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Newfoundland enters Confederation

Joey Smallwood said it was the narrowest of escapes. Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949 by a referendum result of 52 to 48 per cent. Smallwood, a small but tough man with horn-rimmed glasses, fought stellar orator and anti-Confederate Peter Cashin. Many benefits came with joining Canada; a university, better highways. But average income still hovers near the poverty line. Today, a commission investigates whether Canada broke its 1949 funding promise.

One minute before midnight on March 31, 1949, Newfoundland enters into Confederation with Canada. The Dominion now spans seven time zones and nearly 6,000 kilometres. Starting from Cape Spear on Newfoundland's eastern-most tip, the country stretches to the western border of the Yukon Territories.
By April 1, prices have already dropped drastically for food, clothing and freight. A promise of baby bonus and a stable economy comes from the federal government.

Perks aside, patriotic Newfoundlanders mourn the loss of their independence.
The St. John's Daily News publishes "The Lament for Newfoundland," a poem by anti-Confederate Albert Perlin. On CBC Radio, a seal hunter who voted against Confederation says, "Whatever they want to call me, I'll still be a Newfoundlander at heart."
. Roman Catholics and St. John's elites were generally anti-Confederate.
. Protestants and communities near Nova Scotia tended to be for Confederation.
. Women supported Confederation because of the baby bonus and for duty-free ordering from the Eaton's catalogue.
. Almost immediately Newfoundlanders began receiving baby bonuses, old age pensions and veteran benefits.

. Rumour has it that officials brought the province into Confederation one minute before midnight March 31, 1949, to avoid the union being considered an April Fools' joke.
. Smallwood was sworn in as interim premier of Newfoundland on April 1, 1949.

. Anti-Confederates believed there was a Confederation conspiracy. Saturday Night magazine published one man's anti-Confederate account. He said the referendum was rigged and that England was "in cahoots" with Canada and Canada was "in cahoots" with Joey Smallwood.
. In 1951, Progressive Conservative leader Peter Cashin ran and was defeated by Premier Smallwood. Cashin was a First World War hero, staunch anti-Confederate and stellar orator.

. Journalist Grace Sparks also ran in the 1951 election as a Progressive Conservative candidate for Burin District. She was the first woman to run for MP in Newfoundland.
. Baby bonus was a monthly payment made to women with children under the age of 18 by the federal government.
Medium: Radio
Program: CBC Radio News
Broadcast Date: April 1, 1949
Host: Bill Reid
Reporter: Joseph McSween
Duration: 2:36
Photo: National Archives of Canada / PA-133280

Last updated: April 1, 2014

Page consulted on April 1, 2014

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