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Newfoundland Proposals

Mr. Duplessis' Outburst



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

Premier Maurice Duplessis' recent angry blast against the Canadian government's proposals for entry of Newfoundland into Confederation obviously was roused by the outspoken statements of Rt. Hon. L. S. St. Laurent, minister of external affairs, at a press conference. On two special counts, the federal minister irritated the Quebec premier.


There is the question of the big iron ore deposits along the boundary between eastern Quebec and Labrador . Quebec disputed this boundary line and in 1927 the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council decided in Labrador's [sic] favor. It is an old story but the Duplessis government has continually sought to revive the dispute in appealing to Quebec nationalists.


Paragraph two of the Canadian government proposals merely reads: "The Province of Newfoundland will include the territory of Labrador defined by the award of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in 1927 as Newfoundland territory."


Iron Ore Development


The iron ore development now taking place indicates that the major ore areas lie within that awarded to Newfoundland . Mr. Duplessis is reported as having accused Mr. St. Laurent of saying to the press conference that the provinces have nothing to say in this matter. What Mr. St. Laurent really said was that if Newfoundland entered Confederation under the proposals, any boundary dispute would simply be a matter for discussion between two Canadian provinces. But it seems obvious that the Federal Government having formally recognized the privy council [sic] decision, the Duplessis group might find it pretty difficult to convince a Canadian supreme court [sic] that the privy council [sic] decision should be upset.


The reality is that Quebec, Ontario and Labrador capital is mutually enlisted and working together quite amicably in the iron ore development. Who will exercise ultimate tax authority over them seems to leave the people most interested quite cold.


Provincial governments


A second source of Mr. Duplessis' irritation was Mr. St. Laurent's emphatic declaration that it was not necessary for Ottawa to consult the provincial governments on the subject of receiving Newfoundland into Confederation. The Federal Government, Mr. St. Laurent pointed out, represents all the people of Canada through their elected members in the house [sic]. It is to all the people of Canada that the Federal Government must answer and not to the separate provincial governments. This, of course, has been one of the standing grievances of Mr. Duplessis in the Dominion-provincial tax agreements achieved by separate negotiations with the provinces. But he himself walked out of a Federal attempt to negotiate with all the provinces together.


It requires very little stretch of the imagination to conceive what would have happened to any attempt by Ottawa to frame suitable proposals for union with Newfoundland had Mr. Duplessis been a party to the proceedings.


Source : C. A. B. " Newfoundland Proposals: Mr. Duplessis' Outburst", in Winnipeg Free Press, November 13, 1947, p. 21. Some editing errors have been corrected.



© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College