CBC Digital Archives

Newfoundland and Confederation: Sewage in the streets

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.

media clip
In 1989, most of Canada enjoys a thriving economy and adequate access to public services. But Newfoundland lags far behind the rest of the country. Town of Mackinsons resident Darlene Mahoney boils her contaminated water before drinking or bathing in it. She can't get money from the government to hook into the province's water lines. "If we wanted a big building or an arena ... I could understand," Mahoney says in a CBC TV report.

Villagers in Benton, Newfoundland lived with effluent in the streets for 15 years. The province's unemployment is 50 to 70 per cent and the average provincial income is just slightly above the poverty line. Newfoundland Finance Minister John Collins sounds desperate when he says Newfoundlanders can't pull through without the Confederation funding promise.
. Term 29 of the union document guaranteed infinite equalization payments for Newfoundland. The term, which was to kick in eight years after Confederation and meant to help the province maintain an adequate level of public services, was never fully implemented.
. For years and to no avail, Joey Smallwood fought for the realization of annual transfer payments. The promised annual amount was $15 million.

• In 1961, he gave up his fight in exchange for possession of former American army base Fort Pepperrell in St. John's. It was offered up to him by then-prime minister John Diefenbaker providing the premier drop negotiations over Term 29.
. In his memoirs I Chose Canada, Smallwood says for six years the phrase Term 29 was among the best-known in the country.
Medium: Television
Program: The National
Broadcast Date: Nov. 12, 1987
Guest(s): Steven Antler, John Collins, Lin Jackson, Darlene Mahoney, George Morgan, Alma Norman, Phyllis Osmond, Neil Windsor
Host: Knowlton Nash
Reporter: Kathryn Wright
Duration: 4:22

Last updated: February 2, 2012

Page consulted on November 13, 2014

All Clips from this Topic

Related Content

Celebrating Canada Day

On July 1, 1867, Canada took its first steps towards official nationhood. It has grown and dev...

Pelts, Pups and Protest: The Atlantic Seal Hu...

Those beseeching eyes were impossible to avoid. In the 1970s images of fuzzy white seal pups w...

Canada's Constitutional Debate: What Makes a ...

In its first hundred years, geography was Canada's most obvious tie that binds. On almost all ...

Has Confederation Been Good for Newfoundland?

Joey Smallwood said it was the narrowest of escapes. Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949...

The Ocean Ranger Disaster

Valentine's Day, 1982: a terrible storm rages off the coast of Newfoundland. On the Grand Bank...

Sir John A. Macdonald: Architect of Modern Ca...

Sir John A. Macdonald has been described as a pragmatic statesman, earning the title of Old Ch...