11 December 1948
On December 11, 1948, following two months of discussions the Newfoundland and Canadian negotiating teams signed the terms of union that would eventually see the country of Newfoundland become a province of Canada.
The Newfoundland negotiating team that went to Ottawa to discuss the terms of union was composed of National Convention members Gordon Bradley, J.R. Smallwood, Albert Walsh, Chesley Crosbie, Gordon Winter, John McEvoy, and Philip Gruchy. They met with representatives from the Department of External Affairs, including Louis St. Laurent and Lester Pearson, as well as Prime Minister Mackenzie King.
The teams worked for a period of approximately two months in 1948, using the draft terms from 1947 as a starting point. Although for the most part the process went smoothly, there were a few stumbling blocks, such as the provision of transitional payments to offset Newfoundland’s deficit. The Canadian government was also reluctant to make firm commitments without a legislature present in Newfoundland. Eventually a mutually satisfactory agreement was completed and on December 11, 1948 the terms of union were signed by all except Chesley Crosbie.
Crosbie had been the leader of the Economic Union Party, a party that proposed a free trade agreement with the United States as an alternative to Confederation. He believed that if Newfoundland could export its resources to the United States the economy would be strong enough for responsible government to succeed. He did not sign these terms because he felt that the financial clauses would not allow Newfoundland’s provincial government to balance its books.
The irony is considerable, his son John Crosbie, the former Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, became a prominent politician, serving as a cabinet minister in the government of Brian Mulroney. As the Newfoundland representative in the Canadian federal cabinet he fulfilled his father’s dream and became the architect of the Canada – U.S. Free Trade Agreement.
Recommended Archival Collection: In appending their names to the Terms of Union each of the signatories were given a copy. Did you know that the original provincial copy of the Terms of Union with Canada is held at the Rooms Provincial Archives.
Recommended Exhibit: Here, We Made a Home in The Elinor Gill Ratcliffe Gallery – Level 4. has a copy of the Terms of Union on exhibit.
Recommended Reading: Confederation: Deciding Newfoundland’s Future, 1934 to 1949 by James K. Hiller, St. John’s, Nfld: Newfoundland Historical Society, reprinted with minor corrections 1999.
Recommended Reading: Don’t Tell The Newfoundlanders: The Story Of Newfoundland’s Confederation With Canada by Greg Malone. Knopf Canada (2012).