CBC Newfoundland and Labrador
60 Years of Confederation

A matter for debate

The 60th anniversary of Newfoundland and Labrador joining Confederation

At one minute before midnight on March 31, 1949, Newfoundland began a new chapter in its history. It was no longer one of the oldest colonies in North America, but now the youngest province in Canada.

The lead up to the actual ceremony took years and was often contentious. There were those who thought Newfoundland and Labrador's economy was in tatters and it needed to join Canada in order to survive. Others were bitterly opposed, believing firmly that Newfoundland and Labrador with its abundant resources would be able to survive on its own.

The subject of whether Newfoundland and Labrador should have joined Canada is debated to this very day. While the province has no plans to formally celebrate the occasion, people in this province passionate about both sides of the discussion will no doubt have plenty to say in the next few days.

What the bloggers are saying:

This province is blessed with a number of bloggers who discuss the affairs of the day.

We're posting some of what they're saying. As well you can join in on the conversation by posting a comment below.

Sir Robert Bond Papers

Confederation 60: thunder

The accomplished fact of union shook the Newfoundland firmament like a clap of thunder. From the very first morning that Newfoundlanders became Canadians it could be predicted with increasing certainty that the political weather of the new province was in for a seismic change and that government – the decisive barometer – would now, under the new dispensation, have to be reckoned with in matters great and small, filling more and more of the horizon of everyone, likewise great and small.

Herbert Pottle, Dawn without light, (St. John’s: Breakwater, 1979) p. 13

Whether or not government filled the political horizon as Herb Pottle predicted, Confederation did shake the people and society of Newfoundland and Labrador.

The reverberations are still being felt.

Doing It With Class

Mr. Smallwood Goes to St. John's

[The following is an excerpt from my honours thesis dealing with Confederation in 1949. As the paper is an investigation of the relationship between class, ideology and state intervention in Newfoundland and Labrador's economic development in the twentieth century, it is less concerned with the specific political wranglings of Confederation and moreso with its overarching significance with regards to the class relations that existed in Newfoundland's politics at the time. Normally I wouldn't have posted this but considering the significance of these two days in our province's history I wanted to share my understanding of the matter with an appreciative audience. Hopefully my account of the Confederation referendum - though brief! - will be stimulating. Footnotes were omitted from this blog posting simply because it would be a pain in the ass to reformat them. - D.]

The political wranglings that led to Confederation with Canada were won almost solely through the efforts of Joseph Smallwood - efforts which played off the silent class tensions that bubbled just beneath the surface of Newfoundland society since the days of William Coaker.

When the National Convention opened in 1946, almost two thirds of the delegates were solidly anti-Confederate, including the entire bloc from St. John's. After his motion to send a delegation to Ottawa to discuss terms of union with Canada was defeated in late 1946, Smallwood came to the conclusion that if the crusade for Confederation was to be won, it would have to be taken out of the Colonial Building in St. John's and directly to the people themselves.

Winston Smith - Orwellian Spin

Foreign Policy in the Republic of Newfoundland

Orwellian News has already taken a glimpse at prospective democracy in the Republic of Newfoundland

An excerpt from Orwellians Spin from March 5, 2009

Democracy in the Republic of Newfoundland

With so much careless blather about an independent Newfoundland, it might be worthwhile to stop, for just a second, to consider what liberal democracy would be like in this much-hyped Utopia.

Rather than speculate idly, why don't we consider the actual words of one of the members of Newfoundland's most powerful family?

Here is an extract from Brian Dobbin's last editorial in the now-defunct Independent

"So since I have paid for the most expensive pulpit in the province for some time, I have one last sermon to deliver."


Open Challenge to readers and to the CBC

Further to last night's post...

CBC Newfoundland & Labrador posts the following in their web story about the province's 60th anniversary:

"Premier Danny Williams had planned last fall to hold a celebration to mark both the anniversary and the province's recent designation as a so-called "have" province, as Newfoundland and Labrador no longer qualifies for equalization."

I challenge anyone to find a single public utterance by the Premier or any of his Ministers in which any of them ever mentioned marking the 60th anniversary prior to threatening to cancel it.

Posted by Mark at 9:25 AM


The view from 1948

Excerpts from the speech by Rev. Lester Burry, the Labrador delegate to the National Convention, and a member of the Convention’s Ottawa delegation, January 13, 1948. Extracted from Hiller and Harrington’s Debates of the National Convention, McGill-Queen's, 1995.