Newfoundland National Convention, 28 January 1948, Debates on Confederation with Canada


Midnight 28 January, 1948

Mr. Keough Mr. Chairman, not to all men is it given to stand at the barricades of decision in a moment when destiny is about to decide the future of a whole people, but to we who are gathered here it is so given. We keep this night a rendezvous with destiny. We keep this night an assignation with history. We vote this night upon a matter of supreme importance to the people of this island. And when we have finished with that business there will be no need for a verdict from posterity upon our excellence or otherwise, for in the very act of voting we shall have passed a verdict for posterity upon ourselves. It will not be necessary for posterity to judge us for we shall have judged ourselves.
It may well be that this will be the last time in my life that I shall speak in this storied chamber. Certain I am that I shall have no further occasion to speak during this Convention. And so, sir, I must crave your indulgence for a moment, before I address myself to the motion in order that I may set the record straight on a matterin which I seem to have been much misunderstood. For the benefit of all those who have not been listening to what I have said in this Convention, but who may think that they have been, I wish to make the categoric statement that I have never said that what comes first and before all else in life is three square meals a day. It just so happens that I believe in God. And any man who believes in God must, in consequence, admit to a hierarchy of values in which the spiritual and moral take precedence over the material. I am quite aware that there are more important things in life than three square meals a day. The causes for which all generations of men have suffered persecution, for which they have endured torture and death, for which they have fought and gladly died, have drawn not upon the stomach for inspiration. True it is that men have fought and died and done murder in their time for food. But to bear witness to the good and the true and the beautiful — to bear witness to these things, men have starved.
It will perhaps help to explain my insistence upon the importance of three square meals a day if I say that, in the first instance, I came into this chamber fully determined to insist upon that very thing. I knew in advance that we should hear much of sacred heritage. I knew that there would be much pointing to these hallowed walls. I knew that we should hear much calling to witness of all those who were giants in their day and generation. Indeed, I was afraid that we should hear so much of all these that we should hear of nothing else. I was afraid that we should work ourselves up into such ecstasies about the glories of our land and past, as to completely forget that there had gone into the making of that glory, in addition to much blood, sweat and tears, much hunger, much bitterness of spirit born of being out at the elbows and down at the heels. And so I did promise myself away back at the beginning to remind this Convention every now and then that sacred heritage is not enough — that it is also of some importance that the people eat. And to keep me reminded of my promise to myself, I brought into this house with me a monitor to sit at my elbow — a monitor whom I have called my last forgotten fisherman on the bill of Cape St. George.
Need I say it has notbeen a particular, specific, solitary individual in whose name I have spoken so frequently, but rather a symbolic figure, a figure symbolic of all the fishermen in all the harbours, on all the islands, on all the bills of all the capes of this country. Time and again I have undertaken to remind this Convention of that symbolic forgotten fisherman whose shadow is across all our history. I have spoken of the grim Gethsemane he has endured, of how great has been his historic difficulty in making ends meet, of how it has not been easy for him to bring up his children in the fear and love of God, and with their bellies empty. I am satisfied that I have done the most that I could in his name, and I am satisfied that I have been right in doing so. For the person of my last forgotten fisherman on the bill of Cape St. George is just as sacred to me as the person of the most revered statesman who ever sat in this house. I am convinced that I have not been in error in insisting upon three square meals a day for my symbolic fisherman. And in doing so I have thought that three square meals a day for him are not without reference to the spiritual. For I believe that other things being equal, a man can the more easily save his immortal soul on a full stomach than on an empty one. I wouldn't be surprised if that was part of what January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1425 Christ had in mind when he enjoined us to feed the hungry. And certain I am that that land is the happier in which every man has a full stomach. True it is that without vision the people perish; but without three square meals a day, they perish just as surely. And anyone who doesn't think so might well try going without three square meals a day for a little while. I say for a little while, because I know that conviction will not long be delayed.
I have no regrets about the pains I have been at to emphasise the importance of three square meals a day; and I am satisfied that I have done so in a right spirit — in the spirit that, once satisfied of the safeguard of the spiritual and moral values that we all cherish, we should next be concerned to resolve the question of the form of government best suited to our needs, in terms of what form will make for the greatest economic advantage of the common man of this island. And if it be sacrilege to have done as much, then I suggest to you to make the most of it. But let me assure you that when on Friday next I walk down the steps outside for the last time, I shall have no regret in my heart for this thing that I have done here.
Now to turn to the motion before the Chair. Mr. Smallwood, after making it quite clear beyond a shadow of doubt that he has resolved the problem of perpetual motion, has seen fit to terminate his endeavours in this Convention by asking us to recommend to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom that among the forms of government to be submitted to the people in the forthcoming national referendum should be confederation with Canada upon the basis submitted to the National Convention on November 6, 1947, by the Prime Minister of Canada. Beyond a doubt, Mr. Smallwood in moving this motion is seeking a result which a great many people in this island desire. It may be a matter of great surprise to some that any considerable body of people should desire any such thing. To many members of this Convention who have undertaken to decide in their omniscience to restrict the people's choice, and even to prefer what they should vote for, it may well appear an outrage that there should be any considerable body of opinion to the contrary of their view. But there is a considerable body of opinion to the contrary of what is the majority opinion of this Convention; and that makes the contrary opinion a matter of legitimate concern for us. I take it that this impartial body is still prepared to afford the view, even of that which may be a minority, a hearing, if not a chance.
What I have been at pains to try to decide for myself in the whole matter of this motion has been simply this: is there anything in the proposed arrangements themselves that puts them beyond and outside the pale of rightful submission to the people of Newfoundland — in other words is there something in them intrinsically evil? Personally, I have come to the conclusion that it does not devolve upon me to seek to determine here if the proposed arrangements for union are fair and equitable, or even if they are adequate. That is a decision for the people. And time and time again throughout history the collective common sense of the whole people has proved more adequate than has the collective common sense of the people's popular assemblies. And in this instance I am quite prepared to leave this matter in the people's hands. And what I am concerned with here, is to decide whether there is any rightful impediment in the way of endorsing these proposed arrangements as a referendum alternate.
I have been listening for many weeks to the Don Quixotes of the National Convention tilting at the windmills of the proposed arrangements for union. I must give them credit for supplying the wind that drove the very windmills they were tilting at. But as far as I am concerned, no evidence has been adduced to indicate that the proposed arrangements are not fair and equitable, all the ranting and roaring like true Newfoundlanders notwithstanding. Indeed, it is quite apparent that the proposed arrangements do offer some advantages in consequence of which the lives of our people would be changed for the better.
To put the matter in a nutshell, I have come to conclude that there is nothing within the proposed arrangements themselves that obliges me in conscience not to recommend them to the people for decision. And so I will recommend them. And that will be all that is expected of me here.
I say that advisedly. The way I see it, I am not obligated to express here any preference for a particular form of government. It was not so 1426 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 written in the bond. What was written in the bond was that I should recommend possible forms of future government to be put before the people at a national referendum It was not mentioned that I should express a personal preference. And indeed, the whole idea of expressing preference is repugnant to me. For by expressing preference, this Convention will register a majority approval of one form of government to the exclusion of all others, and thereby influence the result of the referendum. Little as we are thought of by all the holier-than-thous who are so certain that they could have done better, there are still many who would likely be influenced by a majority vote of the Convention. But for the Convention to take advantage of that likelihood and register a majority opinion, seems to me like a distortion of its purpose; and consequently I will not be a party to the expression of preference. For my part I would prefer that the people should go to the referendum with their minds unbiased by any majority declaration of preference by this Convention.
As far as I am qualified to judge, I cannot see why the issue of union with Canada upon the basis of the proposed terms should not be put to the people. That is as far as I feel called upon to go in the matter at this moment. But I do have to face the query as to whether or not it is fitting and proper that our people should have the issue of union put to them under such circumstances as those of the national referendum that is to follow in a little while; not to, brings up the whole constitutional question...
To begin, let me say that I do not pretend to be an expert, an authority, or even a novice in constitutional law. To tell the truth, I don't know the first thing about it. My concern most of the days of my life has been with trying to help the little fellow the better to make both ends meet, and with his ideas of how things should go in this island. In consequence I am quite prepared to leave discussion of the constitutional position "at law" involved in the confederation issue to those in our midst who are eminent King's Counsellors, Doctors of the Law and Justices of the Peace. Being a simple soul, who thinks more in the same terms as the singer out on the squid-jigging ground than in the terms in which a Privy Counsellor thinks, it seems to me that all this current furor over the constitutional propriety of confederation being placed on the ballot paper is much ado about nothing. I am not prepared to accept the argument that makes the placing of confederation upon the referendum ballot a constitutional issue. Actually it is no argument at all to say that it is not constitutionally proper for confederation to appear upon the referendum paper, and that Commission of Government and responsible government should be the only alternatives submitted to the people. The way I see it, all that is distortion of the realities of the matter. To me such an argument makes as much sense as it would to say that two and two make five — therefore the grass is pink in summer.
I have said that in determining upon referendum alternatives we are bound in conscience, by tradition, and in fact and by right reason in all things. I can find no cause therein to exclude confederation from the consideration of the people. It is not legitimate to contend to the contrary, on the grounds that proper constitutional procedure requires return to responsible government before the people are approached to discover if they desire union with Canada. That is not the case. It may be that we should have to have some measure of restoration of responsible government before the act of passing into the Canadian confederation could be officially concluded. But that is a different matter, and in no way concerns the referendum.
The referendum, to my mind, is a device intended purely and simply to find out what the people desire in the way of government. No considerations of constitutional propriety can conceivably be involved. It's to be a simple matter of asking the people just what they prefer in the way of government — a matter every bit as simple as asking them what they would prefer in the way of pie. And there are no constitutional strings attached to the act of ascertaining the desired constitution, anymore than there would be constitutional strings attached to the act of ascertaining the desired pie — whether it be apple pie or blueberry pie, or pie by and by from Ottawa. Unless it can be shown that confederation per se is not a proper alternative, we may not seek to exclude it from the referendum out of consideration of constitutionality which do not enter into the matter. What the proper procedure would be to give effect to the preferred constitution would be something else; then we would January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1427 become concerned with constitutional propriety. But in the referendum we shall be concerned merely with the interrogative mood.
There is one further matter that should give us cause for concern in considering this whole matter of union, and that is whether union would prejudice the survival of a distinctive national culture and civilisation that we should seek to maintain. There are people in this island to whom the whole confederation issue is like a red rag to a bull, and for about much the same reason they just don't like it no how. Mention confederation, and they'll rant and they'll roar in the approved grand manner about 30 pieces of silver, and niggers in the woodpile, and selling our sacred heritage up the St. Lawrence. Indeed, there has been so much of that sort of thing going on both within and without this Convention that one has to pause to enquire if perhaps there might be a modicum of truth in it all. I must confess that I am not too clear as to just exactly what the poets and the politicians have in mind when they take to being sentimental over our sacred heritage. I remember that I did one time see a fisherman's wife shovel fish guts into a brin bag and spell it on her back to her gardens a mile away. I feel certain that that is not what they have in mind by our sacred heritage. I remember that I did one time spend February in a most picturesque little cottage nailed to a cliff beside the sea. I didn't get warm for a month, and I feel certain that the people living there didn't get warm for the winter. I feel that that is not the sacred heritage over which our poets work themselves up into ecstasies, and over which our politicians work themselves into a lather. Indeed, it must be something altogether different than the most of what one comes across in making the rounds of this country. But if by our sacred heritage the poets and the politicians mean that we know in this island a culture and civilisation so different, and so much more advanced than the culture and civilisation of the North American mainland that they are worth any sacrifice to preserve them, they had better stop wool-gathering on Mount Olympus, and come down and walk among the people and learn how the people live. You know, it could be that the best authority on the desirability of baby bonuses would be the people who have the babies.
I have come to conclude that there would not be involved in confederation any issue of the preservation of a distinct national culture and civilisation. Now that is not to say, mind you, that we have not evolved our own customs, our own institutions, our own peculiar way of life. We have. It so happens that we are the inheritors of what I have sometimes called a fish and brewis culture, of which the apex in song is the "come- all-ye" and of which as good an example in folk custom as any other is a Codroy Valley "milling".[1] Of that fish and brewis culture I am as proud as any Newfoundlander. It is true that we are the inheritors of a great national tradition of bravery against the seas, of heroism defying the sea to do its worst — bravery and heroism exemplified for all time on a bleak October day on the bleak Labrador coast when a man named Jackman did 27 times head into the storm and 27 times come ashore with a human life on his back.[2] It is true that in this land we are the inheritors of a great Christian tradition; that at the end of every week, after we have braved the sea and dug the land and cut the pulpwood, we do still after the manner of our fathers land gather in a thousand churches to pray as our fathers prayed... All these things are true. It is true too that all these things can remain to be so in the event of confederation. The things dearest to our hearts in this land will not in the event of union be at issue. I give it to you as my considered opinion, for what it is worth, that if the confederation alternate shall come to confront us in the referendum, that there shall be involved therein no issue involving our distinct character as Newfoundlanders, no issue involving our national honour, no issue involving our distinct culture and way of life.
I come now to this final statement of my position in this matter. To such extent as I am qualified to judge, the proposed arrangements appear to me to contain nothing that constitutes a legitimate impediment in the way of their being submitted to the Newfoundland people. I can say in conscience I know of no good and sufficient reason why the Newfoundland people should not have the opportunity to vote upon the confederation issue if they so desire. I will vote to give them that opportunity. I will vote for the motion before 1428 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 the Chair. I could not do otherwise without seeking to abridge the rights of our people and without doing injury to my own integrity. My final conclusion in the whole matter is that yet once again must I agree with myself in something that I said a long time ago — that in the great decision that confronts us, even if there be but one man in all this island who wishes to vote for return of responsible government, he is entitled to have the opportunity to do so — even if that one lone individual should happen to be Major Peter Cashin. Even if there be but one man in this island who wishes to vote for union with Canada, he is entitled to the opportunity to do so, even if that one lone individual should happen to be Mr. Joseph Smallwood. And even if there happens to be but one man in this island who wants to vote for retention of Commission of Government, he is entitled to the opportunity to do so — even if that one lone individual happens to be a person of no more consequence than my last forgotten fisherman on the bill of Cape St. George. I said that first many months ago when the Convention was still young. In the meantime I have come upon nothing to convince me to the contrary, so do I repeat it here at the end. I am still of that opinion.
And now as we turn to the casting of our final vote, as we address ourselves to the pinnacle of our endeavour here, there is this that I would ask the Convention to bear in mind: let us remember in this hour, that all the days of our lives the mark of this Convention will be upon us. We can never be free of it, though we flee it down the nights and down the days and down the labyrinthine ways of our own souls. It will remain with us always. We are committed here to the serving of a great purpose in conscience and in honour. And our own conscience will judge us all the days of our lives if we fail in conscience, and history will judge us if we fail in honour. And we shall know no peace of mind again if in this historic hour we fail this land and this people. As, then, we apply ourselves to the final act of recommending the alternatives of government to be submitted to the people's choice, let us bear constantly in mind that it is a matter involving our conscience and our honour to recommend all legitimate alternatives consistent with right reason. In consequence let us at this moment have somewhat more than the courage of our connections. Let us be decided instead by the courage of our convictions. Let us remember that we shall leave no footprints in the sands of time with feet of clay.
The mark of this Convention will be upon us always in this too. We who are gathered here were by our election to this Convention in some measure set apart. We have the high honour of being the men to whom Newfoundland, at a moment of supreme decision, has turned for guidance. We have had full opportunity to study the elements of the issue that confronts us. We have had greater opportunity than most of our fellows to take the measure of this land and the measure of its necessity. And there has come upon us in consequence responsibility and dedication that will not end with this Convention. To whom much is given, of him much will be expected. And it will surely be expected of us after we have gone forth from here, that we shall serve with greater diligence than most the cause of human dignity and social justice in this land; for we have had greater opportunity than most to see wherein we could come to serve with advantage. Indeed, there devolves upon us the plain duty to go forth from this Convention determined in our hearts and resolved in our souls that we shall leave no stone unturned, that we shall move whatever mountains must be moved, that we shall labour from dawn till dusk, that we shall cease not from argument or action, that we shall know no peace or no rest in our time until — come what form of government there may — we have made the fullest contribution that we may in our own time to the making of this land that we all do love: a land in which there will be peace and happiness and dignity, and enough for all.
Mr. Vincent Mr. Chairman, I am not at the moment concerned with the nebulous conception of economic justice, nor am I greatly concerned with what my friend, Mr. Newell called "economic politics". The case as I see it is simply a motion to put on the ballot in the coming referendum this spring, confederation on the basis of the proposals submitted by the King government to this Convention. Anticipating this, of course, I previously recommended the terms to my constituents and to the country generally when I spoke to Mr. Bradley's motion introducing the proposals some weeks ago.
Mr. Chairman, as odd and strange as it may seem, there are some here who would, after a January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1429 debate of six weeks on this issue of confederation, deny the people a chance to choose for themselves. It has been made abundantly clear by you, sir, and by many other speakers, that this Convention was elected to make recommendations on form or forms of government, and in my opinion any member of this assembly relegating to himself the right to think for another is assuming a prerogative that never was his. Mr. Higgins said the terms were fair; that is the opinion of a legal mind. Mr. Bradley approves and recommends them; again the opinion of a keen, legal brain. Great sections of the island have given their moral support to this issue, and yet we have members who will get up and say, "No, confederation has no right to be on the ballot." Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, I can assure you in all sincerity, to make such a statement in my district would not only be sheer folly, but it would be positively dangerous, and as the elected representative for Bonavista North I demand that confederation be placed on the ballot. I have also supported the other forms being put there as well. Critics have been trying hard to build up a case against the people having a choice. They have, with great forcefulness, invoked the almost sacred covenant of letters patent, the act suspending responsible government. They might as well have read themselves a chapter out of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist, it would have been more entertaining and much more humourous. The ordinary man, the fisherman, the common man (and he will swing the big stick next May), cares as much about that as he does about the value of a row of beans. What concerns him at the moment — and it is very important — is his freedom of choice, the right to make his own decisions.
Mr. Chairman, I am giving my unqualified support to the motion. I am giving it my unqualified support because I feel there are tens of thousands of intelligent Newfoundlanders who honestly want to see confederation on the ballot this spring. I support it because I am convinced that the terms offered by the government of Prime Minister Mackenzie King are the best we can reasonably expect, bearing in mind that the nine other provinces of Canada entered confederation under less favourable arrangements. I support the motion wholeheartedly since, I am a pro-confederate.
The future of this island lies within the orbit of the western hemisphere. Today Canada and her great and powerful neighbour, the United States, probably have more in common than any other two nations in the world. No powerful machines of war patrol their lines of demarcation. No military barriers restrict the influx of citizenry of Canada into the United States. Our destiny must be with our western neighbours, not as an isolated unit assuming a false sense of independence that never was ours, but as a component of an economic interdependent union of the great western bloc of nations called North America. Somebody talked of sentiment. If I were asked to interpret Newfoundland, I would assert without fear of contradiction that for both realistic and sentimental reasons, our future lies with Canada. Our racial strains are the same as hers; our pride in the old order of British institutions is the same; our traditions, the age-old tradition of freedom for which our sons and hers have fought and died, will not change or be changed under union, and I, for one, would not wish them to. For I want the memories of the upsurge of British nationhood, of the growth through pain and peril of our Commonwealth, to remain as real and as strong as they are today.
Canada, occupying the third largest national space in the world, exceeded only by Russia and China, with a population of only 12 million, still has a long way to go. Does the future look black for Canada? I do not think so. Only today, I read in a very reliable journal mat United States citizens have more than $5 billion invested in the Dominion. Does that infer her future is dark? Canada is a creditor nation. Since the end of the war she has loaned England $1,250,000,000 and a further $750 million for export credits to Europe and Asia.
The terms of union are attractive — old age pensions and family allowances offer much to our people. I very earnestly recommend them to my constituents and to the country generally, for, Mr. Chairman, I am fully convinced that in concert with the nine other provinces, and with the friendliness of our big southern confederacy the United States, our people will advance into a brighter era, and in the world of tomorrow will find a still more honourable and effective role to play.
Mr. Chairman, by way of concluding, and I shall be very brief, I would like to pay my respects 1430 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 to the Chair. Your task, sir, has been a very onerous one, but the wise judgement, cool decisions and great consideration which you have shown have added still more lustre to your already well-known abilities, and a greater admiration for one of Newfoundland's greatest sons. To your immediate predecessor, my learned associate from Bonavista Centre, I would say that when and if the records of this Convention are written, history will accord no mean place to the name of F. Gordon Bradley, K.C. I would also, pay tribute to the memory of that great and good man, the late Mr. Justice Fox; to me (and I knew him but a short time), his demise represented a personal tragedy, and I shall treasure memories of that kindly gentleman long after Conventions are forgotten. To members generally, I express a deep sense of gratitude. As far as I am concerned, this Convention has been a great lesson in political democracy at work, even though it may have been a very expensive one. Here the managing directors of the big vested interests were called by their first names by the ex-schoolteacher, the outport merchant. Here the ex-policeman from the west coast talked over his people's problems with the co-op worker from White Bay. Forty; five men with divergent views did much toward enlightening public opinion and awakening a sense of political responsibility among our people. If I may be permitted to be personal on a final note, and I trust it is not in bad taste, I would express my sincere thanks to my good friend, Mr. Hickman, He probably more than any other has gone out of his way at times to extend those little courtesies that mean so much. Also to Mr. Crosbie, the Hon. R.B. Job, Mr. Smallwood and to my great friend, Arch Northcott, and to members generally; and I make my final bow by saying, "Thank you, gentlemen."
Mr. Miller Mr. Chairman, I hesitated when this subject was being discussed in committee of the whole to engage in the debate. I felt it was being buffeted around the house, and that the discussion on it was being rendered in extremes on both sides. And so I mostly sat it out. However, in view of the bigness of the question, and in view of the fact that I, on both occasions, voted in favour of the motion to send a delegation to Ottawa to request the terms of union, I feel I should make some comment at this time.
If I were asked why I supported getting the terms of union, I would say, yes, I would honestly swear that my first and perhaps only reason was a psychological one. We were called together to consider forms of government. The question of confederation had been up before. True, it has failed, but on its merits or demerits as the case may be. But it had become an object of continuous curiosity and many unfounded arguments had, down through the years, been advanced in its favour. This old flame had been rapidly fanned in the interim between the announcement of the holding of this Convention and its opening date, September 11, 1946. A glowing picture of union with Canada was laid before the people. It was not to be wondered at then, that since we were dealing with such questions, that curiosity was further aroused and being aroused, had to be satisfied. It is not my intention now to comment on the methods adopted by the pro-confederates as to their fairness or otherwise, and I say but one thing, that they are, to my mind, not based on sound national principles and consequently could not be considered as bait. A further remark is that its progress through this assembly has provided the means of passing on the bait.
And so I voted for the motion to send a delegation to Ottawa. That decision was against my feeling, for in the autonomous sovereign integrity of our country I had a strong belief. But my feelings, I felt, should be set aside for the moment, and should yield to a proven case: a case in which all the evidence should be submitted and considered. And there a great shadow came over our subject, our inability to negotiate. I do not pass reflections on those who gave us this job to do, and who set the limits wherein we work. No part of this is unwittingly planned, and it is well that it is so.
I voted to get the terms. That covered that. There was at one time a possibility of our having to consider what is still only a word, a condominion. The idea of investigating government of the North of Ireland status was hinted at, as was also a present-day application of representative government. All these, I believe, were possible forms of future government and one would act in a restrictive manner not to favour their being looked into. But having investigated these forms of government, it does not necessarily follow that one would recommend any or all January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1431 of them for submission to the people in the referendum. For these forms would unquestionably apply with greater or lesser merit under different circumstances. To state my position clearly, I would not recommend a form of government for which I would not vote in a referendum. I would, Ifeel, be very lax in my duty and indeed, it would be plain deceit to do other than that. Sixteen months ago I might have said I think the people of Newfoundland are desirous of voting on certain forms of government. Today I can only say the same, nor am I under duty to find out. But I am under duty to recommend what in my opinion should be put before the people. Obviously, to determine the wishes of the people was a purely mechanical matter; but to secure a recommendation necessitated study, hence the Convention and its undertaking, and surely now, after all its cost to the country, our recommendation will have foundation on the facts as we saw them. Mr. Chairman, are we shirking the first call of duty? Are we seeing enacted before our very eyes the first scene in the further degradation of our country? Must our way be still harder? Given the task to do, will history record us as having discharged that duty faithfully, or will it relate a gruesome story of putrefaction and prostitution of a great obligation? Sometimes I fear it has happened.
This country of ours has fought a hard fight down through the years, and progress and development were greatly retarded by outside forces. Despite all this, the great courage of its people and their determination to establish here a country fashioned to their own liking, made the task, though a difficult one, a desire of the heart. Here in the quiet though frugal comfort of their homes, they planned their undertakings — undertakings that would undoubtedly bring them great dangers. But danger to them created a more colourful existence. In this and many similar ways, a way of life was born. Meanwhile, what of our leaders? We hear, from those who would tear down the whole structure of our national life and culture, repeated attempts made to blacken our Newfoundland leaders of the past. The dark spots of our history are always held to the front, for fear can be instilled in our hearts by such a policy. Mr. Chairman, we had great men as judged in the age in which they lived. These men laid the foundation of the trade and commerce of the country which is still sound in many ways, though greatly distorted in others. I am not prone to dwell for long in history's pages. What of our trade and commerce? What of our leaders in this field? Notice, I make no mention of the producer, the fisherman, farmer, logger, miner. I want to deal, if possible, with those influences of government which may help or harm the producer. I am fully aware and quite willing to believe that our producers will do their part, and thus I dispose of that part of the subject. Time does not permit me to deal with more than one of our primary industries, and I shall refer only to the fishing industry which is and will continue to be the chief industry of that section of Newfoundland from where I come.
The fishing industry emerged from the war period without any great shock. It could ill afford a shock — let that be fully appreciated. The war period, no one need be reminded, was abnormal in its demands both in quantity and price, and a serious falling off could have easily been the order of the day. This did not happen, and it was no accident that it did not — neither was it just good luck. It was, let there be no mistake about it, due to the vision, the constructive policy of our leaders in that field. True, we had an exchange problem, but even in this matter local suggestions capable of solving the problems of the day were readily forthcoming. We have gone a long way in the development of our fishing industry and in our marketing methods, and the future gives even further encouragement, for our next move promises to be the solving in part at least of that exchange of currency problem. If that can be once taken care of, then the Newfoundland producer will have considerably less to worry about. This is our problem. We have to have it solved in particular reference to this country; we should trust it to no other country to do it for us.
And now I feel I should dwell for a few moments on the effect of union with Canada on this industry. The first and perhaps the all-condemning feature is that the control of all trade and commerce would rest in the hands of the federal government, as it is today in Canada. Newfoundland is small in comparison with Canada; we are always reminded of that, but what we are not asked to be mindful of is that in the competitive market which exists, we are taking care of ourselves well. Union with Canada, as I see it, 1432 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 would seriously affect this. Those who would alarm us on our local matters endeavour to console us on this question, and the ordinary word of caution they try to kill in an avalanche of words. They would be as helpless as you orl in the face of events that would follow union. Poor hope for our people, if they have to trust themselves forever to the charity and goodwill of a foreign master. We are the masters here; division of our people cannot be weighed in terms of supposedly improved services. We can and we rapidly are improving these services. The extent to which they shall progress will bear relation to capacity to pay.
I might be expected to comment on the manner in which we were told that in respect to local government we could please ourselves. That is largely true, but the truth was not fully presented. Local or municipal government in Canada is obliged to render greater and more costly services to the communities where they exist than they are in Newfoundland. For instance, half the cost of public relief, half the cost of education is thrown by the provincial government into the hands of local governments or councils as we know them. I do not grumble about the possibility of having to do this; what concerns me is the ability or inability of a council to take care of these added obligations. I can see in such a possibility the loss of the ground we have already gained, and a great and lasting injury done our people. But even these matters are secondary and could be sacrificed to great national principles if such could be served. Judged in this light, this union with Canada falls short again. For this is not a division; it is not a partition, it is absorption, it is the swallowing of a little country that was once called Newfoundland, and many of the privileges, many of the advantages which we now enjoy may cause indigestion to the Canadian appetite.
The coming referendum and the few remaining months prior thereto will be a most important time and event in the history of our country. There and then we shall go on record as a people, and the eyes of the world shall judge us accordingly for long years to come, for this is an irrevocable decision, even as they today still judge Esau of old, who said to his brother, "Give me of thy red pottage for I am exceeding faint"; and Jacob the brother replied, "Sell me thy birthright." And Esau answering said, "Lo, if I die what will my birthright avail me?" Thus he would lose forever the birthright for which he had so little account, and all for a mess of pottage.
Mr. Figary Mr. Chairman, I rise to support the motion which is now before the Chair. In listening to addresses of members of this Convention at this time and at other times, I have come to this conclusion: that there have been too many long- winded addresses which have been corrupting and confusing the minds of the people.
We are here, Mr. Chairman, with this in mind: after considering the changes that have taken place in this country since 1934, to recommend to His Majesty's Government in Great Britain suitable forms of government to be placed before the people in a national referendum, who will decide as to the future set-up, and I will not try to block any form of government going on the ballot paper, and I do not think it advisable for any other member to try and do so. We have thousands and thousands of people who favour confederation with Canada, and I do not think it right and reasonable for us, as members of this Convention, to try and deprive them of that privilege. In speaking of the terms offered by the Canadian government, some I cannot accept but to a large extent, to my mind, they are quite favourable. The people of this country are looking for something better than what they have been getting, and let us all hope that when the ballot is taken, a decision will be made in the right direction.
Now, I am not at all sure that this country is so wonderfully prosperous today as we have been asked to believe. I will admit some people are prosperous, but there are thousands of fishermen and labourers who are still looking for this prosperity that they hear so much about. There are thousands of our people who are struggling day by day and week by week with the terrible high cost of living, a cost of living that seems to climb higher and higher month by month. It takes pretty high wages today for a working man to support a family. And what about the thousands who don't get high wages in Newfoundland? I have noticed for a long time that the cost of living has an ugly habit of rising much faster than wages ever do. The fishermen and workers get hit every time. This Convention must not run away with the idea that all our people in this country are so wonderfully prosperous. I can tell you plainly January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1433 that there are people who are half-fed, half- clothed, and a lot unemployed. And unemployment is going to increase in the near future. This being so, let us extend some of this prosperity to these people.
Mr. Chairman, I am not greatly interested in all the long tables of figures that have been presented to this Convention, nor do I think the people are interested in them. I am much more interested in the broad outline of the situation, and I am not too sure that everything is bright for the future in this country. There are too many signs of something altogether different, our people have long memories. There are thousands in this country who can remember back before the first world war. They remember how the price of fish and everything else went up when that war broke out. They remember very well the prosperity that came to Newfoundland in the first world war. Yes, and they remember the depression and hard times and dole and poverty that came after the war. They remember that with very few exceptions that depression lasted all the time from the end of that war almost to the start of this war. And they remember also that when this war came, prices began to jump just as they did in the first world war. Now, Mr. Chairman, this second world war is over — or at least the actual fighting is over — and can you blame people for wondering what is going to happen in the near future?
I am a plain working man, a trade unionist. And I do know something about our Newfoundland workers, and how they live and bring up their families. I know something of their struggles to live, I know something of their struggles to make both ends meet, and I know something of the hard years before the war, and the suffering our people endured. So Mr. Chairman, I must tell you frankly that I am a bit hard to convince when I am told that everything is all right and our future assured. My mind is not a bit romantic, and the hard facts of our people's struggle to live make a deeper impression on my mind than all the talk in the world about the glorious traditions and all sorts of things. I am not going to be carried away by any comforting assurances about our future, for when I remember the past I am still the more determined to keep my feet planted firmly on the ground.
We have heard a lot said in this Convention of the conditions existing in Canada. But, Mr. Chairman, it can't be so bad after all, as thousands of our people have gone there, obtained good positions and have made wonderful progress. I know lots of them, have been in their homes in cities such as Toronto and Montreal and other cities, and their positions are very encouraging. I will admit that there are people in Canada similar to those in Newfoundland to whom I have referred, but that exists in every country. Therefore, I say to the people of this country, don't be swayed by every wind and doctrine. Vote as your mind leads you, which I will do when the time comes.
Mr. Northcott Mr. Chairman, I want to say first of all just why I cannot vote for confederation, why I cannot suppon it. First, our fisheries are of paramount importance to me. Our people, a great many of them, live by the fisheries, and under the act we have no gilt-edge security that the federal government will take care of our fisheries. Our Fisheries Board may not function as heretofore. This is a thing the fishermen in Newfoundland will want to bear in mind. Every fisherman will want to know the facts, the real facts, and the truth in connection with our fisheries and what will happen to the Fisheries Board. Gentlemen, we must export or perish. That is a very important thing. That is one of the reasons why I cannot support the motion now before the Chair.
I am also of opinion that there are people in Newfoundland today who just cannot understand the terms of taxation and how they are going to be applied. You will remember that we have all been confused and bewildered. One person will tell you there is no taxation on a certain thing; another person will tell you there is taxation. Our people listening to the radio night after night are really confused over that issue, and I do not want to be a party to or in any way connected with anything that may lead them astray. I do not want the people to make a leap in the dark. This is a serious issue, and our people will want a long time to consider it before marking their vote. That is another reason why I am not prepared to support the motion.
I am not altogether opposed to confederation. I think it is a good thing. It is a new thing, and to us it may be a different way of life and we want to be careful of the path we trend and go slow before we mark our "x".
In closing I may say that I, too, was hurt in 1434 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 connection with the words used by Mr. Smallwood just recently about the wealthy people. I am not one of these wealthy people. I know we have some wealthy people in this country, and they have done a good job and invested their money in many ways, giving many hundreds of people work, and I really feel hurt about that. I would like to say to Mr. Smallwood, "Let him that hath no sin cast the first stone." I am sorry, but I cannot support the motion.
Mr. Fogwill Mr. Chairman and gentlemen, in speaking to this motion, this question of federal union of Newfoundland with the Dominion of Canada, to say the least, Mr. Smallwood's explanation of the Black Books and the Grey Book have, so far as I am concerned, been very unsatisfactory. These Black Books do give a good general outline of the Dominion federal services, and also a description of Dominion federal services, and also a description of Dominion- provincial relations, but for one to appreciate properly these services and their application to Newfoundland as a province, the explanations of Mr. Smallwood have been worse than useless. Take, for example, the tax structure of Canada, what do we know about it now? What does the country know about it? What does Mr. Smallwood know about it?
Some time ago, sir, I quoted some figures in respect to probable federal revenues which would be collected from the people of Newfoundland as a province. I had taken considerable time and trouble with this. I arrived at a figure, with the exception of the corporate and income tax, of over $10 million in excess of the Canadian estimate. Now this total was got by actually applying the Canadian taxes to our imports for the year 1946-47, and also by making a reasonable estimate of taxes on local production. This figure of $10 million is in my opinion conservative. Mr. Smallwood, in his summing up of the debate in committee, showed agreement with one source of Canadian taxes, that is in the general sales tax, and when doing so he very conveniently used the Customs Blue Book for the year 1945-46 which showed imports of $9 million less than 1946-47. He also estimated taxable local production at only $5 million, which is absolutely absurd when it is realised that three items only of local manufacture amount to over $4 million in 1946-47. Now, sir, there has been much criticism and abuse directed at Newfoundland's method of collecting taxes, particularly the method of collecting taxes on imports. Of course it is not an ideal way. It rests heavily upon the wage earner, but until a better method is devised, this system will remain. It is, if I may say, inexpensive in operation considering the scattered nature of our population when compared with methods used elsewhere. Of course, Mr. Chairman, the evils and iniquities of this kind of tax has been used by Mr. Smallwood in his argument for confederation; so much so, that he apparently forgot all about the Canadian taxes. He used the old argument time and again, that of computing wholesalers' and retailers' profits on cost of goods plus duty. Is it possible that Mr. Smallwood is so innocent that he thinks that under confederation the wage earner of Newfoundland will have any relief from this? Let us consider for a moment the Canadian system of collecting taxes. The Canadian federal government imposes a series of taxes much worse in their application to the wage earner than we have in Newfoundland; they impose excise duties, excise taxes, import taxes and the general sales tax, a multitude of taxes for which there seems to be no rhyme or reason. All of these taxes are indirect, the import taxes are imposed on goods at the point of entry, excise duties, excise taxes and the general sales tax are imposed at the point of manufacture, and in their application to Newfoundland these taxes will be, in their effect on the wage earner, the same as our import taxes. The importer, the wholesaler and the retailer will make profits on all of these taxes. In this respect the position under federal union will remain unchanged — in fact, in my opinion, it will be worse. On many items of taxable goods in Canada there are two, three and sometimes four separate federal taxes before the goods reach the consumer.
Mr. Chairman, it is the double and sometimes treble taxation which bears so heavily upon the wage earner, these are the taxes which dig down into the workingman's pocket. One or more of these taxes, sir, will be applied, with very few exceptions, to everything we use if this country enters federal union with Canada. I have computed the Canadian import taxes on a per capita basis, taking the average from the five year period ending in 1946. I have done the same in January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1435 respect to excise duties, excise taxes and the general sales tax and I have got the following result: import taxes, $11.61 per head of population; excise duties $1l.67; excise and other taxes $18.02; sales tax $22.98. These taxes as applied to Newfoundland will result in a total taxation under these headings of $22,427,000. This figure is $2 million more than that which I had quoted before, and I am inclined to accept this latter figure, because I did not know when I examined them before as much as I do now of the tax structure of the federal government of Canada.
Now let us consider personal income taxes. This is, I admit, a more difficult question. The only way by which I could arrive at any reasonable estimate in regard to income tax was to apply the Canadian income groups to similar income groups in this country. For the year 1945 the average Canadian income tax in the income group earning less than $2,000 as applied to the Newfoundland taxpayer will amount to $386,138. The income groups earning between $2,000 and $3,000 will pay $620,527; between $3,000 and $5,000, $996,425; between $5,000 and $10,000, $1,561,014; between $10,000 and $30,000, $2,003,625; over $30,000 the amount will be $1,239,120. A total of $6,806,849. These figures are based on the average tax collected in each income group on the estimated totals for the year 1945 and are taken from the Canadian government official publication. Only 2.82% of our population are estimated to be income taxpayers for the year 1945, and this number will be considerably increased, probably doubled under the Canadian tax law. The exemptions will be reduced from $1,000 to $750 for single persons and from $2,000 to $1,500 for married taxpayers, and this will result, in my opinion, in increasing the total number of taxpayers in Newfoundland to 18,000 persons. In concluding these remarks in respect to taxes I want to point out that if we took the total Canadian revenues from taxation for the year 1946, which amounted to $176.18 per head, and applied it to Newfoundland's population we get a figure of $56,377,600.
Now sir, I want to make a few remarks about unemployment insurance. No doubt this insurance plan has a lot to commend it; but sir, it will not be of much use to Newfoundland. The majority of Newfoundlanders are employed at work not covered by the Unemployment In surance Act, although the Black Books state that lumbering, logging and stevedoring may be brought under the provisions of the Act within the next few months. Section 86 of the Act provides for the extension of the Act and also allows for the limiting of this extension to areas as prescribed by the Unemployment Commission as an insurance area; this does not mean that if the Act is extended to embrace all or any of the classifications of employment not now covered that these classifications would be extended to Newfoundland. No, for example, stevedoring in the City of Halifax could be included and brought under the provisions of the Act and the cities of St. John's and Montreal could be left out. It depends upon the regularity of employment in any classification of work as to whether or not an area would be prescribed as an insurance area. It appears to me that if the Act were to be extended to cover most of the present exceptions that it would be of little value to us.
Now sir, what is the position of the Railway workers in respect to the terms? I agree, Mr. Chairman, that the Railway workers will be offered corresponding employment with the CNR with all privileges and continuity of service accorded to the employees of the CNR. What does this mean? It means this — as the employees of both CNR and the Newfoundland Railway work under the provisions of signed working agreements, the continuity of service of both these railways are governed by the rules set forth in these agreements which are very similar in their scope. If, Mr. Chairman, the CNR should take over the Newfoundland Railway, then I say, if any time after that date, even one day after, it was decided to lay off any of the staff, the only thing necessary would be to give the required notice as set out in the working agreement covering the various classifications of workers, and employees would then be dispensed with in accordance with the length of time they have been employed Required notice is sometimes as low as four days; others require up to a month. In any case, under the terms there is no guarantee of continuity of employment.
Mr. Chairman, I want to make a few remarks in respect to railway pensions. In the first place these pensions are paid out of operating account, and this year this sum is estimated at $200,000. There is no provision in the terms in this regard, 1436 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 and according to a reply which I received in answer to a question, I gather that as there is no statute governing these pensions, and as railway pensions are a charge on operating account, these payments would not be a charge on Newfoundland as a province. In any case, Mr. Smallwood has not made any provision for it in his proposed budget. Under clause 17 of the terms it is definite, in my opinion, that the CNR and/or the Canadian government disclaim any responsibility for these payments. Therefore, sir, I must conclude that as from the date of union, those who are now retired and receiving pensions would be cut off; and all other employees, 3,000 of them, would lose all the years of service which every one of them thought would be credited to them upon reaching retirement age — 3,000 employees with about ten years average service each, 30,000 years of pensionable service gone up the creek. It may be argued that under any form of government pensions might become too expensive and therefore could be reduced or cut out; in my opinion, under confederation they would cease immediately; but under a form of government national in character, I believe an opportunity could be had of setting up a pension plan which would be contributory. In fact some steps have already been taken by the railway unions in this respect, a plan to which the employees could contribute and therefore have some assurance of a retiring allowance or pension when they become too old to work.
I have little more to say, Mr. Chairman. In the field of agriculture, however, I think that our farmers are well aware of the implications of confederation and the effect that this form of government will have on their livelihood; they know much better than I do of the handicaps that this form of government would impose upon Newfoundland's farm economy, and they will no doubt decide accordingly.
In conclusion, I want to repeat that in my opinion if we federate, the Government of Canada will collect no less than $35 million a year in taxation from the Newfoundland people. With this in mind, and considering all other factors involved, and realising what little real knowledge we have of this question, I cannot support the motion. I shall vote against it.
Mr. Ballam Before I speak on the motion before the Chair, I would like to refer to something Mr. Higgins said in his address. Mr, Higgins told us that the terms of confederation were a good basis; he told us that the terms were very good, but today, and only today, he found out he was incompetent to obtain such terms. Well, it is too bad Mr. Higgins did not find out his incompetency before we went to Ottawa, so that we could have had the opportunity of picking out a more competent man.
Mr. Chairman, I believe the people of Newfoundland are going to take note of the way we vote on this motion now before us; and I think every one of us is on trial in the eyes of the people, They are going to judge us by the way we cast our votes on this resolution. There are those who will cast their votes against the motion because they do not like the form of government it mentions. There are those who will let their own personal wishes come first, ahead of the public interest. Big men will show their bigness by voting for the motion, even though the motion recommends a form of government that they do not like. They will vote to give the people their chance to decide on this question. It is easy for a member of this Convention to vote in favour of a form of government he agrees with; but it takes a big man to vote in favour of a form of government that he disagrees with. When the vote is taken on the motion we will see how many big men we have here amongst us.
I admit that it is fairly easy to think up excuses for voting against letting the people decide whether they want confederation or not. I could think up half a dozen excuses myself for not letting the people decide, and other members can also think up excuses. But excuses are one thing; reason is something else. I cannot think of one reason for voting against the motion, and I am still listening to hear any member give one real reason against the motion.
The motion itself is very plain and simple. It simply asks us to recommend that confederation be placed before the people for their decision, simply that and nothing more. It does not ask members to be in favour of confederation, but only to place it before the people, Even the strongest enemy of confederation can vote to let the people decide on the question. If I were an anticonfcderate I would stand up here and say something like this: "I don't like confederation. In the referendum I will vote against it. But I will January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION    1437 vote for the motion, for all the motion asks me to do is to be in favour of letting the people decide." If I were an anticonfederate, that is what I would say, and the people would respect me for saying it. Why, sir, even the anticonfederates amongst our people are expecting all the members of the Convention to vote in favour of this motion. They'll be ashamed of their anticonfederate leaders if they vote to deprive the people of their chance to decide the matter. That is the first point I wanted to make today, sir; that it is the duty of every member of the Convention to vote for this motion to submit the confederation question to the people themselves
The second point I want to make is connected with a remark made by Mr. Banfield when he seconded the motion. Mr. Banfield said that the people of the southwest coast are all in favour of confederation. He said they are looking forward to referendum day to cast their votes for confederation. Well, I have heard how strong the people are for confederation up on that great coast, and what Mr. Banfield said was no surprise to us. But Mr. Banfield must not run away with the idea that it is only on the southwest coast that there are confederates. I come from the west coast, the best coast in this country today. And I can tell you there are confederates on our coast too. Out on the west coast we have many good Newfoundlanders who are just waiting for the chance to mark their "X's" for confederation with Canada. And I can tell you this: our west coast people are not going to be very pleased with any members who cast their votes against letting the people decide the question. We have a strong sense of fair play out on the west coast, sir. We believe in playing the game. We believe in giving the other fellow a chance. Live and let live. I won't go so far as to say that every man and woman on the west coast is in favour of confederation, but I will say this: that even those who are against confederation are all in favour of letting the question be settled by all the people in the referendum.
To tell you the truth, Mr. Chairman, I cannot understand some men's line of thought. I know a certain district here on the Avalon Peninsula that is very strong for confederation. I do not know a great deal about the Avalon Peninsula, or the districts that make it up, but this one particular district I am thinking of, I happen to know very well; and I know they are very strong for confederation.
Mr. Penney It is not Carbonear.
Mr. Ballam And yet what do we find? We find the member for that very district standing up here and fighting tooth and nail against confederation, and fighting just as hard to keep confederation off the ballot in the referendum. He knows how his district feels. He knows all about the strong confederation sentiment in his district, yet he seems to be willing to go right against his own people. I can't understand it. I won't condemn him, for it is a matter for his own conscience, butI must say it is more than I can understand. And I wonder how many other cases there are like that in this Convention?  
Mr. Chairman, I can see a great many good reasons why our country should become one of the provinces of Canada. I have given some thought to the matter — I have tried to sort out my ideas on the subject. And let me say this first of all: I would be strongly opposed to confederation if it meant that Canada was going to annex Newfoundland, if it meant that Canada was just going to take us over, body and bones. I do not want our country to be annexed or taken over by any country. If confederation meant that the Government of Canada would take us over and run us, then I for one would be opposed to confederation. But confederation does not mean that at all. In fact, it means anything but that. Confederation is a partnership. It means that Newfoundland would become a province in the Canadian union. And even that does not state it clearly, Mr. Chairman, for Canada is not just a union of provinces. It is a federal union. I will explain what I mean. It so happens that I was the second man to become president of the Newfoundland Federation of Labour. I was for years president of an important union in Comer Brook, and as such I played some part in forming the Newfoundland Federation of Labour. My union was only one of quite a number of unions in this country at that time. When the suggestion came up to form the federation, did it means that all those unions would be joined together to form one union? Is that what the Federation was, an amalgamation of all the individual unions? Did the Federation simply annex all those unions and form them into one union? No, that is not what happened at all. Every union kept its own rules 1438 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 and regulations. Every union went right on with its own officers, running its own affairs. But every union joined the Federation. The Federation was a federal union of unions. There were certain matters and certain affairs that were too big for any one union to handle, and that is why the Federation was formed. Each union that linked up with the Federation held on to its own local autonomy and ran its own local affairs, but the Federation began to handle the things that were too big for any one union to run, and the Federation began to handle matters that were of common interest and concern to the individual unions
And that's just how it is with the Canadian federal union. Each individual province goes right on handling its own purely local affairs, and the federal government takes over the management of the bigger things, such as the railway and veterans' affairs, and posts and telegraphs, and marine works and so forth. Each province elects its own government to run its own local affairs, and besides that elects so many members to the government of the whole federal union itself, that is, the federal government. No sir, confederation does not mean that Canada would take us over and run us. We would elect our own government every four or five years, and our own government would run us. At any rate, they would run us in certain things and the federal government would run us in other things.
A Nova Scotian is no less a Nova Scotian because he is also a Canadian. A Prince Edward Islander is no less a Prince Edward Islander because he is a Canadian too. And a Newfoundlander would be no less a Newfoundlander because he was also a Canadian. We are all Britishers, sir, but are we any the less Newfoundlanders because we are Britishers? I am a Newfoundlander, and proud of it; and if confederation meant that I would have to become a Canadian and at the same time cease to be a Newfoundlander, then I for one would be opposed to confederation. We will always be Newfoundlanders, and proud of it, even when we become Canadians.
As I said here once before, that is one of the big things I like about confederation, that it will bring democracy back to us again. It will bring back democratic government. It will give us a voice in our own affairs again That is my first big point in favour of confederation. But sir, the biggest reason of all for confederation, as I see it, is that it will link us up with a great British nation. You would never guess it from some of the foolish things said about her in this Convention, but Canada happens to be the largest and richest nation in the British Commonwealth, next to Britain herself. I repeat that, Mr. Chairman: Canada is the largest and richest nation in the whole British Commonwealth, next to Britain herself. And as Mr. Ashboume remarked here, surely a system of government that works for 12.5 million people will work just as well for 12.75 million people.
It is only plain common sense to think that it would benefit this small country to throw in her lot with that great, wealthy British nation. We should never forget in this country that at the very time our country went broke, one of Canada's provinces went broke too. When Newfoundland went broke in the early 1930s, the Province of Saskatchewan went broke. Where did we have to turn? To the old mother country. And thank God the mother country came to our rescue, because at that time she was able to But we had to give up our own government and come under the Commission system. Where did Saskatchewan turn? She turned to the federal government of Canada. Where else would she turn but to the government of the very union of which she was a member? She turned to the government of all Canada, and that government came to her rescue. But did she lose her own government? Did the Government of Canada take their government from them and put others over them? No, Saskatchewan held on to her own government. Democracy remained in Saskatchewan. Self- government remained. That's the difference, sir, when you are a province of Canada. You may run on hard times as a province, but you cannot go under. The government of the whole nation stands by you. And if we become a province of Canada with our own self-government, we will have a strong friend at our back in case we ever need one. That is something to think about, sir. For we must not get any foolish ideas into our heads that we will never need a friend. Everybody does. We know the kind of world we are living in. We know the uncertainties of this world, and the uncertainties of trade and finance. It is a big thing to know that you are lined up with January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1439 someone bigger and stronger than yourself.
Let us think on these things. Let us all in this Convention be big about this thing. Let us put aside pettiness and prejudice. Let us view it as statesmen. It is a very big issue and it calls for bigness of view. Instead of picking holes everywhere, let us try to see this thing impartially. Will confederation benefit the great majority of our people? Will it bring down the cost of living and raise the standard of our living? Will it give us a fairer system of taxation? Will it give the poorer man a better chance to live? Will it give our children a fairer chance in life? Will it strengthen our country?
Will it bring democracy and self-government back to us? I believe the answer is "yes" to all these questions, and it is with that belief that I must support this motion to put confederation before the people.
Mr. Roberts Mr. Chairman, I wish to state that I will vote for the motion before the Chair. I feel in duty bound to do so, in View of the fact that many thousands of Newfoundlanders wish to vote for confederation. I wish also to state I hold no brief for the people of St. Barbe district, which I represent, as to how they will vote. They will do as they please. I have only one vote, and will do as I please with it. But I would like to tell all anticonfederates that if confederation does not go on the ballot paper, the people of the northwest coast will vote overwhelmingly for Commission of Government. The mention of responsible government stinks with them. After neglect by all responsible governments, and despite all the sentimental poppycock that some of our so—called patriotic Newfoundlanders have been getting off their chests here the past few days, and despite all the taxations they have been hearing about, they know what to expect from responsible government and they are willing to take a chance on confederation. You don't have to take my word for it, let any man who wishes to find out take a trip down that coast and talk about the glories of responsible government; butI warn him to have a plane standing by so as to make a quick getaway, especially if he should tell them they were disloyal or unpatriotic.
Mr. Chairman, a few days ago, a member of the Convention said to me, "If we enter in union, you will see scores of Canadian fishermen down on your coast fishing your lobsters." I may say to that member that the first lobster caught and packed for export on the northwest coast was done by Canadian fishermen who left the much abused, tax-ridden Maritime Provinces; thinking they were given a raw deal by their governments, they settled on our coasts. But within five years, after receiving a taste of our taxation and our low standard of living and backward facilities, they were glad enough to leave it, every one of them, and go back where they came from, taking with them scores of our northwest coast people, none of whom ever came back, only on vacation to visit their poor relatives and take more of them away.
Dozens of my relatives and friends, after vainly trying to make a living, have gathered together a bit of money with the help of their relatives abroad and travelled to Canada. Ask these people if they wish to come back to the living conditions they left, and they would surely think it quite a joke. My own mother, widowed in the early years of her marriage, left with three small children and little means of support, struggled for three or four years to keep her family together and maintain them; she had to give it up, give away her children, and on the advice of a relative in Canada went there and made a comfortable living. So I have a warm spot in my heart for the country which befriended my mother, above all other people on this earth.
We peeple on the west and northwest coasts have been in close contact with Canadians, both fishermen and financiers, for years and years, and have not found them the big bad wolves that the people in the interior and on the east coast seem to think they are. Surely, so many of our people would not stay in Canada if they were so tax-ridden as some people try to make us believe they are. As I said before, the people of the west coast who have been in close contact with Canadians all their lives, must certainly regard the ravings that have been going on here about all thing Canadian as pure and simple stuff and nonsense.
I wish to touch briefly on two very much ridiculed subjects, namely family allowances and old age pensions. I have in mind a family not far from my home; a man with ten children and a sick wife. You can imagine, or can you, the awful struggle that man is having to make a living. I wonder would he scoff at a family allowance of $60 a month, would he worry about the dozens 1440 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 of taxes on a loaf of bread, if under confederation, he would get his flour for $12 a barrel, when he is paying $22 for it in Bonne Bay today? Would he worry about the hundreds of taxes on a pair of shoes, when under confederation he would be able to buy three pairs in the place of the two pairs he buys today? Boots and bread, sir, take a very large slice out of his budget. His fish he can get a scant half mile from his door, and his vegetables can be grown around his home. If he does pay property taxes, which he knows he is likely to pay, they will be small on his acre of land and his small unfinished, unfurnished home. He is paying plenty now, far more than his pocket can stand. He is not worrying either about the man who can afford to drive a motor car, own a fine house, he figures the man can well afford under confederation to pay his taxes and help pay some for him as well.
Old age pensions. I have in mind an old couple nearly 80 years of age each, living alone, getting very little help from relatives, trying to live on their old age pension. That man still has to go in the fishing boat to try and earn a few dollars to augment his pension. What a help it would be to receive $60 a month instead of the $10 they receive today. His property would not exceed $1,500, and even if it did exceed $2,000 and under Canadian rule the government did take it, would not they be entitled to it after his family had forsaken them and let the government look after them? I think they would have a perfect right to it, and I feel sure the old couple would think so too. The old age pensioners of Newfoundland need not worry about the government taking their property. Very few of them whom I have seen in the outports have property over $2,000, and if they have, they would not receive old age pensions. I have made out quite a number of applications the past 20 years. I have a good idea of their property value. I am not going to touch on other taxations, this has been ably and thoroughly gone into by other speakers.
There will, no doubt, be many changes and adjustments in the event of union, especially in the business world. But my thought about all that is, if our business men cannot adjust themselves to competition, they are not the men I take them to be. The proper thing to happen to them is to fold up. But don't worry, Water Street of St. John's, and all the little Water Streets of the outports, will be carrying on under confederation when I am drawing my old age pension.
And please don't let some people make you believe the only reason Canada wants Newfoundland is to make a fortune out of us, and for the inhumane purpose of starving to death our 300,000 people. That has not been the history of the democratic government of Canada. In my opinion Newfoundland has nothing to lose and very much to gain by closer contact with our neighbour, Canada, which fact will strengthen our bargaining power which members like to talk so much about. In union is strength..So let's hope Newfoundlanders will remember that at the referendum. I will, by voting for confederation.
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, I have had many of my statements taken and twisted; I have been frequently attacked, my motives questioned and my whole attitude subjected to such misrepresentation and innuendo; and I have been called so many names — from Quisling to Judas Iscariot, from traitor to fool — that I suppose I would be justified if I were to take offence and become quite angry; but Lord bless you, sir, I do not. Instead, I take refuge in the words of the Psalmist:[1]
And I am become a reproach to them; they saw me and they shaked their heads. Help me, O Lord, save me according to Thy mercy: And let them know that this is Thy hand; and that Thou, O Lord, hast done it. They will curse and Thou wilt bless; let them that rise up against me be confounded, but Thy servant shall rejoice. Let them that detract me be clothed with shame; let them be covered with their confusion as with double cloaks. I will give great thanks to the Lord with my mouth; and in the midst of many I will praise Him. Because he hath stood at the right hand of the poor, to save my soul from persecutors.
I was greatly interested to see what Major Cashin's reaction would be to my exposure of the shameful and scandalous profits cleaned up in this country by a handful of companies and concerns out of a handful of our people. To tell you January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1441 the truth, sir, I was expecting Major Cashin to come out and agree with me. He knows it was the stone sober truth. He knows that our people have been plundered and looted. I was glad to see that Mr. Cranford agreed with me. He hates those monopolists. But Major Cashin actually defended those looters, he had kind words for them. He stated strongly that it was communistic to talk the way I did. It was not communistic to expose the profits made out of a handful of people. If anything is communistic or fascistic, it is the conduct of those who looted our people during the war.
Major Cashin said I used hard words. Perhaps I did. But what really matters is this: did I use true words? Were those profits made, or were they not? Was the Tax Assessor lying to us when he told us officially of that $15.5 million cleaned up in clear profits in just one short year? Are our people being plundered and looted, or are they not? That is the thing that matters. If they are, then no language is too hard to use to expose the fact. Sir, when you run up against a brutal fact like that it is no time for soft words, for pussy-footing, but for plain speaking. It was not I, Mr. Chairman, who said this, "There are too many middlemen and commission agents in Newfoundland who are really only parasites on the community." I did not say that, sir. It was our late Governor, Sir Humphrey Walwyn, in his farewell address to Newfoundland. It was not I who said, "If I had my way I'd burn every local factory to the ground." I did not say that, sir. It was Mr. Cashin who said it, in this chamber. If my words were hard, sir, what would you call the words of Governor Walwyn and Mr. Cashin?
Major Cashin told us about the large profits — hundreds of millions, I think he said — made by 29 corporations in Canada. Yes, I do not doubt that. But can he not see any difference in corporations making large profits out of 12 million people, and making them out of our tiny handful of people in this country? As I said before, there may be room in Newfoundland for one millionaire — there may be — but there certainly is not enough room for 21 millionaires. John D. Rockerfeller made billions of profits, and so did Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie, but those millionaires made their millions out of all the people of the world, not from a tiny handful of struggling people here in this little island. Men have become millionaires in Great Britain, France, and Canada and other lands, but it is a horse of a different colour when our tiny population is squeezed and looted to make millionaires.
Major Cashin says if we go into confederation, within three years our surplus will all be gone. No, it will not. It will not be gone within twice three years. But let me ask this question: if we do not go into confederation, how long will the surplus last? And especially, how long will it last if we should get the kind of government that the majority in this Convention want to get?
I was greatly amused by Major Cashin's repetition of his former exaggerated, extravagant and totally erroneous statement that under confederation we would pay $80 million in taxes. He does not say how we would pay that amount. He won't condescend to tell us. He just makes this outrageous statement and apparently expects the faithful followers of his form of government to take it down, hook, line and sinker. The Canadian government itself says they will collect $20 million from us, and tells us in detail how they will do it. Major Cashin doesn't double it and make it $40 million. He does not treble it and make it $60 million. No, he quadruples it and makes it $80 million — exactly four times as much as the financial experts of the Canadian government estimate. It would not be so bad if only he gave us one single word of proof, just one little word. Is he quite sure it would not be $79 million or $81 million? It wouldn't be $81.5 or $80.75 million now, would it? Or perhaps Major Cashin is $4 million out, as he was in one of his budgets that he brought in here when he was Finance Minister. Now I remind you that the first time he spoke on the question, he quarrelled seriously and violently with the Canadian government's estimate of $20 million a year. He said it was 20% out, that estimate, and drove it up to $24 million. That was the first time he spoke about it. The next time he spoke about it, he raised the ante, he put it at $32 million. Then he spoke for the third time, and that time he raised it again, to $75 million. Now, in his latest speech, he has it up to $80 million. What is he doing, playing auction with himself? He has given us four different estimates — $24 million, $32 million, $75 million and $80 million. I daresay before the referendum rolls around he will have it up to $100 million. What's he trying to do, make the handful of souls in Newfoundland 1442 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 pay the whole cost of running the United Nations? I think we are just a little sick and weary of those fantastic guesses of Major Cashin. If he would only make up his mind as to which figure he means, we might be able to take him seriously. By the way, Mr. Chairman, the anticonfederates should really get together and do a little teamwork sometimes, because all they have been doing is destroying each other's arguments. For instance, Mr. Hickman estimated that the provincial government would take $17 million a year in taxes.
Mr. Hickman $19 million.
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Hollett estimated $19 million and Major Cashin $19.2 million. In federal taxes, Major Cashin has given us all the estimates I have just mentioned, and tonight Mr. Fogwill gives us a brand new estimate of his own: $35 million.
Mr. Fogwill That is the right one.
Mr. Smallwood They should compare notes sometimes, and when they do, they will probably fall back on the Canadian govemment's official estimate of $20 million.
Major Cashin tells us that under confederation if the people want work they will have to get out of the country to get it. What he forgot to tell us is where the people will get work if we do not have confederation. We have not got confederation now, but we have got 15,000-20,000 people on the dole. We have many hundreds of veterans of the late war out of work. Without confederation, where will these men get jobs? Major Cashin forgot to tell us. He tells us that with confederation they have to go out of the country to find jobs, but what our thousands of unemployed men would like to know is, where they are going to find jobs if we do not have confederation?
Major Cashin tells us that confederation would be a threat to our educational system and that we would have non-denominational schools forced on us. Now, nothing said in this Convention since the first day it opened is so untrue as that one. There is not one single word of truth in it, not a syllable, not even a letter of truth in it. It is completely and utterly false, definitely and finally false, wholly and undeniably false. I challenge any man in Newfoundland — do you understand, sir? — any man in Newfoundland to show that our school system, our denominational school system, is in the slightest danger from confederation. I challenge any man in this island to show that all existing rights of all denominations are not absolutely safeguarded and protected under the terms of confederation. I say here and now that no denomination, not one denomination, has the slightest reason for uneasiness on this point. All existing rights have been fully guaranteed and protected, just exactly as they stand today. Any denomination that wishes to go right on with its own separate denominational schools, paid for out of public funds, can do so under confederation, exactly as it can without confederation. Confederation will not make a particle of difference in our school system, and it is false and unworthy and mischievous to say it will, or even hint that it will. If there is in this island any denomination with separate school rights at the present time that fears that its rights would be put in danger, let that denomination speak out, or take the proper steps, and it is the simplest and easiest thing in the world to copperfasten the matter. I know what I am talking about. I know it in great detail, in intimate detail. I know what I am talking about, sir, and there are others that know too. I say here and now that if any person of authority shows me that our denominational school system is in any danger whatsoever from confederation, I will drop all further support of confederation. I will go further, I will oppose confederation just as ardently as up to now I have supported it. So now, if Major Cashin wants me to oppose confederation, let him get busy and produce his proof.
Well, at last we know the truth about the matter of the government Savings Bank. It is exactly as I said all along. Full control over the Savings Bank will be held by our own government, exactly as it is today. The Government of Canada has no law governing provincial savings banks, and it is left to the province itself, just as I said it would be. For a great many years the Province of Ontario has operated a savings bank, just as we have operated a savings bank, and the federal government has never interfered. Our Savings Bank will go right on as it is today. The provincial government will control it, and nobody else. The interest rates paid to depositors will be decided by our own government, just as they are now. Any profits made will go to our own government, just as they do now. But will January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1443 these hard facts stop this loose talk about our Savings Bank? No, it will not. We will still hear the talk, all right, fast and loose.
Mr. Hollett tells us that we are bound to have a certain percentage of our people who will be up against it, whatever form of government we may have. There is a lot of truth in that, and it is that very fact that makes me a confederate. I know exactly how these people will fare under every other kind of government, and I know how they will be treated, how their families will be treated under confederation. That is one of the things that makes me a confederate.
Mr. Hollett tells us that the Canadian and British governments are trying to get Newfoundland into confederation, and that in this they are being aided and abetted by the Commission of Government. If Mr. Hollett can convince our people of that — that the British government and the Commission of Government would like Newfoundland to go into confederation — then he will do more than any other hundred men to convince our people that confederation is the best thing for us. I hope Mr. Hollett and Major Cashin are right, I hope the British government and the Commission of Government are both in favour of confederation. Our Newfoundland people are much more likely to be guided by the British government and by the Commission of Government than they are by Major Cashin and Mr. Hollett. If the British government and the Commission of Government are for confederation, and Messrs. Cashin and Hollett are opposed to confederation, then I'll be happy.
Mr. Hollett asks why these microphones were put in this building. That is an easy one, Mr. Chairman. The microphones were put here so that what we say could be broadcast to the people. What we say is broadcast so the people can hear it. They are given to hear it so that they can get a good idea of what they would he in for, if we got the kind of government that a majority of the members here want the country to have. Why, that fact alone makes the broadcasting of our proceedings worth at least a million dollars to our people.
Mr. Vardy tells us that the large number of Newfoundland people who want to vote on the question of confederation in the referendum must be protected against themselves. They must be protected against themselves, Mr. Vardy says. But isn't that what Mr. Alderdice did, when he refused to let the people decide on the question of Commission of Government, although he had promised them that he would let them decide the question? He protected the people against themselves, and now Mr. Vardy wants to protect the Newfoundland people against themselves. Mr. Chairman, never in my life in this country have I heard the pure doctrine of Fascism and Nazism so neatly put as in that statement by Mr. Vardy. It is the very essence of dictatorship that a handful of men set out to protect the people against themselves. Or is it the new democracy we have had preached at us in this Convention? This is the strangest doctrine I ever heard — that Mr. Vardy wants to protect the people against themselves.
Then Mr. Vardy says, "The people did not authorise us to deal with this confederation matter." This, from a member who on two occasions voted here in the Convention to send the delegation to Ottawa to get the terms of confederation! When Mr. Vardy voted twice to send for the fair and equitable basis of union, or the terms, what was in his mind? Did he mean the terms to be gotten and then thrown into the wastepaper basket? Or did he mean them to be dealt with by us? The people, sir, did authorise us to deal with this confederation matter, for they authorised us as a Convention to deal with all forms of government that might be suitable to the people. To deal with them — not to decide them, but to let the people decide. But Mr. Vardy says to the people of Trinity North, "No, good people, I won't let you deal with this confederation matter. I will not let you vote on it. I am trying to protect you against yourselves." And sir, the people of Trinity North will remember those words at the right time.
Mr. Vardy And they will remember you, too.
Mr. Smallwood I turn now to Mr. Higgins. Mr. Higgins touched on the question of divorce. This is an important matter and I am not going to waste time discussing any details. The position is very simple. We have no divorce law in Newfoundland, and I hope we never shall. If we go into confederation we will take no divorce law in with us, for we have no divorce law. What about after we get in? Will we pass a divorce law then? No, we will not. Will Canada pass a law for Newfoundland, to grant divorce in Newfoundland? No, sir, Canada will not. The Government of Canada and the Parliament of Canada 1444 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 will not. They will pass no divorce law for Newfoundland, and they will set up no divorce court in Newfoundland, unless — and here I ask you to pay special attention — unless we ask them to do it. And that, sir, we are not very likely to do, I am sure you will agree. The Parliament of Canada has power to set up a divorce court in Newfoundland if we go into confederation. Yes, that is a fact, they have the right and the power. But they will not use that right unless we ask them to do so. Never in all Canada's history has the Parliament of Canada used its power to set up a divorce court in a province unless and until that province asked for it. Ontario asked for it, and Prince Edward Island asked for it, and the Parliament of Canada did as they asked. If Newfoundland should ever ask to have a divorce court set up, then the Parliament of Canada would do it, but not otherwise. Mr. Higgins, sir, is absolutely well aware of that fact, no one is better aware. It was Mr. Higgins himself, amongst others, who personally had some very special interviews on that very question in Ottawa. He was not the only one who had interviews, for Mr. Bradley also interviewed the very high personage whom Mr. Higgins interviewed — and I am not now referring to anybody connected with the Government or Parliament of Canada, but someone much higher in a matter like this. There were various interviews, sir, and what did they all boil down to? They boiled down to this: that the Government of Canada would be willing to put it in the very terms of union that never, for all time, would the Parliament, or could the Parliament of Canada, pass any law for divorce in Newfoundland or set up any divorce court in Newfoundland, unless and until we ask for it ourselves, unless we ask them to do it. Let me make this very clear... To make the matter absolutely sure, and sure for all time, the Government of Canada would be willing to put into the terms a special clause stripping from the Parliament of Canada any future right or power forever to do such a thing, unless and until we, as a country, should ask them to do it — and that is the thing that is extremely unlikely, that we would ask them. I say that the Government of Canada would include such a clause in the terms and that clause would become part of the British North America Act, if they were asked to place it there... There is only one condition. That con dition is this, that the heads of our Newfoundland churches, our Newfoundland denominations, ask to have it done and it will be done. That is all that is needed, sir, for the heads of the churches to signify their wish that such a clause be put in the terms. I am very sorry that this matter has been raised at all in this public fashion -it was not my doing. The matter had not been overlooked or neglected or ignored. Far from it. Steps have been taken to inform those most directly concerned with the facts as they stand. This was done even before we left Ottawa at all. And when I say steps, I mean eminently proper and dignified steps.
Mr. Higgins says that our Catholic fellow- citizens would not favour confederation unless some such clause was put in the terms, and in the BNA Act itself, making sure that divorce and divorce courts will not come to Newfoundland. I partly agree with him, and I add this further piece of information; that our Catholic citizens are not alone in that feeling. Others feel the same way about it, and have been informed fully of the situation. But I want it to be understood perfectly, that it only needs for the right people to say the word and that very clause will go into the terms. Why sir, the Prime Minister of Canada himself gave us a very broad hint in his letter to His Excellency. He said that in matters such as education — such as education -they would want to satisfy us. Sir, a clause was actually drafted and a copy of it was here in St. John's — is here in St. John's at this moment. It is wrong to drag this matter into this debate. Our people need not worry about this question of divorce. It is in good hands, far better, far abler, far more conscientious hands than either those of Mr. Higgins or me.
Another point on Mr. Higgins, he wanted to know why so many Canadians were leaving Canada for the USA. The answer is simple. They are returning now at the rate of 11,000 a year; they cannot stand the high taxes in the United States. In addition to that 12,000 Americans settled in Canada in 1947.
There is only one point in Mr. Butt's speech to which I would refer. He said, "Let somebody better than we are decide this question." Exactly. The people of Newfoundland are better than we are. Let them decide.
Somebody referred to the Quebec provincial flag. Why sir, old loyal Nova Scotia has had her own provincial flag for over 200 years and they January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1445 still fly the Union Jack. We have our own flag, the pink, white and green, in Newfoundland, and should we become a province that flag will still fly in Newfoundland as well as the Union Jack. It has for over 100 years.
Mr. Hickman solemnly assures us that he is not an anticonfederate. Well, he certainly did not go very far out of his way to praise confederation very much. He says the governments of two provinces have not yet accepted the tax agreement. That is true. But the governments of seven provinces have accepted. Mr. Hickman tells us that in 1946 one-third of Canada's revenue was raised from indirect taxes. That may be true. I will not vouch for one-third. In Newfoundland far over half the revenue was raised by indirect taxes. Quite a difference.
There are only two points in Mr. Crosbie's speech to which I will refer. He says there is a serious danger of our losing our fish markets in Europe; he quotes Mr. Gushue as having said so. But did Mr. Gushue say it was confederation that made this danger? No! The danger is here now, with no confederation. It is confederation that will help. Mr. Crosbie said that under confederation, Canada will control our trade. There is not in all this country even one fish exporter who will not be able to go right on selling to the same markets just as long as he likes to do it. The Canadian government does not tell each exporter to what country or to what customer he may sell or export his fish or ore or paper or anything else. Canada has not become the third largest exporting nation in the world by anything so stupid or silly as telling exporters where they may export. The other point is about the Fisheries Board, he is afraid it will have to go. But it won't have to go. It will stay and still serve our fishing industry, except that it will receive the extremely valuable assistance of the whole magnificent trade and commerce organization of the Government of Canada.
Mr. Miller made an interesting point, he said he would not vote to recommend a form of government to go on the ballot that he would not vote for in the referendum itself. But that is what he did two or three days ago; he voted for Commission of Government, but he was not prepared to vote for it himself.
I will not try to follow Mr. Fogwill's bewildering flights of pure fancy, but he told us of the frightful taxes in Canada. According to him, they are away higher than here in Newfoundland. What I cannot understand is how the poor tax-ridden Canadians manage to exist at all — why, in fact, they do not all flock down to Newfoundland to escape taxation.
There has been a lot of wonderful talk in this debate about the question of how the provincial government of Newfoundland would finance itself under confederation, how it would balance its budget. Some members have magnified this, blown it up into gigantic proportions. They profess to regard it as a terrible and an insoluble problem, something they cannot see or understand. Let me give them a short simple lesson. The federal government will take $20 million from us in taxes each year. The provincial government will take another $5-6 million from us in taxes — call it $6 million. That is a total of $26 million altogether to be taken from us both governments — $26 million a year. What are we paying now? We are paying $40 million to our one government. $26 million taken from $40 million is $14 million — $14 million less taxes than we are paying now. Under confederation we would save $14 million a year in taxes. "But", says someone, "what about the growth of our provincial government services? Aren't you going to make allowances for increase and improvement of our provincial government services to the people?" "Haven't we got to expect increased education and health services to our people?", I am asked. Of course we have. There is no doubt about it. And why shouldn't we? We will save $14 million a year in taxes under confederation. Is there anything to stop us from taking a million, or even two million of that $14 million? Confederation will save $14 million a year in taxes for our people. It will put $ 14 million a year into their pockets, our peoples' pockets. All right, if we want to improve our provincial public services, let us take back a million or two of that $14 million and spend it on better education and health services for our people. We could do that, sir, and our people would not only have those better services, costing say another $2 million a year, but would still be $12 million a year better off in their pockets — and that's a million a month.
And then someone complains because I have not turned myself into the future provincial 1446 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 government of Newfoundland and decided exactly what taxes will be placed on our people to raise those few million dollars in provincial taxes. They demand that I shall here and now turn myself into the provincial treasurer or finance minister and name the taxes that will give the provincial government those few millions a year. If I refuse to oblige them they raise a great chatter about property taxes. Sir, are their imaginations so poverty-stricken that they can think of nothing but property taxes? Is their knowledge of taxation so microscopic that they cannot look around in this country and see how taxes can be raised by the government without putting taxes on the bits of property our people have? Let me remind you that we are today collecting certain taxes that we can and will go right on collecting under confederation. Gasoline tax, motorcar and truck taxes, drivers' licenses, liquor profits, timber and mineral royalties, lumber royalties and a dozen other items that will bring us in close to $5 million a year. These are taxes that we have right now. These taxes can be kept on, and if we have any brains, any courage, any sense of fair play in us, we will collect the rest of the taxes we need out of the public domain of this country. And when I say that, I am not thinking only of the huge areas of holdings in this country that are tied up in the hands of persons living outside the country, but of actual operations going on right now. I am not going to tip my hand in this matter just now — the time will come for that — but when the right moment comes, I think I will be able to show some of our former finance ministers ways of getting taxes without grinding the faces of the poor. And that is a promise, if you want to take it that way, a promise or a threat, however you want to take it.
Sir, the conduct of the members on this motion that will shortly be put to them for their vote will be watched closely by our people. It will be watched closely because by it our people will judge the fitness of all of us to play any future part in the public affairs of our country. We have heard many passionate declarations of belief in democracy. We have been told how very anxious certain members are that democracy should be restored to Newfoundland. We have been treated to many fierce denunciations of dictatorship and all its works. Well, we shall very soon see how sincere were those declarations. We shall soon see just how much they were meant. They have told us how much they love the people; how anxious they are that the people once again shall have control over their own country; how determined they are that the people shall rule, and not dictators and outsiders. We shall soon see just how sincere these declarations really were. They have told us again and again that our people are well fitted to govern their country, that our people are educated and intelligent enough to make the proper decisions in the referendum, and that our people can be trusted to render the right verdict. We shall very soon see how much they meant those things. By their fruits ye shall know them; not by what they say, but by what they do; how they vote for this motion.
Now with regard to those here who are not going to vote for this motion, it would be very interesting to know why they will not vote for it. After Mr. Bradley's speech they have lost completely all the reasons they used to give for not placing confederation on the ballot. No longer can they say that the British government has broken its promise to restore responsible government if the people request it. No longer can they say that Britain is not entitled to place on the ballot paper forms of government other than responsible government. No longer can they say that this National Convention cannot recommend other forms of government. No longer can they say that an elected government could get better terms. No longer can they say that we must have responsible government first. What have they left to say? What excuse can they think up now for cheating the people out of their right to decide the question of confederation in the referendum? Sir, there is only one reason they can have. They are afraid of confederation. They are afraid to put it on the ballot to let the people vote on it. They are afraid to let the people vote on it, for they fear that the people will vote for it. If they are not afraid, let them vote for this motion. I challenge them, I dare them to vote for this motion. I dare them to let the people decide on the question of confederation. We confederates were not afraid to let the people decide on responsible government and Commission of Government. We voted to place those two forms on the ballot paper. If the anticonfederates are not afraid that the people will vote for confederation, let them vote now, tonight, to place confederation on the ballot in the January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1447 referendum. Come on, let them throw all their excuses out the window and vote for this motion. Let them show us that they are not afraid to let the people decide on confederation. I dare them to do it!
Mr. Higgins I move that the motion be now put, and in doing so I would like to make a brief explanation on one point which Mr. Smallwood brought up.
Mr. Chairman You have already spoken to the motion.
Mr. Higgins By way of explanation?
Mr. Chairman No, you can only speak once and you have already spoken.
Mr. Higgins In that case, I move that the motion be now put.
Mr. Chairman Mr. Secretary, please ring the bells to make sure all members are in the chamber. The motion before the House is:
Be it resolved that the National Convention desires to recommend to His Majesty's Government in the United Kingdom that the following form of government be placed before the people of Newfoundland in the forthcoming national referendum, namely: Confederation with Canada upon the basis submitted to the National Convention on November 6, 1947, by the Prime Minister of Canada.
All members in favour of the motion, please to rise.
For: Messrs. Banfield, MacDonald, Starkes, Spencer, Ballam, Figary, Vincent, Smallwood, Burry, McCarthy, Roberts, Keough, Newell and Ashbourne.
Recorded: Messrs. Hillier and Bradley. (16)
Against: Messrs. Goodridge, Watton, Hollett, Kennedy, Hannon, Fudge, Northcott, Penney, Reddy, Jackman, Dawe, Crummey, Miller, Ryan, Fowler, Fogwill, Butt, MacCormack, Bailey, Vardy, Cranford, Harrington, Crosbie, Cashin, Hickman, Higgins.
Recorded: Messrs. Job, Jones and Brown. (29)
The Chairman announced that he would determine the personal preferences of members pursuant to Rule 39 of the Rules of Procedure as between confederation with Canada on the basis of the proposals submitted to the Convention on November 6th, 1947, by the Prime Minister of Canada, and Commission of Government.
There appeared in favour of confederation on the said basis: Messrs. Banfield, McDonald, Starkes, Spencer, Ballam, Figary, Vincent, Smallwood, Barry, Roberts, Ashbourne, Bradley K.C. (recorded).
Thereupon the Chairman announced that he would determine the personal preferences of members as between confederation with Canada on the said basis and responsible government as it existed in Newfoundland prior to its suspension in 1934.
There appeared in favour of confederation with Canada on the said basis: Messrs. Banfield, McDonald, Starkes, Spencer, Ballam, Figary, Vincent, Smallwood, Burry, Roberts, Ashbourne, Bradley K.C. (recorded).
Thereupon the Chairman announced that he would determine the personal preferences of members as between responsible government and both Commission of Government and confederation with Canada.
There appeared in favour of responsible government: Messrs. Goodridge, Watton, Hollett, Kennedy, Harmon, Fudge, Northcott, Penney, Reddy, Jackman, Dawe, Crummey, Miller, Ryan, Fowler, Fogwill, Butt, McCormack, Bailey, Vardy, Cranford, Harrington, Crosbie, Cashin, Hickman, Higgins K.C., Brown (recorded).
[The Convention adjourned at 5:30 am]


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] A social gathering among women to prepare wool (a fulling bee).
  • [2] Captain W. Jackman's famous rescue of people from the schooner Sea Slipper occurred in 1867.
  • [1] Mr. Smallwood quoted from Psalm 109, verses 25-31.

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