The Confederation Design Completed
[For the source of this document, see the end of the text.]
It has taken nearly a century to bring it about, but the conception of a greater Canada which inspired the statesmen who united our first four provinces is about to be realized in full. Newfoundland, long chary of taking the place reserved for her when Confederation was established and kept open in the belief that eventually her view would change, is about to throw in her lot with ours. As this is written it appears to be conceded in St. John's that confederation will have been endorsed when the counting of ballots cast yesterday is completed.
So the association which seemed so natural in view of the kingship between the island's people and ourselves, so desirable in view of physical position, so imperative in view of strategic considerations, is accomplished.
It would have been preferable had the decision been less close, had the bulk of the island's people come to accept together the desirability of eliminating the barriers between us, but it would seem unlikely that longer time for deliberation would move substantial numbers of adherents of either confederation or responsible government from their position. Yet though a substantial body of Newfoundland people are opposed to giving up their separate identity, we cannot believe that they will continue indefinitely to regard as intolerable closer association with the country in which so many of their brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, have gone in search of wider horizons, and remained well content.
The people of Newfoundland having given their decision, interest now shifts elsewhere for the moment, to Ottawa and London . There has been questioning about the action which the Canadian Government would take in the event of such an outcome as that produced by the two referendums, a narrow vote for Confederation. Ottawa plainly has been anxious not to appear suspiciously eager to bring Newfoundland into the fold. Mr. King, in words often referred to, spoke of a necessity of a verdict "clear and beyond the possibility of misunderstanding". More lately, Mr. St. Laurent placed the responsibility for interpreting the referendum result on Whitehall , implying unmistakably that for reasons which must be taken to be good Whitehall would be reluctant to allow any question of the adequacy of a majority to stand in the way of termination of her responsibility in Newfoundland.
An unnamed government authority in St. John's forecasts notification of Ottawa that Newfoundland has expressed herself in favor of confederation and we do not doubt that any such communication will be taken as coming not only from the people of Newfoundland but from Whitehall.
Although the referendum was on acceptance or rejection of union on the basis of conditions which Mr. King said were final there remains the question of actual negotiation. Under the circumstances it cannot be carried out as provided in the British North America Act at the joint request of the Newfoundland Legislature and our Parliament, and an island election may precede it. Otherwise Whitehall will exercise its authority to deal directly with the government at Ottawa .
It may seem to some that such an important matter as the admission of a new province under conditions which lay a financial burden on the Dominion, should have been more fully discussed on our side. Discussion on official levels was kept to a minimum deliberately, in order to avoid any appearance of wishing to influence Newfoundland 's decision. It will be held, with all proper length and thoroughness, when Parliament passes, as it will be required to do, on the outcome of negotiations.
Source : "The Confederation Design Completed", editorial, Montreal Star , July 23, 1948, p. 8. Given the poor quality of the original from which this text has been transcribed, it is possible that punctuation has been changed in a few instances.
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© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College