Essay Guide
Québec History
Civilisation Occidentale
About Claude Bélanger

Letter No. 9 of Joseph R. Smallwood on Confederation



Editor Daily News,

Dear Sir,


You will hear it said: "What can Canada do for us? She produces the same things we do - fish, and ore and paper. She's only competing with us. She couldn't help those Newfoundland industries, so what's the use of going in with her?"


I could understand that argument if it meant that because Canada is producing fish and paper and minerals she would not buy our fish, paper and minerals. Otherwise, the argument has nothing to it at all.


It is true that Canada would not import our fish, paper and minerals.


Newfoundland would simply go on selling these products where she always sold them: Spain , Portugal , Italy , Greece, Brazil, the West Indies, Britain, the United States.


Confederation would not stop us from selling to those countries.


Indeed, Confederation would make it easier for us to sell to those and any other countries, for Confederation would lower the cost of living, and the cost of production, in Newfoundland; and we would be in a much stronger position to produce and sell than ever before.


We would be able to take full advantage of the vast world-wide trade and consular service maintained by the Dominion Government.


As for competing with us, Canada would no more compete with us under Confederation than she does now or ever did.


Public Debts


We hear a lot of talk about the great Public Debt of Canada. Let us take a look at it.


First of all, forget about the Provincial Public Debts. They would have nothing to do with us. Nor would the Municipal Debts.


The only Public Debt we need to concern ourselves with is the Public Debt of Canada - the Public Debt owed by the Dominion Government.


Why does that concern us?


Because the size of any country's Public Debt largely determines the amount of taxes the people of that country shall pay the Government of that country.


The Dominion of Canada has a large Public Debt yes; but not nearly so large as Newfoundland 's Public Debt, when you consider the things that must be considered.


What are these things?


1) The potential or undeveloped natural resources of the country;


2) The developed natural resources of the country;


3) The general trade of the country;


4) The amount of progressive, alert scientific research, and the amount of progressive, alert method available to the nation;


5) The general earning power of the people, and the earning power of the Government.


On all these points Canada is very favourably placed, indeed.


Canada can carry a Public Debt twice or three times as high as Newfoundland can do, and hardly feel it.


But these are generalities.


Let us be specific. Let us get down to brass tacks.


Canada's Public Debt is directly reflected in Canada 's rate of taxation.


Newfoundland would have to pay whatever Dominion taxes are imposed.


We have already shown what taxes Newfoundland would have to pay the Dominion Government, and as we have seen we could pay them, and they would not amount to anything like what the Dominion Government would pour into Newfoundland .


Forget Canada's Public Debt, but keep your eye on Canada 's rate of taxation: and when you eye her taxation, remember that whatever Canada took from us in taxation, she would give us back more than she took, as I have already clearly shown in dollars and cents.




It may be said that Newfoundland would have only a small representation in the Canadian House of Commons. I might reply by saying: so what? I shall not do so.


The scheme of Provincial representation in the House of Commons is laid down in the B.N.A. Act. It is simplicity itself.


The Province of Quebec is the yardstick. Quebec has sixty-five members in the House of Commons at Ottawa. She always had sixty-five. She always will. The number never changes.


Every ten years Canada has a Census. The population of Quebec is then divided by this sixty-five, and that gives a certain figure. By the last census (1941) Quebec had a population which gave each one of the sixty-five Quebec members 61,000. So 61,000 is taken as the yardstick of representation for all the Provinces.


The population of each Province is divided by this 61,000, and that tells how many M.P.'s each Province is entitled to have in the House of Commons.


Our population of about 320,000, divided this way, would give us between five and six M.P.'s in the House of Commons.


But there is another provision, namely, that the number of M.P.'s for any Province shall not be lower than the number of Senators that same Province is entitled to have in the Canadian Senate, or Upper House.


All this is how the B.N.A. Act reads, but the last Provinces to enter Confederation (Saskatchewan and Alberta in 1905) were given special representation, and there is no reason whatsoever why Newfoundland, as part of a Confederation deal, should not have more than the five or six she is entitled to under the B.N.A. Act.


And whatever number we get, one thing is reasonably sure: our Newfoundland M.P.'s will join with the Nova Scotian and Prince Edward's Island M.P.'s in the House of Commons whenever fishery matters are on the floor, and a pretty hefty power they'll be.


Of one thing I am reasonably sure: our Newfoundland M.P's in the House Commons would be no dummies. I know our public men, and I have sat in Canadian Parliaments and know something about them, too. Our men would more than compare favourably, and if we ever go into Confederation, I foresee our Newfoundland M.P.'s playing a part in Dominion affairs much greater than their actual number might suggest.


Source : Joseph R. SMALLWOOD, Letter to the Editor, The Daily News, March 12, 1946.


© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College