‘Who ac­tu­ally de­cided on New­found­land’s union with Canada?’

The Compass - - OPINION -

A sup­porter of the 1949 con­spir­acy the­ory, asked by Randy Simms on “Open Line” re­cently to give one fact sup­port­ing the truth­ful­ness of the the­ory, replied that “Canada and Bri­tain ap­pointed the del­e­gates who ne­go­ti­ated the terms of union and New­found­lan­ders had no say in it.”

Among the par­tial facts, fic­tion and fancy that make up the essence of the the­ory, this would fall some­where be­tween fic­tion and fancy.

The peo­ple of New­found­land elected the mem­bers of the Na­tional Con­ven­tion and th­ese mem­bers elected the del­e­gates to ne­go­ti­ate terms of union for New­found­lan­ders to con­sider. The terms ne­go­ti­ated by the del­e­ga­tion were brought back and pub­licly de­bated for seven months be­fore the fi­nal ref­er­en­dum. New­found­lan­ders knew well the is­sues and what they were vot­ing for by ref­er­en­dum day.

So, who ac­tu­ally de­cided on New­found- land’s union with Canada?

Was it Eng­land, Canada, or both? Nei­ther; it was the lit­tle man in the fish­ing boat, on the farm, or work­ing in the fac­to­ries, the stores, on the waterfront, etc., who seized con­trol of his coun­try’s des­tiny by ex­er­cis­ing his choice for his fu­ture, with the mark­ing of a sim­ple “X” on a bal­lot pa­per. That sim­ple “X” ended 450 years of servi­tude to a sys­tem be­yond his con­trol.

If New­found­lan­ders had voted by dis­tricts based on those rep­re­sented in the Na­tional Con­ven­tion, the out­come would have been a land­slide Con­fed­er­ate vic­tory of 29 to 9. Among the 47 per cent vot­ing against Con­fed­er­a­tion were 12 to 15 per cent pro-Con­fed­er­ates who voted re­spon­si­ble government as a step to­wards Con­fed­er­a­tion. Had they voted di­rectly for Con­fed­er­a­tion, the mar­gin of vic­tory would have been higher.

The next step to­wards Con­fed­er­a­tion was to sign the terms of union. The New­found­land Com­mis­sion of Government ap­pointed a (sec­ond) del­e­ga­tion to fi­nal­ize union.

Gor­don Win­ter, a strong anti- Con­fed­er­ate, and Joe Small­wood, pro-Con­fed­er­ate leader, served on this sec­ond del­e­ga­tion to Ot­tawa. Af­ter­wards, Win­ter said that Small­wood “...fought tena­ciously and con­tin­u­ally for ev­ery ad­van­tage and ben­e­fit that could be ob­tained.”

Th­ese sec­ond set of ne­go­ti­a­tions im­proved upon the first. As the orig­i­nal terms of union, the ma­jor­ity of New­found­lan­ders were sat­is­fied enough with them to choose Con­fed­er­a­tion. Democ­racy had been served.

Jack Fitzger­ald writes from St. John’s

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