Newfoundland National Convention, 23 January 1948, Debates on Confederation with Canada


January 23, 1948

Mr. Cashin Mr. Chairman, before proceeding with the orders of the day, I would like to draw your attention, and the attention of the Convention, to my question asked on January 9, and I will read it again:
I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask the Commissioner for Finance and/or the Commission of Government, (1) in the event of Newfoundland becoming a province of Canada, what would happen to the deposits now in the Newfoundland Savings Bank?
(2) Would the Newfoundland Savings Bank continue as at present, and would the depositors continue to receive the same rate of interest on their deposits as they now receive?
That question was put on January 9, that is 14 days ago. No reply has been received at all. The other day we were told indirectly by Mr. Carew that the thing had been passed on to the High Commissioner for Canada. That is probably four or five days ago, and there is no reply yet. In View of the fact that we are going to discuss Mr. Smallwood's motion I feel that we are entitled to that reply not after it is all over, but during the discussion, because it is a very important matter. There's $20 million down there belonging to the people of Newfoundland, small deposits most of it, and we are entitled to have that question answered. It has been there two weeks, and no reply has been received. There is no excuse, none whatever.
Further, I also asked a question on January 13, 11 days ago.
I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask His Excellency the Governor in Commission to ascertain from His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom the following information:
If in the referendum proposed to be held in the spring of 1948 for the selection by the people of Newfoundland of a future form of government, such referendum will be decided by and such future form of government will be selected on the basis of:
(a) The form of government on the ballot which received at least 51% of the total votes Cast. (b) The form of government on the ballot which received a majority of the total votes cast. (c) The form of government on the ballot which received a greater number of votes than any other individual form of government on the ballot.
That question has been there now 11 days.
Mr. Chairman I understand, Major Cashin, that the reply to that question will be received this afternoon.
Mr. Cashin Thanks very much. Now with respect to the Savings Bank one, what about that?
Mr. Chairman All I can say is there has been no indifference or inertia. Every time it has been drawn to our attention it has been taken up, and it has been forwarded to the High Commissioner for Canada, with the request that he should telegraph the question to Canada, and ask for an immediate reply. I don't know whether that has been done.
Mr. Cashin The last time I brought that up was Monday, and Captain Warren said he got in touch with Mr. Carew, and he got in touch with the High Commissioner and all that has been done. What is the position supposing we don't get a reply? Are we to continue discussing the matter when we don't know what is going to happen to $20 million belonging to our people?
Mr. Chairman All I can say is that we will go back again. We can only try. Captain Warren, can you go back this afternoon and say that this reply is urgent?
Mr. Cashin I suppose this House will close this afternoon until Monday, and I think we should have a reply then. Is it possible for us to get a definite answer as to whether a reply can be had on Monday?
Mr. Chairman Will you please get in touch with them, Captain Warren, and will you please be good enough to put it up to them that way, so that we can know where we are.
Mr. Cashin I think the Convention and the country are entitled to it.
Mr. Chairman It is a very important question of course, Major Cashin.
Mr. Smallwood I would like to add my voice to Major Cashin's on that point. I think after all the occasions on which Major Cashin has raised the matter of what would happen to the government Savings Bank under confederation, and who would control the amount of interest that might be paid on deposits, I now, more then he, am anxious that the question be answered. I know what the answer will be, but I want that answer brought in to settle the matter once and for all.
Mr. Cashin He knows what the answer will be! That's nonsense! He does not know. I don't know, nobody knows.
Mr. Smallwood I know. I was told in Ottawa.
Mr. Cashin Well, one moment, let's get your Black Book and look at it. There's no question in the Black Book, and there's no answer given in the Black Book.
Mr. Chairman As far as I know there's nothing there.
Mr. Cashin You get up and tell us this is going to happen. You have no authority to tell us any such thing.
Mr. Smallwood When you get the answer you will see that I am right.
Mr. Cashin If you are right, why isn't the answer here? I am sick and tired of this nonsense.
Mr. Chairman Captain Warren will you please find out if that telegram has been sent, with the request that they telegraph the reply? And if that has not been done ask them to send it and ask for a telegraph, or get a service wire on it...
Mr. Cashin And we will take up a collection and pay for it for the Canadian government.
Mr. Chairman Or I will pay for it myself. Will you please follow it through Captain Warren, and see what can be done?
Mr. Higgins Mr. Chairman, I want to give notice of motion. The motion will be non-controversial, I am sure. I give notice that I will on tomorrow move the following motion:
Whereas this Convention in its duty of fully informing the people of Newfoundland of all the facts necessary to enable them to express their opinion at the proposed referendum has been greatly assisted by the Broad casting Corporation of Newfoundland, be it therefore resolved that this Convention place on record its appreciation of and grateful thanks to the Broadcasting Corporation of Newfoundland, and to the personnel of the Broadcasting Corporation of Newfoundland.
Mr. Chairman Mr. Higgins, that is not anticipated, is it, by the second order of the day?
Mr. Higgins Oh I am sorry, I did not even notice the order of the day, sir. Did you have notice of that?
Mr. Chairman Well, "That the National Convention convey its sense of warm gratitude to the Broadcasting Corporation of Newfoundland for their fine public service in broadcasting the proceedings of the Convention, and to the press of the country its gratitude for the fine public service performed in publishing reports of the Convention's proceedings."
Mr. Hollett Mr. Chairman, when was the notice given of that second order of the day?
Mr. Cashin It slipped in.
Mr. Chairman It was delivered to the table last night by Mr. Smallwood, so I am told.
Mr. Hollett It was not presented to the House, so why should it be on the order paper? If people can stick in anything without notice to the House, I contend that it is out of order. I object strongly, sir.
Mr. Chairman Just a minute, I like people before they get out of order to know what they are talking about. "Each person before giving notice of motion shall deliver at the table in triplicate."
Mr. Higgins Shouldn't the Steering Committee fix the order paper, sir?
Mr. Chairman It's routine, really.
Mr. Higgins I did not notice the order paper.
Mr. Chairman The notice was properly given.
Mr. Cashin It was slipped in.
Mr. Chairman Well, I hold it was properly given.
Mr. Higgins Well, if we both want to move the same motion I support, it is all right.
Mr. Chairman You are agreed in principle, and it is quite immaterial, childishness, foolishness, no matter who brings it in. Let's get on with the business of the House.

Motion to place Confederation with Canada on the Referendum Ballot.

Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, I move the following resolution:
Be it resolved that the National Convention desires to recommend to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom that the following form of government be placed before the people of Newfoundland in the forthcoming national referendum, namely confederation with Canada upon the basis submitted to the National Convention on November 6, 1947, by the Prime Minister of Canada.
If ever I had deep respect for the statesmanship of Great Britain it is now as I stand to move this resolution, that we recommend confederation to be submitted to the Newfoundland people in the forthcoming referendum. My respect for the statesmanship of Great Britain is boundless. Just consider, sir, what the British government could have done. They decided to allow the Newfoundland people themselves to decide what form of government they would have for their country, and they decided to hold a referendum for that purpose. But they decided at the same time to ask the Newfoundland people to elect a National Convention to make recommendations as to what forms of government should be submitted to the people in that referendum. The British government could have arranged to leave it completely to this Convention as to what forms of government the people would vote on in the referendum. If they had done that, then whatever a majority of the members here recommended would go on the ballot paper, and nothing else. The British government could have done that. They could have left it to a majority of the delegates of this Convention to decide what forms of government would be put before the people. In that case we know now what would have been recommended — responsible government would have been recommended and nothing else, for as the whole country knows, the majority of the delegates here are in favour of responsible government and nothing else. If the majority had their way our people would not be allowed to vote for anything but responsible government. Thank God this was not done. It is not up to a majority of this Convention to decide what our people shall vote on in the referendum this spring. The British government could have arranged it that way, but they did not. Thank God. The British government knew very well why. They know very well that a majority of members here in the Convention might represent a minority of the people. They knew that a minority here might well represent a great majority of the population of the country, so the British government very wisely kept to themselves the right to decide what should go on the ballot and what should not. In this way the democratic rights of the Newfoundland people have been preserved against usurpation, and I am very grateful to the British government for doing it.
So I say to our Newfoundland people, I say to the many thousands of Newfoundlanders who want confederation with Canada, and I say to the members of this Convention, that although the confederates in the Convention are out- numbered almost two to one, although we are a minority in the Convention, our recommendation will be respected by the British government. There is no doubt about, confederation will be on the ballot paper in the referendum. Our people will get their chance to vote for confederation this spring. The many hundreds of people who have written or telegraphed or telephoned about this matter to me, can be of good cheer, for the British government will protect the democratic rights of our people against all attempts of a mere majority of this Convention.
Well, the first stage of our great battle for the people is nearly over. It was a battle to get this Convention to adopt my resolution to send a delegation to Canada to get the terms, but that battle was finally won. It was a battle to get this Convention to debate the terms, but that battle was won. Now we are entering the last stage of the first half of the battle. We are going to decide whether, as a Convention, we will recommend that confederation be put before the people in the referendum for their verdict. We may not get a complete victory in this present part of the battle. A majority of the members here will probably vote against my motion, but by this time the British government has a very good idea of how things stand in this country today. They are not going to be carried away by a vote of a mere majority of this Convention, because they know that 99 Newfoundlanders out of 100 want confederation to be submitted to them after this Con 1352 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 vention comes to an end. When this motion is voted on next Tuesday night, that will be the end of the first half of the battle. Then the second half will commence, after this Convention comes to an end. Then a great crusade of the people will commence, a great democratic people's crusade to bring the truth before the people, the truth that we have never had a fair opportunity of bringing before them concerning confederation. Then, sir, we will gladly and joyously call on the hundred and thousands of our people who have already volunteered their patriotic services to this great battle for freedom and economic security, for mark this well, this is not 1869. This time the people are going to know the truth. They are not going to be smothered with the lies and propaganda of 1869. It was easy enough in 1869 to bluff the people with lies about their property being taxed, but this time the anticonfederates are not going to get away with it, not even if every millionaire, half-millionaire and quarter-millionaire in the country rallies to the side of the anticonfederates. The day is gone when their money-bags will tell our people how to vote. That day is gone, and we live in a different age. Our people are no longer in the mood to bow down and almost worship a man just because he has managed somehow or other to make a great fortune for himself. They no longer measure a man's patriotism or his loyal heart by the money he has in the bank. When we say we have a stake in the country we no longer mean how much money a man has, but how many children he has, what is the size of his family, what is his love for the country. When we talk of "men of substance" today, we include something more than money. Our people are on the march in their tens of thousands. They have formed great trade unions and co-operative societies, and cannot so easily be bluffed any more. They have learned a lot the past few years, and they ask questions, questions that they never dared to ask in the bad old days. They ask questions about our vicious system of taxation. They ask questions about the cruel and oppressive cost of living. They ask questions about a system of taxation and of government that has held them down and made it impossible for a working man to live decently and rear a family by his honest earnings. Yes, our people are in the mood to ask many questions today that they never asked before. They are not so easy to bluff as our forefathers were in 1869, and our anticonfederates are going to find that out in 1948 when the referendum takes place.
Mr, Chairman, as this present debate will be my last chance in the Convention to speak to the people of Newfoundland on this subject...
Mr. Chairman Now Mr. Smallwood, never mind speaking to the people of Newfoundland. Speak to the Chair.
Mr. Smallwood Well, sir, I have never opened my mouth since this Convention started without speaking to the people, my masters who sent me here. I speak to them now through the Convention.
Mr. Chairman Address your remarks to me then, if you don't mind.
Mr. Smallwood I address the people through you, and you are therefore the most honoured man in this island.
Mr. Chairman That is a consequence of your addressing your remarks to me.
Mr. Smallwood Iwant to say a word on property taxes. This is the topic that the anticonfederates are going to harp on through the remainder of the period before the referendum. Their campaign against confederation is going to be based very largely on this claim. They will set out to persuade our people that under confederation their property will be taxed, and also their land and outhouses and flakes and stages and fishing room and boats and fishing gear and live stock. You will have to pay taxes on all these things, the anticonfederates will tell you. They will try to put the fear of God in our people about the property taxes. That is their trump card, so they believe. They will try the same game that certain people used in Newfoundland where the people voted on town councils only last year. Certain people who were against town councils went around and said to the people, "Surely you are not going to vote for town councils — they will tax your garden and your house and everything in your house, so much for a cat and a dog and a hen and a pig..."
Mr. Cashin Extra for a pig!
Mr. Smallwood So much so that they frightened these people to death, till they voted against town councils. That is what the anticonfederates are going to try on a grand scale, a national scale in Newfoundland. They will tell you that your property will be taxed, and you will be ground to death by taxes if you vote for confederation. Why sir, I heard the other day of a certain man address January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1353 ing an audience in a hall just a little while ago. He was an anticonfederate, and seeing a crowd before him, he could not resist the temptation to put over a cute piece of anticonfederate propaganda. He said, "Do you see that? That will be taxed under confederation. Do you see this and that? Everything will be taxed under confederation." He thought he was going to bluff these people, but there happened to be some men there who had lived and worked in Canada, and they were able to stand up and show up his lies. The anticonfederates think they have a trump card in this property tax, but they are not going to get away with it. We have too many people here today who have lived and worked in Canada, and too many who have relatives living and working in Canada for that bluff to be put over.
Under confederation we will have two governments over us — the federal government of Canada and the provincial government of Newfoundland. The federal government of Canada never yet collected any property tax whatsoever. They never did and never will. The provincial government of course will be our own government. We will elect it, and they will sit here in this very chamber. They will never pass a law to collect property taxes from our people — never, never, never, and if they ever become so foolish, if they ever become so foolish as to do it, why we will simply turn them out at the next election. It is as simple as that. No government in Newfoundland would stand a week if they ever tried to put property taxes on us. So the federal government will collect no property taxes from us, and the provincial government will collect none from us. Who is left? The town council if left. If a town council exists in a settlement, no doubt that town council will collect a few local taxes, just as most town councils are already doing in Newfoundland. But it is left to the people of every town or settlement to decide for themselves whether they will have a town council or not. If they want one, they will have one. If they do not want one they will not have it. It is in their own hands. Nobody can force them. Mr. Claude Hicks of Fredericton, in Fogo District, says for example that he has a house, a barn and two acres of land, and he wants to know what tax he will have to pay on that property under confederation. I cannot answer that question until I know if the people of Fredericton will decide to have a town council. If the Fredericton people, including Mr. Hicks, should decide to have a town council, then perhaps the council will collect a small tax on his property — maybe a five dollar bill a year, or whatever the council decides. Maybe Mr. Hicks would be elected a member of that town council. If so he would help to decide what tax to put on his property. But if Fredericton decides not to have a town council, then there will be no tax at all on Mr. Hicks' property, for there is no one to collect a tax on it. The Government of Canada will not tax his property, the provincial government of Newfoundland will not tax it — so who is there to tax it if there is no town council in Fredericton? And remember that it is left to the people of Fredericton to decide whether they will have a town council or not — it is up to themselves. Nobody can force them to have it. And what I say about Mr. Hicks applies to every man in Fredericton; and what I say about Fredericton applies to every settlement or town in Newfoundland. But the people of Newfoundland need not worry; all this will be explained to them before the referendum is held. This is one time the anticonfederates are not going to bluff our people on this property tax question.
Mr. Higgins did me the honour the other day of quoting from the speech I made when I introduced my motion more than a year ago, my motion that the Convention should send a delegation to Canada to seek the terms of union. I was greatly interested in the part of my speech that he read out, and to tell you the truth I thought it was very good. I am surprised that I made such a good speech on that occasion. Anyway, that made me look up my speech, and there was one paragraph that struck me very much. I think it is worth repeating. Here is what I said on that occasion, and now I quote my own words exactly:
So now, Mr. Chairman, we know all the factors but one. We know that it is lawful for the Convention to send the delegation to Ottawa. We know that Ottawa will receive the delegation, and receive it cordially. We know that the opposition party will not oppose it. We know that the Canadian people will not oppose it. The only thing we still don't know is what the Newfoundland people want. We don't know whether they want confederation 1354 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 or not — and we're not going to know until they vote in the referendum. All we can do is get the terms and conditions and that's all this resolution calls for. The rest can very safely be left to the people; once they know the terms, they'll know how to make up their minds all right never you fear.[1]
That is what I said on that occasion, Mr. Chairman, and how true my words were — how reasonable they were!
First I brought in my resolution that we should send a delegation to Ottawa to ask for the terms of union. The delegation went, and we have had the terms laid before us and we have debated them. Now I bring in this resolution, that confederation on these terms should be laid before the people in the referendum. Could anything be more reasonable? Could anything be more democratic? This Convention voted by a good majority to send a delegation to Ottawa to seek the terms of union. That delegation, which the Convention voted to send, and which the Convention elected, cost the people of Newfoundland over $20,000. Major Cashin says it is $30,000.
Mr. Cashin I think it cost $400,000.
Mr. Smallwood Over $20,000 came out of the public chest to get these terms for the people's consideration, and what could be more reasonable than to submit the terms to the people? We do not own these terms, Mr. Chairman. The Newfoundland people paid for them, and the Newfoundland people own them. They have every right to pass judgement on the terms. They have every right to decide whether they will join the Canadian family of provinces or try to stagger along on our own. That is all my present resolution or motion does. It only asks that confederation on these terms be submitted to our people for their verdict, for their decision. Let the people decide, says my motion. Let the people say whether they will have confederation. Could anything be more reasonable?
The more I think about that speech of mine that Mr. Higgins quoted from the other day, the better I like it. I will read you another part, a part that Mr. Higgins did not see fit to read.
Mr. Higgins I did not think there was anything else fit to read.
Mr. Smallwood I said this:
We are all very proud of our Newfound land people. We all admire their strength, their skill, their adaptability, their resourcefulness, their industry, their frugality, their sobriety and their warm-hearted, simple generosity. We are proud of them; but are we indignant, does our blood boil, when we see the lack of common justice with which they are treated? When we see how they live? When we witness the long, grinding struggle they have? When we see the standards of their life? Have we compassion in our hearts for them? Or are we so engrossed, so absorbed, in our own struggle to live in this country that our social conscience has become toughened, even case-hardened? Has our own hard struggle to realise a modest competence so blinded us that we have little or no tenderness of conscience left to spare for the fate of the tens of thousands of our brothers so very much worse off than ourselves?
I said that, Mr. Chairman, in that speech that Mr. Higgins quoted from, and I ask now, isn't it true? As I look through that speech of mine I find I said a lot of true things, a lot of them. For example, I said this, and as I read it to you I want you to notice how true it is. Here is what I said:
Mr. Chairman, in the present and prospective world chaos, with all its terrible variety of uncertainty, it would be cruel and futile, now that the choice is ours, to influence the handful of people who inhabit this small island to attempt independent national existence. The earnings of our 65,000 families may be enough, in the years ahead, to support them half-decently and at the same time support the public services of a fair-size municipality. But will those earnings support independent national government on an expanding, or even the present, scale? Except for a few years of this war and a few of the last war, our people's earnings never supported them on a scale comparable with North American standards, and never maintained a government, even on the pre-war scale of service. Our people never enjoyed a good standard of living, and never were able to yield enough taxes to maintain the government. The difference was made up by borrowing or by grants-in-aid.
We can indeed reduce our people's stand January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1355 ard of living; we can force them to eat and wear and use and have much less than they have; and we can deliberately lower the level of governmental services. Thus we might manage precariously to maintain independent national status. We can resolutely decide to be poor but proud. But if such a decision is made, it must be made by the 60,000 families who would have to do the sacrificing, not the 5,000 families who are confident of getting along pretty well in any case.
We have, I say, a perfect right to decide that we will turn away from North American standards and from North American standards of public services, and condemn ourselves as a people and government deliberately to long years of struggle to maintain even the little that we have. We may, if we wish, turn our backs upon the North American continent beside which God placed us, and resign ourselves to the meaner outlook and shabbier standards of Europe, 2,000 miles across the ocean. We can do this, or we can face the fact that the very logic of our situation on the surface of the globe impels us to draw close to the progressive and dynamic living standards of this continent.
Sir, our country is fast becoming a land of festering monopoly. Freedom of trade is becoming rapidly a thing of the past. I am not at this moment speaking of free made; but of ordinary freedom of trade, the ordinary right, as it used to exist, of any man to engage in trade, to import his own merchandise and sell it direct to the people. That freedom is fast dying in Newfoundland, and is fast being replaced by monopoly. A new race of traders has arisen in our midst. They have secured exclusive agencies all to themselves, agencies for this and that necessary and desirable article of merchandise. (I am not talking now about our regular wholesale firms). What do they do, these exclusive agents? Do they add one cent of true value to the things on whose distribution they have a close monopoly in Newfoundland? No, they do not. Do they reduce the price of these articles to our people? No, they do not — on the contrary you will find that in many cases an article becomes dearer the moment some monopolistic trader secures the exclusive agency for it. A new race of monopolists has arisen in our country. They will hate me for pointing at them. They will hiss at me for drawing the people's attention to them. But there they are, and their chief accomplishment has been to drive up the cost of things and make it even harder for our people to live.
Sir, I have done my share of pointing to the shame and infamy of certain tariff-protected industries in this country, some of those local industries, as we call them, that shelter behind a high tariff that drives up our cost of living. But these industries have at least this merit: that they produce something. They do bring in the raw material, they do employ a few people, changing the shape and appearance of those raw materials. They make something. These monopolistic traders make nothing, they produce nothing, they create nothing. They are traders, pure and simple. They manage to get themselves wedged in between the ordinary traders and the people; not, please note, between the goods and the people, but between the traders who sell the goods and the people who buy the goods. By getting these monopolistic agencies, they set up toll-gates of their own, and they collect their own special fee that is piled onto the cost of the articles they sell. It only means that one additional and one completely unnecessary item of expense is piled onto the cost of the things we must buy. If, sir, I seem to be paying a lot of attention to these modern monopolists, it is because I know how they are driving the high cost of living still higher. We have seen some of these men become rich and wealthy men. I could name them for you. I know their story. This man in 20 years has raked together a million dollars for himself by monopolistic practices.
Mr. Chairman What has this got to do with the subject of confederation?
Mr. Smallwood After I have laid the foundation, it will be seen.
Another man has attracted another million to himself. This third one is well on the way toward his first million dollars. This fourth one has passed comfortably the half-million mark. I look about this town, and I see men who in the past half dozen years, the past ten or 12 years, the past 15 or 20 years, have piled up great fortunes out of their comfortable monopolies. Where did they get their money, sir? Was it by the sweat of their brows? Was it by making two blades of grass 1356 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 grow where one grew before? Was it by starting a new industry? Was it by helping to carry on our fishery or agriculture, our paper mills or mines, or any of our basic industries? No, it was by none of these things. So far as actual production is concerned, these men do not toil, neither do they spin. They are just what the name implies, monopolistic traders, who have managed to grab to themselves a convenient and easy way of skimming off an extra, an additional profit from the people's needs. I may add that nearly all of these monopolists are anticonfederates. They are nearly all great supporters of anything and everything that opposes confederation. They sit and shiver in their stylish offices for fear confederation will come and sweep their monopolies into the ash can of history.
Yes, sir, here are our new rich, our new aristocracy. Highly successful men, "men with a stake in the country" they will proudly tell you. Men to whom most of us look up — after all, nothing succeeds like success, does it, sir? And surely the opinion of a man worth a million dollars is worth a million times as much as the opinion of a man worth only one dollar, even on forms of government, or even advising our people how they should vote in the referendum.
Sir, I would not mind so much if these monopolists took the money they rake in out of their monopolies over the necessities of life, if they took that money, or a goodly portion of it and poured it into our basic industries, our fisheries and mines and forests; if they poured it into those main industries by which our people live. But no, most of their monopolistic profits go promptly into other trading enterprises, other enterprises in which, from a productive standpoint, they neither toil nor spin, but from which they reap more profits. If confederation did nothing else but smash these monopolies and restore freedom of trade, then it would be worthwhile to our people.
Sir, what I have said on this point, I have said with my eyes open. I am perfectly well aware that in saying it, I am creating more enemies for myself. But it needed to be said. It cried out to be said. The people's interest demanded that it be said. The people are paying me some of their hard-earned money to be a member of this Convention, and the least I can do is to speak out for them against these monopolies. Some people would greatly prefer me to speak on other matters — for example, the glorious traditions of the past, the hallowed walls of the House of Assembly, the form of government our forefathers bled and died for, and all that sort of thing. I am sorry, but I cannot do it. Somebody has got to come out in the open on these matters that I have mentioned; somebody has got to bring them out into the open, even if in so doing he gets nothing but black hatred and a bad name.
I tell you frankly, Mr. Chairman, I am growing frightened by the growth of monopoly in this country; I am growing frightened by the growth of concentrated wealth. It is a frightening thing to see in a tiny country with a tiny handful of struggling people, the rise of a new millionaire class. This little country is not big enough for millionaires. They become too powerful, too strong, too influential. They swing too big a stick. If they were spread out in a country ten times larger, they could not make their influence so strongly felt. But they are not, they are concentrated in a very small country, and most of them do business within a mile of each other. I have nothing in the world against any of these men personally. I know most of them and for some of them I have genuine liking and respect. They do not mean to hurt the country, indeed that would be the last thing in their minds. But just the same, it is a perilous thing for Newfoundland that we have so many millionaires, and above all millionaires who are merely traders — and worst of all, millionaire traders who are monopolists.
I was telling you a week or two ago about the shocking profits made in this country in the year 1945. I mentioned that year, because it happened to be the latest year for which we had the official figures, given to us by no less a person than the Assessor of Taxes. His figures showed us that 105 concerns between them made a clean, clear profit in that one year of $15.5 million — an average of $150,000 for each of them in that one year. $15.5 million clean, clear profits cleaned up in just one year by those 105 companies and firms in this little country. But that was only one year. In 1946 they made even more. In 1947 it was roughly about the same. Since the war broke out, sir, down to the present time, our companies and firms have cleaned up, between them, not less than $100 million in profits — not less than $100 million of clean, clear profits taken from our handful of people.
I shall modify that statement, sir. I said "clean, clear" profits. I take back the word "clean". Their profits were clear, but they were not always clean. I wish to choose my words carefully. I want my words to express exactly what I mean. I say that never in history, in this or any country, was any handful of people so looted, so plundered as our people have been since this late war broke out. It was in many cases cold, calculated plunder. If Major Cashin would talk about the plunder by those firms instead of talking about the plunder of the public chest, he would do more good for the people of Newfoundland. They took all the profits the traffic would bear, and all the government would let them take, and in many cases a lot more than the government would allow them to take. I have never heard or read of a handful of people whose pockets were so shamelessly looted as were the pockets of our Newfoundland people during this war. While their sons were offering their very lives for the brave new world they were promised, they themselves were attacked by a looting, monopolistic plutocracy here in Newfoundland.
I will tell you what this late war has done to our country. It has strengthened and solidified our new rich. It has put great fortunes into the hands of some who did not have them before the war, and it has doubled the fortunes of those who did have them before the war. It has drawn the reins of monopoly closer, it has fastened the chains of class domination more securely upon the masses of our people. Our struggling masses have managed to renew the wallpaper in their homes; they have managed to get together a bit more furniture and household utensils, to paint their houses, and generally to do a bit of replenishing. Those of them whose families were not large, and who were not quite so far down when the war broke out, have even managed to lay aside a little modest savings. But the great majority of our people are fast falling back to where they were before the war broke out, back into the same shameful old rut of poverty and insecurity. It has widened the gulf between the people and their economic masters. If the poor have not become absolutely poorer, it certainly cannot be said that the rich have not become richer, for they have become richer. The gulf between them has widened and deepened. And of few countries in this world today can the poet's words be more truly spoken:
Ill fares the land, to hastening ills a prey Where wealth accumulates, and men decay.[1]
This has got to stop. I know our Newfoundland people. I am one of them. I am blood of their blood, bone of their bone, soul of their soul. I am descended from a family that has lived in Newfoundland for over 150 years. My ancestors were fishermen, farmers, shop-keepers, manufacturers, skilled workmen and artisans. I have dug deep into my country's history, and in so doing I have paid special attention to the story of our people's labours, their battles against nature and against injustice, the story of their endless search for a square deal. I have travelled my country, north, east, south and west, into a thousand of the 1,300 settlements in it. I have been closely and intimately associated with our people. I have fished with the fishermen, logged with the loggers; I have gone down underground with the miners; held trade union meetings right inside the paper mills. I was never so close to our toilers as during those years of the dole, and always, so long as I live, I will remember those years of the dole, and always, so long as I live, I will remember those friends of mine, those toilers who were stricken down by beri-beri, those children who felt the pinch of hunger. I saw the heartbreak in the eyes of patient mothers who had not enough to give their little ones. I saw the baffled, sullen rage of fishermen whose greatest toil and endurance could not provide their families with enough to eat or wear. I attended meetings of the unemployed here in St. John's, but who was I to refuse their invitation to go and speak to them? I saw them in their despairing hundreds waiting around the street corners, waiting for the jobs that never turned up, and around the dole office, and helped to gather second-hand clothes to distribute to those who were half- naked, not for a day or a week or a year, but all through the depression. I saw them, and I swore an oath to myself that never would I be a party to allowing such things to come back to our people again. I would never be a party to any form of government that would make us know that thing again, and that's why I became a confederate. I became a confederate and discovered that confederation would give our people a half-decent 1358 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 chance in life, and wipe away some of the worst obstacles in their life, and remove some of the millstones that hung around their necks.
They don't expect riches, but only the widest opportunity, by the toil of their hand, to earn an honest living. They have no extravagant ambition to become millionaires, but they do ache for common justice in their own land.
When wilt Thou save the people? O God of mercy, when? Not kings alone, but nations! Not thrones alone, but men! Flowers of Thy heart, O God, are they; Let them not pass, like weeds, away, Their heritage a sunless day. God save the people!
Shall crime bring crime for ever, Strength aiding still the strong? Is it Thy will, O Father, That man shall toil for wrong? "No", say Thy mountains; "No", Thy skies; Man's clouded sun shall brightly rise, And songs ascend instead of sighs, God save the people!
When wilt Thou save the people? O God of mercy, when? The people, Lord, the people! Not thrones and crowns, but men! God save the people; Thine they are, Thy children, as Thine angels fair; From vice, oppression, and despair, God save the people![1]
Mr. Chairman Order, please. There is too much noise altogether.
Mr. Smallwood Sir, I call upon every member of this Convention to vote for this motion. I call upon even the bitterest anticonfederate here to vote for it. Hate confederation all you like. That is your privilege, but do not vote to deny our people of Newfoundland their rights to decide the matter.
We here in this Convention have not been given the right to decide what form of government this country shall have, the people have been given that right, and they will exercise their right in the referendum. If the anticonfederates here in the Convention want confederation to be defeated, let them go out amongst the people, and try to persuade the people to vote against it in the referendum; but it would be mean and contemptible for them to try here in this Convention, just because they have a majority, to try to cheat the people out of their chance to decide the matter.
Since the terms of confederation arrived here and were debated, new hope has arisen in the hearts of our people. They see in confederation a new hope for the common man. They see in it a new hope for justice and fair play for themselves and for their children. They see in it the dawn of a new day for Newfoundland. Let no man dare to crush that hope that has arisen in our people's hearts. As for myself, I have accepted the words of the English mystic and poet, William Blake, with the substitution of just one word in his moving poem:
Bring me my bow of burning gold! Bring me my arrows of desire! Bring me my spear! O clouds unfold! Bring me my chariot of fire! I will not cease from mental fight, Nor shall my sword sleep in my hand, Till we have built Jerusalem In OUR green and pleasant land.
Mr. Banfield Mr. Chairman, the greatest honour I consider I have ever had in my life is at this very moment, as I rise to second Mr. Smallwood's motion. I could not hope to find words to express what pleasure it gives me. I am a native of the southwest coast and a resident of there, and as such I would be ashamed ever to go on that coast again if I failed to support this motion with all my heart. I would be ashamed to look those people in the face. I doubt very much if ever a member in any district expressed the wishes of his district any more than I am expressing the wishes of Fortune Bay, and indeed the whole coast when I stand up here to advocate confederation.
Ever since 1869 there has not been a month or a day when those people were not in favour of confederation. In the 1869 election on the southwest coast they elected confederate candidates, and up there today they are only longing for the day of the referendum to come, so that they can march into the ballot booths in their thousands to mark for confederation. Sir, our southwest coast people know a lot about confederation. They know a lot about Canada. In their thousands they have worked in Canada, fished in Canada, visited January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1359 in Canada. They know what conditions are like in Canada, and their greatest hope is that some day conditions on the coast and in their country will become as good as they know them to be in Canada, and as they know them to be, sir, from close personal experience.
We often hear talk in this country about the Maritime Provinces. We often hear it said that the Maritime Provinces are down and out, poor, up against it, and opposed to confederation. Our people on the coast get a great laugh out of that kind of talk. It is a great joke to them, for they are extremely familiar with the Maritime Provinces of Canada. I have been told that the people down in the Straits, in fact on both sides of the Straits, are something like ourselves on the southwest coast. Like us they know Canada too, not perhaps the same part of Canada that we know so well, but a more northerly part. They travel back and forth across the Straits to that part of Canada which is just across the border, and they know the people well, and know what living conditions are like, and what prices are, and how much better these people live and get along than they do themselves. And it is a very interesting fact that the people of Labrador and in the Straits of Belle Isle are such strong confederates. As Mr. Burry has told us, I understand that the entire population of Labrador and northern Newfoundland are practically unanimously for confederation, and are waiting longingly for the day to come to vote for confederation.
It is a cant word in all the district, Mr. Chairman, that the Newfoundland people who know Canada best are the strongest confederates. That gives you something to think about. Those people down north and our people along the coast do not look upon Canadians as strangers. They do not look upon Canada as a strange country that is trying to gobble us up. They do not look upon the people of Canada as a people who are taxed to death. They know the difference. Of all the people on the southwest coast who favour confederation our fishermen are the strongest. The merchants too favour confederation. Fishermen and merchants are alike in that, but it is the fishermen who are the strongest of all for it. That is because they know how the fishermen live in Canada. Our fishermen for many years fished with the Canadian fishermen. They have been going up there since long before I was born, in fact fishing alongside the Canadian fishermen in the same vessels and the same dories. Better than anyone in Newfoundland our southwest coast fishermen know how the Canadian fishermen live, and that is what makes our fishermen such strong confederates. If all the fishermen of Newfoundland could spend one season fishing with Canadian fishermen on Canadian vessels, no power on earth could hold these men back from fighting for confederation.
Their greatest worry on that coast today is that confederation might lose in the referendum. I will tell you why. They have been in the habit for many years of going up to Canada to work, but Canada has been tightening up her immigration regulations lately, and what many of our people are afraid of is that if confederation is turned down that avenue of employment may be closed against them. It would be a very bad blow to our coast, if that did happen. No matter what we talk in this Convention, every man of us knows very well that hard times are going to come again to this country. They are bound to come, and what our people fear is that when hard times come again they might find themselves bottled up in Newfoundland, unable to travel freely to Canada to earn the dollar that they can't earn in their own country. Many millions of Canadian dollars have been earned in this way in the past, and the day is coming when we will need the chance to earn those Canadian dollars again. But I would not have you think that I am advocating confederation only because the southwest coast is so strongly in favour of it. I am advocating confederation because it would be good for the whole country, and for all our toilers wherever they may live, north, south, east or west. All our people may not want to have Canada's door open to them to seek work, when they can't find it at home, but it is not only the chance to work in Canada that makes confederation good for Newfoundland.
At the present time, if we want the advantages of confederation we have to go to Canada to get them. We have to work and live in Canada to get them, but if Newfoundland joins up with Canada most of those advantages will be brought right into Newfoundland itself. Our cost of living will come down, and although it may not come down quite as low as in Canada, yet it will come down a lot. Free trade with Canada will see to that, for it is plain common sense that when we take off 1360 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 all customs import duty on goods coming in from Canada, our cost of living will fall. And just as surely as the cost of living falls, the standard of living must go up. Our dollar will be worth more. It will buy more, and it will go further. Our people will live better. Then on top of that, our taxes will be lower, and not only will they be lower, they will be more just, they will be fairer. Under confederation the heaviest burden of taxation will fall on the broadest shoulders, not on the poorest where it is in our own country today.
Mr. Chairman, those two reasons would be plenty to justify confederation: namely that it would bring down the cost of living, and bring down taxation, and make taxation more just and more fair. But there are many other reasons why confederation would be good for our people, especially the toiling masses amongst our people. They may call family allowances immoral if they like, but I for one cannot see anything immoral about a plan to pay cash allowances to every child under 16 in the country. I cannot see anything immoral in sending a cheque every month of the year into every home that has children under the age of 16. I can see how it would be immoral to deprive our children of the chance to benefit from family allowances, but I fail completely to see how any man can stand here in this chamber and say that it is immoral to protect a country's most precious heritage, her children. We have been told that we have in Newfoundland 120,000 children under the age of 16. That is more than one-third of our whole population. I can think of nothing better, nothing more Christian than to see that these future citizens are guaranteed every month of the year at least enough to eat, and that is exactly what confederation will do through family allowances.
If they call family allowances immoral, why don't they call old age pensions immoral as well? If it is immoral to pay allowances to all our children under 16, isn't it just as immoral to pay allowances to wornout toilers who have reached the age of 70? We have 10,000 old people who will receive that $30 a month if we become part of Canada. Why don't they get up here and call that immoral? They can call these things immoral, butI know that our people, and what they are going to call the man who calls these things immoral. It won't be complimentary.
Mr. Chairman, I am not going to go into the details of confederation. That was done in the debate on the terms, and there is no need to go all over that ground again. Our people understand confederation now, at least the great majority of them do, and if there are still a few who don't, then no doubt they will get the chance to understand them before the referendum comes around. A great effort was made here to try to make it look as though confederation was too hard a thing for our people to understand, but those who bank on this are banking on something that will not stand up. Our people are not what some persons think. They have gathered around their radios in their thousands, all around the country. They have studied this thing, and understand it far more than some people realise. You will see how rightI am, sir, when the votes are counted in the referendum.
In common fair play, Mr. Chairman, confederation must be placed on the ballot. Our people must have the chance to vote for or against confederation. The choice must be theirs. It would be a criminal and shameful thing if this Convention voted against letting the people decide. I know that a majority of the members here are against confederation. Well, that is their right. They have a right to be against confederation, but they have no right to deny the people their chance to pass judgement on it in the referendum. Some members may be quite careless of what the people think of them. Some may even be carried away with the fact that here in this Convention they happen to be lined up with a majority, but this Convention will soon be a thing of the past, and then that majority will be a thing of the past. Members would be short sighted indeed to defy the people just for the sake of pleasing the majority here in the Convention.
Mr. Higgins I wonder, Mr. Chairman, if we might have a recess for five or ten minutes?
Mr. Banfield I have only one minute, and if you will not mind waiting that long, I will be through.
Newfoundland cannot stand alone, all our history proves that. We need someone at our back. We need a strong partner. We cannot and dare not face the fight on our own. That great and wealthy nation, Canada, invites us to go into partnership with them. They hold out their helping hand. Our people would want to grasp that hand. Let us give them the chance to do so in the referendum.
Mr. Chairman We will take a brief recess. I wonder Major Cashin, in the meantime, if I could JANUARY 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1361 see you and the members of your Drafting Committee for a few minutes?
[Short recess]
Mr. Cashin I am not rising for the purpose of making any remarks in connection with the matter now before the Chair, but to suggest that as many members who want to make addresses on the subject would want to prepare some notes, I would move the adjournment of the debate until Monday afternoon. Whilst making that motion, I want it distinctly understood that I do not want to hold the floor on Monday afternoon. Also, while I am on my feet, I would like to read the answer to one of my questions. I will read the question again:
I give notice that I will on tomorrow ask His Excellency the Governor in Commission to ascertain from His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom the following information:
If, in the referendum proposed to be held in the spring of 1948 for the selection by the people of Newfoundland of a future form of government, such referendum will be decided by and such future form of government will be selected on the basis of:
(a) The form of government on the ballot which receives at least 51% of the total votes cast;
(b) The form of government on the ballot which receives a majority of the total votes cast;
(c) The form of government on the ballot which receives a greater number of votes than any other individual form of government on the ballot.
Here is the answer and as usual, it is vague:
Commission of Government Newfoundland
January 23, 1948.
Dear Sir:
With reference to the question asked by a member of the National Convention on January 13, requesting His Excellency the Governor in Commission to ascertain from His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom certain information, I am directed to inform you that a reply has been received from the Right Honourable the Secretary of State for Commonwealth Relations to the effect that the issue raised in the question will be dealt with in the legislation governing the referendum. This legislation will not be settled until after the report of the National Convention has been received and considered by His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom. Before it is enacted, the bill will be published to enable interested parties to comment thereon.
Yours faithfully, W. J. Carew Secretary.
I said the answer was vague. We are just as wise now as when we asked the question. I think copies of this have been placed on members' desks.
I move now that the debate be adjourned until Monday, and that it be understood I am not going to speak first on Monday.
Mr. Vardy In rising to second the motion, I wish to say it is a well-known fact that Mr. John McCormack, one of our fellow delegates has taken unto himself a wife, and seeing this is the day after "the night before" I am sure it is the wish of all the members to wish Mr. and Mrs. McCormack many years of wedded happiness. I second the motion to adjourn the debate.
Mr. Fudge I am anxious to get through with this, and I am also anxious to accommodate members who are not prepared to speak at this time. But there are a number of supporters of this resolution, and I look upon it as their day, and I see no reason why they cannot come on and give us the "good stuff". I want to get clear and get away as quickly as possible.
Mr. Chairman That has to be decided by the House. It has been suggested by Major Cashin, and I think I am justified in attaching very considerable importance to his observations and to those of his seconder, that there may be some members who would want time to consider their remarks before making replies. The motion is before the Chair and I am entirely in your hands. What takes place is to be determined by you.
[The motion to adjourn was carried by a majority of 19 votes to 10.[1] Other orders of the day were deferred, and the Convention adjourned]


Newfoundland. The Newfoundland National Convention, 1946-1948 Vol 1: Debates. Edited by J.K. Hiller and M.F. Harrington Montreal: Memorial University of Newfoundland by McGill-Queen's University Press, 1995).



Selection of input documents and completion of metadata: Gordon Lyall.

Notes de bas de page:

  • [1] Above, p.641.
  • [1] Oliver Goldsmith, "The Deserted Village," 1769.
  • [1] Ebenezer Elliott, "When Wilt Thou Save The People", 1828.
  • [1] Those voting against the motion were Messrs. Crummey, Dawe, Hollett, Fudge, Reddy, Penny, Butt, Fowler, Harrington, Higgins.

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