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Newfoundland Must Decide


[For the source of this document, see the end of the text]

If a single newspaper's "public opinion poll" is any criterion, there is some reason to believe that the people of Newfoundland are not in full accord with the members of their National Convention on the controversial question of where their country's future lies. The St. John's Sunday Herald has been carrying a ballot on its pages for the past three weeks, setting out four alternative possibilities and asking its readers to mark the one that appeals most to them. To date, out of 1,000 ballots received, the Herald reports that 613 have voted in favor of union with the United States. Second choice is for the retention of the Commission form of Government, and confederation with Canada runs third. Return to full responsible government is a poor fourth.


This show of preference is of more than passing interest to Canadians, since it conflicts so sharply with the decision of the Newfoundland Convention which was elected a year ago by the island people to decide their country's future for them. A resolution urging union with the United States was introduced to the Convention some months ago and roundly defeated. At the time it was intimated that defeat of the resolution eliminated any further need for considering this alternative, and since then the delegates have devoted their effort to weighing the relative merits of the other three.


One delegation went to London last month and returned with obvious chagrin over failure of the British Government to concur in its suggestion for debt write-off and trade agreements. This week another delegation is on its way to Ottawa for discussions which will have a direct bearing on the confederation issue.


Until very recently it appeared that the choice to be made would boil down to responsible government or confederation. Recent press reports, coupled with the Sunday Herald poll, suggest that the issue is not that simple. It is not hard to understand why the idea of union with the United States should appeal to many Newfoundlanders. They associate the United States with prosperity and high living standards. The presence of sizable numbers of free-spending American troops in their midst for several years served only to heighten the contrast between American plenty and their own poverty. As a result they have succumbed to the process of   wishful thinking which suggests that mere association with a prosperous nation will, of itself, generate similar prosperity for themselves.


It would be presumptuous for a Canadian to suggest what action Newfoundland ought , or is likely, to take at this stage. The people of Britain 's oldest colony must decide their fate for themselves. But the indication that a sizeable body of Newfoundland opinion favors some action other than confederation with Canada suggests the need for scrupulous objectiveness on the part of the Canadian participants in the forthcoming discussions. If Confederation comes, it must be patently and indisputably as the result of Newfoundland 's wish and our acceptance.


Source : " Newfoundland must decide", editorial in The Globe and Mail, June 20, 1947, p. 6.

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© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College