Eightieth Anniversary Luncheon
The Empire Club of Canada Addresses (Toronto, Canada), 17 Nov 1983, p. 116-130
Smallwood, The Honourable Joseph R., Speaker
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A descriptive history of Newfoundland and Confederation, with many statistical details. Changes in Newfoundland since Confederation.
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17 Nov 1983
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NOVEMBER 17, 1983
Eightieth Anniversary Luncheon
CHAIRMAN The President, Douglas L. Derry, F.C.A.


Distinguished guests, members and friends of The Empire Club of Canada: Our guest speaker today has come from an island which this summer celebrated the four hundredth anniversary of the claim by Sir Humphrey Gilbert, which made Newfoundland Britain's first colony in its Empire outside of the British Isles. Our club's celebration of eighty years seems minor in comparison with Newfoundland's history, and yet it has, over the last eighty years, played a key role as an important forum for discussion and debate of issues vital to Canadians. For this reason, my introductory remarks today are slightly longer than normal.

It all started on November 18, 1903. A dozen gentlemen met for dinner at Webb's Restaurant - at the southwest corner of King and Yonge streets, currently the site of Lulu's Cafe within the Toronto Dominion Bank building - to discuss the formation of a new club for which a name was not at that point decided, although the "British-America Club" was suggested. As expressed by Mrs. Brooks-Hill's* grandfather, James Mason, a militia Lieutenant-Colonel and lawyer, who became the first president, the members were to have the "opportunity of attending weekly meetings at which addresses shall be delivered by men desirable to hear."

*Helen Brooks-Hill, a member of The Empire Club, was that day at the Head Table.

The club was formed at a time of strong public feeling against the British connection. The prior month, Lord Alverstone, the British representative on the six-man Alaska boundary tribunal, had sided with the three American representatives to give the Alaska panhandle to the United States and quite naturally, Canadians were enraged. However, in the opinion of many of the club founders, a severing of the British connection would cause a vacuum, the end result of which might be annexation of Canada by the United States. As Colonel Mason was quoted in the Star of November 19, 1903:

The Club we have in mind will have as its main feature the fostering and continuation of a closer connection with the Empire in order to maintain our integral existence as a self-governing colony. If we seek a parallel as to what might be expected of the United States in case Canada stood alone, we have only to consider their recent action with regard to Panama.

So many actions and decisions in Canada's history have been affected by concerns over our relationship with our closest neighbour!

An organizational meeting was held the next week and the club's constitution and name - The Empire Club of Canada - were agreed upon. The first meeting was then held on December 3, with 90 out of the total initial membership of 160 in attendance. The first speaker was William Clark, a minister and professor who talked about annexation and independence, and who subsequently became the club's second president.

In the eighty years since that time, Canada has evolved from a colony of Britain to an independent nation which is by choice an integral member of the Commonwealth. Fears of American annexation have subsided to be replaced by cycles of concerns regarding our cultural and economic independence and economic opportunities. Our club has grown and evolved with Canada, fulfilling its objectives through weekly meetings with speakers of sufficient interest and calibre that our membership now exceeds twenty-four hundred. Each of the addresses is included verbatim in the yearbook, which has been published continuously since our first year and which is provided free of charge to libraries across Canada by The Empire Club Foundation.

To review these yearbooks is to review the issues confronting Canadians through those years, and the attitudes and viewpoints of the day. With hindsight, many addresses can be seen to have been extraordinarily perceptive and others, quite naturally, could not have been further from the mark. But all served to stimulate informed discussion and debate.

So it is pleasing that our club thrives and continues to fulfil a useful role in our society, and that we have such a good turn-out today to celebrate it. There is little doubt that no small part of this attendance is due to our good fortune in Mr. Smallwood consenting to return to address us.

Joey Smallwood - whenever his name is mentioned, one hears a warm chuckle. His colour, enthusiasm, and energy have caught the imagination of Canadians since he first captured the spotlight as leader of the Confederation-with-Canada Movement in 1947 - and this was after careers as a printer, newspaperman, union organizer, and hog farmer. His efforts in support of Confederation proved successful and upon Newfoundland's Confederation with Canada in 1949, Mr. Smallwood became Newfoundland's first Premier and held that post through interesting and tempestuous times until 1972 - twentythree years. Mr. Smallwood retired from active political life in 1977, but as far as I can tell, this was only to enable him to have sufficient time for his many other activities.

He has written or been editor of fifteen books and five of these have been published since his "retirement." The titles of the books reflect the man - I Chose Canada, No Apology from Me, and The Time Has Come to Tell. In 1981, Volume I of the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, of which he was the editor, was published, and Volume II is to be published early next year. Joey Smallwood is a most unusual and accomplished Newfoundlander and Canadian, and I was delighted when he agreed to come to Toronto to address us at our eightieth anniversary luncheon. He seems to be making Empire Club anniversary luncheons a habit - he last addressed this forum in 1959 on our fifty-sixth anniversary and his topic, not surprisingly, was "Newfoundland."

I am pleased to welcome again the Honourable Joseph R. Smallwood.


Mr. President, ladies and gentlemen: I want you to know that I am very conscious of being welcomed back. It is a great honour, indeed, to be here on this particular occasion. Indeed, to be invited to speak to The Empire Club of Canada is one of Canada's greatest honours. I was very proud when I was invited to speak to you about a quarter of a century ago, and I came to the conclusion then that the two greatest honours that a Newfoundlander and new Canadian could receive were to be invited by The Empire Club to come and speak and to be told by ten of Canada's great universities that he is a scholar. I don't know which of the two was the greater honour.

Your Club was two years old when the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan were formed and it was forty-five years old when the province of Newfoundland and Labrador was created. Around the same time, within about fifteen or eighteen months of Newfoundland's birth as a province a lot of new states were born - the great state of Israel, the People's Republic of China, the Republic of North Korea, the Republic of South Korea, the Republic of East Germany, and the Republic of West Germany - all about forty-five years after your Club came into existence, and then after that again, forty, fifty, sixty, how many other new states came into existence in Africa and other parts of the world? So your Club has become one of the older, one of the senior, institutions of the world. And so it is a great honour indeed to be invited here to speak to you. Incidentally, I myself was three years old when your Club was born. I don't know whether to claim that, to boast about that, or to say it shame-facedly, but I was three years old when your Club, your famous Club, was formed.

When my country of Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949 she was the last part of British North America to join Canada, which she did eighty-two years after Canada was formed, forty-four years after the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan were formed. And the province of Newfoundland is the only one of the ten that joined Canada in the way she did - that is, by a decision made formally in a secret-ballot referendum by the entire population. Now, Newfoundland wasn't born in 1949 - the province was, but Newfoundland was born in 1497, five years after Christopher Columbus sailed across the Atlantic. He was followed by that great man, John Cabot, in 1497. In fourteen years from now, we will have been there on that island for precisely five hundred years. We Newfoundlanders, who were really Englishmen in disguise - Englishmen, Irishmen, Scots, Welsh, French, Channel Islanders - were the original Newfoundlanders who came there in 1497 and in the years immediately following. We came across the Atlantic Ocean to engage in the very humble and very old - unprofitable as we discovered - trade of catching cod, but in doing that we did something else. We founded the mightiest Empire that man has known on this earth. The British Empire was born in St. John's in 1497, when John Cabot sailed in there from Bristol in the west country of England. We have fished there ever since, a very unprofitable trade, excepting the success of a few merchants. Originally, they were English west-country merchants, and on that same cod fishery some of the great families of England were founded; some of the great family fortunes and titles were founded over scores of years and in some cases hundreds. After the Newfoundlanders first settled on our island, other settlers from Europe settled in other parts of this continent - the northern half of this continent - and made feeble clearings in the forest of what is now called Canada and cultivated the land, half-acre by half-acre, seeding between the stumps of the trees, so that by the year that I was born, the year 1900, they had coaxed millions of acres into smiling green meadows and prosperous fields with their barns, stone dwellings, and livestock, local roads and post offices, and a degree of material prosperity that Newfoundland had never known and had never even imagined in all her generations. Newfoundlanders cultivated too, but at the end of those first four hundred years of cultivation Newfoundlanders had no productive meadows, almost no local or any other roads, precious few substantial houses and no standard of material prosperity anywhere near that known in any other part of North America. So you see, during those four hundred years their cultivation, the cultivation of the Newfoundlanders, was of the North Atlantic Ocean. They toiled as no farmers ever toiled in North America, risking death daily - and all the toil and danger had not won an acre for them or earned them much more than unending scarcity on land and on sea and in the home.

Truly, truly, fellow Canadians, as we entered the Canadian Confederation in 1949, we didn't have much to show for over four centuries of toil, even though we are one of the largest islands in the world. Tenth some say, the tenth-largest island, not even including the great Labrador - just the island. But the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island, one-twentieth the size of the island of Newfoundland, on that day that we became a province after four hundred years and more of toil, Prince Edward Island had more miles of roads than we had. We had twelve hundred miles on that great island and of these, ninety-four miles were paved, and fewer than two hundred miles of roads and streets were snowploughed every winter. That's what we were, part of what we were on that day in 1949. In that last year before we entered Confederation, we had one motor car to every sixteen families. We had one hundred and forty-four medical doctors for the whole population. We had seventeen dentists for all Newfoundland and Labrador, and twelve optometrists and opticians the day we became Canadians. We had three hundred nurses in the whole of the new province, nineteen hospitals, most of them just small cottage hospitals. We had the highest TB rate in North America. In that year, we had twenty-four hundred schoolteachers and they were paid on the average $800 per year. In the whole of Newfoundland and Labrador, we had twenty professional engineers. Truly our four-hundred-year effort under eight different forms of government had not paid very handsomely. Three thousand Newfoundlanders who had reached the age of seventy-five or older were receiving our Newfoundland old-age pension - that old-age pension was $30 every quarter. If you had a wife who was also seventy-five you got $30 a quarter for the two of you, not $30 each. The three thousand old-age pensioners in a whole year received slightly over two hundred and fifty thousand dollars. Not all received that at age seventy-five because there were so many folks you may have had to wait till you were seventy-six, seventy-seven, or seventy-eight before you could fit in for the few who died to make room for you. There were three old-age homes in the whole of the new province that year and they had about one hundred and fifty people altogether in them. Undeniably, we really were poor people - poor in money, which is not the only thing there is in the world, as you know.

Well, if Newfoundland was like that, why was it that in that secret-ballot referendum, when the whole population of Newfoundland and Labrador were deciding whether we would become a province of Canada; why was it that forty-eight Newfoundlanders out of every one hundred said no? Why did it require a second referendum before there was that very slender margin in favour of joining this great country?

In the whole of Newfoundland and Labrador our whole population started their careers as Canadians with a total of $115 million of life insurance in effect. There were thirty-two banks in the new province that first year. Now, to find other provinces of Canada whose levels and standards of public service and private living were that low you would have to go back thirty to forty years or even more. Before 1949 you would have to go back a long time, in even the poorest of Canada's nine other provinces. That's how we started our careers as Canadians. But now that we are in our thirty-fifth year - it will be thirty-five the thirty-first of March coming - how does it look? What has the result been? Well, for example, those twelve hundred miles of roads have stretched to six thousand miles and if you were to put them end to end they would reach all the way from St. John's to Victoria across this continent, and in fact, back again almost to Winnipeg. The ninety-four miles of paving have stretched to three thousand miles today, the two hundred miles of snow-cleared roads in the winter are now five thousand miles. The one motor car to every sixteen families is now one motor car to every family, with six thousand cars over and above that number. There are six thousand families with two cars and all other families have the one car. The one hundred and forty-four medical doctors are now a thousand, and the seventeen dentists are now a hundred and thirty; the twelve optometrists and opticians are now a hundred and twenty-eight; the three hundred nurses are now five thousand. Our schoolteachers have increased in number from twenty-four hundred to nearly nine thousand and their average salary has increased from $800 a year average to $31,000 a year average. Our university students were nil - we had none in that first year. It was in that first year that I had the proud privilege of introducing legislation into our House to create our university. But we entered Confederation with not a university and not a university student. This year, we have thirteen thousand unversity students at our own university and our twenty professional engineers are now fourteen hundred, which is about as good an indication as you look for normally, to show the progress of any people or any place. Our three thousand old-age pensioners - you remember they had to be seventy-five or older - are now fifty thousand in number and their total yearly pension in the aggregate from one-quarter of a million dollars per year, is now one-quarter of a billion dollars, over $250 million cash a year between them. As in every part of Canada, the old-age pensions start at the age of sixty-five. Our war veterans - we had a lot of war veterans of World War I, World War II, and the Korean War - we had a lot of war veterans and between them all they received $261,000 a year and now it's $40 million a year. The $115 million life insurance that the whole population had to share between them is now this year $7 billion - seven thousand million dollars in life insurance in effect on the population of Newfoundland. Do you think that any province of Canada can equal that - that rate of increase? The taxable income of our eighteen thousand income-taxpayers that we had the first year of Confederation - the whole of their taxable income has grown from $57 million to three thousand million dollars - $3 billion a year is now the taxable income of the two hundred thousand taxpayers compared with the eighteen thousand. No wonder that the thirty-two banks that we began with as a province of Canada are now a hundred and forty-two banks, because there is a lot more money around and it now takes two thousand bank clerks to handle the money. All this, you see, in thirty-five years - surely the most dramatic transformation of any part of Canada or indeed any part of North America. In that short space of time - at least it seems to me a short space of time while I was growing from forty-nine to eighty-three - it seems awfully short.

Now, talking of education, which we were doing a moment ago, let me say this to you. There are at least half a dozen different lessons that have been learned by our province, any one of which would handsomely justify our meagre decision of fifty-two voters out of every hundred to accept Canada's invitation to us to become Canadians. Education is one, and medicare is another. What a story! It's fantastic, it's a miracle, it's incredible, it's straight from heaven, oh yes, thirty million free medical treatments have been given since medicare came to Newfoundland. On education, iet me tell you that in all of the four hundred years and more before Confederation, the grand total sum of money spent on education in Newfoundland was fifty-five million. Since we became a province, the grand total amount spent on education in thirty-five years - this is to March thirty-first coming, that rounds out to thirty-five years - the grand total amount spent on education in Newfoundland, the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador, is ninety-one times as much as in the four hundred years. It is five thousand million dollars or $5 billion. Quite a difference - $55 million in four hundred years and $5 billion in thirty-five years. There have been five new colleges since Confederation: the college of fisheries and navigation, which is probably the third-greatest college of its kind in the world, exceeded only by ones in the Soviet Union and Japan. We have students there from all around the world - it's a very great college of fisheries and navigation. The college of trades and technology, the college of engineering, the college of nursing, the college of medicine, and the crowning glory of all, Memorial University.

Now, if you are wondering where all these riches have been coming from, and if you are wondering why it is that we Newfoundland Canadians are better fed, better clothed, better housed, better educated, and healthier than we ever even hoped to be, if you are wondering about that, begin first of all by taking a good hard look at Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick, and perhaps Manitoba. These provinces, like Newfoundland, are Canada's five remaining "have not," or so-called have not, provinces. What's happening in Newfoundland and has been happening for thirty-five years is exactly what's happening in all of Canada's so-called have not provinces. What Newfoundland is getting she is getting very largely indeed from Canada and the difference the decision about what Newfoundland gets and what the other "have not" provinces get from Canada is altogether trifling. This is not necessarily trifling in actual amounts, but only on a per capita basis. There is no other fair way to compare. In each year, for thirty-five years, since we became a province in 1949, without exception, over half of the entire year's revenue of the government of our province has been paid directly to that government - and I received it for twenty-three years and I wrote twenty-three budget speeches - it doesn't matter who delivered them - I delivered five or six of them myself - every year without exception a bit more than one-half of the entire revenue has been paid to the Newfoundland government by the people of Canada through the federal government. That money has been mailed, and continues to be mailed, every month from Ottawa to St. John's.

In each year since we became a province, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have received one thousand million dollars a year - $1 billion a year - from the people of Canada through Ottawa, with Newfoundlanders paying around a quarter of that back to the Government of Canada in federal taxes. And many millions of it back to the Canadian people in purchases of Canadian goods and services.

When the balance sheet is drawn up, it would take a dull-witted fellow indeed not to see that Confederation is little short of a heavenly gift to Newfoundland. A large part of the money going into the pockets of the Newfoundland people comes, as I said, from the Government of Canada - $60 million a year in family allowances, $171 million a year for old-age security, $400 million a year for unemployment, $80 million a year to railroaders, $32 million to the war veterans, and over $100 million to federal employees, not counting thousands of other people. There is not one person in Newfoundland and Labrador today who does not regularly pocket Ottawa money every year, either as a direct recipient or indirectly. If you are a shopkeeper, you are getting in indirectly from your customers, who get it directly from Ottawa.

It comes to a thousand million dollars a year, $1 billion, paid directly in monthly cheques made out in Ottawa and mailed to hundreds of thousands of people living in Newfoundland. Of course, they spend the money - they could spend a lot more - and it's not easy in Newfoundland today, and I suppose in many other provinces - it's not easy to spend money without contributing some taxes to the government of the province in provincial taxes. As a result, payments made directly to the government of Newfoundland and directly to the people of Newfoundland who pay taxes to the government of Newfoundland, make up a minimum of sixty cents of every dollar that the Newfoundland government takes in and has taken in every year for the past thirty-five years. A thousand million dollars a year direct to the people, a thousand million dollars a year direct to the Newfoundland government - $2 billion. Now, in addition to that, our own provincial economy, our fisheries, farms, forests, factories, and mines, all put together put another $1 billion into the pockets of the Newfoundland people. So you have three great amounts of $1 billion each. A billion direct to the Newfoundland government from Ottawa, a billion direct to the Newfoundland people from Ottawa, and a billion a year from Newfoundland's own economy, three billion a year, three thousand million dollars. Without Confederation, you'd cut that down to one-third. Indeed, I am not sure that it would be even one-third that you would have left. I'm not sure that our economy would be what it is today, if we were not part of Canada.

Well, you get a province where there is talk of separation. Separatism is the talk of jackasses. You have to be a jackass, and may I please remind you that we have not been deprived of our proper share of jackasses any more than you have in this great empire province of Canada. There are twenty-five million of us Canadians now. One million of them are Newfoundlanders: six hundred thousand of us living in Newfoundland and Labrador and four hundred thousand of us living in the other nine provinces and two territories. You have at least one hundred thousand of them here in Toronto and other towns in Ontario - at least one hundred thousand Newfoundlanders. You have some of them here today. I speak for those million Canadians who are Newfoundlanders.

In the first twenty-three years of our Confederation, I never built a thousand or two or three or four or five thousand miles of new roads, or thirty-eight new hospitals, or eleven hundred new schools, or a university, or five colleges, or anything else without being smart enough to be a politician. You don't stay in office as Premier unless you have some kind of shrewdness as a politician. You have to have some shrewdness and I never built a road or a school or a hospital or a college or a park or anything else without giving myself the ineffable joy of opening it. And in doing so, making a speech. And in every speech - and I mean every speech - thousands of them quite literally, thousands in twenty-three years - in every speech, reminding my fellow Newfoundlanders that you would not have this road, this school, this hospital, this college, this university, you wouldn't have it, you couldn't have it, if you were not Canadians. If we were not a province. So, for twenty-three years you weren't allowed to forget. Not at all. Not that you were wanting to forget it. But now, for the past eleven years, they haven't heard a word, not one word, of praise of Canada. Not one word of thanks expressed publicly to the people, not one reminder that you wouldn't have this and you couldn't have that, if you weren't part of Canada and, in the meantime, in those eleven years, tens and tens of thousands - I have the actual figures but they'd only bore you - but tens of thousands of Newfoundlanders have died and normally, as anywhere else, the people who die are not the youngsters, they are the oldsters. They are the people who knew, oh how they knew, what Newfoundland was like before. They are gone and today 70 per cent of the entire population living in Newfoundland, 70 per cent of them have been born and raised since we joined Confederation in 1949, and in the past eleven years, not a word or a syllable has been spoken publicly to them to remind them of the greatness of Canada. The nobility of Canada - to remind them that Canada is not only the second-largest land mass of our earth, but one of the most respected and envied lands in all the world. No one to remind them.

Well, in the early 1920s, I was a reporter living in New York City and along with the whole world, I was enthralled by the marvellous discovery and opening up of the tomb in Egypt of a young Egyptian King, Tutankhamun, and the marvels that were found in the tomb of that remarkable young king. As you know, Tutankhamun lived thirteen hundred years before Christ. But it was not until 1922 that they discovered and entered his tomb and in the tomb, among the priceless things found, was a large earthenware vase. Its mouth was sealed and when the seal was broken, the vase was seen to contain grains, corn, maize, or rye and the grains seemed to scientists to be in incredibly perfect condition after the thirty-two hundred years the vase had been sealed. They decided to find out whether that grain still really did have life in it. They planted the grain in the earth. It took root. It grew, life was in it all those thirty centuries, after more than thirty-two hundred years.

Newfoundland was like that. The English, Irish, Scots, Welsh, Channel Islanders, French, and other people who came to Newfoundland centuries ago carried in their very genes the greatness of the people of whom they were a part. The Newfoundland environment, however, the hard life, the hard times, was not ideal for the sprouting of the seed that was within. But the seed was there. It was sealed, but it was there. All that was needed to bring about rich germination was to break that seal by a transformation of the environment, in short, Confederation. Now, in Newfoundland, we all are enjoying the richest harvest time that ever was known. The stuff was in us.

Thank you.

The appreciation of the audience was expressed by Sydney Hermant, the senior Past President of The Empire Club of Canada.

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Eightieth Anniversary Luncheon

A descriptive history of Newfoundland and Confederation, with many statistical details. Changes in Newfoundland since Confederation.