Essay Guide
Québec History
Civilisation Occidentale
About Claude Bélanger

Newfoundland Charts Course by Vote


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

The referendum in which the people of Newfoundland today will vote to decide their own political status and form of government, and to a large extent their future economic course as well, is a matter of direct and friendly interest to Canada. Whatever alternative may be chosen of the three officially submitted to the Newfoundland electors, the result will be of practical import to Canadians because of this country's geographic proximity, economic ties and shared relations with the British Commonwealth .
The Dominion's particular interest in one possible outcome of the vote has been officially symbolized in the concrete terms on which the Canadian Government indicated its readiness to bring Newfoundland into Confederation as the tenth province, should Newfoundlanders favor such a move. But the commitments thus made, to envoys of the Newfoundland National Convention nearly a year ago, have not been enlarged into any attempt by Canadian authorities to influence or advise Newfoundlanders as to their choice. Canadian public opinion, as evidenced through the press and otherwise, has equally taken the proper attitude that Newfoundland, while welcome to join Canada 's national family, should be left free to decide its future for itself.
The British Government also has shown itself painfully anxious to enable Newfoundlanders to determine for themselves how they shall now be governed, after nearly 15 years of Commission Government under British tutelage. A National Convention of elected Newfoundlanders was set up and maintained for over a year to canvas all the facts of the country's present position and future prospects, and the recommend the basis on which the wishes of Newfoundland voters should be consulted. The Convention advised only a referendum choice between return to responsible government with Dominion status and the retention of Commission Government. However, the British authorities added the third choice of confederation with Canada in recognition of the substantial interest shown in this alternative, in the National Convention and elsewhere.
The intensive and vehemently controversial campaign which has been waged by the leading advocates of confederation and responsible government has served to crystallize a sharp division of opinion on these two choices alone. The proponents of Commission Government have remained almost completely silent throughout the pre-vote campaign, and there is reported to be little or no evidence of any considerable support for adhering for the political status quo. The possibility has been suggested, however, that the battle between the confederation and responsible government forces has been so violent and bitter as to confuse many "middle ground" voters, who may vote for Commission Government through inability to make up their minds decisively between the other two factions.
This raises the further possibility of a stalemate in the first vote. The terms of the referendum require that a clear majority of all votes shall be cast for one of the three alternatives, failing which there is to be a run-off vote between the two choices receiving the highest number of votes. It seems generally agreed that the chief division in today's balloting will be between confederation and responsible government, but the uncertain proportions of the remaining support for the existing Commission Government make it conceivable that no one choice will gain overall ascendancy.
Cutting across the main issue and serving to complicate the outlook has been the appearance toward the end of the campaign of the "Party for Economic Union with the U. S.", which has also made an energetic bid for voting support. As economic union with the U. S. is not on the ballot and is not under official consideration, the party has urged that responsible government be restored as a necessary prelude to opening negotiations with Washington. This has been persistently interpreted, especially by pro-confederates, as a diversionary move to swing votes from confederation to the responsible government group, by dangling the supposed benefits of U. S. economic ties to offset the social security and other attractions of confederation with Canada.
The results of the vote will be eagerly awaited by Canadians, confident that Newfoundlanders generally will decide in the best interest of their country from all standpoints.

Source : "Newfoundland Charts Course by Vote", editorial, Montreal Gazette, June 3, 1948, p. 8.


Return to Canadian Views of Newfoundland's Entrance into Confederation



© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College