Newfoundland National Convention, 29 January 1948, Debates on Confederation with Canada


January 29, 1948

[In private session, the Convention approved its final report as drafted by a committee chaired by Mr. Cashin]
Mr. Higgins Mr. Chairman, I have three notices of motion to give, and I trust the members, when they hear them, will be prepared to waive the usual notice and will agree to adopt them, or receive them, today. In accordance with the rules, 1448 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 sir, you know they can receive them today. The notice that I would give, and the members can make the decision, is as follows:
Be it resolved that the members of this Convention desire to place on record an expression of their appreciation of the able, impartial and courteous manner in which the Chairman of the Convention, Mr. J. B. McEvoy, K.C., has presided.
Be it resolved that the members of the Convention desire to place on record an expression of their appreciation of the work of the Secretary of the Convention, Captain Warren, and the Assistant Secretary, Mr. Frank Ryan.
Be it resolved that the members of the Convention desire to place on record an expression of their appreciation of the work of the secretariat and assistants of the Convention.
If the members will agree to receive these notices, I would like to have them formally indicate it.
Mr. Chairman I think, in the circumstances, there would be no necessity for me to put it to the House.
Mr. Higgins That being so, I would like to proceed with them now, if it is in accordance with the wishes of the members. Well, sir, the first resolution that I move now is:
Be it resolved that the members of this Convention desire to place on record an expression of their appreciation of the able, impartial and courteous manner in which the Chairman of the Convention, Mr. J.B. McEvoy, K.C., has presided.
Sir, the motion embodies I feel what all the members of this Convention feel. I am extremely pleased myself to be able to have the honour of moving this, particularly as a brother member of your profession, to be able to record the appreciation of a group of citizens from all over the island assembled here in a Convention of which you have been such an able guide and guardian. I can say quite truthfully that at times matters have not been altogether in due decorum from the members' point of view. But you, I am sure, felt, with strong feelings running as they were bound to on matters such as we have had to debate, they would of necessity provoke an expression that at times might not be in accord with all that par liamentary practice would desire; but that has happened in the best regulated parliaments, and I feel that the members here have nothing to be ashamed of in this respect. But even at times when tempers were on edge, you managed to preserve your impartiality, and treat members with your well-known courtesy, and the motion speaks of the able manner in which you have presided. I feel there is very little that needs be added to that. You carried out your duties here in the same able and professional manner that you carry out your professional duties, and for that reason I have much pleasure in moving this motion at the present time.
Mr. Job I would like to have the honour of seconding that motion. I feel we all know that our Chairman has acted in a very fair and courageous way in all his arduous and difficult duties. I have personally received great kindness and consideration, not only from the Chairman, but also from all the delegates, and I very much appreciate this. I have been referred to, sir, as the father of the House, and I must say at times, while my children have been a little unruly, it has been a great thing, you have not had to call on the Sergeant-at-Arms at any time. I have great pleasure in seconding the motion.
Mr. Smallwood Mr. Chairman, as one who has perhaps given you as much trouble as any other one member of the House, I would like to add my word of complete concurrence in the motion and in the remarks of Mr. Higgins and Mr. Job. I said, sir, when you took the Chair, that I regard you as one of our country's most brilliant sons, a brilliant lawyer, a prodigious worker, and frankly, sir, I am full of admiration for the way in which you took hold of this job and mastered it, in spite of the fact that all your training for the last 12 or 15 years was in a place and at work which is so very different from the work you had to take on when you became Chairman of this Convention. I refer of course to your work and training in the courts, where they have a tradition and a procedure running back for a thousand years, and to take on work with a very different tradition, and in many respects very different procedure, that is parliamentary work, without having had the advantage of having been a former Speaker of a House of Assembly, was a very great challenge to the ability and adaptability of any man, and I am full of admiration. Sir, I think now I would be January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1449 the last man to challenge you on any point of parliamentary procedure, any point of parliamentary practice; and I think that in the three or four months you have been here you have mastered that as you had already mastered the intricacies and subtitles of court procedure, tradition and practice. I love a worker. You are a prodigious worker, and you have shown here how skillful you are, and how you can adapt yourself to a new situation, entirely new. They say, sir, that the real test of intelligence is the ability of a man to meet and cope witlt a new situation, and you met and coped with what for you was a new situation, to preside over a gang like this — Major Cashin and myself, and Mr. Hollett here behind me, and Mr. Fudge. Why, sir, someone who could come in and keep us from each other's throats for the past three months should get a gold medal, and I agree that you have done that. You have been completely impartial and fair to everyone in the Convention, and I just want to go on record to that effect.
Mr. Hollett Mr. Chairman, I would like very much to associate myself with this motion that has been proposed by Mr. Higgins, and seconded by the "father of this House". That, sir, is an honour to you, to have such a motion seconded by a man with the reputation and characteristics of the Hon. R. B. Job. Now as Mr. Smallwood has claimed first place with regard to the many annoyances that have been caused you in your onerous position, I think I could claim second place at any rate. I like the wording of the motion. Mr. Higgins mentioned the "able and courteous manner in which you have performed your duties". He also mentioned the word "impartial", and that to my mind has been the reason why you have been so successful in finishing up the work which was passed over to you. If I were to go on oath today, sir, and be asked what your particular political leanings were, I would have to answer frankly and truthfully, "I do not know", and for any man in this present day in Newfoundland to be able to cover up so well as you have done in this particular position is a recommendation which will go down with you to your dying day. I do most heartily agree with the mover and seconder, and with the expression made by my friend Mr. Smallwood, and I sincerely hope, sir, that the work of this Convention, in the end, will justify our having such a fair, courteous and impartial Chairman.
Mr. Vardy It must be a grand feeling to hear such words of praise about oneself while you are still living. Now I can only just in a very brief way add my own support to the resolution, and those to follow as well. I know that many times we have felt like jumping right after each other's throats. I never felt more like it in my life than Wednesday night, but I decided that discretion was the better part of valour, but I have had nothing but admiration for you, even when you tried to chastise a recalcitrant member. I wish to associate myself with the motion.
Mr. Harrington I don't propose to carry on this debate very long. The previous speakers have already expressed the feeling very well, but most of them are older than me, and, on behalf of the younger members, I would like to associate myself with this motion and with the others on the line.
[The motion carried]
Mr. Chairman In expressing to you my deep appreciation and sincere thanks for all your kindness to me, particularly here this evening I want to express my gratitude and thanks, which began with my induction during an afternoon in October last. Now at that time, ifI recall correctly, I made two statements, one of which was that the extent to which I would be successful in the proper discharge of my duties would in the last analysis depend on the sympathy and co-operation which I received from the members of this House. Therefore, if I have had any success in the proper discharge of my duties, it has only been made possible by the kindness and sympathy and co-operation to which I referred, so that the credit for my success must inevitably fall upon your shoulders.
At that time I also stated that I made no pretence to infallibility. I am quite sure that you had ample and adequate illustration of that during the time that has intervened since I first began; but the thing I like to think about most, and for which I perhaps may be most proud, is the fact that while undoubtedly on occasions in the stress and heat of the moment, when I was called upon to make rulings, I ruled erroneously, I think the greatest kindness and courtesy, and the greatest compliment that has been paid me, is the fact that there has not been a single appeal from any ruling that I made against any member of the House since I accepted the chairmanship of the National 1450 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 Convention. That is something that I must continue for the rest of my days to regard with great gratitude....
As the impartial Chairman of this Convention, I am not a member; I came here under a royal commission, and have been working with you gentlemen for going on four months. We have had our troubles, and perhaps made our mistakes and had our shortcomings, nor did we ever make a pretence to being an assembly of wise men. No properly elected assembly ever is or ever has been in the history of the world, but I want to say this: we have been criticised outside, and quite properly so. Any man who offers himself for public office must be prepared to accept criticism, but I do feel that the criticism directed at times towards the work of this Convention has not been fair. For if I have any powers of perception, and if I am capable of evaluating man and his handiwork, then I want to lay down that in my judgement the work of this Convention must inevitably prove to be of an inestimable value to the country, not only now but in the future. It is a very easy thing to tell a man to do something, an entirely different thing to go and do it yourself. And I am not satisfied that the criticism at times directed towards this Convention was fair, for the reason that many of these critics did not take the time to qualify themselves by experience to assume the status of critics.
I would say ... that the work done by the committees particularly, and the Convention generally, was of a tremendous nature, to say the least. How could any man in his right mind, and with a proper sense of proportion, view all the reports which have been compiled by the committees, the co-ordination of these reports, and eventually the recommendations which we are now about to make, and say that nothing has been accomplished?.... If this Convention did nothing other than to provoke this country out of the Rip Van Winkle sleep into which it had sunk for 14 years, and had produced and created, as it has, political consciousness in the minds of our people, then I am prepared to reaffirm that from this standpoint alone, the members of this Convention have quite definitely justified their usefulness.
Eighteen months ago the majority of the people that I met had no idea what form of government they intended to support. They were not interested in talking about forms of government. Today you have in this country three schools of thought. That is to say, three forms of government are being discussed, their merits and demerits, by all sections of the people. And I would say this, that if Major Cashin has provoked people into a realisation of the merits of responsible government, and others into deciding against responsible government, then Major Cashin and his associates in this House have performed a most invaluable function, because they have made up the minds of these people as to what they desire in future forms of government. The same goes for Mr. Smallwood. If the country ever gets the chance to decide for or against confederation, I think all fair-minded men must agree that the prodigious and untiring efforts of Mr. Smallwood have made that possible. I could go on with further and repeated illustrations, but I do not want to unnecessarily trespass upon the time and patience of members, but I do feel duty bound to state at this time, as I propose to state publicly outside this Convention, that in my considered judgement I think this country is irreparably indebted to this Convention, and the members. At times it was trying; but the fact that it was trying is proof paramount of the sincerity with which the members of this Convention discharged their duties. Had they been lackadaisical and indifferent about the welfare of the country, then there would have been no sharp exchanges because nobody would be sufficiently excited about the business to get angry over it....
Therefore, before taking leave of you, I feel duty bound to repeat whatI have already repeated — that is that in my considered judgement, and I would say there is no man better in a position in this country today to evaluate your work than I am, because I was here scrutinizing it night and day for some four months — I make this statement again and I defy any successful contradiction from any source whatsoever, that this country is irrevocably indebted to the Convention and to all the members of the Convention. Therefore having been permitted to associate myself with the highly successful discharge of your duties, it must inevitably prove to be a source of great satisfaction to me in the days that are to come.
In expressing again my deep appreciation and January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1451 thanks to you for your kind sympathy and cooperation, I would like to express to Mr. Higgins, K.C., the mover of this motion and to the father of the house, Hon. Mr. Job, my particular appreciation and thanks for all their kindness. It is rather significant that it was the Hon. Mr. Job who assisted me into the Chair on the afternoon of my induction, by virtue of the fact that he seconded the motion that I take the Chair at this particular time.
Again I say that if I have been unfair, I can assure you it was quite unintentionally and unconsciously done. After all, we can take consolation from the fact that the man who makes no mistakes, does no work. And if we have made many mistakes here, it was because we did much work.
Again, I should direct the attention of the country to the irreparable debt of gratitude it owes to members of this Convention, and say that after tomorrow ... I will have considerable to say about the work of this Convention and its members. I can give members my assurance right now that it will be of a highly complimentary nature. Thank you very much, gentlemen.
Mr. Higgins I beg to move the following resolution:
Be it resolved that the members of this Convention wish to place on record their appreciation of the work of the Secretary, Captain Warren, and the Assistant Secretary, Mr. Frank Ryan.
In moving that, I would like to say it gives me great pleasure indeed to be able to express an appreciation to the other members of the Bar. I would also like to say how indebted we are to both of them for the great assistance given to members, particularly in the collection of material for reports, obtaining answers to the many questions submitted to them, and I suppose most of all for the meticulous manner in which they have kept all the minutes of this Convention. That pretty well expresses the general work of these two gentlemen, and I would merely like to add to that the wonderful courtesy they have shown all the members at all times during the meetings of this Convention and during the meeting of the committees.
Mr. Cashin I have great pleasure in seconding the motion of Mr. Higgins. I have had considerable to do with the secretariat of this Convention during the past 16 months. I can assure you we have gotten every help from them. They were of great assistance to us in compiling our various reports. Therefore, Mr. Chairman, I second this motion wholeheartedly.
Mr. Smallwood Hear! Hear!
Mr. Ballam I was just about to get up to second that motion when the Major got up. I can quite agree with the Major, and I am sure all the members will agree that the Secretary, Captain Warren, and the Assistant Secretary, Mr. Ryan, have done an excellent job, and they deserve the wholehearted appreciation of the whole of the Convention. I have great pleasure in also seconding the motion.
[The motion carried]
Mr. Chairman I, too, would like to associate myself with the motion so eloquently moved by Mr. Higgins and seconded by Major Cashin. It is no exaggeration at all when I say the the assistance I have received from Captain Warren and Mr. Ryan since I arrived here as Chairman, has been of such great importance to me that if I spent the next three weeks talking about it I could not tell you how great it has been. Therefore, by and with your leave and permission, I would like to associate myself with the motion.
Mr. Higgins I would like to move the following resolution:
Be it resolved that the members of this Convention are desirous to place on record an expression of their appreciation of the work of the secretarial staff and assistants.
It is unnecessary to remind members of the Convention of the great assistance rendered at all times by our secretarial staff, and the tremendous amount of work which the various reports entailed; also the wonderful job we have had from our official reporters here, and the splendid job done by the assistants to the Secretary and Assistant Secretary in the office, and in general the great willingness displayed by all these ladies and gentlemen in assisting us in our work here. Not only have they been willing to work at odd hours, and at times when they must have been extremely tired, but they have done it in such a capable manner, and always in such a courteous manner. For these reasons I have very great pleasure in moving the motion.
Mr. Vardy I have much pleasure in seconding the motion. I must say I am sure it is the unani 1452 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 mous opinion of every member present that our staff has been a very courteous one at all times. Whenever we approached them to get anything typed or re-typed, we always found them ready, and they were always willing to stay overtime if necessary... I am sure it is the unanimous feeling that they ought to know they have our great thanks for their loyal service at all times.
[The motion carried]
Mr. Smallwood I move the following resolution:
That the National Convention convey its sense of warm gratitude to the Broadcasting Corporation of Newfoundland for their fine public service in broadcasting the proceedings of the Convention, and to the press of the country its gratitude for the fine public service performed in publishing reports of the Convention's proceedings.
It is perhaps the only time in the history of any country that the actual speeches of a delegate assembly were broadcast to the public over a period of time. I believe, in Australia, the Broadcasting Corporation of Australia did once or twice broadcast some — one day or part of a day of the House of Commons of the Commonwealth of Australia I think also on one or two occasions in other countries, they have broadcast part of the proceedings of such an assembly. We have, on occasion, heard the broadcast of the President of the United States when he addressed the members of Congress. I know of no other case anywhere, at any time, where all the proceedings, all the speeches, all the remarks, all the public business of such a body has been broadcast to the public, as the Broadcasting Corporation has done in this Convention. That, to my mind, is one of the finest pieces of public service ever performed in this country by anyone, by any organisation; because if this Convention of itself has been of any real value in Newfoundland, as someone remarked a few months ago, it was along the lines of interesting our Newfoundland people in their public affairs. But what chance would there have been really to have interested Newfoundlanders in their public affairs through this Convention if the speeches of the Convention had not actually been broadcast? I have been attending these meetings since the Convention opened. I did not miss a meeting until the other night, when I had to be absent for a night session. I have sat here throughout the entire period, except when I stood over behind that door for a smoke, and apart from that I never left the chamber and I heard every word spoken by everyone. On top of that, I listened also to the broadcasts. I sat through it all the afternoon, did not miss one word spoken by one member, and then went home at 9.15 or 9.30, turned on the radio and listened to the broadcast from the first word to the last word, whether 11.30 or 12.30, for a very particular purpose. I had something special in mind in doing that. Sitting here, I heard it as we all heard it; but sitting home listening to the radio I heard the Convention just as the public heard it. That is the way I want to hear it. I sat listening to speech after speech, trying to figure in my own mind just how interesting were these speeches to the man in Joe Batt's Arm, the man on the Grand Banks, the man in Deer Lake, in Bonne Bay, in Bonavista and Gander — trying to figure, well now, will he listen? Will he wait to hear the next chap? Trying all the time to estimate how it was taking with the public of Newfoundland. It is no secret that the only thing I have been concerned with is the public of Newfoundland. I never made any secret of that.
The Broadcasting Corporation has performed a service of very great public value to Newfoundland. If the Convention has succeeded in arousing public interest, we have to thank the Broadcasting Corporation. The Broadcasting Corporation is run by a Board of Governors, and I am grateful to them for their decision to serve the public by their broadcasting. I am not thinking merely of the Corporation, but the men who are the Corporation — the General Manager, Mr. William F. Galgay; Chief Accountant and Business Manager, Mr. Gordon Halley; Chief Operator, Mr. A. M. (Bert) House, who is almost a member of the Convention. I am going to reveal a secret. The desk next to Mr. Burry has been occupied on more than one occasion by Aubrey MacDonald. Mr. MacDonald sat there with a card on his desk like we have. At first I wondered what was on the card, and when I saw it, it was marked "Mr. MacDonald, Funk Islands". Nobody noticed it. Nobody said a word about it.
If the Broadcasting Corporation has done great public service, it is because the Corporation is served by a magnificent staff of Newfoundlanders ... including Richard (Dick) O' January 1948 NATIONAL CONVENTION 1453 Brien, and Cecil Penney. This Convention — most of us — have no idea of the work that these men have to do. They have been here all hours of the day, until 5.30 the other morning, also someone in the studio taking it all down on the records. I hope the Broadcasting Corporation will not forget to remember the staff when the bonuses are being passed around. I hope they will remember the work of the staff.
I want to say a special word for the Doyle News Bulletin.[1] I am not thinking only of their impartiality, of their fairness in giving a square deal to every speaker; not only am I thinking of their accuracy. A man gets up here and talks for three-quarters of an hour. A man sits in that press box, and sums up quickly and accurately what that man says and compresses it into three or four minutes; that is a high-class job that calls for real skill. The Convention rises at six o'clock and they come on the air at quarter to eight, and give a compressed, square account of the proceedings. It is a fine piece of work, and in that work Mr. Michael Mulcahy is beyond comparison — one of the finest newspaper reporters or radio reporters this country has ever had. That man worked until he collapsed, simply collapsed.
I also want to say a word of admiration for the Evening Telegram. I read every newspaper in the country — I read everything. I read the reports of the Convention in the Evening Telegram, and for their impartiality I have a great respect and I pay them tribute for their fair reports. I also pay tribute to the rest of the press in the country, and for that matter, all radio broadcasting.
This is the last that Newfoundland will hear of me through this Convention. I want to explain for the benefit of the gentleman in Bonavista Bay or Placentia Bay — a gentleman who remarked to someone who was passing through that settlement that he listened to that man Smallwood, thought he was a good man, but one thing he could not understand was why Smallwood was always getting up and asking for "a pint of water". It is not "a pint of water". I am not thirsty. It is "a point of order".
I want to say to all the members with whom I have been cross or angry at one time or another, that it was in the heat of debate, in the heat and fire of debate. If they have been cross with me, they are thoroughly forgiven, and I hope they will forgive me, and I wish them — all of you — the very best in the world. Everyone here knows the best form of government. I hope we will get our heart's desire. But whatever turns out, we will all be great friends. Some of us will be back next year — most of us, I hope, please God, with the leave and sanction of the people.
I move that resolution that we express our gratitude to the Broadcasting Corporation and to the press of the country.
Mr. Higgins I suppose this is the first time I seconded a motion of Mr. Smallwood; it probably will not be the last. I could not allow this motion to go without adding my praise to the Broadcasting Corporation. I owe a lot to the Broadcasting Corporation for any political prestige I might have. Particularly do I owe them a lot for what they did on March 2, 1947.[2] I want to add my appreciation of the fine work done by the staff of the Broadcasting Corporation, particularly the night we were here until 5.30 in the morning — they were here recording all that time.
I also want to voice my appreciation of the fine work done by the Doyle Bulletin and in particular Mr. Mulcahy, who was a reporter in this House 40 years ago, and today he is able to do the job as well as 40 years ago. With regard to the others — newspapers and VOCM — I also think they have done a good job. They have done the best they know how.
It is not my intention to make any lengthy address; but before I withdraw, I want to again voice my special appreciation to the Newfoundland Broadcasting Corporation for all they did for me on March 2, 1947.
Mr. Harrington I do not mean to speak to any great length on this motion, but I feel I would be mean to my old colleagues at the Broadcasting Corporation if I were not to express my appreciation for their good work. As Mr. Smallwood has said, I am very familiar with the work they have done. In the afternoon after 6 o'clock, I have wended my way down there to do a daily stint, and I know what work they have had to do, and the technical difficulties they have had to face, and I would add my appreciation along with the 1454 NATIONAL CONVENTION January 1948 other members; also to the various news bulletins and the different papers. They have done a magnificent job, and I think the country appreciates it fully.
Mr. Hickman I would like to concur with the previous speakers in all they have said, particularly the Broadcasting Corporation and the news bulletins and the papers. I do feel that we should make special reference to the reporting by the Daily News. They have given very complete coverage of our proceedings, and at no inconsiderable inconvenience to themselves...
Mr. Burry I would like to associate myself with this motion, because I represent the most remote district in this Convention, at district where the people depend upon the radio and the Broadcasting Corporation for their general news, and for the proceedings of this National Convention; and while I know it has been very hard on their dry battery supply this winter, and they will probably have to forego listening to other stations, perhaps not being able to get a supply of dry batteries, yet I think they are very pleased to be able to listen to this Convention, and I want to express our warmest gratitude to the Corporation for broadcasting the proceedings of this Convention to the country.
Mr. Reddy I wish to add a word of praise to the broadcasting station. The broadcasting of the proceedings has been a source of political education, especially to our outport people, the majority of whom had no other means of hearing of the work of the Convention. It will revive political interest throughout the country. It will perform a service to our people that cannot be measured in material costs. For the long hours those officials had to remain on duty, I presume they will be fully compensated. For the press and the Gerald S. Doyle News Bulletin I also add my praise.
[The motion carried, and the Convention adjourned]


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



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

Notes de bas de page:

  • [1] A news bulletin sponsored by the firm of Gerald S. Doyle Ltd., broadcast twice daily, six days a week.
  • [2] The editors were unable to discover what the Broadcasting Corporation had done for Mr. Higgins on March 2, 1947.

Personnes participantes: