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Which Way Newfoundland ?


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

Three times and still out-or in? For the third time the question of Newfoundland 's entry into Confederation has come to the point of decision. Today the island's electorate go to their polling places to have their say on the future form of government after a decade and a half in leading strings held in London hands. On the two previous occasions, the question was not put so directly to the people, which is not recalled as suggesting any ground for belief that the verdict this time will be different.


There appears, in fact, no ground today for any confident assertion in regard to the outcome. The situation was surveyed from all angles during nearly eighteen months by the National Convention. Toward the end of its life, when the Confederation possibility had been raised, and a delegation had spent some weeks in Ottawa exploring the question whether or not an equitable basis for Confederation existed, the atmosphere became highly charged and bitter. That atmosphere has persisted through the period of campaigning that began when the Convention rose, and while the people have heard a great deal about the real and fancied advantages and disadvantages of the alternative choices upon which attention has been fixed, Confederation or self-government, the presentation has not been made in a way most helpful to cool considered judgment.


Their very vigor may have harmed the causes of the most active campaigners. Last fall, it was acknowledged by advocates of both other solutions that there was a strong sentiment among the people of the small coast settlements for retention of the Commission form of administration whose period of office had at least coincided with a period of vastly improved conditions, however much or little credit it might fairly claim for that improvement. It may have been noted that correspondents surveying the last-minute scene have been referring to the commission's place in public favor, as if an apparently significant number of voters were showing a disinclination to be lured off familiar secure ground.


Whatever the outcome, it will not be known with anything like certainty for several days. There is no doubt that St. John's , where the first returns will be totted up, will cast a large vote for responsible government. But of the island's electors, four-fifths or more are to be found in the smaller of the [1,100?] communities strung out along the coast, communication with many of them being made by boat only, and information will be slow in reaching the capital.


Throughout the campaign a carefully con-committal attitude has been maintained from the Canadian side. The outcome is of real interest here, but nothing has been done beyond promising a welcome to influence the Newfoundlanders decision. It has been difficult at times to understand the heat with which the Confederation proposal has been attacked, the charge that those in favor of it are contemptible Quislings as if closer association with us were a fate worse than death.


Whatever the outcome, it will be unfortunate if a contest naturally giving rise to strong convictions should leave behind bitterness, making general acceptance of many common course more difficult.


Source : "Which Way Newfoundland?", editorial, Montreal Star, June 3, 1948, p. 10. Given the poor quality of the original copy, it is possible that slight changes of punctuation have been made.


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© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College