Municipal Government.

  617. Outside St. John's, there is at present no municipal government in the Island. This is, perhaps, not surprising, since none of the 1,300 settlements outside the capital has a population of more then 5,000, while the average population of each settlement is 180. But the absence of any form of municipal government and the conduct of the entire administration of the country from St. John's, which is itself to a large extent out of touch with the outports, have had an unfortunate effect upon the people in retarding the development of a public spirit and a sense of civic responsibility. Taxation, so far as the great majority of the people are concerned, is entirely indirect. It is paid in Customs duties which are passed on to the consumer in the prices charged for the goods he buys. If prices are high, this is attributed to the machinations of the merchant or storekeeper. The effect of a high tariff is not appreciated. Freedom from any requirement to make a direct contribution to the expenses of administration produces in the average man an indifference to waste and extravagance; while the spectacle of that waste and extravagance has encouraged in him the belief that the resources of the Government are limitless and questionable, to promote his personal advantage at the expense of the public purse and therefore (though this is not realised) of his fellow citizens. The formation of municipal Governments in the more important outports, under proper control and with the proper safeguards, would do much to induce a sense of responsibility in those called upon to contribute towards the expenses of such governments. The effects of extravagance would be brought directly home to them. It would be easy to draw the parallel between municipal and national administration, and those who had had experience of the direct relation between municipal expenses and their own pockets would be given a new sense of the value of public money. If such steps in the field of municipal government could proceed hand in hand with the gradual suppression of the credit system,* we would look forward with confidence to the development of a new corporate spirit, which would not only ease the problems of administration and carry with it all the advantages of team-work as opposed to individual effort, but would also result in the general advancement of the people to a level far removed from the conditions of the past.

  618. With these considerations in mind we are glad to note that an Act was passed during the last Session of the Newfoundland Legislature authorising, at the option of the inhabitants, the formation of municipalities in settlements with a minimum population of 1,000. Owing doubtless to the present distressed conditions, no advantage has yet been taken of this enactment. Exemption has, moreover, been granted to certain towns, such as those which have grown up round the Paper Mills at Grand Falls and Corner Brook, where special circumstances exist. We hope, however, that in other places steps will be taken to form municipalities as times improve, and we recommend that the new Government should do all in their power to encourage such a movement.

Police and Game Wardens

  619. We have outlined in Chapter VII proposals by means of which large stretches of the interior of the Island at present lying idle might be brought into remunerative use. We refer to our proposals for the raising of fur-bearing animals. Should these commend themselves to the new Government, it will be necessary to recruit a new force of game wardens to ensure the protection of the animals and to assist in the execution of any scheme for their utilisation which may ultimately be adopted. We have suggested that the force should be modelled on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police which control large stretches of similar territory in Canada.

  620. Should such a body be formed on the lines we recommend, it might be practicable to assign to it other duties than those of game wardens. In the North-West territories of Canada, for instance, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police enforce all criminal and federal statutes, as well as those of the North-West Territories Council. The force perform a considerable number of administrative duties, collect revenue for the Customs Department, the Department of the Interior and other Federal Departments, issue Game Animal and Game Bird Licences, Walrus Licences, and the Wolf and Coyote Bounty, collect Fur Export tax, Timber Dues and Income Tax, attend to Vital Statistics, investigate applications for naturalisation, assist in obtaining meterological information, and enforce the North West Game Act and the regulations regarding dogs. They also see to the ordinances relating to scientists and explorers, and the regulations regarding the large areas known as "Preserves" which are set aside for the benefit of Indians and Eskimos. A Commissioned Officer or Non-Commissioned Officer at any detachment may hold the following appointments: Justice of the Peace, Deputy Sheriff, Coroner, Mining Recorder, Registrar of Vital Statistics, Postmaster, Collector of Customs, Commissioner for taking Affidavits, Acting Indian Agent, Officer for receiving applications for naturalisation, Collector of Income Tax, Inspector of Explosives, Game Officer, etc.

Button Island The famous Button Island in Hudson Strait, Northwest Territories, n.d.
Photographer unknown. 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.
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  621. The North West Territories of Canada cover an area of 1,309,000 square miles. In this area there are 24 Divisional Posts and detachments of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, with a total complement of 100 Officers, Non-Commissioned Officers and men. For the much smaller area which the interior of Newfoundland comprises, a force of 30-40 should be ample. Such a force, once organised and operating effectively, might, on the analogy of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, eventually take over all public work not only in the interior but in the outports as well, might collect the Customs and other revenue at all but the most important ports, might act as the representatives of the various Departments of Government, might assist in the working of the Post Office and the Railway, and generally might undertake duties, excluding those assigned to the Magistrates and Fishery Inspectors, which are at present distributed among a number of minor officials. On this basis, the establishment of such a force might also operate in Labrador.

Establishment of Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.

  622. Newfoundlanders, with their long maritime history, are commonly classed among the best natural sailors in the world. For upwards of two hundred years prior to the War, as we have indicated in Chapter V,† the Island formed a valuable recruiting ground for the Royal Navy. Towards the end of this period a branch of the Royal Naval Reserve was formed at St. John's, and we have recounted in Chapter III‡ how abundantly the value of this force was demonstrated in the years 1914-18. For reasons of economy, the branch was discontinued after the War.

  623. It is not our purpose to stress here the services rendered by members of this force during the War, since these are assured of permanent record in the annals of the Fleet. But we would wish to emphasise the value of such a force to the Island itself. Through the medium of a training ship stationed at St. John's, relays of men from almost every settlement in the Island were put through a course of naval training and discipline and given instruction in their period of training, men returned to their homes with a new and wider outlook, a new sense of self-respect and self-reliance and a new pride in the Empire of which they were citizens. The influence which, consciously or subconsciously, would be exercised by such men on their fellows in the outports can well be appreciated. They were well equipped to act as leaders in their small communities, and, as a result of the high standards and sense of responsibility which naval training induced, the beneficial effect of the example which they set was felt throughout the Island.

  624. Now that the people of Newfoundland have sunk to so low a condition, we cannot but think that it would be of the utmost value if such a force could be re-established. We recognise that, owing to changed world conditions, it may not be regarded as practicable to reinstitute the branch of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. We earnestly hope that arrangements to this end may be made and we further recommend that consideration should be given to the stationing of one of Your Majesty's Ships in Newfoundland during the summer months, say from June to October. If a local branch of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve were established, training classes could doubtless be held on board for, say a fortnight at a time; while the services of such a vessel, both in carrying out an annual cruise in Newfoundland waters and in enabling His Excellency to make more frequent visits to outlying places, would be of the greatest possible advantage.

  * See recommendations in Chapter VI, paragraph 359.
  † Paragraph 202.
  ‡ Paragraphs 113-115.

Image description updated May, 2004.

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