CHAPTER VII.--PROSPECTS FOR THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE. (continued)
492. There is little doubt
that Newfoundland and Labrador are destined to play an important part in the
future development of Trans-Atlantic Air Services.
493. Newfoundland was the
starting point of the first successful flight across the North Atlantic, carried
out by Sir John Alcock and Sir Arthur Whitten Brown in 1919. Since then, many
other transatlantic flights, too numerous for separate mention, representative of
many countries, e.g., the United Kingdom, the United States of America, France,
Italy, Denmark, Hungary and Lithuania, have either started or finished in
Newfoundland or passed over the country en route to places further afield. The
culminating demonstration was the recent spectacular flight to Chicago by 24
Italian flying boats under the leadership of Air Marshal Italo Balbo which passed
over Labrador in July last, and on their return flight made Newfoundland the point
of departure for Europe.
494. There are three
transatlantic routes to which serious consideration is being given,
(1) The Greenland or Sub-Arctic Route.
(2) The Great Circle Route via Newfoundland and Ireland.
(3) The Southern Route via Bermuda and the Azores.
Of these, the Great Circle
Route is the shortest route to operate and involves a shorter sea crossing than
the Southern Route, the actual distance of the sea crossing being approximately
1,980 miles. It also has the advantage that it does not involve operation in or
transit over any foreign territory.
495. In July of this year, a
conference, attended by representatives of the Governments of the United Kingdom,
Canada, and Newfoundland, and of United States interests, was held at St. John's,
when a provisional agreement was reached; and, as a result, it is expected that a
flying boat service between St. John's and New York via a port of call in Canadian
territory will be started in the summer of 1934. St. John's will thus become the
most easterly point of the vast air system of North America, and the point in
closest proximity to the European network which extends almost throughout the
whole of Africa and to distant parts of Asia.
496. Approach to Newfoundland
being over water, the aircraft will probably be of the flying boat type, for which
alighting facilities abound in the Island. Inland, there are lakes of convenient
size. On the south coast, there are harbours such as those of Trepassey and
Mortier Bay, while on the east coast there is an infinite number of harbours
available with every natural protection.
|General View of Trepassey Bay, looking North, 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.
497. The domestic policies of
the Governments of the Island has never apparently included adequate appreciation
of the value of the aircraft operated in Newfoundland. It is countries such as
Newfoundland and Labrador which particularly benefit by aviation. Great distances,
remote settlements, winter isolation and the hazards of forest fires in the summer,
all make quick communication from point to point desirable, and offer a field of
use for aircraft hitherto ignored. A policy encouraging the use of aircraft would
bring results which would amply repay any expense involved, and render the people
more alive to the possibilities of a form of transport pursued so aggressively in
other parts of the world and destined to become a most important factor in
commerce, communication and defence of the nations.* The opening of a service
between St. John's and the mainland of the American Continent should result in a
considerable volume of tourist traffic and provide facilities for the carriage of
merchandise and in particular of perishable goods.
498. Newfoundland can also play
a part in the development of a combined service with steamships and aircraft, the
former being used for the long ocean crossing until such time as regular
transatlantic flying is possible. For this combined service, the route would be
varied seasonally, and use would be made of a port on the west coast of
Newfoundland in the summer and of a port on the south-east in the spring and
autumn. Connection with the American Continent would be effected at a suitable
point in Canada.
499. The indirect benefit which
will accrue to the country, both from the mere fact of its situation on the main
trunk route between Europe and North America and from the establishment of high
speed communications, should in the future be considerable.
Assistance of Foreign Capital.
500. Various suggestions,
mostly relating to the future rather than the present, were made to us by witnesses
who emphasised the lack of foreign capital, and urged that it was only by the
attraction of foreign capital that the natural resources of the Island could be
developed and utilised to full advantage. Among, and typical of, these suggestions
was a complicated scheme put forward by a representative of a firm of construction
engineers in the United States. This scheme we think it well to outline since it
has received a certain degree of publicity, mostly of a misleading nature, both in
the United States and in Newfoundland.
501. The scheme provided in
brief for the formation of a Company with the object of developing the resources
of the Island, taking over the operation of the railway and increasing employment
by the expansion and diversification of industry. For the financing of the
Company, of which the promoting firm would be managers, it was proposed that an
"Interior Development Fund" should be formed, the resources of the Fund being
provided over a period of years by the proceeds (less commission and operating
costs) of monopolies to be granted by the Government to the Company of the
importation and sale in Newfoundland and its dependencies of principal foodstuffs
and other commodities. The commodities proposed were flour, sugar, coal,
automobiles of every kind, including parts and tyres, wheat, sugar beet and raw
sugar, kerosene, gasoline, and crude and lubricating oils; all of which would be
imported and sold exclusively by the Company or its subsidiaries at certain fixed
prices, to be approved by the Government, above c.i.f costs, duty paid
Newfoundland. The Fund, which would draw its income in this way, would be
administered by three trustees, of whom two would be representatives of the
Company and one a representative of the Government. It would be the object of
the Company to finance itself by public subscription and also to promote the
formation of subsidiary companies similarly financed; in order that the raising
of the necessary capital might be facilitated, the Company would be free to pledge
the assets and income of the Fund. Until such time as the necessary could be
raised from the public, the trustees of the Fund would make advances to the
Company for the purposes of construction and development work in the Island,
such advances to be made against cash or securities of the Company and its
subsidiary companies. The scheme requires the Government of Newfoundland to make
large free grants of land, easement rights and other concessions.
502. Such an outline was the
scheme put before us. We will not enter here into the detailed conditions put
forward by the promoters since these have, we understand, been modified. But it
is understood that, however the details may vary, the principle of the scheme
remains as outlined above. Two features of the scheme will at once be apparent,
first, that the proposals are entirely dependent on the grant to the Company of
monopolies of the importation and sale of essential commodities and, secondly, that
no risk whatever would be run by the promoters of the scheme. All the risks
involved would be borne by the Government and the people of Newfoundland. The
promoters would be assured of a safe income as managers, to say nothing of the
prospect of large profits from the operations of one or other of the proposed
companies. The Government of Newfoundland, so far from being able to look to the
Fund for a source of revenue which would assist them towards reducing the burden of
the public debt, would be in a minority on the Board of Trustees and would be
liable to find that the whole assets of the Fund had been pledged by the Company as
security for public issues. Should the undertaking be successful, the Government
would lose the money advanced, and the income of the Fund, derived from the public
of Newfoundland by a species of indirect taxation, would be devoted to the
satisfaction of the claims of bondholders. The promoters of the scheme, so far
from suffering, would in any case make a profit.
503. Proposals of this kind
will not bear, and do not merit, serious examination. It is unthinkable that in
these days any Government with a sense of responsibility could bring itself, by
the grant of a series of monopolies relating to essential articles, to place the
future well-being of its people in the hands of a private company. The objections
would be no less strong even if such a Company should offer to contribute from its
own resources the capital necessary for the projects in view.
* Cf. Journal of Commerce, Newfoundland; August, 1933.
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