Need for Special Investigations.

  576. The description of existing conditions which we have given in the foregoing chapters will have made it clear that there are many directions in which a forward move is required if the country is to be successfully rehabilitated. In order that a comprehensive programme may be worked out on sound lines, it will be necessary for the new Government to have recourse to expert advice, both in the development of the natural resources of the Island and in other matters closely affecting the health and welfare of the people.
  We have already indicated our view that the revision and simplification of the tariff on a scientific basis is a matter which requires urgent attention. We propose now to refer to other subjects calling for expert investigation.


  577. The educational system of the Island has already been described.* The curriculum at present in force in the schools was referred to by a number of witnesses, some of whom were of opinion that it did not meet the needs of the Island, while the views of others were generally favourable to existing methods. We feel, however, that it is unnecessary for us to discuss the subject in detail in this Report, since arrangements have already been made by the Government for an educationalist of repute and experience to visit Newfoundland and advise upon the present training given in the schools. Without seeking to prejudice any recommendations that may be made, or changes that may be introduced, we hope that any new curriculum, while giving an equal opportunity to all school children and meeting the requirements of students of exceptional promise, will be such as will better equip the average boy and girl for the avenues of employment likely to be available to them in the Island. We have already drawn attention in Chapter VI to the importance of providing organised instruction in fishery matters.†


  578. Many of the witnesses who appeared before us had suggestions to make regarding the future of the railway and steamship services to the Island.‡ Nearly all of these witnesses were in favour of the abandonment of the branch lines and some indeed went so far as to express the view that the entire railway should be closed. These last witnesses pointed out that the railway had never paid its way since its inception, that the cost of the railway to the country from first to last had been nearly $50,000,000, a sum equivalent to approximately half of the present public debt, and that its upkeep demanded a continual outlay which was greater than the country was ever likely to be able to afford. On the other hand, they argued, if the railway were closed, the Island would be no worse off either as regards mail services or inter-communication between different parts of the country. They observed that, in the absence of competition from the railway, a fast and frequent steamship service would doubtless be established between St. John's and Halifax, Nova Scotia; such a service, they suggested, would provide the Island with better mail facilities than those at present given. They pointed out that for internal purposes communication would for the most part be by coastal vessels and schooners, and they expressed the view that few parts of the Island would suffer, while most would gain, since a great stimulus would be given to the coast-wise carrying trade, schooners would come into their own again, and there would be a great increase in shipbuilding and a renewal of local activity in the outports. Moreover, they declared, economic arrangements would be relieved from carrying an impossible burden and the whole Island would be much better off. The only sufferers, in their opinion, would be the few settlements in the interior (other than Grand Falls and Buchans which are connected by private railways to the sea at Botwood), and the few inhabitants of these settlements could doubtless be absorbed by other settlements situated on the coast.

Grey River Shipbuilding, Gray [sic] River, n.d.
Photo by Holloway. From the album of photographs furnished to the Newfoundland Royal Commission, August 1933. Courtesy of the Centre for Newfoundland Studies Archives (Coll-207), Memorial University of Newfoundland Library, St. John's, Newfoundland.
Larger Version (63 kb)

  579. On the other hand, there were witnesses who, while admitting that an attractive case could be made out on paper for the closing of the railway, pointed out that the proposal omitted to take account of one, perhaps overwhelming, consideration, namely, the great difficulty of putting the clock back to the extent which so drastic a measure would involve. Furthermore, these witnesses observed, it was scarcely fair to judge the merits of the railway solely from the standpoint of its balance sheet, since there was no doubt that it had brought very considerable indirect benefits to the Exchequer, by giving employment, by opening up the interior and by facilitating the establishment of local enterprises. In the opinion of these witnesses, it was unthinkable that the main line should be closed, whatever might be decided with regard to the branch lines.

  580. We ourselves are inclined to sympathise with the view that the time has come when the branch lines should be abandoned. The main line, however, comes in a different category. It is in good condition, little capital expenditure will be required over the next few years to enable it to be continued in efficient operation, and there are grounds for the belief that the railway, if not burdened with the existing branch lines, could be made to pay its way as soon as conditions in the Island show signs of recovery.

  581. We consider, however, that the organisation of the railway and steamship services of the Island demands special consideration. We recommend, therefore, that an expert enquiry should be held into these services with a view particularly to the prevention of overlapping, more efficient and economical working and the readjustment of freight rates on a carefully planned and scientific basis. We feel that much could be done to encourage greater use on the part of the public of the services afforded by the railway and that by an alteration in freight rates increased traffic, leading to increased revenue, could be realised. Consideration should also be given to the question of leasing the dry dock to a private firm.


  582. The development, and at the same time the conservation of the natural resources of the Island will be one of the main preoccupations of the new Government. We have referred in Chapter VII § to the urgent need for expert investigation into the forest resources of the Island, and we hope that no time will be lost in engaging an experienced forestry officer to report on existing conditions, both on the three-mile limit and in the interior of the Island, with a view to the elaboration of a long range policy. Only by this means can the present process of waste be checked and the inheritance of the people preserved.

  583. We have also recorded our view that an inquiry should be held into the best means of promoting an increase in the Island's live stock, and an improvement in breed; an experienced agriculturalist should be engaged for this purpose. We have no doubt that under enlightened leadership the people could be encouraged to pay greater attention to the keeping of animals such as sheep, pigs and goats, as well as poultry, and that under the influence of a movement of this kind there could be, within a few years, a great improvement in the present standard of living.

  584. There is, at present, no qualified geologist in the service of the Government. Excellent work has been done by a long succession of geologists from the surveys of James Beete Jukes of the University of Cambridge in 1839 to the present time. During the last three years Professor A.K. Snelgrove, Professor of Geology in Princeton University, has paid visits to the Island and made elaborate surveys, more particularly on the west coast, on behalf of that University, a work which has been much appreciated.

  585. As we have pointed out in Chapter VII, Newfoundland possesses in the mine at Bell Island the largest deposit of iron ore in the Empire. There is an important lead and zinc mine at Buchans. While these are the only mines at present working, there is a coalfield, hitherto untapped, at St. George's Bay. Copper has been worked in the past and may be again. It may confidently be predicted that the mineral possibilities of the Island have by no means been exhausted. The engagement of a qualified geologist, who could investigate the prospects and advise the Government on the potentialities of the areas most likely to attract attention, is highly desirable. Such an offer might also afford useful guidance in connection with prospecting operations now being undertaken in Labrador.

  * Chapter II, paragraph 53.
  † Chapter VI, paragraph 384.
  ‡ See Chapter IV, paragraphs 176-183.
  § Paragraph 434.

Image description updated May, 2004.

Partnered Projects Government and Politics - Table of Contents Site Map Search Heritage Web Site Home