Three Choices or Two?
[For the source of this document, see the end of the text.]
It is regrettable that the 44 man National Convention in Newfoundland has decided that the question of Confederation will not be placed before the people of the island in a referendum. But it would seem likely that the Dominions Office will reconsider the Convention's decision.
The point is not whether any referendum will be held or not. The people are still to be called upon to express their opinion upon the form of government under which they will live. What the Convention wishes to do by its decision is to limit the choice of Newfoundlanders when the referendum takes place. By the convention's decision, the ballot paper would present only two questions, asking whether there is a preference for the present commission form of government, or for a return to responsible self-government. The third question - whether or not there is a preference for confederation with the Dominion of Canada - would be deleted.
It would seem reasonable, since a referendum is to be held in any case, that the third question should be asked. It offers an opportunity to obtain a general and direct expression of the people's opinion on the issue, one way or the other. This seems all the more reasonable since interest in the issue has apparently increased quite notably since the National Convention was elected a year and a half ago.
It is true, of course, that even a majority vote in favor of a return to responsible self government would not in itself mean that sentiment in favor of Confederation with Canada was slight. For there are some Newfoundlanders who believe that the negotiations with Canada should be carried on between sovereign powers, and that a return to self-government in Newfoundland would be a logical first step towards beginning negotiations upon the appropriate level.
In any case, the National Convention, by its terms of reference, was constituted only to give recommendations to the Dominions Office, and the terms of reference also stated that minority reports would receive consideration. In view of the many practical reasons for giving Newfoundlanders an opportunity to express themselves directly, and in view of the increased interest in confederation since the National Convention was elected a considerable time ago and on a slight vote, it would seem that the Dominions Office would be taking moderate and reasonable action in giving Newfoundlanders three choices for their political future, instead of the two to which the Convention would seek to limit their decision.
Source : "Three Choices or Two?", editorial, Montreal Gazette, January 29, 1948, p. 8.
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© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College