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Out to Make Mischief


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

George Drew's demand for a provincial consultation about the admission of Newfoundland is "smart" only in the smallest sense.


There is nothing either constructive or statesmanlike about it; the sole purpose is to embarrass the Liberal government in Quebec.


The attack is based on Section 146 of the British North America Act which provides that the sovereign may admit "other colonies" to Confederation "by and with the advice of (the). Privy Council, on addresses from the Houses of Parliament of Canada, and from the Houses of the respective Legislatures of the Colonies or Provinces of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island and British Columbia."


This was done in the cases of Prince Edward Island and British Columbia, which had their own Legislatures when they became provinces in the Confederation. But Newfoundland, ruled by a commission appointed by the British government in the 30's, has no Legislature. On this technicality, Mr. Drew asserts that the rule in Section 146 does not apply and the federal power must consult with the provinces and get their consent.


If Mr. Drew's contention were valid, it would at least be hair-splitting.


But actually, Mr. Drew seems to be breaking new ground. There is no precedent for his contention at all. On the contrary, it might be contended with some force that if the first part of Section 146 does not apply, then the second part of it does. This second part refers to procedure for the incorporation of "Rupert's Land and the North-Western Territory " into Confederation, which required merely an address from the House of Parliament of Canada because those territories had no Legislatures.


Mr. Drew's purpose is mischief-making. His crony in Quebec, Mr. Duplessis, has criticized the move to bring in Newfoundland. If the federal government ignores the bid to have the provinces consulted, its action could be whipped up into a breach of provincial rights. This might be useful in a general election.


As Mr. Coldwell pointed out, the BNA Act, though its framers never foresaw a Newfoundland without a Legislature, seems to have been designed to exclude the provinces from decisions of this sort. And in view of the fact that a majority of the voters of Newfoundland voted for union, the absence of a Legislature is immaterial.


Source: "Out to Make Mischief", editorial, Vancouver Sun, February 16, 1949 , p. 4. Article transcribed by Christos Kampouris.


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© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College