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Newfoundland and Confederation: Smallwood on Term 29

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.

Joey Smallwood says he wouldn't change a thing, reflecting on Newfoundland joining Confederation -- 10 years after the fact. But the premier charges that Canada has still not lived up to its side of the deal. Smallwood tells CBC Radio that the federal government promised a transfer payment system, in which the "have" provinces help out the "have-nots." In Term 29 of the 1949 union document, Newfoundland was guaranteed continual special aid. Payments were to kick in eight years after Confederation.

Ten years since joining Confederation, Newfoundland has received no payment.
One journalist challenges Smallwood: Does Newfoundland really need "special" treatment? The premier argues Newfoundland services lag behind Nova Scotia's by 25 years. He is resolute, "As long as water runs wet and grass grows green ... Term 29 should last."
• Smallwood (1900-1991) called himself "the only living father of Confederation."
• He grew up very poor in St. John's, Nfld. Smallwood was a pig farmer and worked as a newspaper and radio journalist before he was premier from 1949 to 1971.
• Following recommendations from provincial economic developer Alfred Valdmanis, Smallwood overwhelmingly favoured new industry. He offered industrial entrepreneurs government grants.

• Many of Smallwood's start-ups were unsuited to the province and failed, including Superior Rubber Company, Adler Chocolate Factory and Newfoundland Tanneries. Rawhide tanning, for example, required dry weather conditions uncharacteristic to Newfoundland's maritime climate.
• In reaction to failed ventures, the provincial government promoted the fishery as a viable alternative. The Feds expanded fishing zones from 16 to 322 kilometres in 1977. Unemployment was offset with social benefits.
Medium: Radio
Program: Cross Section
Broadcast Date: April 9, 1959
Guest(s): Joey Smallwood
Moderator: Charles Lynch
Panellist: Arthur Blakeley, Mark Harrison, Robert Duffy
Duration: 6:54

Last updated: December 12, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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