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Trade Relations between Canada and Newfoundland in 1901



[Canadian Annual Review, 190; for full citation see the end of the text]


This subject came up for some discussion in 1901 as a result of the revival of rumours concerning the possible renewal of the Bond-Blaine Treaty in fresh negotiations with the United States . The total import trade of this Island - including the strip of coast on the continent, called Labrador - in the fiscal year 1899-1900 was $7,497,147. This included $224,353 from Great Britain ; $2,805,490 from Canada ; and $1,933,505 from the United States . The total exports were $8,627,576, including $1,942,093 to Great Britain; $520,137 to Canada; $2,068,586 to Brazil; $1,009,027 to Portugal; and $1,005,525 to the United States, The chief imports were flour, coal, cottons and woollens, leather, molasses and salt pork The chief exports were cod and its products, copper, herring and lobsters. The trade of Newfoundland with Canada was $2,145,704 in 1897, and $2,886,109 in 1901. The exports to Canada in the latter year were $625,610, of which the chief items were, fish and fish products, $539,053, and metals and minerals $166,116. Almost the whole of these came into the Dominion as free goods. The imports from Canada were $2,260,499, and of these the chief items were animals, $108,524; breadstuffs, $992,779; coal, $242,517; leather and manufactures of, $134,371; metals and minerals and manufactures of, $154,341; provisions, $120,160; wood and manufactures of, $67,103.


Early in 190, Mr. Robert Bond, Premier of Newfoundland - who had arranged with Mr. J. G. Blaine in 1890 the vetoed and somewhat famous treaty which goes under their joint names - proceeded on a visit to England and, briefly, to Canada. He told the Montreal Gazette of January 31st that he " still adhered to the principles of the Treaty in question, and he believed that the people of Newfoundland were looking for a move in the direction of its revival." Later on, Mr. E. P. Morris, K.C., Colonial Secretary of the Island, told the St. John's Telegram, of April 29th, that on his recent return from England he had seen several prominent business men, in both the United States and Canada, upon this subject, and "the general opinion prevailed that it was unfair to Newfoundland that her right to make the Treaty should be any longer interfered with." He believed that Mr. Chamberlain would bring the matter to an issue, and that Canada would be called upon to change her attitude. "The ratification by the Imperial Government would immediately follow, as the policy of England now is to aid her Colonies in effecting reciprocal trade measures."


The Canadian papers had been almost a unit in approving the original veto of the Treaty on either the ground of its initiating tariff discriminations within the Empire in favour of a foreign country, or because it directly injured Canadian fishermen. They appeared now to be somewhat indifferent, the reason being, no doubt, a feeling that the question was practically settled. The Montreal Gazette, on May 2nd, however, pointed out that under the abortive arrangement not only were American fishermen to be admitted to Newfoundland waters upon the same conditions as Newfoundland fishermen, and the products of Island Fisheries admitted free to the United States, while Canadian fish were excluded, but duties on American merchandise were to be lowered, and agricultural machinery and implements, as well as printing instruments and types, were to be admitted free from the Republic. This was the preference originally objected to, and this the Gazette now urged should be removed in any future arrangement by putting Canada in the same position as the United States .


The question was brought up in the House of Commons on May 21st following, by the Hon. Mr. Haggart, in connection with a report that Mr. Bond, the Island Premier, had recently made an arrangement with the Canadian Government by which he was to be allowed to negotiate a new commercial treaty with the United States, without interference from the Dominion or reference to its interests. He pointed out that in the correspondence which had passed between the Imperial authorities and the late Canadian Government regarding the Bond-Blaine Treaty of 1890, it was stated that "no Colony would be allowed to enter into a commercial treaty with a Foreign country which would be in any way detrimental to any other Colony, and that on receipt of any complaint in that regard the Imperial Government would immediately disallow such a treaty."


The Prime Minister replied that there was no truth whatever in the report that the Canadian Government had withdrawn its objection to the Bond-Blaine Treaty of ten years before. Since then the Joint High Commission had been appointed and was not yet dissolved. As Newfoundland was a party to that Commission and its negotiations, it was only fair that no separate action should be taken until its proceedings were officially terminated. After that the matter would be open for further consideration. Upon this point Sir Wilfrid [Laurier] let fall an important remark three days later, in a debate upon another subject. "If we fail to reach any conclusion; if we fail to settle the questions which are referred to the Commission, or some of them, at all events, then we shall have to revise our relations with our sister Colony of Newfoundland."


On the following day, Mr. C. E. Kaulbach contributed to this subject a concise sketch of existing relations between the Dominion and the Island , especially with reference to the notorious arrangement known as the Bond-Blaine Treaty. This proposed treaty was divided into two sections, the one dealing with fish and fisheries, and the other with merchandise and farm products. Under the first division, United States vessels were to be given the same privileges in the waters of Newfoundland in the purchase of herring, caplin, squid and other bait fishes, at all times and on the same terms, as Newfoundland vessels. In return, the United States were to give free admission to dry codfish, cod-oil, sealskins, herrings, salmon trout, cod-roes, etc., from the Island. Canadian vessels, fish, etc., were to be entirely exempt from these conditions on either side.


As to the second section, provision was made that Newfoundland duties on United States merchandise should not exceed 25 cents on a barrel of flour, 11 cents on a pound of pork, 21 cents on a pound of bacons, hams, etc., 30 cents a barrel on Indian meal and peas, 20 cents on a ton on salt, 6 cents on a gallon of coal-oil. Agricultural imple­ments and machinery, imported by Societies, were to be free from the United States, together with crushing mills for mining purposes, raw cotton, corn for brooms, gas engines, ploughs and harrows, reaping, raking and other machines, printing presses and types. In all these articles or products Canada was a competitor with the United States, and from all the privileges of this arrangement she was to be excluded.


He could not understand why the Island Government should have taken this hostile attitude, or why its renewal should now be suggested. Canada had always been friendly to Newfoundland , and a practical proof of this was the number of lights it maintained in connection with the Fisheries and Newfoundland route, as well as the small entry fee charged at Canadian ports, when our vessels were charged at foreign rates on entering St. John's , Newfoundland . Any attempt at carrying out the terms of the Bond-Blaine arrangement would be injurious to Canada , and he trusted that the Government would watch the matter carefully. "To give the United States by the proposed treaty greater concessions and privileges than she has had in the past, would not only destroy the industry of fishing in the Maritime Provinces, but give the United States the monopoly of the fish trade in the West India Islands, and deprive us of the catch of fish in the summer months and the carriage of them in our vessels in the winter season."


Source : J. Castell HOPKINS, "Trade Relations with Newfoundland", in The Canadian Annual Review of Public Affairs, 1901, Toronto, The Annual Review Publishing Company, 1902, pp. 156-158.



© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College