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Newfoundland and Union with Canada in 1902



[Canadian Annual Review , 1902; for the full citation, see the end of the text]


The possibility of Canada and Newfoundland at last coming together, after various efforts at union, was widely discussed during 1902. The discussion was precipitated largely by the resignation of Mr. Justice Donald Morison from the bench of the Island in order to re-enter politics with Confederation as his platform. This occurred at the end of April and was followed by the visit of himself and District Court Judge Seymour - who held the same views - to Ottawa and other Canadian cities. To the Toronto Mail and Empire of May 12th Mr. Morison said that the Island had a debt of $20,000,000; that its tariff was higher than Canada's; that it was a country of great resources in timber, pulp-wood and minerals; that Confederation would develop its industries, extend its railway facilities and settle the French shore question in a year.


On June 5th, Mr. Morison addressed, at some length, the banquet held at Toronto in connection with the Board of Trade Conference. He explained that of the Island 's debt, $14,000,000 was for railways and the balance for public works and that it would have to be assumed by Canada; that its population was 218,000; its revenues, $2,000,000 and its imports and exports each about $8,000,000. Upon his return he said to the St. John's News of June 16th: "As you know I have always been in favour of closer political and commercial relations with Canada if satisfactory terms could be arranged. Both countries have something to gain by a fair bargain and so far as I can see nothing to lose. Every year the arguments for union grow stronger and it seems to me only a question of time when the two countries must come together." At Toronto, on May 30th, Mr. C. H. Hutchings, Deputy Minister of Justice in Newfoundland, spoke and expressed his belief that the Island would benefit by union with Canada and would some day come in. The Hon. A. B. Morine, Opposition Leader in the Island, was interviewed at Montreal by the Toronto Globe on June 20th. He deprecated Sir Robert Bond's devotion to the American treaty policy, and declared that terms of union could easily be arranged at the Coronation Con­ference. He then made the following statement:


In sentiment I am in favour of Confederation, and am positive that it is bound to come, and would come in the near future if satisfactory terms could be arranged. This, as far as I have been able to see, is the attitude of the greater number of the people. But such a movement, if it is to be carried out successfully, must be taken up by the Government party. It is more than a mere party question; it is a national one.



The Premier of Newfoundland spoke at the Canada Club banquet in London , on July 16th, and made some remarks in this connection which were widely commented upon. The question of Confederation was, he said, only a matter of terms. "If the terms are advantageous to the people of Newfoundland, I shall feel it my duty to lay the proposal before my people and, if necessary, exert myself to bring the confederation about. We are not jealous of Canada." Speaking to the Winnipeg Telegram on September 5th, the Hon. G. W. Gushue, Minister of Public Works in the Bond Government, declared that "Confederation will have to come sooner or later and perhaps it would be better for it to take place while Newfoundland is prosperous." In an interview at Montreal on October 21st, Sir Robert Bond said:


Confederation is not, with us, a live issue at present. It has been discussed, of course, but it is not a question with which we are immediately concerned. I might say, indeed, that the hostility of the Canadian press, or at least a por­tion of it, has tended to set this matter back in the minds of the people. I do not mean that the Canadian press has been hostile to the idea of Confederation but it has been hostile to certain trade questions and arrangements and un­doubtedly the result of that has been to put people out of favour with the idea of Confederation.


Meanwhile the Island Premier had negotiated his Reciprocity arrangement with the United States and, although its acceptance still hung fire in the Senate at the end of the year, it was felt in many quarters that its success would greatly set back the Canadian Union policy. Mr. P. T. McGrath, the well-known Newfoundland editor and correspondent of the Halifax Chronicle, told that paper on November 15th that if the Treaty became operative it would assuredly shelve Confederation. "The ingrained hostility of a large section of our people to union with Canada will be accentuated by the prospect of our receiving free-trade with the United States . ­Practical considerations are paramount, and the first of these is that by Reciprocity we shall be able to secure a market for much of our fishery products among the people of the United States whereas Confederation, whatever else it might do, would not afford us an extra market for a quintal of cod."


Mr. A. B. Morine was interviewed by the St. John Sun on December 9th and, after some references to his recent bye-­election victories, declared that Confederation was not in any way an issue; that many leading men opposed the policy as tending to detach them from England; that there was no relation between Reciprocity sentiment and annexation because the former was a purely business matter; that there was no leaning towards Americanism in the Island. "The better informed classes, having no trade interests, are in favour of union with Canada if adequate terms can be given."


Source : J. Castell HOPKINS, "Newfoundland and Union with Canada", in The Canadian Annual Review of Public Affairs, 1902, Toronto, The Annual Review Publishing Company, 1903, 548p., pp. 152-154.



© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College