Those Unrepresentative Representatives
[For the source of this document, see the end of the text.]
As the count of ballots cast in the Newfoundland referendum proceeds, it is becoming likely to the point of virtual certainty that a second test will be necessary to decide the issue. With the first 120,000 votes tabulated, and responsible government holding a narrow lead over confederation, it is still mathematically possible for either to gain the required majority, but the polling of a remarkably high proportion of the potential vote would be necessary to bring this about.
The intensity with which the campaigning was carried on was reflected in heavy voting but the returns slowest to come in will be from points probably less thoroughly bombarded with propaganda, and a landslide trend one way or the other would be required to furnish a conclusive result from this point on.
What has been delivered, if not the desired final answer on the form of government, is a resounding rebuke to the majority in the National Convention.
The closing months of the Convention's life were devoted to dogged bitter attempts to prevent full discussion of the report which the Assembly's delegation had brought back from its meetings with Canadian Government Ministers and officials in Ottawa. Set up to explore impartially all possible solutions to the island's government problem, the Convention departed from its duty of preparing a brief to be put before the court of public opinion and tried to determine the issue by itself.
Its final action was to vote two to one to put before the people only two choices, between continuation of commission government and return to responsible government. There was immediate widespread protest against such an arbitrary attempt to deny the people the right to express themselves on all feasible alternatives.
Petitions for the placing of confederation on the ballot paper, reported to bear more signatures than all the votes cast in the election of the Convention, were circulated and forwarded to London , and in consequence the Dominions Office overrode the Convention, a first reproof of narrow partisanship to which the electors have now delivered a second.
To what extent the Convention's manoeuvrings will have contributed to the result it is difficult to say, but with the vote for confederation only a short step behind that of responsible government, they appear to have boomeranged.
It would have been a sorry betrayal of the democratic principles for the restoration of which the responsible government advocates professed to be working if they had succeeded in thwarting expression of the desire of more than two-fifths of the electors.
Source : "Those Unrepresentative Representatives", editorial, Montreal Star, June 4, 1948, p. 12.
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© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College