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Conditions in Newfoundland in 1927-28


[This text was written for the Canadian Annual Review. For the full citation, see the end of the document]

Part 1: Discussions in the Canadian Senate


Special debates took place on a number of subjects ranging from our relations with Newfoundland to radio. On Mar. 22, Hon. C. E. Tanner brought forward a resolution declaring that " Canada should favourably consider any proposal that may be made by Newfoundland for union." At the suggestion of Mr. Dandurand the resolution was amended to provide that " Canada should consider in a friendly spirit any proposal for union with Newfoundland ." In this form the resolution was adopted.


Part 2: Newfoundland and Canada


On several occasions since 1867, when Newfoundland declined to enter Confederation, the question of its possible union with Canada has come up, but with no result. The only occasion when the movement had a chance of success was in 1895, owing to Newfoundland 's financial distress. Canada then failed to respond with adequate terms. During 1927­-28, the issue was unofficially revived, owing to the apparent difficulty of applying the boundary interpretation of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. By that judgment the award of territory to Newfoundland was larger than was expected. The purchase of the entire Newfoundland area in Labrador had been suggested. Out of this grew rumours, telegraphed from Ottawa , that the union of the two Dominions was contemplated. Premier Monroe promptly denied, on Mar. 5, 1928 , that any official negotiations were on foot. He said:


The question of Confederation has never come before the Government in any way. There have been no negotiations with Canada and the Government has given no consideration either to Confederation or the sale of Labrador. Whether any person visiting Canada has discussed these matters with politicians there I am unable to say, but so far as the Government is concerned it knows absolutely nothing of any move in the direction of Confederation. As to the reported delegation, if any Newfoundlanders are about to proceed to Ottawa to discuss the questions, they will be acting entirely in a private capacity, but this is the first I have heard that any such move is contemplated.


Despite this definite disclaimer the Canadian Senate on Mar. 22, on motion of Senator Charles E. Tanner, seconded by Senator Arthur B. Copp, discussed union and all the speeches favoured the policy as desirable. In a despatch to The Toronto Star , Mar. 6, Sir Patrick McGrath, the veteran journalist and the most experienced and well-informed exponent of Newfoundland, declared that the reports were the outcome of efforts by Canadians interested in Labrador forests and water-powers and that the basis of their scheme was to pay $15,000,000 for Labrador, of which sum $10,000,000 would go to Newfoundland. The final Session of the New­foundland Legislature began May 1, 1928, to be followed by a general election as the statutory term of the Legislature closed July 8. A new trade treaty effective from June 30, 1928, was announced from Ottawa as was also the renewal of the annual steamship subsidy of $35,000 which had lapsed four years before. Canada gave Newfoundland the British preferential tariff getting in return most-favoured nation treatment.


The new Governor, Sir John Middleton, was appointed June 18.


Part 3: New Trade agreement between Canada and Newfoundland


Effective June 30, 1928, a trade agreement went into force between Canada and Newfoundland under which goods, the produce of Newfoundland, were accorded the rates of the British preferential tariff on entering Canada and Canadian goods entering Newfoundland were given the benefit of most-favoured-nation treatment.


Source: The Canadian Annual Review of Public Affairs, 1927-28, Toronto, The Canadian Review Company, 1928, pp. part 1: p.92; part 2: p. 130; part 3: p. 289.



© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College