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Letter No. 13 of Joseph R. Smallwood on Confederation



Editor Daily News,

Dear Sirs,


Concluding the answers to points and questions by correspondents:


"Canada would change our school system."


No. The Government of Canada has no power at all over education. This is a Provincial matter. The Provinces have whatever school system they want. Newfoundland would have whatever school system she wanted, just as she now has whatever system she wants. Confederation would not change this at all.


"Newfoundlanders wouldn't be able to work in Canada."


Yes, Newfoundlanders would. Newfoundlanders could leave St. John's and travel right across the continent to Vancouver , and never leave their own country. Newfoundlanders could work or travel in any part of the Dominion of Canada, and no man could say a word to them.


"We would pay higher postage rates."


No, we would pay lower postage rates. The Canadian Government would handle all our post offices and telegraph offices. They would give much better service. They would pay postal and telegraph employees better wages. They would employ Newfoundlanders in all post offices and telegraph offices.


"We would be over-run by Canadians."


It would be very nice for Newfoundland to be over­run by Canadians bringing money here to spend. It would be nice to see Canadian businessmen coming down here to start new businesses and industries. It would be nice to see Canadian tourists coming here for their holidays. It would be nice to see Canadian capital coming into Newfoundland and Labrador .


"We would be over-run by Canadian officials."


All lighthouse keepers, all posts and telegraphs, all Customs officials would be employed and paid by the Canadian Government. But they would be Newfoundlanders, and they would get Canadian Govern­ment rates of pay. They wouldn't grumble at that! No doubt there would, for a while, be a few higher officials who would be Canadians, but only so long as it took to train smart Newfoundlanders to take their places.


And don't forget this: Newfoundlanders would have many chances to get in the great Canadian Civil Service with good jobs and good salaries.


"Canada would dump her goods here at low prices."

All goods from Canada would be duty-free, and no doubt some very low-priced goods would come in here. But all kinds of goods would come in. Our businessmen would naturally import all types and all classes of goods, at very low prices, medium prices, and high prices for the rich.


"Newfoundland wouldn't have any voice in the Canadian Government."


Yes, they would have a loud voice. They would have a number of prominent Newfoundlanders ap­pointed to the Canadian Senate for life. They would elect a number of able Newfoundlanders to the House of Commons at Ottawa. A Newfoundlander would always be in the Canadian Government - perhaps more than one. A Newfoundlander would be Minister of Fisheries. Oh, yes, Newfoundlanders would have a very good voice in the Canadian Parliament and the Canadian Government!


"Nova Scotia has suffered under Confederation."


In the seventy-nine years Nova Scotia has been united with Canada she has suffered from time to time. All people in all countries have suffered from time to time in the past seventy-nine years.


"But Nova Scotia would not have suffered but for Confederation."




"But she wouldn't have suffered as much."


She would have suffered more. If Nova Scotia had stayed out of Confederation she would have become another Newfoundland . She would have had nobody to turn to, nobody to help her, but Great Britain . The great Dominion of Canada would not have helped her, naturally, because if she had stayed out of Con­federation she would have been just another colony. Canada puts much more money into Nova Scotia than she takes out. Nova Scotia has got great benefit from Confederation. If the people of Nova Scotia had to make up their minds today on whether they stayed in or got out, 99-per-cent of them would decide at once to stay in.


"But didn't Nova Scotia 's industries disappear?"


Yes, her one great industry did die. That was her great ship-building industry. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick had the world's biggest industry building sailing vessels. Half the sailing vessels in the world were built in those two Provinces. The very air over Nova Scotia and New Brunswick rang with the noise of the hammer and caulking-iron.


What killed that great industry after 1867, the year they joined up with Canada ? Steam.


The world turned away from sailing vessels, and went in for steel ships, and it was good-bye to that great wooden-wall industry.

It was a good thing for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick that they were united with Canada when that great industry was killed by steam.


But Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have great industries today that they did not have before they united with Canada .


" Canada has had her hard times, too."


Yes, even the great United States had her hard times and unemployment.


But Canada was well able to take care of her unemployed. And she was able to do it without going outside to some other country to get help. She did not go broke taking care of her unemployed, even though she did treat her unemployed generously. She did not have to give up self-government.


" Canada is broke today."


Canada broke? During the war, besides financing her own gigantic war effort, she gave Great Britain one thousand million dollars as a free gift. A few weeks ago she gave Great Britain a loan of twelve hundred million dollars. She has, within the past few weeks, loaned hundreds of millions of dollars to France , Holland and Belgium . Does that look like being broke? It's a nice way to be broke.


"Will a family get the Family Allowance if the father is unemployed?"


Yes. Family Allowances will be paid to every family with children under the age of sixteen. $5, $6, $7, or $8 will be paid to each child, according to the child's age. The money will be paid each month, by cheque. The cheque is usually sent to the mother.


"Can Family Allowance money be taken from the family?"


No. Nobody can take this money from the family. The Government cannot tax it. The courts cannot take it, for it is not attachable. Nor can the parents give it as security.


"What are the parent's supposed to do with the money?"


Spend it. On boots and shoes, clothing, food, school fees, etc.


"Who will get the Old Age Pension?"


Every person in the country over seventy. There are about 10,000 such persons in Newfoundland . Each person will get $30 a month or $360 a year. This money is not taxable, not attachable, and cannot be given as security. If a person of seventy or over has his own private income of not over $125 a year, he will still get the Old Age Pension. If his own private income is $130 a year, his Old Age Pension will be cut by $5 a year. If his own private income is $135 a year, his Old Age Pension will be cut by $10 a year, so that instead of getting $360 a year, he would then get $350 a year.


"Suppose an old man can be supported by his son?"


No matter, the man of seventy or over still gets the pension.


"Can the National Convention put us into Confederation ?"


No. Only an elected Government can do that.


But the National Convention can go into the whole question. The National Convention can send a delegation to Ottawa to find out all the particulars.


"What is there for the National Convention to find out?"


Several things. Most of the things we already know, but there are several special things we do not know for sure just yet.


We know that the Dominion Government will take over lighthouses and marine works. We know that they will take over post offices, telegraph offices and Customs. We know that they will take over many other things and run them at their own expense. We know that we would get Old Age Pensions, Family Allowances, etc.


But there are such questions as Labrador, the railway, our Public Debt, etc., that we would have to get special terms on.


"Would Canada take over our Public Debt?"


Yes, part of it. To be exact, they would take over $27.77 for every man, woman and child in Newfoundland. That would be nearly ten million dollars. The rest of the Public Debt would have to form the subject of special terms. Probably England would take it over.


"What could the National Convention do then?"


After they got all the facts and information about Confederation, they could recommend it to the people of Newfoundland.


"How would they recommend it?"


By putting it on the ballot. If the people vote for it, then the next thing that will happen is that we will elect our own Government, and the Government will take up the question with the Government of Canada.


"What can one Delegate do in the Convention?"


Well, he cannot put Newfoundland into Confedera­tion.


All the Delegates put together cannot do that. The National Convention itself cannot do that.


But a Delegate can bring the matter up before the Convention. He can demand that the Convention shall look into the question. He can demand that the Convention shall send a delegation to Ottawa to find out everything.


If there are enough Delegates who believe that the whole question of Confederation should be looked into, then the Confederation question will be looked into.


If the people of Newfoundland believe that there may be something in Confederation - if they believe that Confederation might be good for them and their families - then they should make sure that the Delegates they elect in June will guarantee to bring the matter forward in the Convention. They should make sure of electing Delegates who will see that the whole question of Confederation is brought up and very carefully considered.


If the people believe that there is the slightest chance that Confederation might be good for them, then they must be very sure to elect Delegates who will bring the matter up in the Convention.


"How soon could Newfoundland join up with Canada?"


Probably not before January, 1948, or roughly two years from now.


It will take that long to hold the National Conven­tion, and then for the people to vote on what form of government they want, and then a Government to be elected in Newfoundland.


The Government probably could not be elected before October or November, 1947. By the following January they could perhaps have settled the whole question with the Government of Canada.


"If I favour Confederation, how can I help to bring it about?"


By helping to elect Delegates who will be sure to bring the matter up in the National Convention. By supporting Delegates who will demand that a delegation be sent from the Convention to Ottawa to learn all the truth about Confederation.


And in the meanwhile, by learning all he can about Confederation.


And this, Mr. Editor, just about clears up the points that have arisen out of my eleven letters concerning Confederation. I cannot, however, close without expressing my gratitude to you for the space you have so generously allowed me to occupy. I have at least introduced the subject of Confederation. Perhaps later I will compile a shorter but possibly clearer account of the subject.


Yours truly,


Joseph R. Smallwood


Source: Joseph R. SMALLWOOD, Letter to the editor, The Daily News, March 21, 1946.


© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College