William Joseph BROWNE

BROWNE, The Hon. William Joseph, P.C., Q.C., B.A.

Personal Data

Progressive Conservative
St. John's West (Newfoundland and Labrador)
Birth Date
May 3, 1897
Deceased Date
January 10, 1989
barrister, judge

Parliamentary Career

June 27, 1949 - June 13, 1953
  St. John's West (Newfoundland and Labrador)
June 10, 1957 - February 1, 1958
  St. John's West (Newfoundland and Labrador)
  • Minister Without Portfolio (June 21, 1957 - October 10, 1960)
March 31, 1958 - April 19, 1962
  St. John's West (Newfoundland and Labrador)
  • Minister Without Portfolio (June 21, 1957 - October 10, 1960)
  • Solicitor General of Canada (October 11, 1960 - August 9, 1962)

Most Recent Speeches (Page 449 of 449)

September 21, 1949

Mr. Browne (St. John's West):

I did not

hear the first part of the remark.

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September 21, 1949

Mr. W. J. Browne (St. John's West):

Mr. Speaker, as this is the first time that representatives of Newfoundland have taken seats in this honourable house, and as we have been welcomed in the speech from the throne, I do not think it is inappropriate that one of us should address the house upon the general issues now under discussion. Everyone has seemed so genuinely glad to have us here; and, as we have been treated with such universal kindness and courtesy, I would deem it ungracious if some one of us did not make suitable acknowledgment of that treatment. I am deeply conscious of the unique honour that has been bestowed upon me and, if I may say so, it is somewhat ironical that I, who fought confederation as long as I could, should be the one to whom this honour and privilege have been given.

I hold no brief for the other hon. members from Newfoundland who sit in this house, but I believe that I speak what must be in their minds when I say that we are all impressed with the elaborate arrangements that have been made by the people of Canada for their legislators. This beautiful Gothic structure, so medieval in its architectural style and so modern in its appointments, must be one of the glories of Canada, where legislation should be brought forward and fully discussed and passed in excellent style. It should be regarded as the highest honour that can come to any man to be selected to come here and help pass the laws of his country. It should be his proudest ambition and his fondest hope that by the excellence of her laws Canada should become ever more worthy of the respect and admiration of the other nations of the world.

During the past few days we new members have witnessed the zeal and the interest and the fervour displayed by the older members of the house. While it arouses in our timid hearts a feeling of envy, yet I think it also

stirs up in us a spirit of emulation of their behaviour. I should like to congratulate you, Sir, upon your elevation to the high office that you hold. A couple of days ago we were presented with great volumes of rules and standing orders that could not help but strike terror into our hearts. So much so that we would have been too timid to address you if it were not for the fact that we have been greeted with such charitable encouragement by the members of all parties. For this we are truly grateful.

In accordance with the long-established practice, I should like to congratulate the hon. member for Nicolet-Yamaska (Mr. Boisvert) and the hon. member for Vancouver South (Mr. Laing) on the fine speeches they made when carrying out a most difficult task. As I listened to the hon. member for Nicolet-Yamaska I found that what he had to say was most interesting. I trust that other hon. members found his remarks stimulating because in my opinion he put forward the true opinion which every hon. member ought to have of the importance of agriculture to this country.

Agriculture is the most important industry in Canada. The ideal which he expressed, and which found an echo in the statement of the hon. member for Kootenay West (Mr. Herridge), that people should follow agriculture, not as a profitable and large industry, as it is becoming in so many places, but as a way of living, is, it seems to me, the proper one, one which has received the highest praise from no less an authority than His Holiness the Pope.

Since, unfortunately, agriculture has been neglected in Newfoundland, and as I have advocated the fostering of agriculture for so many years and written many articles about it in our local magazines, I trust it will be one of the first tasks of the Minister of Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) to see to it that as soon as possible some of these fine experimental stations that are operating in the other provinces of Canada will be set up in Newfoundland, in order that our people may have demonstrated clearly to their eyes how in agriculture they can find a way to a happy and comfortable form of living.

As I listened to the hon. member for Vancouver South (Mr. Laing) speak of his beautiful province I dreamed of a land where it was always afternoon, but when I heard the hon. member for Macleod (Mr. Hansell) speak of the fogs and the heat waves that repelled him when he visited there, and yesterday when I heard of the vicious pests and the curious diseases that afflicted the fruits of that province, I felt that after all Newfoundland was not such a bad place.


The Address-Mr. W. J. Browne

Our island, Mr. Speaker, has its places of beauty that stir our hearts and make us love her. We have our historic landmarks where in days gone by the two great pioneer races, the French and the English, fought for the mastery of this continent. In my district there is St. John's, and despite what the hon. member for Cape Breton South (Mr. Gillis) may say, St. John's is the place where Cabot discovered the new world in 1497, where in 1583 Sir Humphrey Gilbert laid the cornerstone of the British empire. In my district there is also the little settlement of Ferry-land. Those who followed the election contest in St. John's West may have heard of it. Ferryland is a very historic settlement because it was there that Lord Baltimore first made his attempt at colonizing the new world. It was there that Sir David Kirke, the conqueror of Quebec and the captor of Champlain and the saintly Breboeuf, set up a grog shop when he had fallen upon evil days.

In the same district we have the beautiful settlement of Placentia, which was once the French capital and came under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Quebec and the saintly Bishop Laval. The people of that place are still proud to call it the ancient capital. Nearly one hundred years ago the sisters of the Order of Presentation came from Ireland and set up their schools there. Personages prominent in the social, political and ecclesiastical life of our country were born there. The present Archbishop of St. John's, who has presided over his See for thirty-four years now, was born there, and his coadjutor archbishop, whose early death a few days ago was lamented by so many, was also born there.

St. John's West has other features of interest besides its beauty and its historic monuments. I believe many members of the house have visited St. John's and know what an important naval base it was during the war. They know the strategic value of Newfoundland. It has always been of great strategic value, and it was the possession of Newfoundland that gave Great Britain a real chance to conquer the western world. A few miles from Placentia there is the great naval base of Argentia where President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill met during the war and signed the Atlantic charter.

I am proud to be the representative not only of the industrious fisherfolk of the districts of Ferryland, Placentia and St. Mary's, but also of the people of St. John's.

If I may revert to the proceedings of last Thursday afternoon, some hon. members from Newfoundland must have felt a certain nostalgia when they witnessed the scenes of a few days ago, because if it had not been for confederation perhaps we might have been wit-

nessing them as the hon. member for Grand Falls-White Bay (Mr. Ashbourne), the hon. member for Bonavista-Twillingate (Mr. Bradley), and I witnessed them together twenty-five years ago when we sat in the same house.

I know that hon. members heard a great deal about Newfoundland in this house in the early part of this year and also last year, but I trust that they will forgive me. I do not intend to tell a prolonged story, but very briefly I wish to review the important facts and incidents that led up to our presence here today. The people of Canada, especially those who live in the western provinces, know the effects of the 1929 stock market crash. We did not feel them until 1931 when the government of the day was suddenly surprised to find that they could not borrow any more money. Then there was a wonderful to-do. Everybody tried to economize, to cut down salaries, and all kinds of expedients were adopted to save the country's economy. In 1932 the storm broke with a vengeance. There were riots; people stormed the House of Assembly where the members were in session. The government was -forced to hold an election.

In the avalanche that overtook the government a new government was elected of which I had the honour to be a member, and although we strove manfully to restore the shaken fabric of our country, it was impossible. A royal commission, on which there were two Canadian representatives and one Englishman, decided, after having considered every kind of solution, even confederation- the government of Canada was not prepared to accept Newfoundland into confederation- that a form of government which had been tried once before in Cromwell's time, namely a commission of government, should be introduced into Newfoundland with three Newfoundlanders and three Englishmen, and presided over by His Excellency the Governor.

We had great hopes that when politics were set aside our people would be united in a great effort, and we would quickly restore our country's prosperity. Unfortunately that did not happen, and although on the whole we got fairly good government, it was not until 1941, with the arrival of the United States troops, that things began to change. The construction of those great bases at Fort Pepperell in St. John's and at Argentia in Placentia bay put hundreds of millions of United States dollars into Newfoundland and quickly restored prosperity so that from that time, as hon. members know, Newfoundland was prosperous, had millions of dollars to her credit, and was able to lend Great Britain the sum of $14 million.

It was a condition of the appointment of the commission of government that respons-

ible government should be restored when the prosperity of the country was on a sound basis. This was not done. It is easy to understand our people becoming apathetic and lethargic. They were living well, nothing was troubling them, and they did not bother about politics any more. Nobody took the initiative strongly enough to put forward representations for the return of responsible government. At last the initiative was taken by the British government, which decided that it would hold a national convention. Forty-five members from forty-one districts in Newfoundland and Labrador sat in the convention in St.-John's. They met on September 11, 1946, and for sixteen months they discussed all the various features concerning Newfoundland's economy and her political future.

Hon. members, I am sure, are aware that the delegation which was sent to England from the convention returned discomfited. A delegation was then sent to Ottawa and returned. In October, 1947, a letter was received by the Governor of Newfoundland from Mr. Mackenzie King laying down the terms upon which Newfoundland would enter confederation. Beyond those, he could not go. A firm of chartered accountants in Montreal found that the new province would have a deficit of over $4,000,000 per year if those terms were accepted.

Later on, after the convention had turned down confederation, and the elections were held, another delegation came and the terms were changed. But let me tell you what happened in the convention, because I believe it should be known. By a vote of 29 to 16 the convention decided it wanted responsible government restored. The chairman said we could not have that alone on the ballot. Two things had to be put on the ballot, so it was decided to put on "commission of government" which no one in the convention wanted.

When the convention was closed the Secretary of State for Dominion Affairs in England said that the question of confederation had occupied so much of the time of the government members in Ottawa and had been so fully discussed in Newfoundland that the people should be in a position to vote on it. He believed, therefore, that they ought to have the right to vote on it, and that was done. The first referendum was carried out and there was a majority of five or six thousand in favour of responsible government. Commission of government was removed from the ballot, a second referendum held, and confederation won by a majority of approximately six thousand.

After that, we had more elections. I do not wish to go into the question too fully, but elections were held. Now, sir, it is only reasonable to believe that if an event of such

The Address-Mr. W. J. Browne tremendous importance to the people as their future government is to be considered, then elected representatives should be the ones to consider the problem. Who was considering the fortunes of Newfoundland last year? A commission of government not elected by the people-in fact, some of them had been rejected by the people.

If there were to be negotiations with this great country of Canada, at what a disadvantage were our people when they had to pick men off the street and send them up here without the necessary prestige which the members who represented the government of Canada possessed? Contrast that situation with what occurred in 1895 when the delegation consisted of Mr. Bond, Mr. Morris, Mr. Emerson and Mr. Horwood. Mr. Bond afterwards became the Right Hon. Sir Robert Bond; Mr. Morris became Lord Morris, and Mr. Horwood was later knighted and made chief justice of the country. These were the finest men we had in the country who were sent up here at that time. Does it not stand to reason that, if a country is to be properly represented, this is the type of man we should send? Inexperienced men were sent this time and the right hon. the Prime Minister and his government must have seen they had a tremendous advantage in debating power over our so-called representatives.

Now, sir, I have stated to my constituents that if I was elected to this house I would ask someone on the government side to explain to me and to the people of Newfound'-land-because it has not been explained as yet -what the principle was upon which the financial terms were decided in 1947 and in 1948. For some little time, sir, I have studied the question of confederation between the various provinces of Canada. As hon. members know, the principle adopted at that time was that the per capita debt of Canada and the per capita debt of the provinces were the bases upon which the financial terms were settled. That was the principle which was adopted in 1895, and that was the principle upon which the discussions had taken place at an earlier date.

I have before me the sessional papers of Canada for 1895. I will read from the memorandum the terms proposed by Mr. Mackenzie Bowell, the Prime Minister of Canada:

Canada will assume of present debt of Newfoundland, $8,350,000.

Canada will assume an excess of debt over the $8,350,000 amounting to $2,000,000, a total of $10,350,000.

The deduction is very simple. This is equal to $50 per head of Newfoundland's population of 207,000. On the excess of $2,000,000, Canada was to pay interest at five per cent per annum. In 1895, the position was that


The Address-Mr. W. J. Browne the per capita debt of Canada was $50 per head. Newfoundland's debt was $15,000,000, or $75 per head. The government of Mackenzie Bowell refused pointblank to accept any further responsibility because of the fear of repercussions in the other provinces of Canada.

On April 16, 1895, he wrote to the Earl of Aberdeen as follows:

Referring to our conversation of yesterday afternoon, I enclose herewith a memorandum showing the financial aspect of our negotiations with the Newfoundland delegates, from which Your Excellency will learn the difficulties that lie in the way of our acceding to the full request of the representatives of that colony. If these figures and explanations are not sufficiently clear and elaborate, kindly let me know, and I will furnish any other that Your Excellency may require.

His idea was that Great Britain should assume the debt of $5,000,000. It was because of this that negotiations fell through.

After the referendum had been taken in 1948 and the people had by a majority endorsed the policy of confederation, a delegation was sent to Canada. This delegation was in a position, because those who opposed confederation in Newfoundland had shown it beyond any shadow of doubt, to say that the terms proposed by the Right Hon. W. L. Mackenzie King were insufficient. The terms were then improved, but have we been given a permanent grant to make allowance for the difference in the per capita debt of the two countries? What is the per capita debt of Canada today? Is anyone in this house in a position to tell me? Is it $1,000 or $1,400? The per capita debt of Newfoundland last year was $200. The per capita debt of Canada was seven times as great. Does that not mean that the people of Newfoundland have now taken upon their shoulders this tremendous burden of Canadian debt? The per capita debt of Newfoundland is not now $200 but $1,400.

I doubt very much whether, under those terms, the people will be able to continue. They have been given an increased transitional allowance. I made a calculation of the amount of revenue which was left to Newfoundland after income taxes were taken away, after customs duties and excise taxes were removed. According to the figures supplied by the black book published by the dominion government, about $1,000,000 remains to Newfoundland. Of course, we were given a grant of $6,000,000 instead of the income tax, but that only brings Newfoundland's revenue up to $7,000,000.

The cost of operating public works alone over the last ten years has been about $10 million a year, public health between $6 million and $7 million a year, and education in the neighbourhood of $5 million a year. What

we shall find now is that the poor deluded people of Newfoundland will be told that they must find other sources of revenue. In the various districts, in Placentia and St. Mary's, and in the districts that my hon. friends from Newfoundland represent, the people will be told, "You cannot get this money to spend on education now. We have not got it to give you. You will have to find it yourself. You must do what is done in the other provinces of Canada where fifty per cent of the money for education, health and welfare, and public works comes from the people directly through direct taxation." We have not been accustomed to that form of direct taxation. It is only those people whose salaries are in the higher brackets, men who pay income tax, who have been accustomed to direct taxation. The majority of our people on small incomes have been accustomed to contribute to the revenue in an indirect manner.

I told my constituents that I would ask some spokesman from the government side to explain the principle upon which the financial terms of the agreement were settled. We come here now-at any rate, I do-to seek justice and an amelioration of these terms. If our leader had been elected at the head of a party in the majority, I believe we would have had a good chance, if we could put forward a just case, for the amelioration of these terms. It may be asked what our attitude will be. I am sure hon. members must be curious to know what will be the attitude of those of us who fought hard against confederation, who were opposed to confederation in principle, or who were opposed to the means by which it was brought about, or who were opposed to the terms which were inadequate. Having given careful thought to this important matter, I should like to say that we accept the fact of confederation and that, in the interests of peace, harmony and unity, we shall work for the welfare and benefit of the country as a whole. But, Mr. Speaker, we shall always look for and expect just treatment on the part of the government.

I now wish to refer especially to two matters mentioned in the speech from the throne. The first is the trans-Canada highway. As you know, Mr. Speaker, for various reasons our country is sparsely populated and our people are interested mainly in the fisheries which surround that island, with its thousands of miles of inlets and bays. The interior of the country is hardly developed. Nevertheless, we have built over twenty-five hundred miles of roads. It is true that not all of them are first-class roads. Most of them are far from second-class. But we have the beginning of a trans-insular highway. Less than two hundred miles of roads remain to be built to link up the east and the west. If

;he road is built from Port aux Basques ;ven to Corner Brook it will open up perhaps ;he richest part of our country and the most ittractive part from the tourists' point of /iew. All the beautiful salmon rivers to .vhich so many United States tourists come ;very year will then be open to them to drive along. Further than that, I believe that it will open up good land. Land will be accessible and people will be able to get aasily to the markets and to the railway, [f this road is built in our country, and t trust that it will be, and if the Minister af Agriculture (Mr. Gardiner) takes the .nterest that I hope he will take in our country, I believe the country will make some progress.

But there is another feature about the system of highways in Newfoundland to which I should like to direct attention. This devaluation of the pound will have serious repercussions on our principal exports; and we are a Large exporting country in proportion to our total trade. We send to Europe fish for which we have been paid in sterling, now blocked on the other side. We send iron ore to England. Before the war we sent a great deal of ore to Germany. We send paper to England. I saw in the newspapers only today statements by the managers of the two paper companies at Grand Falls and Corner Brook expressing serious concern at the situation that has now arisen. The manager at Bell Island says that it is going to create new difficulties in the exportation of their ore. That is another reason for the difficulties. But the first reason, which I did not mention, was that already there has been a sort of depression in Newfoundland. I will not blame it on confederation. I think I would rather blame it on the Liberal victory. The rosy promises that were held out about the boom that was going to take place and the prosperity that was going to be everywhere have not been fulfilled. Family allowances are a good thing. I think I was the first one in Newfoundland to advocate them. If our own responsible government had been restored to us when it should have been restored I believe we would have had family allowances before you did in Canada, Mr. Speaker. But these things are not sufficient to make up for the people over sixteen and under seventy who are out of work. We need employment; we need development in agriculture; and we need prosperous fisheries. This year in many places the fisheries have been far from prosperous. Already there has been curtailment in work in the woods. Lumbermen have been sent home earlier than usual. There is to be curtailment in the manufacture of sulphite pulp in Corner Brook. It will be seen what all these things add up to, namely, that 45781-10

The Address-Mr. W. J. Browne the government of the province of Newfoundland from its inception is faced with extremely serious financial and economic difficulties.

There is one other thing in the speech from the throne to which I should like to make reference and it has been extensively referred to here today. I refer to the housing situation. I intend to mention some examples of housing in various places, and first of all I shall mention housing in Ottawa. It is regrettable that so distinguished a person as the Prime Minister (Mr. St. Laurent) should find it difficult to get a place to live. I think it is really pathetic, and it is not worthy of this country that he should be placed in a difficulty of that kind. But anyone who picks up the Ottawa papers and reads the advertisements of "apartments wanted" will find a situation that I think is un-Christian. We find such examples as these: "Quiet young couple with no children", "Married couple with no children seek apartment", and so on. Several advertisements point out the fact that the seekers for accommodation have no children. Last summer in Trepassey, a little settlement in my district, I met a lady who was married in Toronto. I said, "I thought you were living in Toronto." She said, "No, I had to come home. For four months I walked the streets of Toronto looking for a place for our family, and everywhere I went I was asked, 'Have you any children?' I said 'yes.' I was then told, 'Sorry, we do not take families with children'." She said to them, "What am I supposed to do with my children? Shoot them?" I hope in a moment to make reference to this matter again. But it is not surprising that the government is criticized for its failure with regard to the housing problem when I saw an advertisement like this in the paper a couple of days ago under "apartments wanted":

Two permanent government girls, or small bachelor suitable for one girl.

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