CHAPTER VIII.--ALTERNATIVE COURSES OF ACTION.
Political Union with Canada. (continued)
539. If it were possible for
the Canadian Government to envisage a form of political union, under which
Newfoundland, while becoming a partner in the Canadian Confederation and making a
contribution to the Canadian Exchequer, would, for a time at least, retain the
right to fix her own tariff and to collect her own Customs duties, such
difficulties could no doubt be largely discounted. But any such scheme would
involve the retention of Customs duties on Canadian goods entering Newfoundland,
and it is clear that this would make such demands on the generosity of the
Canadian taxpayer as would, in present conditions, be regarded as unjustifiable.
Moreover, it must be borne in mind that the conditions of entry into the Canadian
Confederation were fully expounded in the British North America Act of 1867; and,
though in the section of that Act which allows for the possible inclusion of
Newfoundland some latitude as to the terms to be arranged is permitted, it is clear
that any striking differentiation between the terms accorded to Newfoundland and
those accorded to the other partners in the Confederation might lead to
540. Apart, however, from the
hostility which proposals for political union might be expected to evoke among
certain interests in Newfoundland, it is fair to say that such proposals would at
least receive more enlightened consideration and discussion to-day than would have
been the case, say, twenty years ago. Since 1895 the currency of the Island has
been the Canadian dollar and the entire banking business of the Island has been in
the hands of Canadian Banks; during the present century imports from Canada have
shown a steady increase, until to-day they amount to nearly 50 per cent. of the
whole; Canadian interests in the Island have expanded; increasing advantage is
being taken of educational facilities in Canada; and, finally, the Methodist and
certain other Churches in Newfoundland have recently become part of the United
Church of Canada. In view of the strength of denominational influence in the
Island, this last development is of special significance.
541. Among Canadian interests
in the Island may be instanced the ownership by a Canadian company of the important
mine at Bell Island, reputedly the largest deposit of iron-ore in the Empire. Of
the two Paper Mills, that at Corner Brook is affiliated to and shares orders with
three Canadian mills and is probably the strongest partner of the four. Canadian
life-insurance Companies do a large business in the Island, and there are numerous
minor channels of commercial contact. Newfoundland will doubtless be brought into
even closer relationship with Canada when developments in aviation lead to the
introduction of a regular transatlantic service.
542. The people living on the
south and west coasts of Newfoundland do a constant trade with Nova Scotia and
Prince Edward Island, and objections to political union have in this part of the
country lost much of their force. The seasonal employment obtained by
Newfoundlanders in the mines of Cape Breton and in Canadian workshops and factories
has led also to a wider knowledge, and appreciation, of Canadian conditions. It
cannot be said, however, that the tradition of distrust of Canada has, even in
these parts of the Island, been entirely dispelled. The possible disadvantages
which might be felt by a small unit on being absorbed by a large one are apt to be
stressed, while the positive advantages of such a course are ignored. Chief among
the possible disadvantages is placed the necessity for direct taxation, hitherto
unknown to the fisherman in Newfoundland. The fear of such taxation, due in part
to the credit system restricting the circulation of money, has, indeed, reached
such proportions that many Newfoundlanders are unable to think reasonably on the
subject or to appreciate that any obligations which they would incur in this
respect would be much more than counterbalanced by a decrease in the cost of living
and in the cost of fishery supplies.
||Baie [sic] de Vieux, 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.
543. Hitherto, the discussions
on the subject of a political union have proceeded on the basis of a Confederation
under the British North America Act. If the sentiment and feeling of the two
countries had been different, it might have been possible to establish a union of
another kind, outside the British North America Act--something entirely new. The
two countries might have worked out a union of some or all such services as are
common services--Railways, Agriculture, Fisheries, Mines, Public Health, Postal
Facilities and other similar services. In each of these services there might be
one common service for Newfoundland and Canada; and Canada, as the larger partner
in the common adventure, might contribute towards the easing of Newfoundland's
burden of debt and thereby enable Newfoundland, by improving her trade and
commerce, to contribute an increasing share to the common fund. But, having regard
to the present feeling in the two countries, we feel that such a union is not
practicable, and that it would serve no useful purpose to consider the question at
the present time.
Assistance from the United Kingdom.
544. The other possible courses
of action falling within the category now under discussion are all dependent in
some degree on assistance from the United Kingdom.
Reluctant as we are to recommend any proposal which would have the
effect of throwing an additional burden on the United Kingdom taxpayer, we are
left, by a process of elimination, with no alternative. In must, indeed, be
frankly recognised that it is wholly beyond the powers of such a small and
impoverished community as the population of Newfoundland to grapple successfully
with the unprecedented difficulties now confronting them. The Canadian Government,
for reasons which have already been explained, is precluded from lending assistance
at the present time. Such assistance can therefore only come from the Mother
Country, and we have no hesitation in saying that the interests of the Island make
it imperative that an immediate appeal should be made to the sympathy and good
offices of the Government of the United Kingdom.
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