22 July 2008

This day in history

On this day 60 years ago, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians voted on the future of their country.

In a referendum held on June 3, 1948, they had rejected any continuation of commission government but, as there had been no clear majority for any of the three options, a run-off was set for July 22.

The winner was Confederation with Canada. The option carried a majority of votes - 52% to 48% - and a wide majority of the districts.

While there are those anti-Confederates who have tried consistently since 1946 to attack it, the national convention and the two referenda are something of which Newfoundlanders and Labradorians should be proud.

This was a truly democractic exercise in self-determination in which the fate of the country was placed, not in the hands of a few, but in the hands of the many. The issues were debated and widely discussed. The choices were clear and there were few restrictions on the campaigns. As it turned out, the first referendum showed an over-whelming preference for self-government.

The second referendum decided the form. In the event, voters settled for self-government through Confederation. It has been self-government, that is, government in which the people are responsible for controlling their own affairs, ever since. There are some who find that truth a tad inconvenient, but it remains a fact.

Responsible government returned to Newfoundland and Labrador in 1949 by popular vote. You don't need to argue about what happened after 1949 to celebrate what happened beforehand, culminating in the 1948 referenda.

Too bad Newfoundlanders and Labradorians don't know more about the events.

Even worse that Canadians elsewhere in the country know even less.