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Thursday, November 06, 2008

The Truth of NL's Place in the Canadian Federation

The following was sent to Web Talk by a regular reader of our site.

The letter below was written to the St. John's Telegram 10 years ago by John Fitzgerald. For those of you who may not be familiar with the name, Mr. Fitzgerald is an expert in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador and is currently working for the provincial government as our "Quasi-Ambassador" to Ottawa.

The letter itself may be a decade old but it speaks volumes about the truth of Confederation and the clear understanding Mr. Fitzgerald has when it comes to our beautiful homeland. It's a sad thing most of us in this province are not as familiar with the facts as our representative in Ottawa is.

The Telegram
St. John's - April 6, 1998

The Telegram editorial of April 1, celebrating 49 years of Confederation as a "qualified success," claimed that Newfoundland would have been much worse off as an independent country than as a Canadian province, and that without Ottawa , Newfoundland might return to the "grinding poverty" of the 1930s. This is the same tired orthodoxy that The Telegram and Smallwood preached in 1948: Newfoundland would not survive without Confederation.

Newfoundland very likely could have prospered without Confederation. For nine of the 10 years before Confederation Newfoundland had a balanced budget. On the eve of Confederation, Newfoundland had two-per-cent unemployment and a per-capita debt which was one-tenth of Canada 's. On the eve of Confederation, Newfoundland had an accumulated surplus on current account of $43 million and $12 million in interest-free loans to Britain . In 1998 dollars this would be close to $1 billion. Was this prosperity temporary? No. Newfoundland changed forever in the 1940s. If the absence of a House of Assembly at the time prevented Newfoundlanders from knowing it or doing anything about it, then Canada certainly did know the wealth and value of Newfoundland.

Confederation may have been an qualified success for Canada , but not so for Newfoundland . Canada feared that Newfoundland could have used its resources to survive and prosper independently. The Ottawa mandarins realized that Confederation would help extract the Americans from their bases in Newfoundland . Newfoundland also had two of the largest airports in the world, situated on the Great Circle air route.

Canada wanted them, and acquired them with Confederation. It then used the control of the airports and landing rights to force its own way into American markets which had previously excluded Canada . In 1946, Newfoundland had an estimated 300 million tons of iron ore in Labrador , which Canada was interested in exploiting. (In March 1996 the IOC blasted the one billionth ton of iron ore out of Labrador, while Newfoundland still collects revenues under the 1944 royalty regime established by the Commission of Government which allows Newfoundland five per cent of what the IOC tells us their profits are.) Ottawa knew that controlling Newfoundland 's fisheries would eliminate Newfoundland from competing with Nova Scotia for markets for its fish. (Could Newfoundland have managed its cod stocks any worse than Canada has?)

On Oct. 17, 1946 , the Canadian High Commissioner in Newfound land, Scott Macdonald, wrote Ottawa about the benefits Newfoundland would bring to Canada . Newfoundland had "very considerable mineral and forest resources as well as easy access to the finest fishing grounds in the world." Confederation "would solve, permanently, all questions of post-war military and civil aviation rights which are at present terminable after March 31, 1949 , on 12 months' notice. It would make possible a common jurisdiction over North Atlantic fisheries. ..."

And would Newfoundland return to poverty? Not likely. "Moreover," Macdonald wrote, "(Newfoundland) is richer by the investment of at least $100 million by Canada and at least $300 million by the United States primarily for defence but much of which was spent on roads, wharfs (sic), telephone lines, warehouses, similar buildings, radio ranges, airfields, the training of Newfoundlanders in various technical jobs, etc. and has redounded to the general development of the country." In Macdonald's view, Newfoundland thus had the infrastructure to sustain prosperity.

For Canada , Newfoundland 's Confederation was not about the welfare state or about helping Newfoundlanders "out of poverty" (for which, The Globe and Mail tells us, we must be eternally grateful). Rather, it was about acquiring valuable resources, eliminating competition, acquiring very valuable aspects of Newfoundland's sovereignty, and doing it all rather deeply [cheaply?]. After all, Smallwood's Confederation campaigns only cost CD Howe and the Liberal Party of Canada a cool half-million bucks.


Mary in T.O. said...

Thanks so much for posting this letter. I live in Ontario and I'm sick and tired of the comments I hear all the time about my home province.

I plan to print this letter and every time I hear some A-hole run Newfoundland down and call us a bunch of welfare recipients I'm going to shove this in their face and make sure they read it.

I love your blog and read it all the time. Keep it up, the truth needs to get out and we need people like you to make sure it does.

Anonymous said...

"For nine of the 10 years before Confederation Newfoundland had a balanced budget."

"Newfoundland had two-per-cent unemployment"

"Newfoundland changed forever in the 1940s."

Sheer nonsense. As the great historian himself implies later in the letter, all of these statistics are a paper reflection of a war-time economy built and buoyed by the presence of thousands of soldiers.

World War II and its aftermath may have made St. John's look good on a balance sheet, but Confederation or no Confederation, the dismantling of a military presence after the War was inevitable.

Anyone who believe Newfoundland would have been financially better of outside of Confederation for the past 60 years is unfit for public office.

Anonymous said...

Myles, will this well detailed article, with so much critical information on Newfoundland and Labrador, find its way into one of the National Newspaper?

I hope so, but I sort of expect that it will not.

Anonymous said...

Anon of November 08, 2008 10:13 AM who wrote "Anyone who believes Newfoundland would have been financially better of outside of Confederation for the past 60 years is unfit for public office".

Japan was obliterated during the Second World War, was isolated and had no natural resources, and yet Japan, with the help of the Marshall Plan instituted by the United States grew into one of the G7 Economies of the world. Germany was also razed to the ground and it, also through the Marshall Plan, grew into one of the G7 Nations of the World.

Why could not the same have happened to NL, given it was well endowed with natural resources and a near perfect geographic location?

After all every country after the Second World War, in the Western World, at least, grew gang buster economies which have endured right up to the present day. At the moment though, as we all know, everything is being threatened by the looming recession.

It is too bad that Canada grabbed NL on the cusp of when so many countries were about to bloom economically.

By taking the Dominion of Newfoundland, at the opportune time, Canada gained a great natural resource base to fuel its Central Canadian economies and by doing so stopped NL's chance of growing into what could have been one of the greatest economies in the World. Anything could have evolved, after all the United States had a great presence through its military in Newfoundland and Labrador, at that time.

The United States had 4 large American Bases in NL in the 1940s, since NL possessed a great strategic geographic location, which was conducive to the protection of the North American Continent.

I am quite certain that the United States would have been delighted to have added NL as one of its territories, but you can be darn well sure, it would have only resulted with a serious external affairs debacle, with its biggest trading partner and
neighbour, Canada.

For 80 years, at that juncture, Ottawa had its eye on the ball and it was NOT about to release its gaze, as a result the Dominion of Newfoundland was folded into the Canadian Federation, and everyone by now knows that Canada became complete from coast to coast to coast. Its 80 year dream, as Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent alluded to in his speech to the Canadian Nation at the time stated, "we have been successful in fulfilling an 80 year dream, that of bringing NL into the Canadian Federation".

Anonymous said...

Based on my post of November 08, 2008 11:33 PM, I want to ask the raw question, why couldn’t we have been a World Power with one of the World's greatest economies?

We were our own country for nigh 450 years up to that time, we made it through all those years and eked out a subsistence living as did a lot of countries of the world, our natural resources of coveted Fish, Minerals, Oil and the river systems which produced the coveted Hydroelectric Energy were all intact, and besides we possessed a prime location with thousand of miles on the Atlantic Ocean Trade Routes? We were not destroyed by the either of the Great Wars, as were Japan and Germany, both of which rose out of the dust with the assistance of the U.S., with very few natural resources, to be part of Great Seven Economic Nations of the World?

Yes, why didn't we grow into that great economic power? I would like some input.

I will offer my opinion of what it was all about in this commentary, it was because the Nation of Canada coveted our land mass with its great natural resource base and its great strategic geographic location. It meant that Canada, if it acquired Newfoundland and Labrador, would not have a nation to its East. And, that in my opinion, is why matters transpired the way that they did.

The Great 7 Nations grew gang busters after the Second World War. The World Economies put on more growth in the past 60 years than it ever did in the preceding Billions of years. The Plastic Revolution made it so.

If NL had not become part of Canada, NL would have grown legs and been blessed with the same type of economic growth. It just would have happened, since NL would have been swept up in the same euphoric economy.

Your commentaries pleases!

Anonymous said...

Myles – A thought that I want to accentuate is that though Canada/Ottawa dreamt of Newfoundland and Labrador for 80 years, I have a feeling that Canada/Ottawa knew NL wasn't going anywhere else, with England having so much control, so it decided to wait it out until times looked good for world economics and that is when it was decided that Newfoundland and Labrador would not be a liability given its abundant natural resources and great location.

In my opinion every dollar that Canada spent in Newfoundland and Labrador, it extracted $10 or more to pay for it.

To sum it up, Ottawa knew it would have first chance at acquiring Newfoundland and Labrador when the economic atmosphere changed into being a positive one, and then Ottawa would not have to have NL on the books one day where it had to be its provider. It would only happen at the opportune time that is when the time was ripe for economic opportunies in the world and then Newfoundland and Labrador would prove to be a Cash Cow for Canada. The Cash Cow which it has proven to be, but for which Canada has not given any Thanks.

Anonymous said...

The Telegram editorial of April 1, celebrating 49 years of Confederation as a "qualified success," claimed that "Newfoundland would have been much worse off as an independent country than as a Canadian province, and that without Ottawa , Newfoundland might return to the "grinding poverty" of the 1930s. This is the same tired orthodoxy that The Telegram and Smallwood preached in 1948: Newfoundland would not survive without Confederation."

This is nothing more then mainland jelousy spread by the propaganda machine that is Ottawa. What blatant ignornace. What arrogance. What a shear lack of respect for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. To be told that you are not smart enough. Not Good enough to survive on your own. That you will starve without your face stuffed in the cusp of canadas open hand.

Your canadain rag is good for one thing. To wipe the sweat of those fighting for your freedom over seas.And you cant even supply enough people from your largest province to meet the demands to protect the freedoms you so eagerly shout about on blogs such as this.

Im ashamed to be from a country that feels it has to belittle a smaller country such as it was. To blackmail a dimwit such as smallwood into saying such nonsence as this. Telling your citizens that they would starve if they did not join confederation with canada.

What must go thru the minds of people when they know that thier brave heroic army was or had been wiped out protecting the lives of its citizens.

For reasons such as this and the political Interference of Britian led to confedereation with Canada.

Nothing else.Nothing more. you picked on a helpless and defencelss country and then robbed it of its natural resources. You stole thier electric power from its richest region to starve the region that would have used it to create wealth for all.You then use its own money to support a separatist movement in that region.

Am I Canadain. I have been in nine provinces and have always been called one thing , newfie.If this is what it is to be Canadain then I think its time to leave.

Anonymous said...

The Telegram is still trying to pull the wool over the eyes of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians with its bias towards Ottawa and Central Canada.

Any letter to The Editor of The Telegram which tries to tell the sordid story of Newfoundland and Labrador's history within Canada gets rebutted the next week with a rebuttal from the Editor.

I think I shall never buy another Telegram again.

Why read something which makes you feeling sick?

Has anybody else noticed that since Newfoundlanders and Labradorians became vocal through commentaries to the Globe and Mail and Open Line Programs, all of a sudden the province has “Have” status? That alone is enough to tell you that the province should NEVER, NEVER, NEVER have been classified with 'HAVE NOT' status. That is especially so, when one takes into consideration the grand cache of Natural Resources which existed in NL along with its prime strategic geographical location and the fact the province had very little debt when it became part of Canada.

The only reason NL wasn’t classified with "HAVE" status from the beginning was that the Newfoundland and Labrador’s natural resource base was first needed to build up Central Canada's economies. Now Ottawa knows that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador are quite aware of the connivers who were among us, who allowed those injustices to happen and to continue and they can’t keep the ruse going any longer, since the message is getting out in the press through the commentaries to the National Media.

Ottawa asked Mr. Smallwood to keep the smoke screen of rhetoric going and once he stopped there were other NL Politicians, both Provincial and Federal, who were willing and ready to keep the ruse going, because they knew with the Political Patronage System there was no way that they would lose.

Mr. Smallwood, is the scapegoat, since every other politician who came after him kept the ruse going and Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are suffering greatly because of it.

The next institution which has to go is the Political Patronage System which has existed only to kept those “smoke screen” politicians loyal to Ottawa for nigh 60 years.

Ussr said...

Mr. Smallwood, is the scapegoat, since every other politician who came after him kept the ruse going and Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are suffering greatly because of it.

Myles ,I just thought that I would repeat that sound of pure truth-Amen to that brother!!!

Ussr said...

OH i would just like too say also Myles that it is very nice to see how alot of your readers feel towards the Telegram. Quebec owned rag that wouldnt tell the truth if its very soul were at stake.

Time to get rid of/fix that as well Dear Mr Williams !!!