? Does this motion exclude consideration and recommendation of any other form of government? I would like your ruling on that, sir.
Mr. Chairman Your point is this: whether or not the present motion, if adopted, would exclude discussion on your motion of which I have notice, or discussion on any other form of government of which I may receive notice. Does the adoption of this motion mean the exclusion of discussion on your motion, is that your point?
Mr. Smallwood Yes, and is Mr. Higgins' motion in its present form intra vires or ultra vires of the National Convention Act? Is it a good motion?
Mr. Higgins It has been passed by the Chairman.
Mr. Chairman No, it has not.
Mr. Higgins You allowed me to put it.
Mr. Chairman I have not put it yet. It has to be proposed from the Chair before it is put. I will have to try to resolve this problem, which is of a twofold nature under standing orders 24 and 39. Rule 24 provides, "No member may speak to any question after it has been put by the Chairman and the voices have been given in the affirmative or negative thereon." And in that connection, Sir Erskine May, pages 418-19: "No member may speak to any question after the same has been fully put by the Speaker; and a question is fully put when he has taken the voices of both the 'ayes' and the 'nos'." Now, if the present motion or resolution is either carried or negatived, it precludes thereafter any discussion on Commission government or responsible government. Once it is disposed of one way or the other, it is over and done with and that is the end of it.
The next thing, arising out of the remarks of Mr. Bradley and of Mr. Hollett, is to determine whether or not the adoption of this motion would exclude discussion on your motion, or on any 1330 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 other motion covering any other form of government. In that connection, before I come to deal with the form of the motion itself, rule 39 says, "In discharging its duties to make recommendations to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom as to the possible forms of future government to be put before the people at a National Referendum, the Convention shall include in its report to the Secretary of State for Dominions Affairs the opinion of each several member of the Convention as to the form 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." The rule therefore requires the Convention to express or record the opinion of each and every member of the Convention as to the form or forms of government which in his opinion should be put before the people; and secondly, shall also record any preference which he may choose to express (he does not have to) as between one form of government and another. In other words, this rule requires the Convention to record the opinion of each and every member of the Convention on the form or forms of government which he thinks should be included in the referendum. Now the question is whether or not the motion in its present form prevents the very thing that rule 39 requires to be done. That is to say, could any member or members express their opinions upon any forms of government other than the two referred to in the motion? I do not know how you feel about this, Mr. Higgins, but I feel the motion quite definitely confines the Convention to recommending the two forms of government covered by your motion, and these two forms only.
Mr. Higgins I do not think so.
Mr. Chairman Frankly, I am not too sure on that point, because if it did, it would be ultra vires to rule 39 — if you confined discussion to these two forms of government only.
Mr. Higgins It has not done so, so far. It certainly has not confined discussion on the motion that will come up.
Mr. Chairman The question I am concerned with is whether or not the adoption of this motion would preclude discussion on the next motion.
Mr. Higgins I did not see why it should.
Mr. Chairman If the motion does, I do not think I can accept it. I must accept the motion on Commission of Government and responsible government. I must do that. But I will not accept it to the exclusion of any other form of government, in view of rule 39 which says "the opinion of each member on any form" — as I see it, it may be union with Soviet Russia or anything else — if he chooses to express his opinions, then it is the duty of the Convention to record his opinion together with any preference he might have as against other forms of government, and the form or forms recommended by him.
Mr. Hollett Could I point out that rule 39 is a mere rule of procedure adopted when we started business in this House, it has nothing to do with section 3.
Mr. Chairman It has everything to do with it. Section 3 lays upon us the duty of section 4, which says we "shall make rules and by-laws governing our own procedure and they shall not be altered except by two-thirds majority of the members of the National Convention."
Mr. Crosbie Well, if two-thirds agree that confederation with Canada be discussed besides Commission and responsible government, why waste time arguing about it? Another thing, when I first came in here I understood we had a political economist — where is Professor Wheare?
Mr. Chairman I do not know.
Mr. Crosbie Neither do I. He is supposed to be here to guide us on forms of government, and since he is not here I think it is up to us to make up our own minds what to do. I would not be a party to any motion to preclude discussion on any other form of government in this Convention. We are wasting valuable time.
Mr. Bradley If I may explain?
Mr. Chairman If you will — I am in deep water here.
Mr. Bradley Not only is the point which you have taken, one which is well taken — I want to point out to this Convention again what perhaps I did not succeed in explaining very clearly this afternoon — but this resolution of Mr. Higgins is one which definitely asks the people of Newfoundland to choose one of two forms of government, no other is mentioned. Now, if that resolution is adopted, obviously the question which is to be put to the people of Newfoundland is, "Which of these two do you choose?" That is the question. That is the recommendation which will go to the Dominions Office, and if the January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1331 Dominions Office is to implement that resolution which we pass in that form, then they must put that question to the people of Newfoundland: "Which of these two forms do you choose?" Now, having voted by a majority to ask the British government to ask the people of Newfoundland that question, how can we in common sense introduce a third? If we were to adopt another resolution to bring in a third form of government, then we destroy the original motion which has been carried. It is a complete negation of the motion which we carried first. How can we ask them to choose between two and then place a third on the ballot paper? It is completely senseless. Not only is that so, but the effect of the passage of such a resolution would be in fact to confine the decision of this Convention to two forms, and we could not add another without first rescinding the first resolution. Here we have a resolution adopted by this Convention to place two forms of government as alternatives before the people of the country. How can you add a third, without rescinding a prior resolution? It is a complete negation of the prior resolution. In order for Mr. Smallwood's motion to be in order, we would have to rescind Mr. Higgins' resolution if we adopted it. I made the second point in connection with our duty under the Convention Act to recommend (and if I misquote will someone please correct me) to the Dominions Office or the British government forms of government to be submitted to the people of Newfoundland. Am I correct there?
Mr. Chairman Possible forms of future government to be put before the people at a national referendum.
Mr. Bradley It gives no right to the Convention that we shall submit thus and such forms of government to put before the people of Newfoundland; it gives us authority to recommend certain forms to be submitted, it gives no authority to say thus and such shall not be submitted to the people of Newfoundland, and the effect of this resolution is clearly to exclude the laying of any other form of government before the people. It is wholly within the province of the British government itself to say what shall not be set before the people of Newfoundland at the referendum. They have authority to throw out any recommendation that we may make. We have no authority whatsoever to make a negative recom mendation, none. There can be found no such power in the Convention Act. There are the plain words: "to recommend forms of government to be submitted", not to recommend that any particular forms they dislike shall not be submitted. That is a matter for the British government, not for us.
Mr. Crosbie I agree with Mr. Bradley, but being a layman and not a lawyer, whatI want to know is why we discussed this resolution for four or five days, and at this point this question arises?
Mr. Chairman It was raised this afternoon.
Mr. Bradley I can give Mr. Crosbie some light on that. Possibly I am at fault. As you know, for the last two months I have not been in the pink of condition. When Mr. Higgins made his first resolution, or gave notice of motion before the Christmas vacation, I had read the resolution and was frankly of the opinion that it was entirely outside our province and should not be received. When I returned, some eight or ten days late, after the Christmas vacation, I was informed that Mr. Higgins had withdrawn his motion and substituted another one which was, in effect, to place Commission government and responsible government upon the ballot. With that resolution, in substance, I was in complete accord. I did not bother my head any further about it. I did not even bother to read the resolution. Yesterday afternoon I was sitting here at my desk and the order paper was here, and quite by accident I picked it up and read it. As soon as I read it I saw where, in my opinion, it was completely outside our jurisdiction to receive any such resolution or vote on it. I drew it to the attention of this house at the earliest possible date.
Mr. Crosbie I agree with Mr. Bradley's explanation. From my point of view, we are 45 men here, and I do not think any one of us wants to railroad anything through. If there is, I do not want to be a party to it. I know that one or two members are sick, but the members present can settle this thing between ourselves. I do not think anyone here is trying to block any form of government. After all, as I said, we had a political economist — he was over there where Mr. House is now sitting — he stayed here a week or ten days and we have not seen him since. I am not a lawyer, but to me it is just plain ordinary sense for us to settle this discussion. I think we can settle the question and go on.
Mr. Chairman I will make my position clear. What I do tonight and what I do the week after next are two entirely different things, but certain it is I am not going to run the risk of excluding discussion on any form of government which may be desired by any member of this Convention. It has been suggested to me here in effect that these rules are relatively unimportant. I say they are of the utmost importance for this reason: they were made pursuant to section 4 of the Act. The Act says, "No rules shall be amended, altered or repealed except by two-thirds vote of the members of the Convention." Therefore I will have to enforce it. Every man shall be free to express his own opinion on forms of government. I am sure it never occurred to me that this motion was designed to cut off discussion of the other form of government of which I have notice on the order paper. I am going to take the only position I can. That is, the motion will have to be amended. But I want to resolve any doubt, and there appears to be grave doubt, and if it is correct that this motion if carried would preclude discussion on Mr. Smallwood's motion, I think that ambiguity and doubt has to be resolved. I will accept the motion covering responsible government and Commission government, but not to the exclusion of the form of government next on the order paper, of which I have notice.
Mr. Higgins Do I understand you to say, with any other form added it would be accepted by you?
Mr. Chairman The minimum would have to be two forms.
Mr. Higgins You said if another form was added to it, you would accept it.
Mr. Chairman I did not say that.
Mr. Bradley If it was amended in that form.
Mr. Chairman I suggested you would include another form of government. Now it is said you included that form to the exclusion of the other one on the order paper, which is something which never occurred to me until three o'clock this afternoon. It was you, Mr. Hollett and Mr. Bradley, who called my attention to it. Mr. Bradley contends this is designed to exclude the discussion on the form of government on the next order paper. That being so, I am in a very dangerous position here.
Mr. Higgins As the mover of the motion, in spite of the fact there was intimation this after noon of a cloven hoof of partisanship in the motion, I say there was no intention at any time by me of excluding any other form being discussed. I myself am not and was not prepared to put any other form of government I did not approve of in that motion. But to exclude any other form of government from future debate is not and was not intended by me.
Mr. Bradley If you will permit me, sir, I think the whole matter can be simply resolved. Personally, I think the whole procedure, while not exactly wrong, was not as neat as it might have been. My own view is, the proper way to deal with each of these forms is to take them singly; after all, our duty is to decide as to what forms might be suitable to the people of Newfoundland.
Mr. Higgins The Chairman would not take them singly; it was not acceptable in that form.
Mr. Chairman I could rule out your motion, Mr. Higgins, for six reasons — every recital in that motion was something over which the House has no jurisdiction. Your motion in its original form was to put one form of government on to the exclusion of all others....
Mr. Higgins I endeavoured to meet the objection by putting two forms on.
Mr. Bradley I think each form could have been taken separately and dealt with in a manner that would not have been in any way exclusive. If we had a resolution for instance that Commission of Government be placed on the ballot paper, that would have been adopted and that would not exclude anything else. It would be dealing with one form — we would say, "Yes, that is one form which ought to be submitted to the people, we will put that on." Then we take responsible government, we discuss that and we come to the conclusion, "Yes, that is also a form which shall be submitted to the people." We are then finished with that. Then we take any other form we want to consider and discuss that, we may decide to put it on or not as the case may be — each should have been taken separately. That was not done. What was done in the first instance was this resolution was introduced to place one form on the ballot paper, and reading that resolution according to the concepts of the English language, it was to the exclusion of all others.
Mr. Chairman I am satisfied about that.
Mr. Bradley That you properly rejected. We have now a resolution with two forms to the January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1333 exclusion of all others. There is no difference in principle.
Mr. Chairman I see your point.
Mr. Bradley My suggestion is that if Mr. Higgins has no intention of excluding discussion on other forms...
Mr. Chairman I can assure you he has not.
Mr. Bradley Whether it was designed intentionally or not, I cannot say. I can not see into Mr. Higgins' mind any more than into his digestion.
Mr. Higgins You saw into it this afternoon.
Mr. Bradley My suggestion to Mr. Higgins is this, that he alter it to read "That Commission government and responsible government be submitted to the people at the referendum." That would cover the whole thing and it would leave the field free for any other forms.
Mr. Chairman In view of that fact, can we not get out of this difficult situation?
Mr. Vardy As seconder of Mr. Higgins' motion, I do not see, frankly, there is anything there from which we should withdraw. I have been looking at it from all angles. I would like to ask, what would be the position if Mr. Higgins' motion recommended responsible government and confederation with Canada, and left out Commission of Government?
Mr. Bradley Same thing. It would be equally objectionable.
Mr. Vardy I wonder would you have taken the same objection?
Mr. Bradley Yes, definitely so.
Mr. Chairman Frankly, I was worried. Mr. Bradley brought it to my attention first and then he was followed by Mr. Hollett. In view of the circumstances, it appears now that if I accepted the motion it would be cutting off any discussion on the next motion, I would have to rule under order 34 that you could not deal with Mr. Smallwood's motion. I do not want to be put in that position. I am not going to be put in that position.
Mr. Higgins Do I take it that if I change this resolution to "The following forms of government (responsible government and Commission of Government) be placed before the people in the national referendum" we can still carry on the debate? Still vote on it tonight? Still save the people $1,000 a day?
Mr. Chairman Yes.
Mr. Higgins Then I will change it.
Mr. Cashin If I might interject a word. We met in private session and decided all this. I do not think there was any intention in Mr. Higgins' motion to preclude any other form of government whatever. As a matter of fact, we decided at the private meeting we were going to end this tonight and the other one was going to start right away. You cannot say that there was any scheming or any skulduggery intended. I am quite behind the idea that we should discuss other forms, and I suppose I am probably the most ardent one-form- government man in here.
Mr. Chairman I must say, frankly, that it never occurred to me.
Mr. Hollett I want it to be clearly understood, as far as this motion is concerned, I never bothered about the form until last night when I got inquiring into it, and I came to the conclusion that if it was passed as such, the introduction of any motion on any other form would be ultra vires. I tried to explain that to the best of my ability. I do not want anyone to insinuate that I or anyone else was trying to keep this, that and the other form off the ballot paper.
Mr. Chairman On the contrary, you went out of your way to bring it to my attention. Frankly you did me a very great service. As a result of what was decided last Friday, it did not occur to me that there was anything wrong. I was not bothering with it at all until Mr. Bradley first drew it to my attention and he was followed by you. Since that time I have been thinking about it.
Mr. Higgins The motion now is, "Be it resolved that the National Convention desires to recommend to the United Kingdom government that the following forms of government be placed before the people at the proposed referendum, namely:
1. Responsible government as it existed prior to 1934;
2. Commission of Government."
Mr. Hickman Do we have to debate that all over again?
Mr. Chairman No. It is not an amendment, it is a substitution.
Mr. Bradley It is a substitution with the assent of the whole House.
Mr. Chairman Members who have already spoken on this motion (with the exception of Mr. Higgins who has the right to reply) have no further right to speak on the motion.
Mr. Bailey In voting on this, do we vote on all 1334 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 three or do we take them singly?
Mr. Chairman You vote on Mr. Higgins' motion; that is to say, you will vote for or against the motion that covers both forms of government — after that, then if any member has a preference for responsible government as against Commission government, or vice versa, he has a right to state that view and he can have it recorded. He does not have to — he can if he likes.
Mr. Bradley This does not affect me at all, but I would like to point out that there are possibly some members of the Convention who would like to vote for one form in preference to the other. If a member votes in this motion for one of these forms in preference to the other, it puts him in a rather funny position.
Mr. Chairman As it stands it embraces both forms.
Mr. Bailey In this I have to vote for something I am not in touch with. I know I am not touching confederation with a fork.
Mr. Chairman That has nothing to do with this motion now before the Chair.
Mr. Fowler Mr. Chairman, at long last we find ourselves approaching the end, and soon our deliberations here will conclude to await the verdict of history. I support the resolution moved by my learned friend, Mr. Higgins, and in doing so will briefly comment on the two forms of government embodied in that resolution.
First of all, I believe in responsible government, I know it must be right in principle, and I believe it can be made to work in practice. It is now, and always has been the goal of civilised humanity. All down through the ages, men have struggled to achieve and maintain their independence. Twice in our time we have seen the freedom-loving nations of the world wage internecine war in defence of the very principles embodied in responsible government, and it is not necessary for me to remind you that Newfoundland acquitted herself nobly and well on both occasions. Therefore, gentlemen, the innate desire for self-government finds its roots in the natural aspirations of the human mind toward independence. The Burmese have it. The Hindus and Moslems of India have it. The largely illiterate coloured folk of Jamaica have it. Surely it must also lurk in the souls of the people of Newfoundland, who first won autonomy when the population was less than 100,000 and the annual revenue around $500,000, as Mr. Higgins reminded us on Monday. Gentlemen, in my opinion responsible government is the proper course for an independent people to take. That does not mean cutting ourselves adrift from the world, as some of you would have us believe. 0n the contrary, it affords us greater opportunity, it gives us a free hand to conclude arrangements with any country, should the opportunity present itself. And to those who desire a closer relationship with the United States, it must be evident that responsible government is the only means of attaining that end.
Mr. Chairman, thousands of young Newfoundlanders, on whom will shortly be placed the responsibility of determining our future form of government, like myself have no personal recollection of responsible government in this country. For I will remind you that nobody in this country under 35 years of age ever had the privilege of marking a ballot to determine the conduct of the affairs of their country. And that is why so many are inclined to accept as true the hearsay that corrupt and incompetent governments caused the financial debacle of the early thirties. They do not realise that it was mainly due to the condition of the time brought about by external circumstances over which our government had no control. The entire world was plunged into the direst depression it had ever known, Britain herself went through the gravest financial crisis in her history, and millions went on the unemployment rolls in Canada and the United States. Confusion reigned everywhere, people lost faith in everything and governments became the principal scapegoats, and thus were sown the seeds that today bear fruit in the unjust condemnation of responsible government. Let me remind the apostles of Commission of Government that when it assumed power on that bleak February day in 1934, with all its ingenuity and skill in the art of tax extraction, it could find nothing better for our people than six cents a day dole for five long years, and an annual deficit — which, by the way, they did not have to worry about. This should prove beyond reasonable doubt that there was more wrong at that time than the form of government. It is evident that the change to Commission did nothing to improve our condition until the beginning of the war, when demand for our products coupled with our January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1335 strategic importance gave the country revenues undreamed of before, and are we going to thank Commission of Government for this? Surely, no right thinking person would.
Mr. Smallwood Hear! Hear!
Mr. Fowler I contend, gentlemen, that if we had had responsible government during this boom period we would be in a far better position than we are today. Any body of Newfoundlanders would have had the interests of this country more at heart, and would have made the most of the many opportunities which offered to further the interests of their native land. But what happened? This dictatorial Commission played Santa Claus to all and sundry with utter disregard for the people's future welfare. They have collected undreamed of revenues, and in the last two or three years in particular they have gone to great pains to spend every last cent and if possible to create a deficit. In my opinion, any government with the interests of the country at heart should have curtailed expenditures at this time and built up a greater surplus, in order to adequately tide us over the recession period through which the world is bound to pass during the transition from a war to peace economy.
Mr. Chairman, there is but one sane course open to the people of this country, and that is to become masters in their own house by returning to responsible government. Then, and not till then, will they be free to give expression to their beliefs without fear of outside interference. We all know that governments in the past were not perfect. No government is, but gentlemen, democracy reveals the virtues of the people as well as their vices, and it is because their virtues are greater than their vices that democracy has become the form of government to which the most progressive nations of the world adhere. Surely, we can do nothing but honour the memory of those great Newfoundlanders who nearly a century ago won for this country the right of self-determination. They realised and appreciated the freedom of democracy; will not we, in this our hour of trial, prove that we too are equal to the task and will sustain them in their historic decision to be free? We know the errors of the past, and would undoubtedly profit by them, and I contend that under a responsible government set up along the lines suggested by Mr. Hickman in his masterly address, we could have nothing to fear. We have the men, let us give them a chance to prove their worth.
These, Mr. Chairman, are briefly my views on the matter of forms of government, or at least on the forms within the compass of this resolution. They have been my views for a long time, sir, long before I heard of this Convention, and as this Convention draws to its inevitable end, I feel a sense of satisfaction in the fact that during our deliberations I have found nothing to cause me to change my views, but on the contrary, I have found much to confirm and substantiate them. Among many things which tended to strengthen my belief were the findings of the several committees, the statements of the many prominent men I had the privilege of meeting and the hopeful and optimistic attitude of the majority of my fellow delegates.
Mr. Chairman, I want to draw the attention of this Convention to the fact that the cost of living has been increasing in all North American countries at a very high rate. Newfoundland has not been exempt in this respect. However, I want to draw to your attention the fact that recently the members of the Civil Service Association have been negotiating with the Commission of Government with regard to obtaining an increase in their salaries to cope with this advance in the high cost of living. Their request has been practically ignored by the Commission. Do you think, Mr. Chairman, that such an action can be termed fair or honest, particularly in view of the fact that less than two years ago the Newfoundland members of the Commission had their own salaries increased by $2,000 per year, or an increase of 25%, whilst at the same time the salary of the Chairman of the Commission has been increased by nearly 40%? Another point in respect to this matter is the fact that the British members of the Commission receive a sustenance allowance of around $4,000 a year annually, and other British civil servants receive preferential treatment with regard to subsistence allowances. Mr. Chairman, I consider such treatment of our own Newfoundland officials nothing short of scandalous, and whilst I appreciate that many of the civil servants receive substantial salaries, I also know that the great majority of them are receiving hardly sufficient to keep body and soul together.
I said, sir, that I had fixed ideas of the matter of governments prior to my coming to this Con 1336 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 vention, and on that score, gentlemen, I may be accused of not possessing that doubtful asset, an open mind. Be that as it may. I am content in the knowledge that I had the courage of my convictions and publicly made known my views well in advance of the Convention election. Every person in my district who did me the honour of voting for me, did so with the full knowledge of my intentions and desires. I therefore feel that my decision in this matter is not wholly personal, selfish or unsupported.
Mr. Starkes Mr. Chairman, I am not going to make a long speech on the two forms of government now under fire in this House. First because we are not here to make any decisions, and secondly because the decision that is to be made will be made, so we are told in the National Convention Act, by the electorate of this country at a national referendum. I am supporting the motion now before the Chair...
I am not voting to try and force any one form of government on the people. I personally realise my responsibility. What can we do, Mr. Chairman? The National Convention Act tells us that we have to make recommendations to the British government. We have to recommend what forms of government will be submitted to our people for the referendum. This motion is now doing just that. I am in favour of supporting this resolution as it is now, so that the people may have a chance to decide the form of government they think best, and I am happy to leave the choice of our future government in the hands of our people. I am glad that we, as a National Convention, are not asked to make the final decision on such an important question. Mr. Chairman, I do not want to be misunderstood in this thing. I will be voting to recommend that these two forms of government should be submitted to our people for their choice. I am not now called upon to vote for any one form of government, but when the referendum is held, and I have to cast my vote like all the rest of the people, I will certainly give it some deep thought before I vote for either responsible or Commission government. Both myself and the people have seen quite a lot of both kinds of government, and I would certainly never vote for either of them if I had a chance to vote for something better. There is one thing I am sure about, and it is this, that our people certainly want something better than we have had under respon sible government and in fact under Commission government as well. Our people have long memories, they remember what things were like under the dying days of responsible government, and also under Commission of Government for the first six or seven years until the war started, and our prosperity improved considerably, through the war. They still remember, and what they want now is some form of government that would give them a better chance to live than any we have yet had. We have been told a lot about the Amulree royal commission and about Letters Patent, and all that sort of thing. Mr. Chairman, our people do not worry their heads about such things. All that is now past, and our people are not worried about legal documents made years and years ago. They have more important and personal matters to worry about. Their hope is that they will be able to get three square meals a day for themselves and their families, and a dollar in their pockets when they want it. What our people are worried about is how they are going to get a form of government that will give them a better chance to live. They are worried about what is going to happen when world depression comes back again. They are worried what is going to happen to them should the price of fish take another fall in price.
I suppose, Mr. Chairman, that every member has made up his mind by now what form of government he likes, and what form of government he thinks would be best for the people of this country, and so have I, but that has nothing to do with the motion before us today. We are asked to say what form of government we favour. The motion does not say that no other form of government cannot or should not be submitted to the people, but that these two forms of government should be submitted to the people. Some of the people who will be called upon to make their decision at the national referendum will be the sons and daughters of fathers and mothers who had to exist, through no fault of their own, on dole through the dying days of responsible government, and for six or seven years after the present form of government was borne into the country. Some of the people who will be called upon to vote are men now who were boys then, and were at that time suffering under the burden of poverty through no fault of their own in most cases, and who were compelled to live in some cases with January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1337 nothing on their backs but an oat sack, with their head up through the bottom and their arms out through the sides. There will be mothers who will be asked to make their decision, who will remember that under responsible government and Commission of Government for some years, there was nothing but the one garment on their backs, and that, sir, was made out of flour sacks. They are not unmindful of the fact, sir, that under the forms of government they have had, they have suffered untold agony and poverty. Some who will be given the privilege to vote will be the sons and daughters of fathers and mothers who have passed out of this life through poverty and want — mothers who had nothing on their backs but a daughter's apron for a singlet and a boat sail for an eiderdown. Men and women today who were boys and girls a few years ago, will remember and can picture their mothers mixing flour with water only, and crusting it on the top of a stove without fat, and sitting down to eat it with nothing but warm water, that to keep body and soul together. One thing we are certain of, sir, and that is that a great majority of the 80,000 sons and daughters, mothers and fathers, who were compelled through no fault of their own to live on $21.60 per year per person, $1.80 per month or six cents per day per person, they, sir, are some of the men and women who will decide at the national referendum what form of government they think best suited for their country and ourselves.
Mr. Chairman, I can well remember the time that the members elected under responsible government were given a permit to carry a revolver to protect their lives right here in St. John's. I can still picture the gang on Duckworth Street with a 40-foot pole trying to break into a public building. I can still picture this very building that we are in tonight with the windows broken out, and the only exit for the men to get out of the chamber was to go down those winding stairs in the comer and pass out through the broken window — in some cases, sir, disguised, so that they would not be recognised by the gang outside. The sons and daughters of that generation will still remember the famous parade from the Majestic Theatre to the doors of this chamber.[1] Let us hope, sir, that when they are given the privilege of expressing their views by voting for the form of government they think best, that they will be given every chance to choose something better than we have had for some years in the past.
As loved our fathers, so we love, where once they stood, we stand; Their prayer we raise to heaven above, God guard thee, Newfoundland.
Mr. Spencer Mr. Chairman, in rising to speak on the motion of Mr. Higgins now before the Chair, let me say at the outset that I intend to support the motion, but it does not necessarily follow that I think either of the forms of government now before the House the best form for this country.
I do not think responsible government, as it existed prior to 1934, would be the best form for this country. First, because I do not see how 320,000 people scattered over 150,000 square miles of territory can be expected to raise revenue enough to give them the public and social services they need and will demand, and still allow them enough to attain the standard of living enjoyed by the peoples of the North American continent. And secondly, if we return to self- government, we shall still have to raise the bulk of our revenue by the system of indirect taxation, which to me is unsound and unfair. Thirdly, with our small population, I fail to see how we can expect to have any large internal industries. Let me explain what I mean. When I worked on the Agriculture Committee of this Convention, we took up with the departmental heads concerned the question of fertilisers. We inquired if it was possible to manufacture fertilisers in this country cheaper than we could import them; we were informed that most of the ingredients would have to be imported, but that the real drawback to their manufacture in this country was the fact that the amount of fertilisers consumed in this country was not large enough to warrant their manufacture on such a scale as would make it profitable. Also the Mining Committee advises us that we have on the west coast all the ingredients that go into the making of cement in close proximity to each other, and the only reason I can see why we do not have a cement manufacturing plant is because the comparatively small amount of cement that would be consumed in the country yearly would not be great enough to allow it to be worked profitably, Neither do I consider the 1338 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 present form of government the best for this country, because it means taxation without representation. I will say that the present form of government, since it came into power, has done much to build up the public and social services. They have greatly increased public health services, new roads, schools and an improved marketing system for our fishery products, but I also remember that they have during the past six or seven years been helped greatly by the highest revenues in our history, which were due almost wholly to the effects of the war and to the high cost of imported goods. How long these conditions will continue is anybody's guess.
You may ask why, if I do not consider either of these forms the best for us, do I support the motion that they be placed before the people for their choice, and my answer is that we were sent here to recommend suitable forms and not to decide them. I know that there are many people who do think that one of these forms would be best, and I think it is our duty to see, as far as it lies in our power, that they are given the chance to vote for the government of their choice.
Mr. Watton Mr. Chairman, we have here a resolution introduced by Mr. Higgins, covering two forms of government to be submitted to the people of this country in the forthcoming referendum. It will be the duty of all of us tonight to register our vote as to whether we are in favour of it or not. I want to say that I am in favour of it and that I shall vote for it, because I feel that it is the only logical thing for me to do. The chief reason why I vote for it is that for the past 16 months this Convention has been studying the financial and economic position of this country, and has come to the conclusion that we are again self-supporting. The reason why we are self-supporting has been stated over and over again, and the conclusions of all the reports presented to this Convention have pointed to that fact. In view of all the circumstances, and because I believe in the resolution, I feel duty bound to support it.
As for the forms of government dealt with in this resolution, I will make my comments as brief as possible. The ground has been very ably covered by previous speakers. Personally, Mr. Chairman, I believe in the restoration of responsible government. I believe that the greatest good for the greatest number can be achieved by the immediate restoration of that form of govern ment. Our principal industries are today in a better condition than they ever were in our history. Our fisheries, which are and always will be the backbone of our economy, have made enormous strides in the last few years. They have become more diversified, more modern in some respects; we have a better system of marketing, and we are producing a better product as a result of proper inspection. Indications point to the fact that the future for our fisheries can and will be, under the proper administration, put on a sounder basis than it ever was before. What I mean by "proper administration" is that if we can only get the chance to use the great bargaining power that is ours. Our forest industries have grown to a considerable degree and are still growing. Millions of dollars are now being spent on the expansion of existing paper mills, and it is not improbable that in the near future another such industry will be started meaning more employment for our people. Our mining industry is in a flourishing condition with every prospect for it to continue so in the future, with the possibility of future mineral development. Agriculture shows great promise. We are, Mr. Chairman, in a more favourable position than we ever were in our history; and our position can be made much better by taking advantage of the tremendous bargaining power that is ours, due to our strategic position which has been stressed so often inside this Convention and out. We can only reap the full advantage of this by an immediate return to self- government. It has been ours for the asking for a long time now, and nothing has been done about it, and nothing will ever be done about it until the people take over the management of their own affairs. We should take advantage of it by starting negotiations with our good friend the United States of America, and by getting closer to that country economically, especially with regard to our fishery products. So much has already been said about this matter that it is unnecessary for me to elaborate. The same applies to the potential mineral and forest wealth of Labrador. Here we have something which can be of tremendous benefit to us if handled properly, and it has not been handled properly up to the present. I think the Mining Committee, of which I was a member, pointed out that fact. It is my opinion that we will never reap the full benefits until we get our own government. The quicker we can get that govern January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1339 ment the better, if we are to get anything worthwhile out of the great wealth of Labrador.
In view of all the circumstances, Mr. Chairman, all that is necessary now is for us to take over the management of our own affairs, and I feel sure that we have the men capable of doing the job and doing it well. The argument that if we get responsible government back it would mean an almost immediate recession to where we were in 1933, and that we would again be on our knees to the mother country in a few years, is one to which I cannot subscribe in view of our present position, and how that position can be improved under the proper administration. It is the argument of a defeatist and does not smack of the true blood and guts of the Newfoundlander. We have the resources, we have the bargaining power, and above all, we have the men — men of vision and courage, capable of taking this country through whatever the future may hold in store for us. All we need are courage and faith in ourselves, and I think our people have them in abundance.
As far as Commission of Government is concerned, I do not think it can do for us what we can do for ourselves. It was never meant for any freedom-loving people, and it will always remain a black chapter in our history. Admittedly it has done a lot of good for this country — I will not deny that, but in my opinion its sins of omission are very great, too great to be allowed to continue, because they are still continuing. Sufficiently good reasons have been put forward why the present form of administration should not be continued, and it will be only labouring the point if I deal with it any further.
What I have stated with regard to the two forms of government dealt with in this resolution are strictly my own views, and are perhaps not likely to be shared by many people. Therefore, in fairness to them, I am going to vote for these two forms of government to be submitted to the people, and for them to make their own decision. I feel sure that we shall be leaving the decision in safe hands. It gives me much pleasure, Mr. Chairman, to support the resolution.
Mr. Kennedy Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, in rising to offer my support to the motion now before the Chair, may I at the same time register my regret that its straightforward implication could not have been adopted some 20 months ago. However, this Convention, despite its shortcomings, has served to enlighten many, and particularly us of the younger generation, whose privilege as so-called free people has been to fight, but never to vote.
It is not shame that I as one of this younger generation feel when reviewing the institution of Commission of Government, but a sense of mild impatience mingled perhaps with disgust, that our leaders at that time were unable to find a solution that preserved independence, as did practically all other world governments who were under no less burden or stress. As one of the thousands who in those dark days was privileged in being only a child, I still ask, was default at that time, under similar circumstances, merely the privilege of the great? We paid with the loss of our independence for a type of honour that our illustrious neighbours did not hesitate in foregoing. Experience is something which cannot be bought with dollars, nor at all times with honour; but must be paid for in suffering, either mental, physical or spiritual.
Looking back over the past 20 months with a mind unwarped as far as personal politics and egotistical greed are concerned, I think I can safely say that this Newfoundland in her short parliamentary history of, all told, less than a century has suffered no more bitterly from mistakes and pitfalls than most countries have done. We have been, and in spite of drastic improvements still are a pioneering people and country, who unlike older nations are able truly to say that our resources are only now being tapped. Let any government we may elect benefit from the history and mistakes of her predecessors, and not lurch into the future with a sense of frustration and inferiority on account of what has gone before. We have been told directly by the past Commissioner for Finance, the Hon. Mr. Wild, that we are a self-supporting country. I will accept that statement from an expert, and will wrangle with no rough estimates or so-called guess budgets of amateurs.
Fish, paper and iron ore — these are commodities for which the whole world is hungry, but unfortunately at present only dollar areas are in a position to purchase to our advantage. Facing fact again, Canada does not need our fish. America does. We need commodities which are obtainable in either of these countries. Is it common sense to pay in precious dollars to Canada for what our 1340 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 own natural products can purchase in the USA? We can and must reach some trade agreement with the United States, whose economy may well merge with our own, and to my mind the only satisfactory channel through which this may be done is by a representative Newfoundland government, as free to negotiate for Newfoundland and her people as the United States government is for hers. Let us meet on equal terms and not as paupers or poor neighbours. It is up to us as a people to choose our market for our coveted iron ore and paper, and not to beg it as someone else's.
Since the suspension of responsible government, Newfoundland, from being an island on the edge of the world, has become a station in the centre of the world. In peace time this strategic position is an enviable circumstance and in war time it will be likely to involve an inevitable peril, and hence it is imperative to the interest of North America that all military bases now here shall remain a permanent feature. Here may I mention that the disgusting lower rates of pay for Newfoundlanders working on their own leased soil, are as revolting to me as the colour bar is elsewhere. If and when Newfoundland is returned to its own administration, I am certain this state of affairs will be rectified. Finally, may I here express the belief that a vigourous opposition in the government of any country is essential to true democracy. Without the impetus afforded by such opposition, not only do leaders lapse into a state of dictatorial lethargy, but the voice of the minority, and hence the people, fails to be heard.
No, Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, the easiest road is not always the best and the shortest in the long run. Throughout the past 20 months I have borne in mind this quotation:
Give every man thine ear, but few thy voice, Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgement!
The time has arrived to pronounce that judgement and I have done so. We are offered, even as was Bunyan's Pilgrim, a road with many turnings and flanked on either side with deep chasms. With the same faith in God, and with zeal and courage on our own part, let us not travel backward on crutches, nor remain stagnant, but forward on our own two feet.
Mr. Banfield Mr. Chairman, this resolution is one that asks us to recommend two forms of government to be submitted to our people in the forthcoming referendum. The two forms are responsible government and Commission of Government. It makes no difference to us here what form of government we favour ourselves, or what form we prefer. That has nothing to do with this resolution. We can favour either one of these two forms of government, and still vote for this motion to place the two of them before the people. Or we can favour neither the one nor the other, and still be in favour of submitting both of them to the people for their decision. I do not see, Mr. Chairman, how we can vote against the motion. It is not as though we were called upon to express our own personal wishes, or our own personal likes and dislikes in the matter. We are only called upon to vote in favour of submitting these two forms of government to the people, and I suppose the motion will receive the unanimous support of the whole Convention.
We tried responsible government before. In fact we had it for 80 years, and where did it land us? Our people know where it landed them — it landed them on the dole, it landed them on six cents a day. All I can say about responsible government, Mr. Chairman, is "once bitten, twice shy". Responsible government, sir, landed our people on six cents a day, and Commission of Government kept them on six cents a day. We must not forget that fact... We had the six cent dole for three years before Commission of Government came, but we also had it long after Commission came. In fact, we had the six cents dole for six years after the Commission of Government came. We must not forget, sir, that six years after Commission came, we still had 40-50,000 of our unfortunate people on the dole. They were still on the dole right up to the outbreak of the war, and in fact for some time after the war broke out. It was not until the war was on for almost two whole years that the dole began to disappear, when Canadian and American money began to pour in here to build the bases.
People who do not like the thought of responsible government often tell us that we had the dole under responsible government. It is true we did, but it is just as true that we had it under Commission as well. With my own eyes, sir, I have seen the Commission government refuse dole to a whole settlement because their time was not quite up — they still had a few days to go January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1341 before the next month's ration came due. The Commission government made them wait, and with my own eyes I saw hungry men, women and children go off over the hills picking blueberries to make a few cents to keep themselves alive. That was under Commission government. I have seen the Commission government send our police force out with baton in one hand and a gun in the other, against hungry men. Those are unpleasant memories that our people will not soon forget. Oh no, it was not only under responsible government that we had the six cents dole.
I am going to vote in favour of placing these two forms of government before our people, but that does not say that I am going to vote myself for either one of them when the referendum is held. So far as I am concerned, I want something better for our country. I want a form of government that will give our people a break. I want a form of government that will give our people something better than dole when the long-expected world depression hits us again. I am not allowed to say in this present debate what form of government I do want, but I will get that chance a little later.
Mr. McCarthy I do not want to make a speech. I stand to support the motion made by Mr. Higgins that both Commission of Government and responsible government be submitted to the people in the referendum.
Mr. Ballam While we have been debating this resolution this last three or four days, I think everything has been said that could be said. We are getting on to the end of the debate, and I do not want to tire people with tedious repetition.
I am sure all the people in the country know by this time all about the responsible government that we had previous to Commission of Government. They also know now that under this form of government we have to find money to the tune of $40 million, and that from 80,000 working people, 10,000 of whom are on the dole already. Major Cashin, in his plea for responsible government, figures he can run the country on $25 million. I do not know where he is going to lop off $15 million. Somebody will have to want. Instead of lopping off $15 million, by the looks of things now, he will have to add a little something to the $40 million we will have to find in order to keep the people alive. All that has been gone over time and time again. Whatever we may prefer ourselves when it comes to forms of government, we have no alternative but to recommend that these two forms be placed before the people in the referendum. I refer to the two forms mentioned in the motion proposed by Mr. Higgins — responsible government and Commission of Government. This is particularly true of responsible government, and I will tell you why. Whatever else may be or may not be submitted to the people, responsible government has to be submitted, for it is part of the bond, so to speak, that was made years ago.
Mr. Higgins Hear! Hear!
Mr. Ballam We all know that the United Kingdom government made the statement 13 or 14 years ago, that once Newfoundland became self-supporting again they would restore responsible government, if our people requested it. That is a big "if". I have never had any doubt that the British government would honour their pledge. Some people have made out that they had some doubts on this point, or they pretended to have doubts. But there has never been any doubt whatever that the mother country would honour her pledge to us. In fact, that is one of the reasons why Britain is holding the referendum. We should remember, Mr. Chairman, that it is not this Convention or even the Commission of Government that is holding the referendum, but the British government. One of the reasons why Britain is holding the referendum is to give our people the chance to vote for it if they want to. I do not think the people will vote for responsible government — they have had plenty of it before and they know what to expect. But the point is that they can if they wish to, and the referendum is the method that has been arranged to enable them to do it. My belief is that even if this Convention did not recommend responsible government the British government would put it on the ballot. They made us a promise ... and as Britain always keeps her promises, I am convinced that responsible government will be on the ballot, even if this Convention votes against putting it on.
I am strongly in favour of putting Commission of Government on the ballot also. I am not saying that I am strongly in favour of Commission, but only that it should be put on the ballot. I am trying to be fair and reasonable to our people, Mr. Chairman. It is not because I am opposed to 1352 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 responsible government and Commission of Government that I should try to keep them from the people, or try to keep them off the ballot. Even if I intend to vote against those two forms of government in the referendum, I consider it to be my duty to vote in favour of putting them both before the people for their decision. I am sure the people will be the deciding factor.
I know that in this present debate I am not allowed to discuss confederation, and I am not going to discuss it. If I were allowed to discuss it, I would say that I strongly advocate putting confederation on the ballot as well.
Mr. Chairman Now, now!
Mr. Ballam Excuse me, sir. We will have a crack at that later, and I will get a chance to advocate it in another debate. I am in favour of submitting both these forms to the people, not because I favour them but because I know that it is my duty to place both of them before the people for their decision. The other will come later.
Mr. Burry I rise to support the motion before you. I am heartily behind putting these two forms on the ballot paper to form part of the choice in the coming referendum. In doing so I want to say I am not able to support either one of these choices from my own point of view. I do not feel that I could support a return to responsible government, and I do not feel that Commission of Government should continue any longer in this country than it already has. There are many, many reasons I could give to back those statements up, but the time is short and the arguments against responsible government have been repeated here so often, I do not want to go over them again. They have been very impressive, some of them; they impressed me and I am sure they impressed the people of this country. I may also say that some of the arguments in favour of the return of responsible government have been impressive. That is, theoretically they are correct and they impress us, but they fall down when they are tested. I do not think they could be practically applied to this small country with our system of taxation, and for the reasons which have been gone over so often in this Convention. I am wholeheartedly in favour of having political freedom for our people. I would not think of voting for anything in the referendum if it did not involve political freedom. I am all for it.
I would like to take a few minutes to say how I feel about the return to responsible government. The very thought of it puts fear into my bones, to think of this country going back to responsible government again... These are no idle words. I have a reason to fear the consequences of responsible government coming back, for whether rightly or wrongly, I have associated the political set-up of this country with the economic conditions we have had. I know that the one may not be wholly responsible for the other, but there has been very close connection between the two. It is generally agreed that for the majority of our people life has been a terrific struggle all down through the years, and I was caught up in that struggle myself in my youth. My father was one of the primary producers and he suffered tremendously as one of them. I had a struggle in my early days, my earliest recollections are those of hardship and privation. It is a long story and one which I am not going to trouble you with. I do recall the early struggles and also the struggles to get an education... I know the struggle my parents had to find a school for me to go to. After I grew up, through my chosen profession I worked and came in close contact with men and women, families, who were having the same kind of struggle to get along. Then for the past 15 years, as you know, I worked in our northern dependency and I was up against the same struggle among the people of that country. Apart from a few places such as Northwest River and Cartwright, the struggle was terrific and I shared it with them intimately. Mr. Harrington a few days ago told of us of the days he worked as a civil servant in the Department of Public Health and Welfare. He told us that day after day he sat before his desk reading letters from different parts of the country telling tragic stories of privation and struggle. During those years I was in the field, and I was actually in the homes from which those letters came. Knowing Mr. Harrington as I do, he must have been moved with compassion as he read those letters. I am sure that Mr. Harrington will agree that it is one thing to sit before a desk in a nice comfortable room, having had one square meal or two square meals, and to read these letters; it is another thing to be in the field, making contacts, going into the homes of these people and seeing their bare cupboards and hearing the cries of children, cries of hunger, cries that never leave you once you have heard them. They January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1343 are different from any other cries of children. And having gone through that experience, having had contact with it, I make the statement that I fear the return of responsible government, fear it might bring back those conditions again. I said it is no idle expression of mine when I say that. People will say to me, "It does not have to happen again", "It may never happen again." Well, all I have to say is that it may happen again and I do not want to take a chance on it. We have no guarantee that it will not happen again. It probably will, and I do not want to make the blunder of having responsible government by my giving any support to it. It is happening already, and 13,000 people are on the dole in this country and in Labrador.... I have no doubt but the long and hungry month of March will add other thousands to the long list on the dole. There are indications of hard times coming to this country. As I sit in this Convention within these sheltered walls, surrounded by the conveniences and comforts of city life which I have enjoyed for the past 16 months, I find I am not as keenly sensitive of what is going on in this country and in Labrador, I am not as sensitive as perhaps I might be. But the doors of this Convention will not close very long before I will be smack up against that kind of thing again. And, sir, if it has to come; if I have to face it again and go through it, in my work, I do not want to have to say to myself that I should not have given support to the kind of government under which this kind of thing exists. Let us try something else. There is another way out, to my mind. I feel I cannot conscientiously support return of responsible government to this country.
As far as Commission of Government is concerned, I am not going to vote for it. I am not going to support it unless there is no other alternative given to me. If the Convention leaves me and the people with no alternative, I think it will have failed miserably. I do not think it will... I notice that our government at the present time has been receiving a very severe thrashing during the past 16 months, beginning from the very early days. It has been a left to the jaw and a right to the jaw and some of the punches have been under the belt. I want to go on record again as saying I am not going to be a part of all the punches given to Commission of Government and the Dominions Office that have been given in this Convention, unfairly I think. We have a right to criticise, many reasons to criticise them, but we have no reason to go to the extremes we have gone, and whoever has done it, I am not going to be a part of it. I think the darkest peak of this National Convention has not been the verbal battles we have had, or the small talk we have engaged in, but the charges of dishonesty, and the attacks upon the British government and Commission of Government and the Dominions Office that have been made — shameful changes, I think. That is going to be perhaps the only condemnation that is going to be brought down in history upon us and our work in this Convention.
Commission of Government has been described as a caretaker government. It has been that, and the time has come when we can take care of ourselves. The time has come for the Commission of Government to go and when it goes, it will go with my blessing. I would like to pay tribute to the Commission for what it has done. I am not unmindful of the blunders it has made. Thousands and thousands of dollars it has spent perhaps, to no avail to this country. I am not unmindful to its drawbacks. But I am not unmindful of what it has done for the Eskimos in the Labrador trading project. They had a big problem on their hands. About 1,000 Eskimos were scattered among the islands, no means of making a living; lots of fish, but they had no means of catching it. Now after a few years of Commission of Government, many of these Eskimos have the means whereby they can make an honest living, and when the time comes to adopt a form of government to take over control, will have a great foundation to work upon, especially in northern Labrador. A great future is in store for them under a proper form of government. I shudder to think what would have happened if it had not been for the interference of Commission government on behalf of these primitive races of Labrador.
The time has come when we must dispense with this Commission of Government and make our choice. They go with my blessing, and I am pleased to be able to support the motion before the Chair to give the people of this country of ours these two forms of government as a part of their choice in the coming referendum.
Mr. Ashbourne I had prepared some remarks to follow out this line of argument on the motion, but after we came back this evening Mr. Higgins altered his motion. Personally, I would not want 1344 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 anything to be included in a motion which might preclude the possibility of placing other forms of government on the ballot, because while I am perfectly in favour of placing the matter of responsible government on the ballot, I believe — in fact, I know — there are people who want the opportunity of voting on another form. I do not want to take up the time of this House — there may be others who want to speak, and I know Mr. Higgins will wind up the debate.
I would, however, like to speak about a few matters. I could discuss the quality of responsible government. I could relate the fate of some of the people who gave their time and energy and thought to the government of the country. And here I would like to say it is the noblest thing a man can do, to offer his services to his country and to work in the country's interest and in the interest of the people. It may be a thankless job, people may have to face many unpleasant circumstances, and such has been the history of people who have taken upon themselves these responsibilities. Nevertheless, they have accepted these duties and no doubt they have the recompense and reward that comes from duties well performed. "Responsible government would be restored at the request...." I have wondered many times just how the British government would ascertain the voice of the people of Newfoundland and just how it was proposed that the people of Newfoundland should make their request known to the British government. Evidently, sir, the setting up of this National Convention, and its recommendations, will give the people an opportunity to vote on the forms of government submitted to them.
In building wisely there is one thing which is most essential and indispensible, and that is that a start be made on a solid foundation. To my mind, responsible government as it existed before 1934 did not make itself indispensible. I do not intend to discuss the merits or demerits of the present or past governments. It is not my intention at this late hour to praise, criticise or defend governments.... "By their fruits, ye shall know them."
Mr. Chairman If any member wishes to speak on the motion and has not done so, he had better do so now, or forever hold his peace. Mr. Higgins is about to deliver his coup de grace.
Mr. Higgins I would like to say at the outset, in case there may be a contrary opinion ... with respect to the motion, that the form I had originally on the order paper was for the purpose of conforming as closely as possible to the wording of the legislation under which we relinquished our former government in 1933. That was the only purpose behind it I want to make that quite clear beyond any doubt, beyond any suggestion such as was made here this afternoon, when it was stated that the verbiage of the motion showed the cloven hoof of partisanship. As far as I am concerned, anybody who wants to believe that the motion was rigged in such a way as to prevent members of this Convention from recommending other forms, any person who wishes to believe that can go to the residence usually associated with the gentleman of the cloven hoof. I say that in deference to myself, because as you are aware, at our private session on Friday last, it was placed beyond doubt that both these motions would be debated — the one under my name on the order paper, and the one under Mr. Smallwood's name. Time was allotted and agreed to, and there can be no doubt in anybody's mind who was present at the meeting that that is so.
Mr. Chairman Which is why I did not worry about the form of the motion.
Mr. Higgins Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, in my opinion, whatever forms of government this Convention recommends to the United Kingdom to be placed on the ballot paper at the forthcoming referendum, the United Kingdom government will place only two forms on the ballot and these are the two forms envisaged in the motion you have before you tonight. I say that because of my respect for British jurisprudence and British justice. And British justice demands that the United Kingdom government carry out its pledge that appears throughout the legislation, and throughout the report on which that legislation was based back in 1933. Because of that, I say that no matter what forms of government this Convention recommends, that with that well- known justice of Britain, and the British people, the United Kingdom government will be compelled to put before the people of this country only two forms of government and these are the two forms you will vote on tonight.
You have had a very scholarly presentation this afternoon from Mr. Hollett on the various pieces of legislation leading up to the formation January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1345 of this Convention. And the other day Mr. Harrington gave a similar presentation to you. I am quite certain you are all fully aware that there is a pledge, spoken on behalf of the British government by the Secretary of State for Dominions Affairs at that time, Mr. Emrys-Evans, who in words retailed to you by Mr. Hollett (and I have not the form in front of me) to the best of my knowledge said, "The whole policy of the British government is centered around that pledge." And in my opinion "the machinery" mentioned by Mr. Emrys-Evans must have been and could only have been this National Convention — the machinery which the British government was going to set up to enable the people of this country to make their choice if they wanted responsible government returned or not. There can be no doubt whatsoever, Mr. Chairman, in your mind, as a lawyer, or in my learned friend Mr. Bradley's mind, as a lawyer, and in your gentlemen's minds, who by this time are practically sea lawyers, that this is correct. That legislation, thank God, is our magna carta. Had that statement not been made, had that legislation not been in the form it was in, then truly we might have been in a tough spot in Newfoundland. That is our charter of liberty, that when we are self-supporting we can demand back again our own free government.
I do not intend at this late hour to go over again all the reasons so very carefully detailed by members of this Convention. I congratulate the members of this Convention for the very fine presentations that have given us in the past few days of the reasons why they were going to recommend that these forms of government be put on the ballot paper. At the same time, while it appears to be apparent that this motion is going to pass unanimously, it would appear the only member who spoke against it, as far as I could ascertain, was my learned friend Mr. Bradley, and with the substitution of the new motion I take it that that meets with his approval. His basic objection appeared to be the form of the motion.
I cannot help drawing the Convention's attention to the inconsistency of some members here who stated they are going to vote for this motion recommending two forms of government — responsible government and Commission of Government— and who at the same time, whilst making the recommendation, state they do not believe in either form. It is rather an extraordinary thing that, gentlemen, to have 16 or 18 members making up their minds how they are going to advise their fellow-countrymen to do something they themselves would not do. Truly, "inconsistency, thou art a jewel."
Now as I said, it appears that a great majority are going to support this motion and it would also appear that on the preference vote a great majority are going to state their preference for responsible government. To those others of you, those who whilst voting for the motion are not particularly inclined to express their preference — to those I particularly address myself, to convince you why you must support this motion and express your preference for responsible government. I say that because the second last speaker, Rev. Mr. Burry, in giving his reasons against responsible government, talked about the fear that was in his bones, and I want to take the fear out of Rev. Burry's bones, and out of all the bones of all the members who have any hesitancy about expressing preference for the only form of government we should recommend. The best way I can do that is to quote to you the words of the high prophet himself, Mr. Smallwood. These words are entirely Mr. Smallwood's and I hope he will understand that in quoting him I have every reason to congratulate him on the excellent verbiage, and the complete way he put the case for those who are backing responsible government. I want to play back the record. The voice is that of Mr. Higgins, the words are those of J. R. Smallwood:
We have the resources. God was good to us when He made Newfoundland. Our coastal waters are literally alive with fish of all kinds; why, if all the fish teeming in our waters were to swim at one time into our greatest bay — Placentia Bay — they would fill the great indraught until there was not a single drop of water left in it. A new mathematics would have to be invented to count them. We have the greatest seal herds in the world. Our salmon are the best in the world. We have as yet barely scratched the surface of our fish resources. Our water powers, both in Newfoundland and Labrador, have already developed vast hydro-electric power for industrial and commercial purposes, and are capable of many times their present yield. We 1346 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 have great timber reserves on our Labrador territory and in Newfoundland — enough to supply two or three more great newsprint paper-mills, or artificial silk or cellulose mills. As for minerals, it is not even half the story to say that we have, at Bell Island, the world's largest iron-ore reserves, which will become increasingly valuable as the Lake Superior reserves shrink in volume; that we have, at Buchans, the world's richest lead- zinc-copper-gold mine. Our whole island is known to be valuably mineralised, and even as this is written a small army of trained geologists from various universities of the United States are scouring the island in an organised beginning at measurement and survey. Expert opinion inclines strongly to the belief that it is the mineral resources of Labrador, rather than its forest wealth, that will make our vast dependency, so much bigger than ourselves, a source of great wealth in the years to come.
We have the resources to make us one of the greatest small nations of the earth. Sportsmen and seekers of the quaint and unusual in countries have begun to discover Newfoundland in the past half dozen years. Jealously they keep their knowledge to themselves, lest others too learn their secret and come. Capitalists will discover our vast heritage of natural wealth, and their capital will pour in upon Newfoundland and Labrador to exploit these resources, make great profits for themselves, and bring enduring prosperity to Newfoundlanders. We were on the trembling edge of a breath-taking mineral boom just as the world depression plunged capitalists into the depths of pessimism and passivity. We depended a little too much upon the enterprise and "push" of pioneering capitalists of the outside world to develop our mineral resources. Now we have set ourselves, by the help of these groups of officially directed geological survey parties, to the task of learning what we used formerly to leave it to the others to learn; the actual facts about our mineral wealth. Soon we shall be in a position to tell the outside world in exact terms just what we have got in the mineral line.
Newfoundland is in the happy position of being able to say that the starting of two or three sizable new industries, employing eight or ten thousand men would, at one blow, end unemployment in the island; circulate enough wages to make the people self-supporting; end all need for dole or relief; enable the government to balance its budget; give the Newfoundland Railway, which has just declared its first operating surplus, a fat operating profit indeed.
Two or three new industries! It sounds easy, and it ought to be easy. We have the resources: the existence of the great Harmsworth newsprint paper mill at Grand Falls and of the even greater International Power and Paper Company newsprint paper mill on the Humber prove that papermaking in Newfoundland is not only possible, but capable of more economical production than elsewhere this side of the Atlantic Ocean. The existence of the two great mines operating at Bell Island and Buchans proves that mining can be successfully and profitably conducted in Newfoundland.
In a book which I wrote in 1932 I ventured to make several prophecies about Newfoundland. One of these had to do with air travel to and from the colony. That particular prophecy is at this moment so near to fulfilment (I refer, of course, to the great Imperial Airways transatlantic airline now being arranged, with Cobb's Camp, Newfoundland, as the great connecting link) that I make this further prophecy with greater assurance than that with which those others were made — namely, Newfoundland, within the next half- dozen years, will have blossomed forth as a mining country whose importance will challenge the attention of the world. We shall be the third largest producer of newsprint paper in the world. We shall not have an unemployed man, but will need new immigrants. Our fisheries will have been completely transformed and made vastly more important and profitable by the introduction of considerable sums of new capital.
In other words, our country's onward march to industrial importance and prosperity, interrupted by the economic deluge which settled upon us and the world in 1929 and 1930, will be resumed with increased January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1347 tempo and brightened by more knowledge than ever.
I am not one of those who consider that the particular form of government at any given time makes much difference of a fundamental nature in the process I have here sought to indicate. Newfoundland has known many forms of government. We were ruled by ignorant, illiterate "fishing admirals" from the decks of visiting fishing schooners; by itinerant governors who were sent here for a few months each summer; by a much abler class of naval governors who used to remain throughout the year; by a form of representative government; then by a form of government which was a formless amalgamation of representative and responsible government; by full responsible government. Now it is government by Commission.
Governments come and governments go, but the people live on forever, their experience becoming ever more enriched by vicissitudes, failures and successes. The natural resources remain. Governments are artificial and superficial things at best. It is the genius of a people that counts. What will make Newfoundland great and prosperous is not this or that government, this or that form of government; but rather than unconquerable, invincible, dogged courage and spirit so eloquently typified by Basil Gotto's bronze statue in Bowring Park of "The Fight ing Newfoundlander."
This government or that may indeed, by its policies and work, help or hinder the slow, upward march of the people whom it has been set to govern. That is about the limit of its power. Its function at best is that of accoucheur. It is the people who count; they and their inherent qualities of mind and heart.
The last concluding paragraph is very interesting:
Governments come and go; depressions come and go. The Newfoundlander possesses more than his needed share of fighting spirit; his country possesses a more than generous share of God—given wealth. The combination is irresistible. Greatness Newfoundland deserves; greatness she shall have.[1]
Mr. Bradley I do not think that was Mr. Smallwood - I think that was "The Barrelman".
Mr. Higgins That was Mr. Smallwood in the Book of Newfoundland in 1937 — Mr. Small- wood when he had no axe to grind and he was telling us what he believed.
I do not know that I can close on a better note that the quotation I gave you from Mr. Smallwood. But I will say this, I cannot resist saying it — Mr. Smallwood has referred to me as a weather-vane; now it would seem that not only is Mr. Smallwood a weather-vane, but he provides the wind to blow it himself.
I am not going to go on further, I thank the members for listening and I trust we will be able to proceed with the matter of voting.
Mr. Chairman The motion before the Chair is: Be it resolved the following forms of government he placed before the people of Newfoundland in the forthcoming referendum, namely (1) responsible government as it existed prior to 1934, (2) Commission of Government. Voting in favour of the motion:
Messrs. Goodridge, Watton, Banfield, Hollett, MacDonald, Starkes, Jones, Kennedy, Harmon, Spencer, Fudge, Ballam, Northcott, Penney, Roddy, Vincent, Bradley, Smallwood, Dawe, Crummey, Burry, Miller, Ryan, McCarthy, Fowler, Roberts, Keough, Fogwill, Butt, Higgins, Hickman, Cashin, Crosbie, Harrington, Cranford, Vardy, Bailey, Ashbourne.
Messrs. Brown and McConnack — recorded.
[The motion carried unanimously]
Mr. Higgins Could we vote on preference and dispose of that?
Mr. Bradley I think the preference vote should come after both resolutions. It would be just as well to record all the preferences at one time. If, for instance, Mr. Smallwood's motion passes, it may change the voice of some members.
Mr. Higgins I would like to have the preference recorded now.
Mr. Smallwood The logical and practical thing to do is to Wait until all the forms are disposed of. My preference may be a form of government we have not yet discussed.
Mr. Higgins You do not have to vote.
Mr. Smallwood When will I get the chance? Mr. Chairman Whatever fate the next motion receives, you and all the members will be given the opportunity to express your preference and it 1348 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 will be recorded.
Mr. Bradley Is this a personal preference or a corporate preference?
Mr. Chairman It is a personal preference, it refers to each several member.
Mr. Hollett Surely as we all voted unanimously that this motion pass, we should be given the opportunity to say which of the two we prefer, one or the other of the two. I see no reason why we cannot.
Mr. Smallwood Do you think you own the Convention?
Mr. Hollett Are you addressing the Chair? Mr. Higgins Last night this matter was discussed, and following the passage of the motion with respect to members not being present, it was understood then, because I asked you, sir, that I should convey to Mr. Brown the message that in addition to his vote on the motion he should include also his preference; and it was definitely decided that we could express our preference if we cared to today.
Mr. Smallwood Is there not notice of motion from Mr. Higgins covering the vote of absent members?
Mr. Higgins It was passed last night.
Mr. Chairman Ihave to record the voice of Mr. K.M.Brown and that of Mr. McCormack on the motion is accordance with the motion adopted here last night.
Mr. Smallwood If we want to, we can make a motion. I say we do not want to express our preference Incidentally, we are supposed to adjourn.
Mr. Higgins I rise to a point of order. We made a decision to decide this tonight.
Mr. Chairman The actual position is this: certain members here, in addressing themselves to the business before the Chair, intimated to me they had a distinct preference for one of the two forms of government contained in the motion. That was definite. But before they were prepared to support the motion, they wanted an assurance from me that they should have the opportunity of recording their preference. I assured them it was my duty to do that. Surely, if I do it twice I cannot be criticised. If I postpone doing it now, and some members do not get the opportunity of expressing their preference, I might be open to fair criticism for not doing it now. If your preference is for the form contained in the motion not yet before the Chair, you refrain from expressing your preference. I am going to do it now.
Mr. Smallwood Point of order. Next order of business is order no. 2, not the business we are discussing. Order no. 1 is disposed of; next is order no. 2.
Mr. Higgins This is part of no. 2.
Mr. Vardy Order no. 1 is not disposed of. There is far too much dictation going on in this Convention. I have every respect and sympathy for you, sir. I am not going to be dictated to. We should decide on order no. I first and then tackle order no. 2.
Mr. Bradley I do not know what all this fuss is about. There is no reason for it. If a member wants to record his preference he can do so now, according to the Chairman. He has the right if he so wishes. If the Chairman wants to give the members the opportunity of recording their preference, I do not see any reason why it cannot be done.
Mr. Vardy You or Mr. Smallwood have no right to interfere.
Mr. Bradley You do not know what you are talking about.
Mr. Chairman I want to rule now on your point of order. I do not think in the light of standing order 39 thatI have disposed of the motion which has just been adopted. I am to accord any member the right of stating his preference as between these two. If members want to do it now or tomorrow morning, it is a matter of indifference to me.
Will all members who prefer responsible government as against Commission of Government, please to rise.
Members voting for responsible government (preference):
Messrs. Goodridge, Watton, Hollett, Jones, Kennedy, Banfield, MacDonald, Starkes, Harmon, Spencer, Ballam, Vincent, Bradley, Smallwood, Burry, McCarthy, Roberts, Keough, Ashboume, Fudge, Northcott, Penney, Reddy, Dawe, Crummey, Miller, Ryan, Fowler, Fogwill, Butt, Higgins, Hickman, Cashin, Crosbie, Harrington, Cranford, Vardy, Bailey.
Messrs. Brown and McCormack — recorded. (27)
Mr. Chairman Will all members who prefer Commission government as against responsible January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1349 government, please to rise.
[No preference recorded]
Mr. Chairman When we come to the next mo tion, any member who wishes to express his preference will have an opportunity to do so.
[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] Isaac Newell's poem, "Lines for An Anniversary 1497-1947" won the O'Leary Newfoundland Poetry Award in 1947.
  • * Work well and dream; the long day of waiting must end, Howsoever it wills not to die, And we have a promise, a date with tomorrow, From there to forever, when now has passed by.
  • [1] In the west end of St. John's.
  • * Oh Newfoundland, my dear, my native soil, For whom my warmest wish to Heaven is sent, Long may thy hardy sons of rustic toil Be blessed with health and peace and sweet content; And Oh! may Heaven their simple lives prevent From luxury, contagion weak and vile, Then however crowns and coronets be rent A virtuous populace may rise the while To stand, a wall of fire around this much loved Isle.
  • [1] A reference to the parade and riot which took place in April 1932.
  • [1] J.R. Smallwood, "Newfoundland of Today", The Book of Newfoundland, Vol. I (St. John's, 1937), pp. 2-3.

Personnes participantes: