Newfoundland National Convention, 27 January 1948, Debates on Confederation with Canada


January 27 — January 28, 1948

Mr. Bradley Mr. Chairman, I don't know whether the order of the day is open for debate now, is it?
Mr. Chairman There is just one matter I want to dispose of first. Members will recall that on Thursday the 22nd inst. there was a resolution passed by the House, requiring me to record the vote of any member on forms of government who was absent through illness or through other uncontrollable or unforseen circumstances. In the case of the Hon. Mr. Brown, who the House knows has been convalescing for some time on his doctor's orders, it was not possible for him to be in the House at the time the vote on Mr. Higgins' motion on responsible government and Commission government was taken, and I have received a note from Mr. Brown that he was in favour of the motion, but he had no preference. In conformity with the spirit of the motion I have requested the Secretary to record Mr. Brown as supporting Mr. Higgins' motion, and also stating that he had no preference between the two forms of government included in that motion. In the case of the member for Bell Island, Mr. Jackman, he was also absent because of illness; he consulted me about the matter today, and I told him I would feel duty bound to report his attitude on Mr. Higgins motion, and he is to instruct me in writing. That Mr. Jackman proposes to do, and upon receipt of his instructions in writing, like in the case of Mr. Brown and Mr. Job, I propose to record Mr. Jackrnan's views on the motion itself, together with any preference that he may express between the two forms of government covered by the motion. Will you take notice of that, Mr. Secretary?

Motion to Place Confederation on the Referendum Ballot

Mr. Bradley Mr. Chairman, this resolution proposes to submit confederation to the people's decision upon the basis submitted by the Prime Minister of Canada in October last. There is not time for me to go into the provisions of Canada's proposals in the short time allotted to me, and January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1387 fortunately there is no need to do it, for the details have all been published by newspaper and radio, and a long, if somewhat blurred and distorted debate on the proposals and terms has taken place in this chamber. I deem it necessary, however, to endeavour to correct some misconceptions and misinterpretations which have been placed upon these proposals, to dissipate some unworthy and even sneering references to some of the results of confederation, to dispose of certain unfounded charges of dishonesty and double-dealing made against governmental bodies, and to draw the attention of this Convention and the people of the country to the grave uncertainties which await us in this world of seething unrest and insecurity.
Up until today an unfortunate illness has made it impossible for me to take any part in the debate on the confederation proposals which were introduced by my motion of last October. I have, however, followed the debate in my home, and I am compelled to admit that it was a most depressing and disappointing experience. Never in my whole life have I known the quality of debate upon so important a matter to fall to such a low level. During that period I was in the very heart of the largest fishing town of this country,[1] and I have to admit that the people there, and I feel that the whole country shared the feeling, were shocked by the refusal of many members of this Convention to treat this great question with the sincere impartiality and the friendly spirit of cooperation in search of truth which its importance demanded. I can assure you, sir, that their comments were caustic rather than complimentary, and they were unanimous, nor did they hesitate to express their disgust and indignation. Sir, I could not deny the justice of their criticism — it was too true.
While the people were expecting what was their undoubted right, a straightforward and impartial and cooperative discussion of what confederation would mean to them, they were treated instead to a senseless barrage of heated misrepresentation and distortion, to pretty prejudice and personal antagonism. The Convention became a veritable battleground. Instead of making an effort to understand the terms and make them plain to our people, some members seemed determined to make it appear that confederation is such a complicated and confused question that nobody in or out of the Convention could possibly understand it. I shall not soon forget the disgraceful climax to that unworthy campaign of obstruction which I had the misfortune to witness here on December 12 last, when we were closing for the Christmas vacation, when a majority of members walked out of the chamber with the perfectly obvious intention of preventing any reply to several hours of twisting and distorting of the Canadian proposals.
Now there is a very urgent need indeed that in the interests of clear thinking a number of misconceptions that have grown up or been thrown up around this whole question should be corrected. Amongst these, sir, is the utterly foolish notion that the very fact that we are discussing confederation at all is the result of a breach of faith by Britain, that if she had carried out her obligation to us no confederation question would have arisen at all. Great currency has been given to this notion. Indeed it has been actively and sedulously circulated. This notion has grown into the more vicious and equally unfounded charge that Britain is false, that Britain is not to be trusted, that Britain is trying to cheat us out of our rights, including the right of responsible government, that Britain is actively plotting to thrust us into confederation whether we want it or not, that Britain is plotting to retain Commission government. In fact about the only political crime that is not charged up to Britain today is that of trying to foist responsible government on us. It is in no way surprising, therefore, to find that almost invariably, if not exclusively, every one of these charges is voiced by a supporter of responsible government.
Now what are the bases of these charges? The argument runs something like this: in 1933-34 the British government promised that when Newfoundland became self-supporting responsible government would be restored if the people wanted it. Newfoundland is now technically self- supporting, and it remains therefore only for Britain to give us back responsible government and clear out. "Give us back what we had, give us back responsible government", that is the cry. What are the real facts? It is quite true that the British government of 1933 did promise to restore responsible government to Newfoundland if and when she became self-supporting, and if 1388 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 the people requested it. Of that there can be no doubt whatever, and it is also true that Newfoundland, at least in the official sense, is self- supporting today — we do not presently require grants from Britain to pay our government bills. But just where and how has that promise of Britain been broken? Is there not to be a national referendum? Are not the people of Newfoundland to vote at that referendum? Will not responsible government be one of the forms for which they may vote on the ballot at that referendum? And if the people of Newfoundland, by a majority, request a return of responsible government does anyone here suggest that Britain will refuse to carry out that wish? Where, I ask you, is the broken promise? What then is it that rouses the ire of these responsible governmentites almost to the pitch of frenzy? I will tell you. It is not that Britain has failed to carry out that promise of 1933, but that she has done more than honour what these people are pleased to term her bond. She has not only undertaken to give us back responsible government if we want it, but also to give us any other form of government (within reason, of course) which we may request.
Let me put the position to you by a very simple illustration. Let us suppose a man takes his young son to a house which he, the father, owns, and says, "Son, when you are 21 years of age I will give you this house if you want it." The boy reaches the age of 21, and the father now says to him, "Son, some years ago I promised you this house if you asked me for it when you became 21. You are now 21, and I intend to keep my promise, but before you ask me for it I want to show you two other houses that I own." Thereupon he shows the young man these two other houses, and says, "Now you can have your choice of the three." Has that man broken his promise to his son? He has not, he has enlarged it, he has extended it. In exactly the same way Britain has fulfilled her so-called bond to the people of Newfoundland. She says to us, in effect, "You Newfoundland people may have a return of responsible government if you want it, or if you prefer you may have Commission government, or confederation; or tell me what you do want and I will give you anything within reason." Britain has given us more than she promised. And so we see that the real complaint of these followers of responsible government is not that Britain failed to honour her promise, but that she fulfilled it pressed down and running over. She has given us more than she agreed to give, and it is that more to which the responsible governmentites object. They don't want anything but responsible government. "Give us what we had", is their cry. In their hearts they want no Convention, no recommendations, no referendum, no choice for the people. In fact their real desire is to thrust a return of responsible government on the people, whether the people want it or not. They see in this free choice a grave danger that their own faith may be cast out. They stand in deadly fear that it will. These people who profess the democratic way of life, and who would destroy the referendum by a resolution if they could, and thus wipe the people out of the picture, complain bitterly that Britain has broken her promise, and is false, and is not to be trusted, because she has given the people more than she agreed to give.
Let us have no more of this stupid, and in some instances I fear, dishonest chatter about Britain having broken faith. Responsible government will be on the ballot. The people can, if they wish, request its restoration. And if they do it will be restored. And if anybody holds that confederation should not be discussed, let him not blame the British government, nor the Commission government, nor the Canadian government. It was this Convention, I remind you, that voted 24 to 16 to send a delegation to Ottawa to ascertain conditions of union. Let no one be blamed for what we did ourselves by a substantial majority. And even more fantastic is the misconception that has been stated again and again here and elsewhere, that we must get responsible government before considering confederation at all.
There are several points that are overlooked by those who repeat this absurd contention. First, what guarantee have we that the people will vote for responsible government? And yet they must, according to this contention, before confederation can be considered at all. If a consideration of confederation is to be postponed until our people vote for responsible government, then it will be a very, very long day indeed before we come around to a consideration of it. And again, assuming that the people want confederation, will some one kindly explain to me just why they should be saddled with, why they should have forced upon them, a form of government which they don't January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1389 want in order to get what they do want, why the responsible government which they reject should be imposed upon them in spite of their wishes? Why, if a majority of Newfoundlanders want confederation today, they must be subject to responsible government which they don't want? Will somebody kindly explain that to me? Such a proceeding, sir, has about it a very strong smell of Hitlerism, of that dictatorship which these persons who advocate the idea profess to hate so utterly. It is coolly suggested that the people shall be forced to vote for what they don't want in order to get what they do want. If that is not the very spirit of dictatorship I do not know what it is.
Again, these anticonfederate addicts have another refrain. They tell us that the Ottawa delegation had no power to negotiate, and that a duly elected government would have authority to enter into a bargain with the Canadian government, and that therefore an elected government would get better terms. "Oh yes", they say, "these terms are pretty good, but an elected government would get better." Let us take a look at that theory for a moment. In the first place there are two alternatives involved in this idea that an elected government should get the terms. Firstly, that having got the deal with Canada the elected government would put that deal through without consulting the people. The people would then have no voice in the terms at all — none whatever. Is that what they want? Or second, the elected government would, after making the deal, submit it to the people, in which case they would have had no more authority to speak for the people than our Ottawa delegation had. And make no mistake about it, sir, it is the voice of the people of Newfoundland that the Canadian government wishes to hear, and not that of a government forced upon them by Britain or this Convention. And let no one imagine that Newfoundland's entry into the Canadian union is a matter of horse-trading, or that the statesmen of Canada, that greatest dominion of the British Commonwealth, are trying to put a shady deal over on this little people who are their own kith and kin. I well remember the words of Canada's Minister of External Affairs, the Right Honourable Mr. St. Laurent, who was chairman of this conference — words uttered by him at the very outset of our discussions: "What we are trying to discover", he said, "is whether union of our two countries will work. Whether it will work to the mutual advantage of both. We must discover whether confederation under the British North America Act will actually work out in practice." And that, sir was the spirit that permeated all our discussions. Those are not the words of a truckling tinhorn politician, but of a statesman who is held in profound respect by all shades of opinion in Canada, a man who was never a politician, but who was called into his country's counsels in the early stages of the war because of his character, his skill and his unimpeachable integrity. And it is with him, and with statesmen of his calibre that it is suggested that a delegation sent by a responsible government no less, a responsible government forced upon the people perhaps against its will, might do a little horse-trading. Sir, I wonder if those who visualise the making of the terms of federal union as something akin to the chattering of a housewife over a basket of vegetables in the marketplace, I wonder if they appreciate the true Canada of today? Do they realise that this Canada is a great and a generous nation, the third largest exporting country in the world, whose generous policy towards the mother country, both during the war and ever since, is eloquent testimony not only to her great wealth, but to her realisation of the high moral obligation which rests upon her as a member of the Commonwealth. While the conflict was in progress she gave and loaned to Britain literally thousands of millions of dollars, and since then she has continued that policy, as well as the policy of supplying that war-torn and impoverished land with millions of tons of food at amazingly low prices. And yet this is the country that the anticonfederates would liken unto a housewife haggling over a basket of potatoes. Don't they realise that confederation is not the making of a merely commercial bargain between a couple of private businessmen? Confederation is a proposal for political union. A partnership between Newfoundland and Canada presupposes that we shall become one more among the provinces that constitute that union.
Far from being a trading corporation, those nine provinces are bound together by a constitution known as the British North America Act. This act, which was passed by the British Parliament 80 years ago, lays down the terms and conditions of that union, and this act must govern the entry of any country into that union, be it 1390 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 Newfoundland or any other. Confederation therefore is not a case of a couple of businessmen driving a bargain; it is not a case of a couple of horsetraders, each trying to outsmart the other; it is not a matter of haggling, or bargaining, or even negotiating, except in the very broadest and loosest sense of that term. It is a case of ascertaining what are the terms of union as laid down by the British North America Act, and by the various regulations and agreements having their roots in that act. Nor can the federal government discriminate against, or unduly favour any province or proposed province. It has a duty not to unduly favour any province at the expense of others. All that any delegation, whether it be from an elected government or from this Convention can do, is to learn the limits of what is possible under Canada's constitution.
Sir, that has been done by the Ottawa delegation, and the Prime Minister of Canada himself tells us plainly in his letter to His Excellency the Governor, that on the financial side the proposals he has laid before us are the best that Canada can offer. No delegation of an elected government, or any other government could do more. But notwithstanding all these hard facts the anticonfederates continue their refrain. "Give us back what we had", they insist, "and in the first general election the confederates can enter a political party. If they win a majority they will be the government, and they can go to Ottawa and negotiate terms." That is the plan they have rather clumsily worked out. Let us take a look at that. I have already pointed out that responsible government might not win at the referendum. The people may refuse to vote for it, for the simple reason that they don't want it. In that event confederation would not be submitted to the people at all, if the anticonfederate plans were worked out. Thus would they cheat the people out of their right to consider confederation by forcing them to vote for what they don't want in order to get what they do want.
And if we assume, if we assume that responsible government is accepted under these immoral conditions. it might well happen that no political party favourable to confederation would enter the field, for it requires both money and organisation to fight an election. That alone could defeat the wishes of tens of thousands of Newfoundlanders who want to vote on this question of confederation. And even if a confederate party were formed, what assurance is there that it would win a majority of the districts? It might have no election funds, or it might have some but still be smothered under the weight of anticonfederate money. All these possibilities exist. We all know what has happened in elections in this country before, and the same things can happen again. A general election is no way to decide so vitally important a matter as the very nature and very form of the future government of this country. In the noise and excitement of party contest, amidst all the hysteria and propaganda, with all the charges and counter-charges and political catch-cries and abuse, the promises of grants to sectional interests, jobs and concessions to individuals, in all that chaos of excitement what possible chance would any form of government have of being calmly considered on its merits? People might indeed desire to give it that calm and careful consideration, but they would be badgered and hounded, and confused and bewildered by the propaganda and personalities, and the wild political charges and promises so characteristic of general elections in the past. No sir, the time for the people to give careful consideration to such a vital matter is not in the heat and bitterness of a general election, where candidates are vying with each other to get votes, but in the far cooler and more rational atmosphere of a referendum, where there are no candidates seeking election, and where the people themselves are selecting the very form of government of their choice. They are not true friends of Newfoundland or of her people, who would plunge this country and her people into the boiling pot of a party contest, and subject it to the distorting and fighting and squabbling of a general election, where the personal popularity, the promises, and speaking ability of candidates are such important factors.
In this connection there is another point which is of great importance. This plan might easily bring a decision contrary to the wishes of the majority. I want to repeat that, sir. This plan might very well bring a decision contrary to the wishes of the majority. What guarantee have we that the party which secures the majority of the seats in the House of Assembly will have a majority of the total vote polled? I have seen candidates elected by five votes, and others by January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1391 2,500. It has happened before, and it might well happen again, that the successful party would poll less than half the number of votes cast. Thus would the majority of the people — the will of the majority — be completely defeated by a minority vote.
And let me ask this further simple question: why is it suggested that forms of government should be split up in this unreasonable fashion — two to be submitted to the people for their choice at the referendum, and a third to be held back and subsequently thrown into the confusion and chaos of a general election? Three forms of government are on men's lips today. Why should one of them be put to such a disadvantage? It is noteworthy, sir, that the suggestion comes not from those who want our people to have a free choice, but rather from those who would force responsible government down the people's throats like a dose of evil-tasting medicine. I ask you to remember that it is the anticonfederates, the responsible government champions, who would thus prevent the people from giving their verdict upon a form of government laid before them by this Convention itself as a result of Britain's complete good faith — who would force the people to vote, not for what they want, but for what they don't want in order to get what they want.
And finally, does it not occur to these anticonfederates that the referendum is the proper, the only just method of deciding the issue of forms of government? It is the people, and not political parties, who will be subject to the new government, whatever that new government may be. Who, then, should directly, and without the meddling of any political party, decide the matter? Is anyone going to tell me that the people are not fit to make that decision? Is anyone going to say that the people should not be trusted to decide the type of government by which they shall be ruled? And yet these anticonfederates would say, they do say, to the people, "No! You shall not choose from these three forms. We don't believe in one of them, therefore it must be postponed. You must accept first the one which we want. When you have done that, perhaps you will get a chance to vote for the other. Even though you don't want our form, you must vote for it. You must vote for what you don't want in order to get what you want. You shall not vote for confederation unless you vote for responsible government first."
Only once in our history has the question of confederation been submitted to our people. That was in 1869, two years after the then four British colonies on the mainland were united to form Canada. The Canadian union was then in its experimental stage, and there was no certainty that it would succeed or even survive. It lacked financial strength, the prairies were unpopulated, the transcontinental railway not even contemplated, and the country's economy almost entirely agricultural. Here in Newfoundland our people were uneducated. Few ever saw a newspaper. There was no radio. The whole question of confederation was deliberately turned into a political squabble. The anticonfederate party was led by a great merchant who spared no expense to win. An army of party hacks were sent around the Island to poison the people's minds against confederation. These henchmen traded on the people's ignorance and assured them that their property would be taxed — their homes, their furniture, their gardens, boats, flakes, stages, fishing gear, their poultry and animals, the very panes of glass in their homes. A horde of Canadian tax-gatherers would swarm over the land, the anticonfederates declared, and woe betide the unfortunates who didn't have the hard cash to pay up, for the hungry tax collectors would seize their property, put them on the street. Canada would seize their young men to fight her wars, and their bones would be left to bleach on the desert sands of Canada. Their very babies would be used as gun-wads in the Canadian cannon. Sir, if you cannot credit these statements, you have only to turn to Prowse's History of Newfoundland. There was no secret ballot in those days. There was no manhood suffrage. There was no woman's vote at all. The unfortunate voter had to declare his vote aloud in the presence of the party agent — often the employee of the local merchant, and it was a bold man who would brave the anger of his supplier in those semi-feudal days. As we look back upon that story of 1869, it is difficult to believe that any men voted for confederation; but thousands did, and it is of tremendous significance that out of 30 members elected to the House of Assembly, ten were confederates.[1]
How vastly different is the whole prospect today. Canada is a rich and powerful nation — no longer a strange and foreign land, but a friendly neighbour in which many thousands of our own Newfoundland people are prospering at this very moment. And our Newfoundland people are educated today, they are better informed, they read the newspaper and magazines, they have radios, they have relatives and friends in Canada. No longer are they under the thumb of anyone, merchant or otherwise. They have full manhood suffrage, both men and women. And they have the secret ballot. And, sir, they have something more: they have experience of two forms of government, Commission and responsible.
There is, however, one thing which has not changed. The same policy of twisting and distorting and misrepresenting the facts is again to be seen. The tax scare, which worked so well in 1869, is again put to work.
But these despicable political dodges are a bit stale and ineffectual, and so the anticonfederates have coined a new one, the Labrador scare. "If we become part of Canada, Quebec will chisel us out of Labrador." Sir, these men in their desperation forget that our people know full well that Labrador was awarded to Newfoundland by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council, and that there is no way whatever to upset that award. They know further that the terms of union now before us contain a definite undertaking by the Canadian government that Labrador shall form part of the Province of Newfoundland. They know that the British North America Act, which even the Government of Canada must obey, distinctly and clearly lays down the condition that no territory of a province can be taken from it. That is one of the terms of union. This silly catch-cry will fail, sir, as will the old and mouldy wail about taxing people's property. I do not know whether these anticonfederates are aware of it, but it is strictly true to say that since the beginning of Canadian confederation some 80 years ago there never has been, and there is not now, any tax of any kind whatever imposed by Canada upon people's property.
It is a grave decision which faces our people today — the form and nature of their future government. Only three forms seem to have been considered at all, whether in this Convention or among the citizens. They are the Commission, responsible and confederation forms. I understand, sir, that I am not permitted to discuss now either responsible or Commission government. I would have liked to do so, for neither of them is all good nor all bad. I must, however, bow to your ruling and confine myself to the third form, confederation, which proposes that Newfoundland should enter the Canadian union as the tenth province or partner. Notice, please, that it is not a case either of annexation or absorption or taking over. We go in as a partner, retaining our own identity, governing ourselves as to local matters, and sharing in the government of all Canada in matters of national interest. We will retain our own legislature right here in St. John's, with which nobody will interfere. We will also send elected members to represent us in the Canadian House of Commons, just as each province now does. We will not be a dependency without a word in our cheeks, but a partner with a full voice in Canada's councils, and complete control of local Newfoundland affairs.
Eighty years ago it might have been sound to say that to join in the union then would have been risky. The union had no assurance of success or even of continued existence. Today the prospect is far different. Those four weak provinces have grown and expanded into a mighty nation whose institutions have a world reputation for soundness and stability, and whose social, commercial and financial services are in the front rank of sane, modern development, and whose standard of living is far ahead of ours. If you doubt this latter statement, ask the people of the southwest coast, and of Labrador and northern Newfoundland, who are in constant touch with Canada. Truly, Canada has proved that in union there is strength, and it would now appear inevitable that had we joined the union in 1869, the Newfoundland people would be better off today. Of course the standard of living is higher in some parts of Canada than in other parts, just as in Newfoundland the people of the paper towns are better situated than those of the fishing settlements. These variations are inevitable in any country, as they depend on the resources of the particular locality. But there is no province of Canada which cannot show a better standard of living than we have experienced. That is a definite result of union, the system of taxation and distribution of revenue, and the power which January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1393 the united provinces wield in the world. The individual provinces don't count for very much, but when Canada speaks the nations of the world listen.
Under confederation we would be relieved of the cost of many public services which at present are a terrible load for this little country to carry. We would be relieved of that terrible but necessary burden, the railway. The postal, airport and veterans' services would be taken off our shoulders and improved. In the field of social service we would enjoy the benefits of family allowances, old age pensions, unemployment insurance and sick mariners' and fishermen's hospitalisation.
I have heard some strange pronouncements voiced both in and out of this chamber within the past couple of months, but none more curious than the assertions that Newfoundlanders were lazy and that family allowances were immoral, degrading and would result in people ceasing to earn a living. The first of these statements I pass by as beneath contempt. But the latter cannot be allowed to go unchallenged. Family allowances are paid by the Canadian government to every child in Canada (and that would include Newfoundland if our people chose confederation) from birth to the age of 16 years. The amount varies according to age from $5 to $8 per month for each child, or from $60 to $96 per year per child. The purpose is obvious. It is to ensure that every child in Canada shall have as far as possible appropriate food, sufficient clothing and education, notwithstanding that its parents are not prosperous. And, in order that the stigma of pauperism might not attach to the payments, these allowances are payable to all children, rich and poor alike.
Sir, I wonder if these professors of moral science, these dilettante arm-chair philosophers with their smug noses in the air, their full bellies, warm clothes and comfortable homes, can find one solitary clergyman of any denomination in the whole length and breadth of Canada — or Newfoundland — who has ever condemned these family allowances. On the contrary, they have hailed them as one of the most Christian pieces of legislation ever placed upon the statute book of any country. Are these clergymen immoral also? In Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and every other country that is for tunate enough to have them, this Christian and highly moral method of fostering child and family life merits and receives unstinted praise from all thinking men. It was quite moral, I suppose, to condemn thousands of our children to the dole, but to pay them family allowances is immoral. Sir, I wonder if these people do really mean What they say? Are they lost to all sense of sympathy for the innocent child who is unfortunately placed? Would they deprive him of proper food, clothing and a chance to attend school? Have their hearts become gizzards and their bowels bass rope? I think not. I wonder if the truth is that this eminently Christian and moral protection of the children will constitute a powerful factor in attracting thinking people and fathers, and more particularly mothers, to confederation, and away from that dearest wish of their hearts, responsible government?
Much has been said of taxation. I have not the time to go into that matter. I would point out, however, that the Canadian government's expenditures here will be at least $36 million a year, and their receipts from us in taxes are officially estimated at $20 million. Moreover, as to more than half our provincial revenue, it will be provided by the federal government, leaving $5-6 million to be collected in local taxation. In other words, in return for our paying a total of $26 million a year in taxes, we shall in federal and provincial services, both public and social, receive the equivalent of $51 million a year. The red herring of per capita debt has been drawn into this matter, and we have been told that every man, woman and child in this country will be saddled with his share of some $1,400. Why don't these distorters of fact go to the logical limit of absurdity and tell us that unless this is promptly paid a writ will be served on every infant in the cradle and his napkins sold to pay the bill? I never heard such trash before. Of course that debt is serviced out of the general revenues of Canada, which is collected mainly by income tax from corporations and individuals best able to pay, according to their profits. That is the whole policy of Canadian taxation — to put the burden on the broadest shoulders.
Sir, the whole campaign against confederation has been a continuous barrage of bald statements unsupported by any logical proof. "Give us back what we had", they cry. "Canada will tax your 1394 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 property; Quebec will get the Labrador; responsible government will get better terms." Mr. Chairman, here are the terms of union. The people have them now. Let them decide the issue. It is their absolute right, and if the members of this Convention in inconceivable arrogance attempt to cheat them of that right, I warn them that the people will know how to deal with them.
Sir, my duties as a Convention member are now all but ended. What I have done throughout is to try as best I could to reach no decision as to the comparative merits of the different forms of government until all the facts possible had been ascertained and discussed. And for that reason I have made no confession of political faith in this chamber. Some of you will remember that years ago I strongly opposed the introduction of Commission government. While I did not then and do not now favour that form, my hostility to its introduction was based mainly upon the fact that it was imposed upon the people without even asking their consent. It robbed the people of the right to say how they should be ruled. What was done then was undemocratic and politically indecent. Again I am faced with a similar question today. There is to be a referendum at which the people are to decide what form of government they want. The defeat of this motion may rob them of their right to vote for one of the forms of government. I would not be a party to such robbery in 1933, and I will notbe a party to it in 1948. I will not join the enemies of the people. Who are the 45 individuals who sit here to say to the Newfoundland people, "You shall not have an opportunity to vote for confederation?" What right have we to tell them that we will save them from themselves by denying them that right which was always theirs morally, and which Britain has returned to them now in full measure?
I shall vote for this motion. In my view it is the only course open to an honest man and a democrat. But I have, like every member, a preference of my own. I have given the matter a great deal of thought within the past 18 months, and I have at least had as good an opportunity to judge of the merits of the several forms of government as any man in Newfoundland, and I have come to a definite conclusion. I am not bound to disclose that conclusion here, but as many have made this Convention the means of proclaiming their political faiths, there is no reason why I should not tell the people where I stand. Naturally I hope the people will agree with me, but whatever form of government they choose I shall accept it loyally.
Because confederation will reduce the cost of living for our people and raise their standard of living;
Because confederation will reduce the burden of taxation on our people and apportion the burden more fairly amongst them;
Because confederation will give our people social services such as no other form of government would give them;
Because confederation will provide our people with wider opportunities of employment;
Because confederation will provide our people with greatly improved railway and other transportation services;
Because confederation will stabilise government revenues by means of definite federal cash grants;
Because confederation will make Newfoundland one of the family of Canadian provinces and bring her into union with the great, wealthy and growing Canadian nation, which has flourished under union while we have marched with snail's pace under isolation;
Because of these irresistible benefits offered our struggling people, sir, I am a confederate.
Mr. Higgins First of all, I would like to offer my congratulations to my learned friend Mr. Bradley on a very fine Speech indeed. I have admired Mr. Bradley's forensic ability for some time and today his speech was of the same order. It was also fully apparent to me that Mr. Bradley was pleading a case which he himself was not fully satisfied with. With respect to the remarks made by Mr. Bradley in his address in referring to the conduct of members here prior to the Christmas recess, whatever that conduct was, we have been very fair. Nobody can say that this confederation proposal has not been given anything but the fullest attention of the house for a longer period than any other form of government or any other report, and as Mr. Smallwood admitted at the end of the debate, he was fully satisfied with all the publicity given it.
I would also like to say I concur with the previous speakers in the views expressed by them on the cornmunistic tinge of Mr. Smallwood's remarks during this debate. I would also like to January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1395 draw your attention in this respect to the remarks made by him in speaking to the resolution we recently adopted. "They" (meaning the people) "are heartsick at seeing our governments feeding the fat sow. Truly, this is a country of which it can be said 'To him that hath shall be added, and from him that hath not, shall be taken away, even the little that he hath'." Then he said:
I am of the people and for the people of the working class, to the last drop of blood in my veins, the last ounce of flesh on my body. I come from the working class. I belong to them. My brothers toil for a living. I share their feelings and the feelings of the toilers of this country. They have never gotten a square show and a deliberate attempt has been made to stack up the powers of government and the powers of taxation against them, so as to keep them down. I share that belief. I have no shame in saying it. There is nothing aristocratic about me. There is not a single ounce of blue blood in me.
Mr. Chairman, I work for a living, you do also. All of us here do. We were sent here for a specific purpose, to endeavour to assist the people of this country in making up their minds as to what type of government they wanted. Not to inflame them; not to set class against class. I feel that I work as hard for a living as any of my countrymen. In a different way, I will admit, but still I feel, just as hard. I may not be a producer, but a necessary evil. I earn my money, and it is clean money. I resent this type of inflammatory talk. It is unnecessary and not part of our job to indulge in propaganda of any kind, and certainly not of this kind. If confederation means this manner of thinking being introduced into Newfoundland, I want no part of it — now, or any other time.
I agree that the rights of labour should be recognised. I agree that the producers in the country should be recognised. I agree that labour must be represented in any government of the future, and represented in a manner that will protect fully the rights of labour. But, Mr. Chairman, in my opinion, expressions such as I have drawn your attention to, are doing a disservice to labour. In Newfoundland, to my knowledge, relations between capital and labour have been happy. None of us in Newfoundland are bluebloods. Some must necessarily be masters and some employees, but I say without fear of contradiction that no country in the world has as happy a relationship in this respect as we have here. If Mr. Smallwood's form of oratory is considered to be in the best interests of Newfoundland and of the representatives of labour in Newfoundland, then, Mr. Chairman, I just cannot be thinking straight.
I would suggest, Mr. Chairman, that an article in a local newspaper, of which you, Mr. Chairman, are legal adviser, is very pertinent. It is the paper dated January 25, Sunday last, and is an article written by a Newfoundlander — Mr. F. Reardon of 1988 Notre Dame St. West, Montreal. Mr. Reardon stated that he had been persuaded by a friend to attend a meeting of the local union which had headquarters in Montreal. The meeting was actually a dinner for one of the union leaders. The hall was decorated with pictures of Lenin and Stalin. In the course of the speech by this union leader, he stated that labour in Newfoundland was ripe for the sowing of communism and that of the 43,000 workers in the country, 4,000 were already organized for communism. The speaker stressed the importance of helping to make confederation a reality.
In referring to a statement I made during the debate on this matter in committee of the whole, Mr. Smallwood quoted me as saying, "Here is Newfoundland sitting with a pat hand." What I meant to infer, of course, was that Newfoundland, for all the reasons I had enumerated, her strategic position and her mineral wealth, was in an excellent bargaining position. As an answer to this Mr. Smallwood said, "I wonder if Mr. Higgins is aware of the factthat we have nearly 1,200 veterans of the late war out of jobs right here in St. John's tonight? I wonder if he is aware that we have thousands on the dole in Newfoundland at this moment?" I am by no means unsympathetic in this unfortunate situation, but in justice to our country I would like to point out the following with respect to unemployment here and in Canada. I have taken the Newfoundland figures from the Evening Telegram. It was stated in one of their issues of last week that 8,076 persons who were able to work but could not secure employment received assistance for the year. These were figures released by the Department of Public Health and Welfare — 8,706 people for the 12 months ending in December. The latest figure of registered unemployment 1396 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 applicants in Canada totalled 135,000. The latest available figures are up to December 18, 1947. They show an increase of 29,000 since November 13, 1947. This 135,000 unemployed merely represents the number who have actually registered at unemployment offices. How many more there are unregistered is unknown.
There are some statements made by Mr. Smallwood when we debated this matter in committee of the whole that I want to draw your attention to. In replying to Mr. Northcott, who asked him what the position would be in respect to divorce in the event of Newfoundland's entering union with Canada, Mr. Smallwood stated:[1]
....I am going to say something about divorce in case we become a province of Canada. Sir, we have no divorce laws in Newfoundland. We never did, and I hope we never will. Those provinces of Canada that are in union now, some of them had divorce laws, before confederation was started in 1867. They took their own laws into the union with them.... I don't think that any other province since then has passed a divorce law of its own. If Newfoundland goes into confederation, I would give it as my opinion that it is ... highly unlikely that our House of Assembly will pass a divorce law.... If Mr. Northcott was a member of the provincial House of Assembly, I don't think he will vote for it I don't think Mr. Starkes, Mr. Vincent or Mr. Jackman or any of us here will ever vote to pass a divorce law. That's very unlikely.
I say to you that by these words Mr. Smallwood was making a deliberate attempt to deceive the members of this Convention and possibly the people of this country. He attempted to convey the idea that in the event of federal union it was a matter for the parliament of the province whether a divorce law was passed and divorce courts set up here.
That is definitely untrue, and Mr. Smallwood when making the statement knew it was untrue. The fact is that in the event of union, the matter of divorce is taken out of the hands of the parliament of Newfoundland. The parliament of Newfoundland would have no power to either set up divorce courts or to prevent them from being set up. That is a matter solely and entirely within the province of the federal government. I would refer you to the British North American Act and to your Black Book with respect to this matter. Then again in the course of his reply to Mr. Northcott, Mr. Smallwood said, "Mind you, there are only two grounds for divorce in Canada — adultery and desertion." That is definitely untrue and Mr. Smallwood knew at the time he made the statement that it was untrue. I would refer you again to your Black Book on this matter. Mr. Smallwood is always bragging about his wonderful memory, so what are we to understand by these mis-statements? I would suggest to you quite definitely that they are deliberately misleading.
I have pointed out to you the definite fact that in the event of federal union with Canada, the sole right and authority to pass a divorce law and to set up divorce courts in Newfoundland rests with the federal government at Ottawa and with that government alone. With union between the two countries the provincial legislature of Newfoundland would have no discretion to say "yes" or "no" in this matter. Unless a provision was included in the terms of union, clearly stating that the federal parliament at Ottawa would forego for all time the right to legislate for divorce in Newfoundland and undertake to have the British North America Act amended accordingly, then without such provision, such terms would be unacceptable to the Catholic people of Newfoundland. As no such provision is made in the proposals received from the Right Honourable the Prime Minister of Canada, I must advise you, Mr. Chairman, that the proposals cannot be accepted by our Catholic people.
Mr. Smallwood, during that same debate, stated that I said, "Yes, the terms appear to be fair but an elected government could get better terms." That is not exactly what I said; however, he then went on to explain what wonderful men the Ottawa delegation were, and having described those having confederate views in the delegation in somewhat glowing terms as to their personal accomplishments, stated:
... There you have the Ottawa delegation and in intelligence, ability, integrity, ... [they] would be the equal of any delegation that a government would send up there. They were absolutely as competent to ascertain the terms of union as any cabinet committee or delegation. We got the very best terms that January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1397 the Government of Canada can offer. No Canadian government could possibly offer Newfoundland better terms, not even if an elected government fought for it. It may be smart tactics to say ... "Yes, the terms appear to be fair, but an elected government would get better terms." That may be smart tactics, it may even be smart politics, but it has this serious point against it. It just is not true.
I would like to repeat again what I did say on that occasion to which Mr. Smallwood made answer. I quoted from the reply from the Canadian government to our request for these discussions. "The Canadian government is of the opinion that the questions to be discussed with the delegation are of such complexity and of such significance for both countries that it is essential to have a complete and comprehensive exchange of information and a full and careful exploration by both parties of all the issues involved, so that an accurate appreciation of the position may be gained on each side." I drew your attention to the wording of this reply and, in particular, "the questions to be discussed with the delegation are of such complexity" and again, "so that an accurate appreciation of the position may be gained on each side." I then stated:
As you are aware, our delegation had no expert assistance of any kind. Application was made to the Commission of Government for such assistance, but the application was refused. On the Canadian side, the cabinet members designated to take part in the discussions were flanked by some of the top men of the civil service of Canada. Moreover, the problem of confederation had been under active study by this particular group since October of last year. Actually, Canadian government officials have been studying the proposition for some years.
As you are aware, our delegation had no such opportunity of preparation and certainly no such assistance during the discussions. In my opinion, our delegation was not competent to discuss fully such an important matter without proper assistance and without an adequate study of the problem. I say to you quite sincerely, that for any person, member of this Convention or not, to advise the people of this country to join in federal union with Canada without the necessary study of all the implications of such union, is nothing less than criminal.
What you say, is the proper approach? In my opinion before union should be recommended, a complete study of the Canadian system should be made by the various departmental heads of our civil service, to see and advise the effect such Union would have. The heads of these departments would then confer with a delegation having full powers to negotiate. In other words, the case for Newfoundland would be carefully prepared and fully understood by those who are to present it, and moreover, the delegation representing Newfoundland should have with them these same departmental heads to advise and assist throughout the negotiations.
I trust that my fellow members of the delegation will not take it that I am making any reflection on them when I say that the delegation was not competent to discuss the matters we were discussing. This is not intended to be a reflection on the ability of any one of them, but simply (except possibly in the case of Mr. Smallwood), that none of us had studied the matter thoroughly before the appointment of the delegation, and we were at a tremendous disadvantage with no technical advice, and lastly, but most important of all, we had no power to negotiate.
I must frankly confess that the offer we have received appears to be fair, but I am fully confident that a delegation properly informed, assisted by competent advisers, and with the power to negotiate would receive a better offer from Canada than we have received I say that with full knowledge of what I am saying. From information I gathered from various sources during our visit to Ottawa, I am certain that the Canadian government would have given us a better offer than we have gotten had the case been properly presented Again I repeat with full knowledge of what I am saying, that we can still get a better offer or, if you will, more favourable terms of confederation, if the approach is made by a government elected by and representative of Newfoundland.
I mean no reflection on the members of the delegation but I say again, that we were not competent to bargain for terms of confederation 1398 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 as we had not given sufficient study to the problems, we were without proper assistance and above all, we had no power to negotiate. I say, and repeat again, that I am certain that We would have received a better offer if the approach had been by representatives of a duly elected government properly informed and with full powers to negotiate. Mr. Smallwood says that that is not true. I say it is true, and I leave it to you to decide who is telling the truth. Mr. Bradley read an extract from Mr. King's letter: "The Government of Canada believes that the arrangements go as far as the government can go under the circumstances", meaning "with the facts presented to them".
Mr. Smallwood in his reply in that same debate stated positively that if we entered federal union and did not like it, we could always leave the union. I feel certain that the incorrectness of this statementhas been proved to you quite amply by Hon. Mr. Job. I would quote to you further from the book by Professor Wheare: "It is indeed significant that the one modem government claiming to be federal which grants the right to secede, the USSR, is the one where the exercise of the right is least likely to be permitted." Yet Mr. Smallwood says we can always leave the union if we join up with Canada — maybe it is Russian.
In attempting to discredit me, Mr. Smallwood described me as a weather-vane That may be Mr. Smallwood's opinion, but I should hope, Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, that you will appreciate that I am merely an honest person who is sufficiently broad-minded to be able to change his opinion, and with the courage to say so. I do not, moreover, deal in untruths. The two points on which I changed my opinion were some statements by Major Cashin relative to the set-up of the Convention, and the question of discussing union with the USA as raised by Mr. Jackman's motion. Only two members of the Convention to my recollection supported this motion — Mr. Figary and Mr Reddy. With respect to union with the States. As we are aware, there does exist a very definite wish amongst a number of our countrymen that the ballot at the referendum should include union with the United States. It is too late now for this Convention to explore the possibility of union with that great country, and consequently the Convention will be unable to recommend that this form of government be placed on the ballot. Whilst it is quite definite that the future economic security of Newfoundland makes it essential that we have a definite arrangement with the United States, this now must be left for an elected government to handle. If this country were to federate with Canada, the opportunity to negotiate with the United States for trade concessions would be impossible, and any wish to join in union with the United States would be lost forever. Most thinking people agree that at some time in the future the North American continent will be in union. That is, the United States will assimilate Canada. The time when such union takes place may be greatly accelerated by world events. What a position to bargain Newfoundland would be in, if she was independent when such union takes place!
In mentioning the United States, another most important matter in considering confederation with Canada arises. We have listened for many, many months to the advantages of joining with this land of heart's desire — Canada. Would Mr. Smallwood in his reply care to state why so many Canadians are leaving Canada to reside in the United States? In the 90 years between 1851 and 1941, 6,700,000 people immigrated to Canada. With all the hard work put in by the Canadian government, and all the money spent in 90 years to encourage immigration, the net gain was 400,000 people. In the last boom period from 1920 to 1930, Canada lost some 500,000 of her citizens to the United States, an average of 50,000 a year. Since the end of the war in Europe in 1945, it is stated that about 40,000 Canadians per year have made applications to emigrate to the United States. How many Canadians go across the border without being granted permission is impossible to estimate. It is stated that two-thirds of all those emigrating to the United States from Canada are under 37 years of age. Due to United States immigration requirements, those granted permission are usually a picked group, and the result is Canada is losing her best type of citizens, the thrifty and better-trained people. The chief reason for the immigration appears to be the better wages paid in the United States. The earnings in manufacturing in the United States averaged $1.20 per hour to the Canadian 78 cents per hour. The statement that the increased wages in the United States is equalised by the higher January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1399 cost of living does not appear to be correct. It would appear that for the same standard of living of a middle-income group, the weekly expenditure for cost of living is $5 higher in the States but wages are $20 higher per week there than in Canada. The reasons given for the difference in the wage scale is that business firms in Canada cannot afford to pay the same wages as paid in the United States. This argument, however, should not apply to the pulp and paper industry in which the Canadians believe they lead the world. In this industry, the average hourly earnings of pulp and paper workers in Canada is 85 cents and in the United States $1.43. The real reason however, for this difference in wages is not in industry, but in the Canadian people themselves, because of what they pay their citizens in Canadian schools, colleges and the civil service.
Canadian agricultural research should lead the world, because of the necessity for such research in farming a land which requires it so much. It should be, as a writer puts it, "a mecca for agricultural scientists". Yet at the experimental farm at Ottawa, of which Mr. Smallwood has talked so much, a man was employed who started at 35 cents per hour. After eight years, one of which he took off to get his master's degree, he was getting $1,800 per year. He had a chance then from the United States to earn a salary while working for his Ph.D, He said that, "After the successful completion of two year's study I was informed that the highest salary I could expect on return to Canada was $1,800."
With respect to teachers. One young man has stated:
In Canada there are about 12 provincial normal schools as well as a few universities which train teachers. I wrote to each asking if they had any faculty openings. Only two offered any hope. One, a normal school, listed a beginner's salary of $1,800. The other, a university, offered an assistantship at $1,500. In the United States there are over 100 teachers' colleges and normal schools. Innumerable universities also train teachers. I wrote only a few, but I was offered a position in a state teachers' college at $3,600.
And so on down the line; but I am sure the facts are known to you. I would, however, recommend you to an article by Mr. Blair Fraser, the Ottawa editor of Maclean's Magazine, dated October 1947, and entitled "Why Canadians Leave Home".
And now, permit me to refer to the famous matter of taxes — particularly property taxes on which Mr. Smallwood has been harping so much. He has told you that this is a provincial matter and therefore in the event of union you will never have property tax imposed in Newfoundland. This is absolute nonsense, as Mr. Smallwood well knows. How many provinces of Canada have property taxes and why are they imposed? Let Mr. Smallwood answer, if he likes. Would they be imposed in Newfoundland in the event of union? Of course they would, by the provincial parliament. They would have to be if the country is to continue to keep up the necessary services and to make the necessary improvements.
As a province, Newfoundland would lose her main sources of revenue, yet some of our costliest services would be left to be kept up — our public health and welfare, our education and our roads. Who would provide the money for the roads in the outports? Canada will not. With the amount left to the provincial parliament they cannot, except with extra taxes. The provincial parliament, instead of collecting these taxes directly may avoid it by forming town councils. However, if it is done, it will necessitate increased taxation. And what is the logical way this taxation will be imposed? The logical way and one of the ways it is done in Canada is by property taxes. All those taxes which Mr. Smallwood has been crying out would not be imposed by the federal government in the event of union will of necessity have to be imposed in Newfoundland whether it be by the provincial government or by town councils which will have to be formed. They will have to be imposed or the provincial government will not be able to carry on.
Now let me revert to our so-called iniquitous taxation system here at present. Our customs duties: well, whether it is high or low, it is being collected solely by Newfoundland and is being spent in Newfoundland. I would submit that the monies being collected by our customs duties are being used in a great measure to provide services for the not so well-to-do people in our country. They help pay the cost of public health and welfare, which is to a large extent helping our less- privileged people, in providing hospitalisation and other public health services, in pensions and relief, etc. The chief recipients of our public 1400 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 health service are the less fortunate people of the island. The same applies to education. Even if our tariff is high, our people are still getting the benefit of it. It is merely robbing Peter to pay Paul. Mr. Smallwood may say, "Oh yes, but the wealthy are still making money out of it." That I admit, and under any form of government, however the taxes are raised, you will always have some people making more money than other people. That is the capitalistic system under which we live and under which Canada lives. If Mr. Smallwood wishes us to become converts to Karl Marxism and bow down to the doctrines of Joseph Stalin, he should now make a motiOn that we federate with Russia. But even in holy mother Russia, the share-the-wealth policy is by no means universal.
I should like to refer to a very important statement made by Mr. Crosbie some few days ago. He said, Mr. Chairman, that our sales of fish to Spain and Italy were only possible because of trade arrangements made through the United Kingdom government. In the event of confederation these arrangements would not apply, consequently Newfoundland would be unable to make a sale to these countries. Last night, in an address at Burns Night, Mr. Gushue, Chairman of the Newfoundland Fisheries Board, said that Newfoundland produces for export around a million quintals of salt cod per year. At least half, at times more than half, is sold to European markets. The loss of these markets would be a death blow to the industry. Our trade has been made possible by the use of sterling convened into dollars. Before the war, when two of these countries were short of pounds, our exports were able to be continued as a result of our being included in trades and payments agreements made between these countries and the United Kingdom. As a result we received payment in dollars. Whilst Mr. Gushue did not say so last night, I know for a fact that Canada wanted to sell fish to these countries at that time and could not. Mr. Gushue admitted that due to abnormal after-war conditions, we could not convert the sterling into dollars and the government had to step in and help out the situation. Then he said we must satisfy ourselves which of the forms of government under discussion can make sure the continuance of this trade, without which we would be in a very awkward position. That, said Mr. Gushue, was one prob lem that had not been discussed in the Convention, and the other was the type of currency best suited to Newfoundland. Newfoundland is tied to the Canadian dollar and the Canadian exchange control. For some years we had a surplus of US dollars which the Canadian exchange control got the benefit of. Canada has a huge recurring deficit in its dollar account with the United States. If sterling cannot be converted what will our position be? We sell to Europe much more than we buy. Then he said, should we not satisfy ourselves which currency is best suited to the complex trading position of Newfoundland? There is no man or body of men in Newfoundland today who can answer that question, but the question cannot be ignored as probably the whole future of the country depends on the answer.
I would suggest to Mr. Smallwood, who is most anxious to be prime minister of Canada's tenth province, that there is no reason why he cannot realize this announced ambition of his. Canada, as he has told us so often, is the third largest country in area in the world, yet only has a population of 12.5 million. Even now she is bringing in immigrants, displaced persons, from Europe, and any others that she can encourage to enter Canada. I would imagine with the contacts Mr. Smallwood has with the Canadian government that he might very well have an area set aside from which a new province could be founded. As was suggested before in one of our local papers, this province might very well be named Small-Brad-land. He might take with him all those people who want to be Canadians. He could be the prime minister and those in this Convention who adhere to his ideas could very well be his cabinet. Then with the government of his heart's desire, as he described it, in his new province he might very well exercise all the power he is so anxious to acquire. Why, he might be even as powerful as the gentleman he described as that Fascist, that Nazi, that slimy person, the Premier of Quebec. There then he and his supporters could really ascertain if a fair and equitable basis for union is present. He could give a true account of the taxes that would be necessary to be paid and the value of all the wonderful services. After ten years he could come back to us here in Newfoundland and tell us the real picture of life in that wonderful country, and then we will make up our minds on the whole idea. To January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1401 me it seems a very fair suggestion, everybody will be happy then.
For the benefit of the member from Bonavista Centre, I would quote to him the words of Sir Walter Scott:
Breathes there a man with soul so dead, Who never to himself hath said, "This is my own, my native land?" Whose heart hath ne'er within him burned, As home his footsteps he hath turned, From wandering on a foreign strand? If such there breathes, go, mark him well: For him no minstrel raptures swell; High though his titles, proud his name, Boundless his wealth as wish can claim, Despite these titles, power, and pelf, The wretch, concentrated all in self, Living, shall forfeit fair renown, And, doubly dying, shall go down To the vile dust from whence he sprung, Unwept, unhonoured and unsung.
Mr. MacDonald Mr. Chairman, in spite of the quotation just made by Mr. Higgins, I heartily support the motion now before the Chair with the same sense of duty as a member of this Convention, as I did when I supported Mr. Higgins' motion to recommend two possible forms of government to be placed before the people at the forthcoming referendum. I contend, sir, that any member of this Convention who does not support this motion places himself in the unenviable position of trying to restrict the people whom they represent in their free choice of forms of government. I suggest to the gentlemen who have political aspirations, and who intend to oppose this motion, that they are making a political mistake.
Our Newfoundland people generally — and I know them fairly well — are a fair-minded race, and although there are some who will oppose federal union with Canada, yet they will likely resent any attempt to restrain their friend or neighbour from exercising his or her right to choose the form of government he or she wishes, even though his neighbour's political leanings may not be the same as his own. The spirit of fair play is one of the attributes of our people. I throw out the hint to members concerned freely, Mr. Chairman.
I do not know, sir, whether any of the members of this Convention came here with any mandate from their district to choose or support any par ticular form of government. I certainly did not. I understood, and I think rightly, that I was chosen to come here to consider and discuss the financial and economic position of Newfoundland and recommend possible forms of government as it applied to the welfare of Newfoundland in general; not any district in particular. We are a National Convention, not a group of men representing districts only. And in passing, I consider it was a good idea of the Commission of Government to have residents representative of the country as a whole, inexperienced and all as they might be. Otherwise, we might have had a National Convention made up of residents of the Avalon Peninsula, who might possibly hold the same opinion, as one of the members of the Convention from St. John's, who intimated that as far as he was concerned, the Avalon Peninsula was Newfoundland.
Mr. Chairman, I have endeavoured during the life of this Convention, to maintain an attitude of neutrality as between the different political ideologies. Indeed, I was named by a certain radio commentator as "Middle-of-the-road MacDonald". I take that as a great compliment and thank the commentator for pointing out that I was trying to do the job I was sent here to do.
Now that our work as a Convention is at long last coming to an end, and we are asked as individuals to make our preference as to the particular form of government which, in our opinion, will be for the best interests of our country and its people, I find it is time to step off the middle of the road, and I must admit that it has been pretty lonely there for a long time.
Mr. Chairman, after due consideration, and trying not to be influenced by the impassioned oratory of my friend Major Cashin, or the fiery eloquence of my friend Mr. Smallwood, but judging wholly by the evidence before us, I have come to the personal conclusion that federal union with Canada is the most acceptable form of government for Newfoundland out of the three choices before us, and the one which will be in the best interests of our country and for the following reasons:
1. We will not forfeit the democratic way of life we talk so much about; no person can reasonably think that the Canadian way of life is not democratic.
2. Federal union with Canada will reduce our 1402 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 cost of living generally. I think that must be admitted.
3. Federal union will do the greatest good for the greatest number; which I am sure is or should be the object of all the members of this Convention It will place the burden of taxation where it belongs, on the shoulders of those who have the capacity to pay. It will give our people social security in the way of old age pensions to an extent which we have been unable to reach either under our own government or Commission in the past, and I doubt if we could ever hope to reach to that extent in the future under the governments I have mentioned.
Federal union will give us the benefits which family allowances will bring, not only directly to the persons concerned, but indirectly in the way of general business. It is estimated that 120,000 children under the age of 16 would be eligible for the family allowances. At an average of $72 per child per year, this would amount to $8,640,000. It is also estimated that the number of persons over 70 is 10,000. When we allow that 7,000 of these are eligible for pensions at $30 per month, this would amount to another $2.5 million. Making a grand total of over $11 million per year put into circulation in this country each year in these two services alone — and that's no chicken-feed, sir, despite the criticisms levelled against it. It has been stated that we will have to pay for these services. Of course we will have to pay our proportional share as a province, but we will have the help of about 12 million people in doing it. The point is, could we ever hope to accomplish this on our own?
Federal union will also bring us unemployment benefits, with which I am sure my friends Mr. Fudge, Mr. Jackman, Mr. Fogwill and other labour men will not disagree.
Federal union would provide the same facilities to us as enjoyed by Canadian citizens in all nine provinces, viz. that of having free entry to other provinces for our people, particularly our young people who may wish a wider field of endeavour in their chosen professions or trades and not be treated as foreigners and admitted on a quota. It will not be the first time in our history that through depression or other causes, our people have been forced to seek work elsewhere, in times when there were not jobs enough even to go around; from what I can hear there are not enough jobs even now to carry our people over, in spite of an expression made in this Convention in connection with a certain place that there was plenty of work, if the people were not too lazy to look for it.
Mr. Chairman, we have increasing numbers of young people graduating from Memorial University. What have we to offer them in Newfoundland in order that they may carry on their chosen careers? Federal union will give them an opportunity on an equality with the young people of our neighbouring dominion to go forward in their various professions. If we cannot provide sufficient employment for our growing population, let us then in the name of goodness try and clear the way for them to seek it elsewhere.
Mr. Hollett I rise to a point of privilege. I understand Mr. MacDonald made reference to something I was supposed to have said in connection with men being too lazy to work. I have had another slap at me from Mr. Bradley about the same supposed statement.
Mr. Smallwood And by me.
Mr. Hollett You are not worth mentioning. Before there is any further reference to that supposed statement, I insist that the full text be produced.
Mr. Chairman Please, Mr. Smallwood. How can I deal with a question of privilege if I have interruptions? I am not going to have them.
Mr. Hollett The point is this. Is Mr. MacDonald referring to the exact quotation of my speech or is he not? If he is not, then I maintain he has no right to refer to it.
Mr. Chairman Unfortunately I am not able to rule for the obvious reason that I would have to have the excerpt from your speech in which the supposed statement was made before I could rule on it. I do not know if you are being represented or misrepresented. I do not recall the statement.
Mr. Smallwood The country heard it.
Mr. Chairman I am not interested. I am not in a position to rule at this time. I will have to see if I can have it unearthed.
Mr. Hollett If any further reference is to be made, I would like to have the context and not a mere phrase therein.
Mr. Chairman I think the point is well taken. I think it is highly improper and unfair for any member to take a statement or a portion of a statement without quoting the thing in toto.
Mr. MacDonald To begin with, I did not say Mr. Hollett said it. I said it was made here in this Convention. If Mr. Hollett thinks the hat fits, he will have to wear it.
Mr. Smallwood He will wear it.
Mr. MacDonald I was sitting in the chair alongside of Mr. Hollett.
Mr. Hollett Then you were referring to me?
Mr. Smallwood The whole country heard it.
Mr. Chairman I hope at this stage members will please remember that time is of the essence. We are trying to get through a very important item of business and we have very little time left, and interjections and interruptions of this sort are causing a waste of time. I must ask members to strictly adhere to the rules.
Mr. MacDonald Do you wish me to go on?
Mr. Chairman Mr. Hollett rose to a question of privilege. He wanted his right defined in connection with a statement. He was perfectly in order in drawing my attention to it. He did not interrupt. He rose to a point of privilege.
Mr. MacDonald There are many other points I could make to show why federal union is my preference; but they have already been discussed in the Convention and it would be only repetition to carry them further. In general, Mr. Chairman, I believe that federal union with Canada will be a solution of a great number of our difficulties. We will be joining a growing nation, and with it we will grow. On our own, we will possibly find ourselves within a very few years back to where we were in the 1920s and 1930s.
Mr. Chairman, as this is probably the last time I will have the privilege of addressing this Convention, I take this opportunity to say that it has been a pleasure to me to attend this Convention. I have learned a good deal, and I agree with Major Cashin that friendships have been formed which will last as long as life itself, and which will undoubtedly have a good effect on the country at large in the days that are ahead. Before I resume my seat, may I personally express my humble, but none the less sincere appreciation of the manner in which you, sir, have conducted the proceedings of this Convention since you were appointed as our Chairman. It has not been an easy task, but you have, in my opinion, been strictly impartial in your many rulings. You have kept us strictly to the rules of procedure and the terms of reference as laid down, and you were always ready to guide and instruct us in every way possible; and I feel sure, sir, that you have earned the respect and admiration of the members of this National Convention.
[The Convention adjourned until 8 pm]
Mr. Bailey Mr. Chairman, before us today we have a job which now and again crops up in our history. Perhaps I may be pardoned if I were to quote Mark Twain, the great American humourist, who when writing about King Arthur's court, said of the knights in search of the Holy Grail, "Every now and again the boys went agrailing." Again our boys have gone agrailing. While I know it is not the holy vessel, yet to my mind it is something just as elusive — to better your condition by throwing your troubles upon the shoulders of a second power or person. In my opinion, if a person or nation cannot solve their own problems, how can a second person or power do that, when they have the same troubles themselves? There are aspects of this search which, if I may quote a learned jurist, "To me there is an odour in the state of Denmark."
During the debate there were statements made either through ignorance or a wish to deceive the people, for instance the statement of Mr. Smallwood and Mr. Ashbourne that Newfoundland once in confederation could get out was a deliberate falsehood. If they knew no more about it than that, they should have left it deliberately alone. For we will turn back the pages of history. The BNA Act "gave all legislative power to the federal government except over matters expressly reserved to the provinces. Power to levy any kind of taxes, to make any and every regulation of commerce, of money, and banking and to disallow any provincial statute it proposed to disallow." The result of this, nothing was clear in intent, nothing has proven more fallacious in its issue. The lean kind were to eat up the fat. The feeble provinces of 1867, apparently denuded of revenue, and devoid of all but the meager and necessary, were to be changed by altered circumstances and by judicial interpretation into the autonomous units of 70 years later, a sort of heptarchy (or a country ruled by different governments) whose members control the public domain, and vast revenues from sources unknown at confederation. Now, all that was to come later. The provinces felt themselves overshadowed by the Dominion, and no longer in 1404 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 control of home and patrimony. But once in, there was no way out. Nova Scotia appealed in vain to Westminster for repeal. How in the light of this two members of the Ottawa delegation can get up and say we can get out, leaves me deaf and dumb. If such was the case, why wasn't it embodied in the terms? Then we would know there was some weight in it. But say, if in ten years time we wanted to withdraw from confederation, what an argument to present to the federal government and the Privy Council — the people voted for confederation with the understanding that they could withdraw if it did not suit them. They had it on the authority of Messrs. Smallwood and Ashbourne. British Columbia for 20 years demanded secession, but is still in. Now in the light of this, members of the National Convention, please, in Heaven's name, tell the people the truth. I see no difference in a political lie than any other kind of a lie; and this, in the light of the knowledge I have, is a political lie. We have heard a lot about finances, internal borrowing that don't cost anything! I have found in a lifetime that I had to pay.
I will try to give a summary of the impact of the depression on Canada and her industries in the 1930 crisis. For the truth is, the whole economic life of Canada was dislocated by the industrial collapse. She was not alone. Following 1930, Canadian currency in 1933 was inconvertible, like other currency. Then we had the pernicious system of trade and exchange quotas that was strangling everything when the war brought it to a quick end. Canada felt this to the full. First, because it still depends largely on exports from primary industries, like Newfoundland. The second reason she felt it was because, like Newfoundland, she is exporting cash profits out of the country because of the large amounts of foreign investments in the country. It was estimated in 1937 there was some $2,684,000,000 of British capital invested in Canada. This was held in fixed obligations and in railway shares; besides this, there was $3,932,000,000 of American capital, held in common stocks, municipal bonds and investments in subsidiary companies. All in all, it represented a volume of interest payments, much of it contracted in the terms of foreign currency. This gave a total of $6,616,000,000 of foreign investment, which caused both government and people some anxiety. I want to bring this to the fore when people say Canada will invest money here. There is need for money in her own economy. Perhaps that is the reason, as Mr. Reddy pointed out, that there is so little Canadian money invested here. They simply have not got it and they have furthered their own economy by handling our finances and insurances, always a cash transaction and a very lucrative profession. In fact we have been a cow to get milked, and we have been milked very thoroughly, and if this goes through we will be beefed as well. In coming back to this, I won't go into the case of the individual John Doe Canadian citizen in this upheaval, but the farmers held out as best they could while new aid and relief, total or partial, extended to 870,000 persons in 1938. It took a war to wipe the slate clean, and I guess after the war a new slate will be wanted.
Now I'll come to the matter of the Canadian national debt. I shall not stress it. I think Major Cashin has done justice to that, but something has been left out. I agree with Mr. Smallwood that this is something that our people are afraid of. They have had some painful memories of national debt and paying the interest on it. Mr. Smallwood has gone merrily along, telling us that it does not matter how large the national debt of Canada is, as it is held by Canadians. Strange to say, I agree with Mr. Smallwood to a point, that interest will circulate again in Canada when it is paid in Canada, but now I'm perplexed — how? Because if we go into confederation as new Canadians, with no bonds or very little bonds held here in Newfoundland, although we will shoulder our share of this debt, said to run from $900 per capita by the confederates to $1,500 per capita by the anticonfederates, how are we going to share in the cut of the interest take? Are we, after confederation, going to cut this island up in squares and fit the pieces into the nine provinces that hold the bonds? It seems to me Mr. Smallwood's arguments are hogwash, for if we are a province, the money we send to pay the interest on the bonds in Canada will be just as far out of the island of Newfoundland and the Labrador as regards doing us any good, as the interest we send to England.
Mr. Smallwood went to long lengths to describe the huge surplus that Canada had last year, and the sound healthy position she was in, he poohpoohed the idea that she would have any January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1405 trouble. The dollar bills just showered down in this rock-candy mountain. But I have a recollection that Britain had a balanced budget and a large surplus. I don't think Mr. Smallwood or anyone else would admit that she was in a strong, healthy financial position. The reason was, she did not have exports to buy her imports. You can always balance a budget with a printing press. You can also export with the same, but the time comes when even that won't give you the market. Britain was in straits although she had a balanced budget, because she did not have exports to pay for the imports. Canada is in a jam because the countries she can export to ... have not the exports or gold to pay for Canada's exports; a vicious circle, Mr. Smallwood, but then just the same I'll forgive you. It's a world's saying that journalists and lawyers are the world's worst economists. But you must tell people that you know how you must keep it up. "Would that God that gift would to give us To see ourselves as others see us."
I am trying to show this Convention the holes that are in this proposition, and I think you can row through them. I have a decision to make, and I must show the reason why I am making that decision. In referring to my speech on the municipal taxes, Mr. Smallwood said I was shrewd, as I knew what hurt people. Taxes, yes. Nothing hurts like taxes, especially when you have nothing to pay them with. And there is a law saying they must be paid, or else. Now again, I must agree with Mr. Smallwood's explanation that the federal government does not tax property. I think that's clear to everybody, for the Black Books stated that is left for the municipal government, not town councils — there are no town councils mentioned in the Black Books, they are called municipal governments. I also agree with him that the provincial government does not tax property unless there is no municipal government. Take the case of PEI, the provincial government there and the school districts do tax property as throughout the other eight provinces. The municipal governments do tax property and they collect as much in this tax as one-third to a half the revenues of the provincial government, and when it was put before the Ottawa delegation that we could not run the province on what we would get from the federal government, the answer was, "Use up your surplus or put on more taxes." And we will find out when that royal commission comes here that they will show the provincial government how to go about it, and then fur will fly. I am, shall I say, brutally frank. I tell them they will be taxed and I'm going to have a lot of fun out of it, because if we go into confederation, for a few years in this country it will be as good as seeing the "Pirates of Penzance". I know I won't be in any government, municipal or provincial, that will have to put them on. I am going to try to show the people the taxes the provinces are using to give them the conveniences they are having. I am going to let them read them themselves, and if it does not change them, and if they get them, it is their own hard luck. If I were an ardent confederate I would do that, forI know our people and I want to live with them, and I know that if you fool them, they have long memories. I believe this time that Shakespeare's quotation will be very apt only it will include men as well as women. I don't want to be one to fool the people.
In this I am going to quote some of the assessments of our neighbouring province of Nova Scotia. Perhaps we are going to do on $15 million what they do on $30 million, our people have been told they will have the same living conditions in Newfoundland as they have in Nova Scotia. That is the battle cry of those who favour this form of government. It is strange to me that in the years I have lived and worked amongst those people I did not find it so. The sea was always a struggle, the Gaspé coast bleak with its small fishing villages, no harbours, their homes like any fishing village, say Pouch Cove or Portugal Cove. The homes, some better than others, some worse. You won't find the chesterfields there, but you'll find the settle of our father's day, hand carved by some old habitant. The land is better than ours on the whole, with the exception of Howley and Codroy Valley, but to the fisherman-farmer, their life is the same hard grind and the same as here, from the boat to the garden and when the fishery fails, the woods. There is no luxury. The province has a back log. They have their factories and the large port of Montreal to take up the slack, but we have no factories here to give our people ease from these taxes, neither have we the great port of Montreal, or any other, to ease our fishermen's burdens. Montreal collects from all the provinces that ship through her every bushel of grain from the Prairie provinces 1406 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 that do not go through Churchill or Vancouver. The ships that pay the light dues, even pay the dues to keep nine lights that are kept in Newfoundland waters. It is all right to compare this with that, but consider the comparison — go in Chaleur Bay, Miramichi Bay, talk to the fishermen, farmers, loggers there, you'll find the same, just like our own folk doing the same. As a Newfoundlander told me at Shediac in 1934, "It's tough", only he emphasised it. Come to Pugwash, lumber, bricks, you see its counterpart in Smith's Sound, PEI, where the annual earnings are even lower than ours, who are looking to Newfoundland for their market for produce, where the farmer is getting about $1.50 per cwt. for potatoes. Time forbids me quoting other prices. Go to Cape Breton and it is the same, hundreds of farmers gone back to the country their fathers got good livings from. The younger generation has left for the industrial centres, although when God made Cape Breton he smiled on it, he gave it coal, lumber, good farming land and fishing and with Newfoundland ore, it could be a paradise. The raw material is brought to a certain point, then it is taken away to be finished in Ontario or Quebec and as the profits are exported also, what is left is not enough to give the people a good living, and certain parts are slums or a little better.
We go to the Magdalen Islands, they have been forgotten the past few years. They have had a representative who has taken a keen interest in them and who has alleviated their condition somewhat, but before that, like our Labrador, they only lived to produce taxes to be spent somewhere else. Come to south Nova Scotia. The fine fishermen of years ago, unable to bring ends together, have moved away to form the bulk, with Newfoundlanders, of the Boston and New Bedford fleet, which today is using a large number of Newfoundlanders to man their vessels. Always the cry was that taxation was killing them.
I could go on, as their coasts are to me like my own coasts, and I know that if nature would allow us to fish from our homes nearly all the year around ... our people would have a living as good or better than anybody in the world. Our fishermen's season is roughly from three to six months. You'll see there are no bankers outfitting yet in Newfoundland, but the Lunenburg fishermen are gone nearly a month ago. A draft of saltfish is today $14 in Nova Scotia and the same at Harbour Grace. I could go on like Tennyson's brook, forever, and tell lots of things about why fishermen here can't make the wages they make to the west... To pay taxes, you must earn. I did not come to this Convention to study confederation. I discovered Canada early in life, and from the Gaspé coast to the River St. Croix I have a very intimate knowledge of the men who with their hands produce the wealth wrested from land, woods, mines and sea. I have yet to meet one that did not curse confederation, I mean from the rural districts, and my mind goes back to 1912, and we were anchored in the Magellan Strait, awaiting daylight. The second mate and myself were on the bridge, and there the talk turned to confederation. He had been master of one of Nova Scotia's last iron windjammers. He said, "Charlie, if our fathers had any savvy and formed a confederation of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, PEI and Newfoundland, the world would be a worthwhile place for us today." He told me that at the time of confederation we had a large fleet of ships, and if we had joined hands then, nobody could have touched us. All four provinces owned their own homes and lands, we could have sailed ships cheaper than any of the rest of the world. We could have been a maritime nation as we had the men, and that's a country's best asset. "But", he said, "we were forced into confederation, you stayed out. Britain did not want any rivals in the maritime field and here are you and I working under what is to us a foreign flag." The ship was registered in Britain, owned in the United States. I could see it then, as he pointed it out to me, I believe that would be confederation worthwhile... Nova Scotia cannot get a break now as all the money is in Ontario and God did not intend them to be sailors.
I have given this deep thought and I am firmly convinced even if the people vote against it, we will go into confederation unless we watch our balance. For it is a $64 question how Nova Scotia got in at that time. The Nova Scotia elections went terrible against the confederation, 54 out of 57 seats being against it. The House of Commons was advised by a very able member, Mr. John Bright, not to include Nova Scotia, but to allow the general election to take place to ascertain the opinion of the colony; but the government and the House was deaf to this counsel.... They went January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1407 in with a parliament against it, and today we have no parliament. I think this time we have the chance of the celluloid cat in Dante's inferno chased by an asbestos dog. The only reason this Codvention was called was to get that $30,000 messenger service to Ottawa, for something that was there four years before they went, according to the wise man from the East End in reporting on the Black Books, the amount of work done by the delegation there, those secret documents I have before me — the scratch log, I call it. Never in the history of human endeavour did so much come out of so little. What manner of men do they think we are? They forget Honest Abe said, "You can't fool all the people, all the time."
There has been a lot of talk about flour and the price. Everybody seems to forget that in peacetimes we get flour cheaper than any other part of the world. I know in 1929, I put six barrels of flour in my house for $4.86 a barrel. I wish I could put it there today. About a month later at Halifax, I was in my sister's home when she paid $5.60 for the same brand of flour, and a month afterwards, making up the vessel's accounts at Gloucester, flour was charged at $6.50 per barrel. 1939 flour cost landed $3.40 per barrel, was sold to grocers in St. John's for $3.80 per barrel, while flour was retailing for $5.20 per barrel in Nova Scotia. But see how they treat us now?... Now the price of flour is $9.20 per 100 lb. sack. The trade here wanted to take only enough to fill the northern orders, but Canada forced them to take the full allocation, thus depriving Newfoundland of the advantage of the lower wheat price and forcing our people to pay 46 cents more per barrel for flour for Newfoundlanders, we being their best customer.
Mr. Chairman, I cannot support this fraud that is being put over on the people of this country, to me it is plain power politics. That's the suspicion I had at the beginning. and the way things have gone in this house only makes me more certain that I have taken part in the greatest piece of codology that was ever foisted on an innocent and long-suffering people, and I cannot support it. I must apologise to the people whose money I have squandered, it's been an education to me. I hope it has done some good to the country. I have one thing more to speak about, Mr. Chairman, it is a speech made a few days ago about politics being brought into the Convention. By whom? By me? I had never heard the word confederation mentioned, and I had hardly time to get a haircut before I was buttonholed about that form of government by that same gentleman that made that speech. Now I hate to lie down under the accusation that I injected anything into this, that was contrary to the job we had to do, but try to ram something down my throat! But a week after I came in, I found out from Canada and Company that I was digging my political grave... I said before that I would not touch it with an insulated fish fork, and I cannot vote for it in any shape or form. For if we do not accept it, I know the British government will put it on. If it goes through I hope and pray it will be a good thing for the country. I won't worry if I'm called a fool — only too glad to be called so. For I want the best for our people and I do not think this is the best. In fact, while the world is in the flux and chaos it is in today, I would put nothing on the country which the people could not change. I think there are better days ahead, and if we can reach that point all will be well. As I see it now, if the British government puts it through against the advice of the majority of the Convention, then if it doesn't work and I do not think it will, then our people will be in a fighting frame of mind and through agitation with good leaders they will get a better subsidy or a bribe to keep their mouths shut. I'm sure Canada is going to get a bear by the tail if she gets Newfoundland, and I know it, and I am not going to support it. I am not going to tie any leader's hands of the future. I'll be alongside his elbow if you can come back.
One thing, I listened to Mr. Smallwood's graphic description of profits. I was glad to hear that, for I have taken an oath that if it ever comes again, if it's a crust for one, it's a crust for all. Well, Mr. Smallwood's idea of the commission merchant was graphic. I call him a muleskinner. Now that animal does not work alone in the woods on Water Street; he is on all the streets and he is going to turn the world upside down if he keeps on. Now in that Paradise Harbour that Mr. Smallwood is piloting this ship of state to, the woods are full of them. He forgot to mention that, and our Uncle Sam has so many of them, he has got them in his beard. I think he invented them or he brought them up to scratch. Those down here are only pikers, but they are learning fast. I remember 1939, we loaded here in St. John's, we 1408 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 had oil on deck. After I had landed it I left the vessel, and one day went into an oil manufacturer to see a friend of mine. I saw the oil we landed. Happened to speak about it to the manager, he lit in to me, and asked if we were gone crazy down here in Newfoundland. I asked, "Why?" "I paid $360 per ton for that oil." "Well," I said, "I can't enlighten you much, but I know the fishermen got $89 per ton, but some day I'll find out." Fifteen months later I came home and I found out the price was $123 ex-wharf. And who got the difference? I tried two firms, it was the same price. I went back to Boston, saw my friend and found out his agent got $237 less expenses. Not a bad profit to make with a pencil, and that's how it goes, gentlemen. In Canada the woods are full of them. We will have to do more than confederate to get clear of the mule skinner. The only answer to it is the co-op. Get a good large wholesale import and export co—operative society. Your small retails might change your charter, so money can be ploughed back in the business. Get the people together, then we can lick the muleskinner. You can lick them all, but you have to organise... There is the answer to it. I agree with Mr. Smallwood's finding the disease, but he is a long way out on the cure...,
The time has come to wind her up and I' m glad to join the old sea—shanty, to "Leave her, Johnny, leave her" — and to wish our country bon voyage.
Mr. Kennedy Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, I rise at this time to speak on the motion now before the Chair, fervently believing it to be an evasion of the rights due to our people under the 1933- 1934 act. We have not at this time, nor have we had in Newfoundland since 1933 a government representative of the people. Any decisions reached by the Commission of Government entertained no more consideration nor respect for the beliefs of our people than did the leasing of our territory to foreign interests bear any reference to individual Newfoundlanders, many of whom at that time were paying for the defending of this island with their blood. As I stated before, my generation has had the right to fight for Newfoundland, but never the privilege of speaking for her, much less voting. In some of the speeches given in support of this motion reference has been made not only to post-Convention propaganda, but also to the sentiments prevalent in various districts. May I here and now register my heartfelt disgust in the use of this chamber and the radio as a medium for this post-Convention propaganda. It has been said by acertain speaker in support of the motion, that this Convention has not been able to give the full truth concerning confederation to the people. If this be so, then the pilot of this report should be ashamed, and consider himself incapable, that during the past weeks of debate, he has been unable to ice the cake of confederation sufficiently attractively to hide the sour dough that lies beneath it. Nothing that Mr. Smallwood or any other pro-confederate may concoct or serve to the people can alter the fact that the terms as sent to us from Canada are final. No amount of surmising or imagination can give Mr. Smallwood or anyone else the power to improve the offer from the Canadian government, of a sprat to catch the Newfoundland mackerel.
As far as I am concerned I am interested in no figures or estimates of our country supplied by Canadians, or outsiders who have never set foot in this country to see how the ordinary Newfoundlander lives or wishes to live. I will accept only the concrete figures given to me by Newfoundlanders for the use of Newfoundlanders. Today in Newfoundland, her native sons have no freedom to employ these figures, and until such time as we have any negotiation with any country, it is bound to be one—sided and that side is not likely to be ours. I have no intention of asserting that the majority or minority of members in this Convention represent the greater or lesser proportion of the people. This has just been another example of naive conjecture on the part of certain members, but I wish to put on record that hundreds of men from the district that I represent have worked and fished with men from the Dominion of Canada, and as a majority or minority, they are more adverse to union with Canada than they ever were. I maintain that no member in this house has the right to speak for every individual Newfoundlander who will cast his vote, regardless of the beliefs of Mr. Starkes or myself. We have been given no proof that new taxes will not be enforced on us and I, Mr. Chairman, cannot conceive that the three types of government that union will bring us will be run at a lower cost than the one that responsible entails, if it ever comes into force.
I was not sent here to preach against any class of society — I leave this to a few of my decidedly pink fellow members —. nor to blame any particular set for the mistakes that have been made by our predecessors. If there have been gains by individuals during the past 100 years there have also been losses, as may be verified by the change of large concerns over this period. As far as squandering is concerned, roughly $30 million has gone from Newfoundland to Canada during the last year with negligible relative trade returns.
Mr. Chairman, it is all too plain to see that we are not now living in 1865. This year of 1948 finds the following circumstances that were not evident at that time. The largest revenue that Newfoundland has ever possessed against the meager pittances of those days. Highways and transport have progressed. Labrador has been legalised as Newfoundland territory. We have been termed the crossroads of the world so far as air traffic is concerned. We have leased bases without credit of any kind, for 99 years, which employ our labour at lower rates of pay than outsiders. Fish marketing has been revolutionised and a market exists at our back door. Hospitals and general public health organisations have become increasingly evident. Bell Island and Buchans, not to mention other mining prospects have been inaugurated. Paper and pulp manufacture has become a fact. Lastly in this very vague comparison is the fact that we have been informed on the highest authority that we are a self-supporting country.
Mr. Chairman, we are not in the late nineties. Then we had admittedly little to offer toward an equitable basis for union. Now we are in a position that is coveted by many. We should need no outside housekeeper to run a family concern whose income is sufficient to feed each and every one of us. Mr. Chairman, it is my firm conviction that two and only two types of government should be inserted on the ballot paper in the forthcoming referendum. Should any negotiations later take place between Newfoundland and any other country, let Newfoundland enter into those negotiations as free to barter as are her neighbours, for the best results, and may God guide our ship of state into kind waters, not in tow or with tugs, but under her own proud power.
Mr. Reddy Mr. Chairman, "The time has come the Walrus said to talk of many things, Of ships and shoes and sealing wax, Like wise Mackenzie King." Once before in this chamber the walls rang with the word "union", and if we had acute hearing today, we might still hear that word "union" echoing from these walls. All you heard 25 years ago was the "union", the "union". At that time, it was the Fishermen's Union, which developed into one of the biggest and strongest political parties we ever had in this country. That Union party was founded in 1908. Its founder used the slogan, "Down with the merchants; and up with the underdogs." Needless to say, it was a very popular slogan. The union grew by leaps and bounds. Tall tales were told of what it would do for the fishermen and to its support, I am told, nearly half a million dollars was subscribed by the fishermen.
The present chief advocate for union with Canada, the member for Bonavista Centre and the proposer of this motion was, I am told, one of the most rabid promoters of that union, and by his tongue and his pen, did then, as he is doing now, much to spread that gospel over this country. And just as Mr. Smallwood is an enthusiastic and fanatic delegate to this Convention, so he was just as enthusiastic and fanatic a delegate to the old FPU convention. So enthusiastic a supporter was our Mr. Smallwood to that fishermen's union, that he wrote a book on the life of the founder of that union.[1] And if you have read it, you will find that he says, in effect, that the founder of that union was only a little less than God. Talk about idolatry! You haven't seen anything if you haven't read that book.
Well Mr. Chairman, as they say, time marches on. And what happened to that union that Mr. Smallwood talked and wrote and raved about, and wrung his hands over a few short years ago? Well, to make a long story short, the fishermen who put their life savings into that union got little or none of it back, and many died paupers as a result; all the older people know the story. And the founder of that union, who started out a poor man wearing a pair of three-quarter boots and blue guemsey, and preaching "down with the merchants", accumulated himself an estate, I am told, worth little less than half a million dollars and resided on his estate in Jamaica, which I am told by a man who visited there was worth not 1410 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 less than $50,000. And now we have the Man Friday of that fishermen's union promoting another union. The only difference is that the desired placed of residence in his case is not Jamaica but Ottawa — and the switch he hopes to make is not from the blue guernsey to broadcloth, but from his nice little delegate's everyday suit to senatorial toga.
Yes, Mr. Chairman, Mr. Smallwood is using the same words and the same tactics today to lead us into this new union, just as he did to lead the people into that other union. He believes in the old slogan that people have short memories, and many of them are dead anyhow, and if for no other reason I would ask the people of Newfoundland at this time to heed the more practical slogan to stop, look and listen, for it is being promoted by a man who has shown himself one of the smartest talkers in Newfoundland, and we all know that all is not gold that glitters.
Mr. Chairman, a few days ago the member for Bonavista Centre said that a campaign of exaggeration and misrepresentation was being spread over this country by his opponents; and yet, almost in the next breath, this same gentleman shouts through the microphone that 99% of the people in Newfoundland want confederation". Mr. Smailwood I have already denied that that was what I said. What I said was, and I repeat, "99 Newfoundlanders out of every 100 want confederation to be placed on the ballot paper."
Mr. Chairman That is my understanding.
Mr. Smallwood I ask Mr. Reddy to take that back.
Mr. Chairman You are not quoting Mr. Smallwood correctly. It is not too much to expect you to take it back.
Mr. Reddy If I have not got it right, it is OK. But I know that is a falsehood, and Mr. Smallwood knows it is a falsehood. And you, yourself, sir, know it is a falsehood. And if that is not exaggeration and misrepresentation, I don't know what is. Another example of his attempt at misrepresentation is his story told here twice in recent days — he must think it is good because he told it twice —— that 110 local firms made a profit of $15 million last year.
Mr. Chairman 105 firms.
Mr. Reddy If anything is more calculated to deceive than that, I don't know what is. We all know that in Newfoundland there are some large corporations with tremendous investments of money. Bowaters, for instance, have about $75 million invested in Newfoundland. The AND Company has about $60 million invested. Buchans Mining Company has about $15 million invested. The Dominion Iron and Steel Co. has, I suppose, another $20 million. And if these companies between them average 6% profit on their invested capital, it will amount to $10 million. I am not including in this the various Canadian corporations doing business in Newfoundland, such as the eight or nine insurance companies, the Canadian trust companies and the Canadian banks — all of whom together, I imagine, made a few millions and must be included in those corporations to which Mr. Smallwood referred. Mr. Smallwood's words conveyed to the people that the corporations making that profit were the big bad wolves, the local merchants, which is a falsehood.
Mr. Chairman, confederation is not the solution — least of all, Mr. Smallwood's brand. Up to now, and for centuries past, the Union Jack has been our national flag. I am not of English descent but of Irish descent, but I want to say that it is a good flag and I would like to see it continue to fly and to be our national flag in the days ahead. In Quebec they have, just a week ago, pulled down the old flag and put up their own. In the rest of Canada they have torn down the Union Jack and for the past 12 months they have been arguing as to what the new flag is going to be.
There are other things in life that are important as well as all this talk about three meals a day. And as for the economic problem over which they cry their crocodile tears, let us berealists and not a bunch of fools following a jack-o-lantern, and let us do exactly as Canada herself did a month ago when she was in financial difficulties and had to borrow $300 million. Let us go to the USA with our economic problems, let us sell the USA all our fish, paper, ore and other things we produce. And right there is the solution, and only solution to our economic problems. And anyone who says otherwise is only fooling himself and trying to fool the people.
So in conclusion, Mr. Chairman, I ask that, politically, let us keep the close ties we have always had with the mother country. Let us keep the Union Jack flying. And economically, let us turn our faces towards the richest nation in the January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1411 world — the USA. That is our hope and our destiny. Any other course would be political and economic madness.
Mr. Hickman Mr. Chairman, I would like first to refer to Mr. Smallwood's opening speech on Friday afternoon when he introduced the motion now before this Convention. Mr. Smallwood has referred here before to politics being present in this National Convention, but I think, sir, that he topped it all with his speech to which I have just referred. In my opinion he did not clearly outline just what those terms that have been offered by Canada would mean to the people of this country, and not only the benefit to them, but also the cost. The address, to my mind, was the start of a political campaign. He endeavoured to divide the country and set class against class. This is old- time political practice, and endeavours to set the poor against the rich and the middle class against which ever side is most beneficial to the political future of the proponent. It befogs the real issue, and if carried far enough, engenders class hatred to the exclusion of the common sense and practicability that is needed to make a sensible decision on the question that is to be put to the people. The whole speech, sir, sounded familiar to me, and only after listening to it for a while did it remind me of the tirades that I have heard from soapbox orators in Hyde Park in London and in New York.
Mr. Smallwood states that if the majority of this Convention had their way, the country would vote for nothing else but responsible government, but I think that the people will realise that by the unanimous passing of Mr. Higgins' motion to put before the people both responsible and Commission of Government, Mr. Smallwood's contention is completely wrong. He also stated that it was abattle to get the Convention to debate these terms. Here again I cannot agree in any way with his statements, as I know of no time when members did not wish to have these debated and I, for one, was very much desirous of having these terms of confederation debated here, if for nothing else to show how insufficient and how dangerous they were to the future economy of the people of this country. If I had been the only one, I still would have voted to have these terms debated as we have done. Mr. Smallwood also states, and this has already been referred to by Mr. Reddy, that 99 out of 100 Newfoundlanders wanted the choice of confederation to be submitted to them, but I do not believe that 99 out of 100 or any portion of the people would want confederation submitted to them on what I might term such crucifying terms. He states that we are fighting a battle for economic security, but I fail to find any economic security for the people in the terms which have been submitted to us. I would like to say right here, sir, that I am not against and do not hate confederation just for the sake of hating it, as Mr. Smallwood would have you believe. If I thought that these terms would really benefit the country as a whole, raise the standard of living of the people, and relieve them of burdensome taxes, I would be very glad indeed to recommend it; but on these so-called terms which we have been offered, I fail to find the security for which the people of this country are looking.
Mr. Smallwood states that those people who are against confederation on the terms outlined from Canada, have been harping on the property taxes that the people will have to pay. The property taxes, while they mean something to those who have to pay, yet are only a part of what the people will pay in taxes. The federal tax that will go to the Canadian government and the provincial taxes necessary to maintain administration of this provincial government will be a large source of worry, as well as taxes on property or school tax. Nobody here has intimated yet that the federal government will collect any property taxes. That has not been stated. Mr. Smallwood says that the provincial government never will collect property taxes because they would be thrown out of office if they attempted to do this; and he went on to say that the town councils — if you wish to have a town council — would perhaps collect these property taxes if they so desired. But let me point out, sir, that if there is no town council in a settlement, then the roads and public works or other services in that community have to be maintained by the provincial government, and they in turn must tax to collect the money which they will spend. If those communities that have town councils are to progress and maintain their townsites, then they must collect taxes to do so, and whether you pay a property tax to the federal government, provincial government or town council, it does not matter. You will be taxed just the same, and whoever collects it will not help to ease the 1412 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 question either in your mind or your pockets.
The cost of living here in Newfoundland has been referred to not only by Mr. Smallwood but by other speakers, and one would think to listen to them that with the stroke of a pen the cost of living will come down considerably. This is another false idea which people may get into their minds. If you will refer to the report made by the Federation of Labour on the cost of living today and the amount required by a man with a family to live, you will see (and here Mr. Fogwill can support me, as he was one of the members of the committee that drew up the report) that the duties paid on foodstuffs consumed amounted to not more than approximately 5% of the earnings spent in this direction, and if you further take into consideration the local products which such a family would buy here in a year, like potatoes, turnips, fish, etc., the total duty on that family's outlay would amount to not more than about 4.5%. Union with Canada will not bring us geographically any closer to the mainland and we will still have to freight our imports to this country and distribute them as before, and union with Canada or any other country cannot get away from this factor in the cost of goods to the consumer. Mr. Smallwood has referred to special freight rates operating east of Quebec which should reduce the rates, so that it would in turn bring down the cost on the goods. I might say, firstly, that freight rates are not a large percentage of the cost of the goods, but in any event this reduction of rates would apply only to those shipments through the Canadian National Railway...
Mr. Smallwood And the CPR.
Mr. Hickman And the larger percentage of our goods coming into this country do so by steamers, operated by lines and companies other than those of the Canadian National Railway and the CPR or the Newfoundland Railway. From the time of opening of navigation in Montreal in May, to the close around the end of November, the larger portion of our goods are moved direct by steamer from that port to the west coast through Corner Brook and to the east coast through St. John's; and these boats, as well as those from Halifax and New York, are operated by the Furness Red Cross Line, Shaw Steamship Co. Ltd., Newfoundland Canada Steamships Ltd, Clarke Steamships Ltd, and other corporations in the shipping business. Therefore there will be no resulting benefit to any great extent in the movement of goods by freight from Canada to here by the CNR or CPR.
On this cost of living being cheaper, I wonder do people realise that at present there is no duty on flour, salt beef and pork, cooked corned beef in tins, butterine and tinned milk, which are all staple products in the people's diet? In addition to this, we have items coming in duty free such as fresh fruit, prunes, currants, raisins, feeds, long rubber boots, fruit juices and vegetable juices. All I have mentioned are duty free, and will not be affected by union with Canada. There are additional items which have a very low duty basis such as peas, beans, rice and barley at 1 cent per 1b., oatmeal and rolled oats at 1/2 cent per 1b., cornmeal at 1/8 cent per lb. The elimination of duty on these and a lot of other items will have no obvious effect on the cost of living, because the duty is so low that the removal of it will not easily be seen. But, however, union with Canada, while it may remove some of these very low duties, will place an 8% sales tax and excise duty on some of these items, and indeed on some of the more staple ones; the sales tax in many cases will more than offset the reduction of duty.
Mr. Chairman, Mr. Smallwood did not point out to the people that fishermen could buy their salt for approximately $2 per hogshead cheaper in Newfoundland; that oiled clothing per suit is not any higher in Newfoundland than it is in Canada, although we pay 20% duty on it; that herring nets in this country are slightly cheaper than in Canada; that rubber boots are cheaper here today than they are in Canada. To get this comparison of figures, I have used the ones submitted in the Black Book against local prices here, and I have written to Halifax and compared the prices existing in Canada only a month ago, because those in the Black Book were probably compiled six months ago. There may be some reductions in some items, but one must remember that this will be offset to a great extent by federal sales taxes, import duties and excise duties. In referring to the price for salt to the Newfoundland fishermen, which is $2 cheaper here, I might say that I cut down the Canadian hogshead to the Newfoundland hogshead... If Canada, as claimed by some, can do so much better for us (and with which I cannot agree), then why should January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1413 we throw away an opportunity of some union with the USA, which country could, in my opinion, do so much better for us?
Mr. Smallwood reached the height of his class versus class propaganda when he took upon himself to tell you of monopolies and monies made here. I am afraid, from what Mr. Smallwood has said, that he does not know very much about business and I refer to the general channels through which trade is done. Business is done exactly the same as it is done in Canada, the United States, Great Britain or any other country. With regard to his reference to agencies that have sole monopolies, he is away over his head when he goes into the fundamentals of business and distribution. Canadian firms do not distribute or sell their goods to every Tom, Dick and Harry in this country or any other country. They themselves are the ones that use the principle of one agent or distributor, so that their goods may be better handled with more concentration of sales through one individual, and so that they may, through their distributorship methods, keep down the ultimate cost of their product to the countries to which they sell. You will find that where there are agents or distributors or representatives of any Canadian or American firm, it is by the policy of these firms that there are sole agents, and that it is to further Canadian export business and at the same time keep down the cost of their products that they adhere to these methods that Mr. Smallwood has taken so much trouble to call "monopolies". He has referred to the large volume of money made here in the last several years, but he omitted to say that a tremendous volume of the sales were made to American and Canadian firms who were contracting and building bases, and that the sales to them took not one cent out of the pockets of the people. In fact, it was the construction of these bases that first gave the people an opportunity to earn this money, and they were fed by these firms through the goods that were purchased in this country. He refers you to 105 firms that made a profit of $15 million or an average of about $150,000 each. He did not tell you, however, that this included Bowaters and the AND Co., and the Buchans Mining Co., which would account for the larger part of this profit and would probably bring the average of the 100-odd Newfoundland firms down to around $80,000. He did not tell you that only 29 firms in Canada made something like $250 million to $300 million — an average of over $10 million each. Compare this to what he has given you for the 105 firms in Newfoundland, including the paper companies. If there is any profit that can be seen, it is in Canada and not here. The profits and mark-ups allowed by the Canadian government, even under the price control system, are away in excess of those here in Newfoundland, and in a lot of cases they are double. Yet this is the country, which to quote Mr. Cashin, "is the land of milk and honey". This again is only further propaganda to set class against class, and divide the people of this country to their own detriment.
Mr. Banfield, in seconding the motion, said that with confederation, the bulk of the taxes would fall on broader shoulders and not on the poor as today. Let me correct that right now. The sales taxes and excise duties in Canada will fall on those here in proportion to their purchases, but when you come to one of the real federal taxes, you will find that in Canada the income tax collected by the Canadian government is what will really hit our people here. In 1945 people earning less than $1,000 — which is not taxable in Newfoundland — paid to the Canadian government $19 million in income tax; the people earning between $1,000 and $2,000 a year paid $146 million, and those earning between $2,000 and $3,000 paid $137 million. For these last three income group brackets, that is $3,000 and below, they paid a total of $300 million out of a total collected by the federal government of $680 million. In other words, the income tax paid by the lower-income group paid practically half of the $680 million collected, and then Mr. Ban field tries to tell you that it will fall on broader shoulders than it does today. The federal government on today's basis estimates taking about $3.2 million in personal income tax out of this country, but I feel sure that this will be closer to $5 million because there are so many today not paying income tax in this country, who will have to do so if we become part of Canada. While I am on this question of taxes, I might say I have heard a lot of talk here about the vicious system of indirect taxation in this country, and that our union with Canada would get us clear of this system. Perhaps Mr. Smallwood does not know that the revenue of the Canadian government for the fiscal year ending 1947 was largely derived from indirect 1414 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 taxes. Out of $3 billion taken in this respect, over $1 billion was from indirect taxes, such as customs duties, excise duties, etc., and $1.5 billion from direct taxes. One-third of their total receipts in this respect was from indirect taxes, and yet we are told that union with Canada will banish this vicious system.
We have also heard the oft-made remark about the bottom falling out of fish prices, etc, and the price going down to $5 per quintal, but surely the members who make these statements do not expect that union with Canada is going to prevent fish or any other commodity from dropping in price? That will be the result of world conditions, and Canada or any other country cannot stabilise or prevent the drop in prices of fish or any other product. In fact in my opinion, union with Canada will have a destructive effect on our fishing industry, inasmuch as we will be unable to make the marketing arrangements that we have today with European markets, particularly Portugal and Spain and perhaps Italy, and also I can see nothing in the terms of the Black Book, nothing official, that will show me that the Newfoundland Fisheries Board will be able to continue its present work which is resulting in the better marketing and selling of our products. It can only, as far as I can see, be the agent of the Canadian Prices Support Board, and this has nothing whatever to do with markets or export, and to lose the Fisheries Board in its present capacity would, in my opinion, not only be destructive, but also have a very far-reaching and bad effect on our whole industry.
It has also been said by some of our most ardent confederates that it is very difficult to provide full social services in this country because the population is so scattered over such an area. Do they mean to tell me that union with Canada would make our population less scattered and Newfoundland any smaller? We will have exactly the same problems under confederation, and to my mind this is just one more of the red herrings that are drawn across our trail, and if Mr. Crosbie had thought of it in advance, he could have put his herring factory here in the Convention because there are more red herring here than in Bay of Islands.
The people will want to consider what effects confederation may have on our industries. I have already told you briefly the detrimental effect it will have on our fisheries; but here is also the effect it will have on our paper mills and paper industries. Newfoundland has one of the most economically operated paper industries in the world today, and while the demand for the next few years will be such that total outputs or production may be sold out, yet it may be that in the near future paper mills under union will have to restrict their output — to go on the quota basis as they did in Canada. If this happens, Newfoundland, under its own government, being operated so economically, the industry could still work at capacity without restriction; but as operated in Canada, our paper mills would be placed under production restrictions, with the result that perhaps 1,000 of our people would be put out of work in the mills and in the woods. The effect on our industries, as I have mentioned, must have consideration by the people, because it affects them directly in the amount of employment available, which might be reduced in this respect through confederation with Canada.
Our agricultural industry today is producing around $12-15 million and if we should become part of Canada, I hesitate to say what effect it would have on our agricultural products and on our farmers generally, particularly in view of the increased land production that we are endeavouring to obtain. This is one very good reason why Prince Edward Island would like to see us in confederation at the expense of our west coast farmers, as well as those on the east coast. It would provide the Canadian farmers with an opportunity to increase their profit at the expense of the Newfoundlanders.
Do the people of this country realise that we are now discussing the terms offered by the Canadian government, which are based on a tax agreement that over 50% of the people in Canada have not subscribed to, and to which they do not agree? Both Quebec and Ontario have not accepted this federal-provincial agreement, and it might be of interest to you to know that I understand that the Ontario government brought in some experts from the United States to go over the whole question and to advise the Ontario government as to whether it was wise or not to accept this tax agreement, and they have not done so. Yet we are trying to be pushed into an agreement that over half of the people in Canada have not accepted, and for the Canadian government January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1415 to offer us terms on which half the Canadian population cannot agree, I think would be a very strong factor against recommending it ourselves to the people.
We have been interested in listening to the reasons which several members have been offering for acceptance of these terms of confederation, but there has been one very significant fact in these last weeks of discussion, and particularly in the debate just recently finished covering the finance end of it and the estimated provincial budget. This very significant fact, sir, which stands out as a weak link in the chain of the confederation-backers, is that they have not mentioned anything about the provincial budget, or how we are going to fare operating Newfoundland as a province, or how the people are going to pay for the benefits they might receive from confederation. I have heard eight or nine of these members speaking in favour of confederation on generalities alone. They have not stated any solid basic facts to back up their recommendation to the people. They have glibly skipped over the most important part that the people should consider, and that is, sir, how can we operate a province and who is going to pay for it?
I was most surprised indeed by the impression I received of what Mr. Burry said on January 13. He spoke very feelingly of the people on the Labrador, and quite rightly so, and pointed out the benefits to them; but my impression was that he spoke through the eyes of 5,000 people on Labrador as a basis for recommending to the other 300,000 people of Newfoundland that confederation would be good for them. I realise that Mr. Burry has the people of Labrador at heart, and I have every respect for this gentleman, but to me his sole argument was based on and around only that small percentage of the whole country and I cannot accept his argument as referring to the rest of Newfoundland.
Our number one senator, Mr. Ballam, described the wonderful country that Canada was and the sights they saw and which, no doubt, were seen from the back seat of a car or at garden parties which he attended while in Ottawa. Did he see the horrible conditions in the slums in Montreal and around other cities or walk down through the poorer sections? He apparently did not, or he would have seen conditions there that we have never known in Newfoundland. I am afraid I could not recommend confederation based on the arguments I have heard here which are pure generalities, without foundations or anything solid on which people can base their future hopes.
I want to make it quite plain that I am not an anticonfederate, I do not hate the thought of confederation. I naturally prefer our own independence, but if we were offered terms that would really benefit this country, raise the standard of living of our people, and secure or improve our national economy, I would be the first one to vote for it. But looking at it on the basis of the terms we have been offered, I cannot sincerely recommend it to the people of this country.
Mr. Ashbourne said on January 16 that he could not see why we always want to remain independent. I can hardly believe Mr. Ashbourne seriously considered this remark, as surely it is the wish of everybody in this country to remain independent if they can do so without sacrificing too much. Mr. Ashbourne also mentions the fact that under confederation a man could leave here after the fishing season for winter work in Canada, but surely he realises that people in Canada are in similar industries as ourselves, and that they are in the identical position as us, and the volume of work to be obtained in Canada during the winter months would affect such a small part of our population, and would benefit us so little, that this is hardly a reason for his strong recommendation of confederation. If conditions become poor in this country and work is hard to get, it will also apply to Canada, and the jobs that are available in Canada are being filled by immigrants consisting of displaced persons from Europe who are coming to Canada on very low salary to start with, such a salary as Newfoundlanders could not exist on, and which would not give them sufficient returns to pay their fare up and back again. He states that we are dependent on Canada to defend our shores...
Mr. Ashbourne I maintain that I referred to Great Britain as well as Canada.
Mr. Hickman Surely we are more dependent on the United States who already has three bases established here and who is by far the strongest nation in the world today. It would be to them that we would have to look to defend our shores rather than Canada who would only be a part, with the USA, in a joint defence of the North American continent. He feels that Canada is at our back, 1416 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 presumably to support us; but the people must realise that they will not get anything for which they do not pay, and that Canada is not Santa Claus. Mr. Ashbourne also stated that if Newfoundland needed assistance after our surplus had been spent, we would know where to look for it. I can well see why he brought this question up because he, no doubt, anticipates that our surplus will soon be gone, and under those terms that Canada has to offer, I can well agree with him.
We have a provincial budget based on those terms presented to us, and on which even Mr. Smallwood, who compiled this budget, estimates a $1.25 million deficit each year. No doubt he shaved the figures as close as possible, but still could not show how we could operate under union with Canada with less than a $1.25 million deficit. However, he did not take into consideration that he cut the Public Health Department, with its yearly expenditure to $5.25 million, against our present general expenditure of $6.25 million, and he did not take into consideration that with the completion of the General Hospital here at St. John's and the sanatorium at Corner Brook, with a 250-bed capacity, and the extension of the Western Memorial Hospital at Corner Brook, that our maintenance of these public services under the department will require closer to $7 million a year, so that we would require approximately another $2 million in addition to the deficit brought in by Mr. Smallwood. That makes approximately a $3 million deficit. The education grant has been left at just over $3 million, but here again the Department of Education will require about $4 million, although they may not be able to obtain this from the revenue of this country, but they will certainly need another $500,000 to maintain the educational services for the children in this country, and this further increases the deficit under union to somewhat just under $4 million.
There has been no provision made here at all for reconstruction, and the amount of money provided in Mr. Smallwood's budget is merely suffcient to cover the maintenance of existing roads. To build further, or to increase the remaining public works, as well as any other reconstruction programme, would certainly require another $2 million, which gives us a yearly deficit of something near $5 million and which would bring the total expenditure of the provincial government up to something like $19 million per year. This deficit is to be collected from the people in additional taxes — whether these be sales taxes, property taxes, school taxes or some other kind of tax, the cost of government would have to be paid for, and those terms under which we have been offered confederation do not provide us with sufficient revenue to balance our budget without resorting to increased taxation and you cannot get away from this fact. Under these terms I am sorry to say that as far as I can see, we will have built our last hospital, we will have put the last bed in it, and we will have laid our last mile of road...
Mr. Chairman In the interest of brevity and efficiency, members should distinguish between the motion before the Chair and the debate on the confederation terms. Our attention is directed to the fact that the Canadian terms or proposals were fully debated and spoken to by every member of the House who wished to speak to them.
Mr. Hickman These are the facts that the people of Newfoundland should want to know. There are undoubtedly some benefits that me people will derive from the terms that have been put before us, but the whole picture cannot be seen until the benefits are accounted for by the cost to the people. The members who have spoken for confederation seem to have missed this fact as they have avoided any reference to, nor did they substantiate the facts as to how they can raise the revenue that will be necessary for this country as a province. They have skipped over the fundamentals and have generalised. They have painted a very rosy picture and have put two coats of paint on the baby bonus to distract attention from the adverse or bad factors of the terms that have been offered us. They have referred to their dislike of responsible government, but what will we have under union with Canada but a responsible government? A provincial government is a responsible government, identically the same except that our control will only be over our provincial assets and the remainder of the country, including our resources and everything important to us, will be under the control of the Canadian government. These terms of confederation, sir, can be obtained at any time, These are the minimum that Canada could offer us and they are below the minimum that we should accept, or that I could recommend to the people myself. They January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1417 are now being supported by propaganda to divide the classes in the country, as I have stated before — a "soak the rich" attitude. But however, the Canadian Finance Minister, Mr. Douglas Abbott, has stated himself that this is an impossibility even in Canada, and has said that there are not enough rich in Canada to soak. If that applies in Canada, then so does it most certainly apply in Newfoundland. It is all political propaganda to hide the real cold facts, and to stir the people up so that they cannot see what the future may hold for them. You cannot legislate a standard of living. People have to work to live, and there is nothing in the British North America Act that provides that all peoples in union shall have a high standard of living.
If I were the most ardent confederate, and yet sincere with the people of Newfoundland, I could not possibly recommend these terms to them. It is not a question of recommending confederation or not. It is a question of doing so on those terms submitted by the Government of Canada, and to recommend them to the people of this country is more than I would care to have on my conscience. If I thought sincerely they were good enough to benefit the people as a whole, raise the standard of living and give us economic security, then I would heartily support them and do all I could to have the people accept them But I have looked at these terms, sir, and have studied them to the best of my ability. I have used the experience I have gained in 20-odd years in this country in work, and I can only say it is a one—sided argument —— one sided for Canada. I am willing to prophesy — which I hope will not come true — that if we have union with Canada, that anywhere from three to five years after we have entered into union, the people of this country will curse the day they ever voted for confederation on these terms. I hope that I am wrong, but that is my sincere belief, as well as that if the people of Newfoundland enter confederation on the terms submitted to us, it is nothing less than criminal.
Mr. Harrington Mr. Chairman, I think you will agree, and every right—thinking Newfoundlander will agree, that it is most regrettable that the chief advocate of the cause of confederation should have introduced his resolution in the final stages of this Convention on such a note as he did, which several speakers have already suggested strongly resemble the tactics of class war and sectional agitation, that have been and are being employed by the vanguard of men who propose the Communist world order. I say it is most regrettable. Surely, confederation has more merit than that it has to be boosted in such a desperate manner. Surely the argument for putting confederation on the ballot on the basis submitted to the Convention by the Prime Minister could have been presented in a fair and reasonable manner dealing with the proposed arrangements laid down in the Grey Book.
Instead, he said very little about the many aspects of confederation which are still seen "through a glass dimly" by our people, and the only real connection with the confederation question established by Mr. Smallwood that I could see, was his reference to the business of property tax, and of course his usual assertion that such a tax would scarcely apply to Newfoundland. He said that the federal government never collected a dollar in property tax, that the provincial government would not dare to collect a dollar; and that leaves only the municipal governments or town councils, and we have only ten or 15 of these councils, and so our people would not be taxed on their property, real or personal, I put it to you, Mr. Chairman, in the light of the deficits we would have in our provincial budgets, how long it would be before that provincial government would have to pass legislation to incorporate every settlement in Newfoundland with a population of 500 and over into a local council, in order to raise the absolutely necessary revenues to keep the country going. And then see where we would stand on the matter of property taxes. And while I'm on taxes, Mr. Chairman, I'd like to refer to a couple of passages in one of those books and documents which we received from Ottawa — Dominion and Provincial Submissions and Plenary Discussions at the Dominion Provincial Conference of 1945, page 142.
If that is the line of tactics that the confederates are going to employ from now to the referendum; if that is the way that they going to try and sell confederation to the people of this country, by raising the ugly and dangerous head of class warfare, then, sir, like Mr. Higgins and others, we are not going to have any part of it,
Up to now the tactics, especially of the chief advocate of this cause, have been to try and prove, not that confederation is me best thing for New 1418 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 foundland and her people, but that it is the only thing. I could not accept that view. I never did accept it. If the confederates had attempted at the very beginning to prove in a reasonable and not too-eager way that confederation with Canada mightbe a good thing for even a fairly prosperous and well-fixed Newfoundland, I believe their cause might have had more success and a less thorny way than it did have. Instead, that cause was driven into the Convention's proceedings with as much diplomacy as a battering-ram, and kept swinging with all the power that fanaticism. over—eagerness and agitation could muster. Underlying the whole issue was the insistent effort at every turn to prove that Newfoundland was in a hopeless mess, that she would never get out of it, in fact that it would get worse, and the only hope for Newfoundlanders was to have sense enough to come in out of the wet —— under the big umbrella of confederation. The attempt to becloud the real issues at stake by this smoke-screen of emotionalism, and by an appeal to the underdog, will not succeed, Mr. Chairman. I resent this line of argument by the delegate from Bonavista Centre. It is an insult to the intelligence and the integrity of myself and others who do not see eye to eye with him. Of course, he is not trying to convince us; he tells us that every time he speaks into the microphones it is to the people, his masters, he is speaking. I solemnly warn the people to beware, to "beware the Greeks, when they come bearing gifts."
I resent also his statement that he is getting ready to go out and tell them the truth, which they have never got in this Convention. I consider that a reflection on us all, including yourself, Mr. Chairman, for we have honestly striven to give the people the truth, and that is why these so- called terms, this basis for confederation has been the storm—centre of such a prolonged discussion. What kind of truth is Mr. Smallwood going to bring to the people when he begins his crusade? Is it the same sort of inflammatory doctrine that he spewed forth on Friday last? If that is the kind of truth the people are to hear, then I say, God help them and God guard thee, Newfoundland!
But, proceeding from this point, Mr. Chairman, there is one statement that Mr. Smallwood made in his remarks that I made special note of. After he had made it perfectly clear that he believed his motion was going to be defeated, which was a fair assumption I grant you, he nevertheless went on to state emphatically that he had no doubt that confederation would be on the ballot. Then what are we here for? What is the sense of this debate or the month—long debate on the so called terms? What does it matter then if this motion is defeated? Why is Mr. Smallwood appealing for support? Because he knows that the British government will take the recommendations of this Convention; that it cannot afford to do otherwise.
"Let the people decide" is the confederate slogan. Therefore they vote to put Commission government and responsible government on the referendum, but declare they themselves will vote for neither one nor the other. Mr. Chairman, as I see it, the line of least resistance in this Convention is taken by those who will vote to put everything in sight, every form of government on the referendum. They put the onus on the people. "Let the people decide", they say again and again. But I put it to you, Mr. Chairman, who will the people blame if they make the wrong choice? They will blame this Convention, and rightly so, if they make the irretrievable mistake, and I submit that the only form of government put forward here that admits of the possibility of the people making an irretrievable mistake, is confederation with Canada on the basis submitted by the Prime Minister of Canada, In the other two cases, the other two forms, there is a second chance. But there is no second chance under confederation, no matter what specious arguments its proponents may offer in that regard.
The Confederates argue we have no right not to recommend any particular form of government - put them all on the ballot, let the people decide. But they overlook the fact that this Convention months ago took to itself the right not to recommend a certain form of government which has far more supporters in this country than confederation with Canada, that is union with the United States. It voted Mr. Jackman's resolution right out of the House without even making an attempt to investigate the whole matter or to even discuss it, despite the fact that the constitutional expert stated in answer to a question put by Mr. Fogwill, that to send a delegation to discuss terms of union at Washington was within our famous terms of reference. And we have heard Mr. Smallwood, when his own resolution was being January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1419 first debated, say that he would vote to send a delegation anywhere, to Timbuctoo if necessary. That was before his own resolution was carried. After that he sang a different tune.
In speaking to Mr. Higgins' motion, Mr. Keough, a few days ago, went to great pains to rule out several forms of government which might be possible future forms of government for Newfoundland, on the grounds that, as far as l can see, they were unsuitable from his point of View. None of these forms had ever been discussed in this Convention, none of them had ever been given the slightest attention. One of them was union with the USA, and Mr. Keough' s argument for ruling out that form was that the issue raised "matters of conscience" that he was not prepared to raise among our people. I would like to know what matters of conscience union with the United States would raise that confederation will not raise. The educational and divorce problems are present in each case, and the only other matter of conscience is that of a change of flag and loyalty. And I would ask Mr. Keough, pursuing his own line of thought, how would that affect the fisherman on the bill of Cape St. George as long as he gets his three square meals a day?
No, Mr. Chairman, the argument here is that this Convention has discussed three forms of government, therefore it should recommend three forms, ignoring the fact that there are several others which can be dealt with under one or both of the forms discussed in Mr. Higgins' motion, which are forever discarded if this Con— vention should recommend and the people accept confederation on the so-called terms of November 6, 1947.
As I said before, nowhere in the Black Books or the Grey Book does the Canadian government refer to them as "terms"; neither, I note, does Mr. Smallwood in his resolution, where he simply calls them a basis for confederation. And I submit that's what they are, a basis for a future sovereign government of Newfoundland to negotiate the final and satisfactory terms of union. We had a month's discussion on these arrangements for the entry of Newfoundland into confederation. 1 disagree most strongly with Mr. Smallwood's assertion that these are the only terms we could get, the best terms we could get. That is unmitigated nonsense, "trash and nonsense" to use his own words. I also strongly object to his statement that we could get out of confederation. How? Thirteen of the United States of America tried it in 1861 and they had a four-year civil war, and when it was over the 13 states were still a part of the federal union. We'd look nice declaring war on the rest of Canada if we found that confederation was a mistake, as it will be under the present circumstances.
Speaking of the United States reminds me that Mr, Banfield said, "Newfoundland is too small, too poor to stand alone. She must have somebody at her back." If Mr. Banfield believes that we should have a big country at our back, then I say let's have the United States at our back, either in economic or political union, whichever the people desire at the proper time under their own elected self-government.
Mr. Chairman, I spoke for an hour and a half in committee of the whole during the debate on the proposed arrangements for the entry of Newfoundland into confederation, and gave my reasons why I could not accept them. I do not intend to take up too much of the limited time allotted for this debate to rehash my arguments, or to go over the ground covered by other speakers, but there are a few points I wish to make at this time with respect to Canada and confederation.
Confederation with Canada represents a complete change of the constitution of Newfoundland; a complete alteration beyond recognition almost of the whole basic concept of the life and the living of our people — 450 years of history as a distinct unit with a separate life of its own. "Newfoundland... still remains sui generis and an exception to the rule in the British Empire", states Rogers.[1]
The apartness of Newfoundland from the rest of British America has persisted for a long time, and its history has for many centuries contrasted with the history of other colonies in two or three essential characteristics... In the first place there is an immobility in the history of Newfoundland, and a fixity of character in the Newfoundlander, which is unique in colonial history. Somersetshire, Devonshire and Irish peasants are 1420 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 there and have there from the first...preserving their ancient types...Newfoundland has lived a continuous life and has kept its identity inviolate for more than 300 years... For three hundred years, that is to say, during the whole of its colonial life, the colony has been menaced with complete or partial extinction; not by force but by incessantly reiterated arguments. From the very beginning until the very end of its life clever people proved over and over again...that the colony ought not to exist....
That is the end of the quotation, and though the arguments of those clever people alluded to failed to carry a decision, it would seem the argument is still going on.
I have said that confederation would mean a fundamental change in our national life. That need not be a bad thing necessarily. But it can be a bad thing, and will be if the people of this country are stampeded into such a union against what would be, under other circumstances, their better judgement.
What seems to be overlooked in this whole affair is that to be a success and a good thing for Newfoundland, confederation must work, and work a whole lot more smoothly than it does in the Maritime Provinces, for example. For these provinces are part and parcel of confederation, they grew up with it and within it. We have remained aloof until now, and in the meantime we have labouriously built up a country, a culture, traditions, faiths, hopes and, indeed, a certain kind of charity and a hospitableness that is unique. We are as separate a race of people, with ideas and standards of our own, as different from the Canadians as the Canadians are from the Americans. The adjustment of our whole lives, and our outlook on life, government, religion, everything would be a tremendous and shaking process. We might easily never become emotionally, psychologically or mentally adjusted to living under confederation at this stage in our development as a separate people. and might end up as the last and most neurotic and hard-to-live- with member of the confederation family. For a period now of 14 years, over three ordinary parliamentary government administrations, we have been without a vote or a voice in the control of our own affairs. To rush into confederation at this time would be to wake up tomorrow to find we had a vote and a voice —— but that the control of our affairs, at a time when that control could be used to immense advantage to ourselves, is gone forever to a capital 2,000 miles away where our faint protests would fail to reach; of if they did, would fall on deaf ears.
Therefore Mr. Chairman, I cannot support this motion, anymore than I could not support the resolution to send a delegation to Ottawa on the two occasions it was debated in this chamber. I again reassert my unshaken belief that the main decision that confronts our people is to say if they will let others govern them, as they have in the past 14 years, or if they will again govern themselves; and that if they do decide to run their own country and control its internal and external affairs, then the way lies open to them at any time to enter union with any other nation to the west or east of us, on the best possible terms that can be obtained by a sovereign government with power to negotiate.
Mr. Crosbie Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, I wish to oppose the motion brought before the Chair, I am against this motion because, in my opinion, the terms have not been properly negotiated and have far too many loopholes for me conscientiously to support it. In fairness to the people of Newfoundland, I do not believe the motion should go on a ballot.
We hear a great deal of talk about the size of our country, and about our being too small to stand on our own feet, I would like to call your attention for a few minutes to Iceland. Iceland is a very small country having a population of only 120,000; yet this small country is standing on her own feet and since the war finished, they have had the British withdraw and also the Americans. If Iceland can stand on her own feet and make her own trade agreements, surely we in Newfoundland can do the same, that is if we have the courage of our convictions and the guts to carry on.
The greatest danger that I see to Newfoundland under the present suggested terms is to our fisheries —— and this, gentlemen, can be a very real danger. I pointed out before the exchange difficulties that we would run into. Mr. Ashbourne in replying to my remarks led me to believe that this exchange could be available in Canada. Well, I see no guarantee in the terms before us that it would, and there certainly is not January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1421 any guarantee in any remarks Mr. St. Laurent may have made. Mr. Ashbourne said that we got our exchange for our Spanish fish through London, and this is true: England purchased oranges through which we received our sterling exchange. I would like to point out that it was England purchased the oranges, and not Canada.
Last night I listened to Mr. Gushue's address and I listened very carefully and I am sure other members here must have done the same. If it is Mr. Gushue's opinion there is danger to our fisheries under confederation, well I, for one, believe what he had to say, and I will take his word before the word of anyone else, and certainly before any members of the fishery committee on the Ottawa delegation. There is a very great danger to our fisheries, there is danger that they might be in difficulties overnight, there is a danger that we will not be able to sell to the European markets and this, gentlemen, is a very serious matter for Newfoundland. In fact, gentlemen, it is so very serious that it leaves me no other course except to vote against confederation going on the ballot.
I am not an anticonfederate, if the terms are properly negotiated and if sufficient guarantees are given Newfoundland to protect her against any upheaval that may take place. I am convinced that Newfoundland's necessity to export in order to live requires that she should have the right to make her own trade agreements without reference to the over-riding authority and interests of the Dominion government.
I think in the first place that we should have an agreement with Canada to whom we export six times as much as she buys from us. I do believe that a means may be worked out for a closer relationship with Canada short of federal union, which would be good for both countries; but on the question of political union, I am from Missouri. Canada has not been too liberal with us in the past. I have yet to be convinced that she can do more for us that we can do for ourselves. I have the friendliest sentiments towards Canada and Canadians, but it would take a good deal to convince me from my study of the situation that a federal union would not be the worst decision that Newfoundland could make.
Mr. McCormack I do not propose to take up much of the short time at our disposal, but in rising to record my stand on this motion, I wish to say that in not supporting it, I am not anticonfederate, but rather one who has Newfoundland's best interests at heart. An issue of such importance needs to be examined from every angle and in every aspect, so that we will know the disadvantages as well as the advantages. I hold that even after 18 months and being free of the responsibilities of affairs of state, we still do not know all the answers. I am of the opinion that we can unite in many ways with Canada without surrendering our political sovereignty. We can form associations and share problems to our mutual advantage.
I would remind you that social services and other benefits are not the basis of our country's prosperity; rather our productive economy and markets and at the present time, in particular, general world conditions.
To those who vilify responsible government and talk of the graft and dirty politics we would have, I would say that under confederation we would have a federal responsible government and also a provincial responsible government with twice the opportunity for such dirty politics. If the Canadian confederation is such a happy family, why are so many of the provincial governments, particularly the Maritime Provinces, continually up against the federal government?
In any event the chief consideration in my opinion, and one which has not been very clearly presented, is our position re trade, and we would do well to ask ourselves whether or not our interests would be subordinated to those of central Canada.
Gentlemen, most people will admit that the federal government must collect more from the provinces than it gives them, otherwise it could not continue its services. We are not naive enough to think that Canada is going to give us something for nothing, and we can be prepared to pay additional taxation if we are to receive additional benefits or services.
Mr. Chairman, having these ideas and feeling that the people do not know enough about the difficult aspects of confederation, I do not see that I could conscientiously put them in the position where they might unwittingly vote this country into a union which, despite Mr. Smallwood's statements, would be irrevocable. Some delegates claim we are failing in our duty to the people if we do not give them the opportunity to 1422 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 vote on confederation. In my opinion we are, by our terms of reference, and after our discussions, to make recommendations on suitable forms of government to be placed before the people at the referendum. How can we conscientiously recommend a form of government to go on the ballot paper when we are not fully informed as to how it will affect our people? I cannot but vote against the motion.
Mr. Chairman, before I resume my seat I wish to unite with other speakers in recording my sincere appreciation of the able and impartial manner in which you have conducted proceedings since you assumed your position as chairman. I would also take this opportunity of thanking all delegates, particularly my friend Mr. Vardy, for the big hand you gave, during my absence, on the occasion of my recent marriage. I assure you that both Mrs. MacCormack and I are deeply appreciative of your good wishes. I thank you.
Mr. Watton Mr. Chairman, I wish to address myself very briefly to the resolution now before us, namely that confederation be submitted to the people in the forthcoming referendum.
Within the next few days this Convention will come to an end, and in spite of its shortcomings, I feel that it has done a lot of good and has justified its existence, if for no other reason than that it has aroused the people out of a sleep that has lasted for 14 years. Throughout the life of this Convention I have tried to be as fair as I possible could. I have not tried to hide or deprive the people of this country from obtaining any information that this Convention has been able to give, in spite of the fact that it has been stated here that those who do not favour submitting confederation to the people are trying to deprive the people of something that is rightfully theirs. I plead not guilty to that charge. I am not going to vote in favour of this motion under the present circumstances. I shall try as best I can to give reasons why I make that statement.
Our terms of reference provide that we shall examine and discuss among ourselves the changes that have taken place in our economy and recommend forms of government as a result of our findings. It did not specify or even suggest that we should examine or discuss the economic or financial position of any other country. We were not empowered to do any such thing. Proof of that was supplied as a result of a conference held between the Commission of Government and a delegation of this Convention. It was pointed out that this Convention had no power to discuss or negotiate (I think that is the word used) with the USA or Canada on economic, financial or political questions. We were politely told that such negotiations were none of our business, and that it was a job to be dealt with strictly between governments. In spite of that, it was still maintained that we should send a delegation to Ottawa to ascertain terms of federal union, with absolutely no power to dispute or question any proposals that might be put forward by the Canadian government. Mr. Chairman, what a position for an independent and free people to be placed in! And we are expected by the advocates of confederation to place before the people of this country a situation such as that! No matter what we find in those terms which we do not understand, or any points on which we are clear, we are still urged to recommend it as being a form of government, without being able to question or dispute any of these things. To my mind, Mr. Chairman, the situation, to say the least, is ridiculous.
As a body of ordinary Newfoundlanders, I maintain that a pretty good job has been done as far as investigating our position as a country. I think that the reports tabled in this Convention point to that fact. We know probably as much about the country as a newly-elected government would know, with only 16 months of experience. We send a delegation to Ottawa to get the terms. What position are they in? The Canadian government gives them what? Precious little. They did not even give them the terms to bring back, in spite of all their knowledge of Newfoundland. Even if they had been given the terms, what could they have done? Absolutely nothing. They could read them, that was all. Any clause in those terms which they thought could be improved upon, or which they thought could be made more fair or equitable, they could do nothing about it; and worst of all, this whole Convention could do nothing about it. But Mr. Chairman, if they had the power to do something about it, how different the situation would be. I would have had no hesitation in recommending it. Even if we had that power to negotiate or bargain, and had used it without being able to alter any of these terms, January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1423 I would still support its recommendation and let the people decide. But because we do not know that, and because we have not been able to get satisfactory information on questions that have been asked, I cannot support it. I am convinced that it can be done by consultation between an elected government of Newfoundland and the Government of Canada. As Mr. Higgins pointed out, there are possibilities for good in these proposals and they are a good basis for negotiation.
Another thing that the people need more enlightenment on is how we are going to fare as a province. By that I mean, how is the provincial government going to raise sufficient revenue to take care of provincial matters such as public health and welfare, education and so on? We have had a so-called budget presented to us, a provincial budget that would apply to this country if and when we became a province; not a budget covering one or two years, but for a period of eight long years, during which time anything may happen, from a war to a world depression. Incidentally, the author of this budget prophesied only a few days ago that we were going to have a depression and have it very soon. To my mind, it is a budget based on anything but sound, solid facts. In fact, it is based in some part, if not for the most part, on supposition. For instance on how our $28 million surplus will be handled, $16 million of which is out of our reach and will remain so for some years to come. The supposition is that some means may be found to get that $16 million back in dollars, whereas now it is in sterling. Are we going to base our recommendations on suppositions such as that? Without knowing for sure whether it can be done or not?
Again, this budget says that we shall need $15 million to cover ordinary expenditure as a province. Others in this Convention contend that it will take around $18 million, and these contentions have been based, to my mind, on sound reasoning. Who is correct? More than that, how are these monies to be raised, and in the raising of it, how is it going to affect the ordinary Newfoundlander, the fisherman, the logger and the miner? These questions and many others have not been answered to the satisfaction of thousands of our people. Again, Mr. Chairman. how are our fishermen going to be affected by confederation? Are they going to be affected adversely or other wise? What is going to happen to our very efficient Fisheries Board, our system of inspection which has done a tremendous amount of good, our system of marketing? And also, how will our markets be affected? Every fisherman in this country wants to know that. Do they know it? They most certainly do not, and until they do, I cannot see how we can justify ourselves in recommending confederation as a form of government. Some of these questions have been answered, after a fashion, by Mr. Smallwood; but I am not prepared — neither are thousands of people in this country prepared — to accept these answers at the last word. Our people deserve the best, and the best is none too good for them. Confederation may be the best, but do we know that it is the best? I am quite sure that the majority of them do not.
I am a young Newfoundlander, Mr. Chairman, and will in all probability spend the rest of my days here. I do not want to be a party to recommending something to the people of this country which they might regret for the rest of their days. In my opinion, government means a great deal to a people. It has been pointed out here that as long as people have three square meals a day, a decent suit and a tight roof. they do not worry who runs the government. Personally, I cannot subscribe to that. What about our educational system? Our social services? And many other things that are equally important as food, clothing and shelter. Would I, as a Newfoundlander, be satisfied, as long as I had enough to eat, enough to wear and good shelter, to see Adolph Hitler as the head of our affairs? I hardly think so. Again, Mr. Chairman, I want to say that I do not want to deprive the people of anything that may affect them for good. But in view of all the circumstances, as I see them, I cannot in all sincerity support this motion of Mr. Smallwood's.
Our days in this Convention are numbered. We have learned a lot since we came here. I hope that what we have learned will stand as in good stead in the future and will be of some help to our people. Now, Mr. Chairman, like others before me, I wish to express a feeling of gratitude to you for the way in which you have helped us since you occupied the Chair. You have kept us in order very impartially and I am sure we shall be forever grateful to you for the way in which you have conducted the affairs of this Convention.


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] Bonavista.
  • [1] The actual result was: Anticonfederates, 21; Confederates, 9.
  • [1] Above, p.1182.
  • [1] Joseph R. Smallwood, Coaker of Newfoundland (London, 1927).
  • [1] J.D. Rogers, A Historical Geography of the British Colonies: Vol. V, Part IV, Newfoundland (Oxford 1911), p. iv.

Personnes participantes: