Advantages Of Confederation In Canada Essay


Advantages & Disadvantages of Federalism

Ryan Wiseman



When it comes to the system of federalism that we practice in the United States, there are many advantages as well as disadvantages. Some of the pros and cons of federalism will be given, with reasons as to why it is believed that the benefits of federalism outweight its detriments.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of federalism, as a form of government, and do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages? There are many advantages and disadvantages to our federal system of government, the benefits of which many believe outweigh the negatives. Below are the reasons why this may be the case, but before we dive into why the advantages may outweigh the disadvantages of federalism, let's first look at the list of the positives and negatives, the pros and cons, of federalism, many of which are listed elsewhere.

Arguments for Why Federalism is Beneficial:

  • As a Protection Against Tyranny – One of the most important points of federalism in dividing the power between the national government and state governments, and spreading the national government’s power among three branches that serve as a check and balance on each other, is that it serves as a deterrent to tyranny and runaway power. The protections we have in our system against a tyrannical, runaway government are one of the most important points to why the system was designed the way it was.
  • Diffusing Power – The form of federalism that we have in our country, where power is shared with state governments, and where the federal government is separated into three branches, serves as a means to make sure that all power is not centralized into a single person or group of people, since excessive power among a single group tends to be corrupting.
  • Increasing Citizen Participation – By not centralizing all power into the hands of a national government, but sharing that power with state governments, which are closer to the level of the common citizen, our founders actually increased a citizen’s ability to effect their government, government policy, and lawmaking.
  • More Efficient – When some of the power of the government is dispersed among the states, giving states the right to solve some of their own problems, you allow for more efficiency within the system. To try to have a national solution to all problems, which could be refered to as a ‘cookie-cutter method’ of law and policy making, you end up with solutions that are more effective in some states, and less effective in others. To allow states to create solutions to their own problems, using policies and laws that work best in their state, means that each state can come up with its own solution, making government more efficient.
  • Conflict Management – By allowing different communities and states to create their own policies, they allow for people with irreconcilable differences, or very strong disagreements, to live in separate areas, and create their own solutions, or policies, that would be totally disagreeable to the other people in other states or regions of the country.
  • Innovation in Law and Policy is Encouraged – By allowing for many state governments, different sets of policies can be tried, and the ones found most effective at solving its problems can then be implemented in other states, or on the national level. Imagine Christopher Columbus trying to get funding to voyage across the Atlantic Ocean if there was a unified Europe back then, with its head saying ‘no!’ to him; instead, he had several governments from which he could try to get his funding – he got turned down by several governments before Spain gave him the okay. The same principle applies today with our many states – something that is rejected in one state can most likely be tried in another state, with competition leading the way, based on effectiveness of those laws.
  • State Governments Can be More Responsive to Citizen Needs – The closer a government entity is to its citizens, the more likely it is the respond to the needs of citizens. States are more likely to listen to citizen needs, and respond to them, than the national government would be.

Arguments Given for Why Federalism has a Detrimental or Negative Impact on Society:

  • It had a History of Protecting Slavery and Segregation – This is often cited as one of the main detriments of the system of federalism that we have in this country, that since slavery was a state issue, it was something that could not be removed on the national level.
  • It Allows for Inequalities Between Different States – For example, instead of education funding throughout the country being the same, since it is a state issue, some states will spend more, per capita, on education than other states, causing what could be considered a disparity. The same goes for other things, as well, such as taxes, health care programs, and welfare programs.
  • The Blockage of Nationalist Policies by States – States can fight against the existence of certain national laws by challenging them in court, or going out of their way to not enforce those national laws, or even deliberately obstructing enforcement of national laws.
  • Racing to the Bottom – One argument given is that states will compete with each other in an oppositional way, by reducing the amount of benefits they give to welfare recipients compared to, say, a neighboring state, motivating the undesirables to go to the neighboring state, thereby reducing their welfare costs even more. This reduction of state benefits to needy has been deemed the ‘race to the bottom.’

Now you know what some of the arguments are for and against the type of power-sharing system of federalism that is found in the United States. Since many Americans are strong supporters of this type of federalist government, let's give some counterarguments to the negative arguments given.

(PLEASE NOTE: I do not necessarily agree with these argument against federalism, but they are arguments given primarily by the political left to rationalize why we should take away power from state and local governments and give more centralized power to the federal government. To centralize power, to me, is the opposite of becoming more democratic. To become more democratic means that you allow people to have more and more control over the laws and policies that govern them, which is done by putting more control over law creation on the state and local level, rather than putting more of that control in the hands of the federal government, which is about as far away from our ability to determine the laws that govern us as possible. It would be even more difficult to have control over the laws that govern over our lives if we had a world government and put most control in their hands.)

Counterarguments to the Negatives of Federalism:

  • The Protection of Slavery and Segregation – My argument against this is that the ability for a national government to share its power with state powers is a completely separate issue than the issue of slavery – that the U.S. Constitution could have, if our founding fathers were able to (which they weren’t), put the issue of slavery and segregation on the national level, and eventually eliminating it nationally, rather than the state level, all while continuing to have the national government share power with state governments. In other words, the effectiveness of federalism is a different issue than the issue of slavery.
  • Inequalities Between States – Of course there are going to be inequalities between states. For example, you may have a state full of people that are hard-working and self-sufficient, who have citizens who have a philosophy of approaching their closely-tied family members when in trouble, rather than the distant and impersonal government, because they don’t want to become ‘slaves’ of their government, and so welfare benefits and tax policy will tend to be lower in that state. There is also a tendency for politicians, when times are good, and tax revenue is higher than state spending, to, instead of lowering taxes at that point, or putting that extra money away for a rainy day (economic downturn), to use that surplus to create a new government program, to motivate the voting public to want to vote him/her back in office during the next election cycle, thus creating a culture of government dependency, which puts them in a different boat than the lower-taxed, less-government states.
  • States Blocking National Policies – We can see that even today as we watch states challenging the health care reform laws passed by the federal government under President Obama and the formerly Democratic-controlled legislative branch. I would argue that this is not a bad thing, but is, in fact, a benefit of our system of federalism. If we had only a national government, there would be no states to challenge what some might consider to be bad law – of course, special interest groups have had a history of challenging laws they don’t like, so if no states were able to challenge national law, then there would still be the chance that a special interest group would step in and do that. In other words, I don’t see states blocking national policies as a negative, but as a positive, as another hurdle that laws have to go through to determine whether they are good laws or not, thereby putting another check and balance in place hindering bad law – it doesn’t matter whether it is a conservative state challenging liberal federal laws, or liberal states challenging conservative federal laws.
  • Racing to the Bottom – Yes, there is a competition between states that drive them to lower taxes as much as possible, and give as many tax breaks to businesses moving in as possible, in order to draw businesses from other states to that state. This competition can be seen as a means to keep the taxes low, much like competition in the free market helps to keep prices low and quality high – this same scenario can be beneficial to state governments competing as well. As for welfare and government programs that some states have more of than others that tend to drive up tax costs (*see note below), like I’ve said before, these programs tend to be higher in states where politicians have had more chance to use surplus tax revenues as a reason to create new government programs, and thus increase the possibility to create dependency on government, as a means to get re-elected. Whether lowering welfare benefits causes welfare recipients to move to another state – there's really not very much of this going on; besides, if a person doesn’t want to work, do you think they’ll work hard to get to another state? Sometimes it’s better to force a person to go out and get a job rather than sit on their duff and depend on government provisions – it will help keep those people out of trouble because they’re working now, and increase state, and federal income tax revenues, as well as sales tax revenues, while lowering welfare expenditures.


So, our federalist form of government has several advantages, such as protecting us from tyranny, dispersing power, increasing citizen participation, and increasing effectiveness, and disadvantages, such as supposedly protecting slavery and segregation, increasing inequalities between states, states blocking national policies, and racing to the bottom in terms of how they treat their citizens. Do the advantages outweigh the disadvantages? I believe so. I support the system of federalism, agreeing with the benefits, and doing my best to give counterarguments to the disadvantages, in order to negate them. All in all, I think our system is superior even to the parliamentary and cabinet system found in the United Kingdom, as well the confederation system found in Canada, as well as the one preceding our present system.

*NOTE:Politics, as I see it, goes through a certain cycle, which is just as likely to occur on the state level as it does on the national level. The cycle goes something like this: 1) taxes are set at a certain level to pay for government and its present programs; 2) then the economy picks up, and tax revenues provide a surplus to the state (this includes revenues that come from federal government grant-in-aid programs that are formula-driven matching grants) ; 3) then the politicians, instead of lowering the tax rate, or saving excess monies for a later time of economic downturn, decide to use that extra money to create a new government program that wins over the voting public so that they can re-elect him/her; 4) the voting public starts to get used to the new government program, depending on it and eventually taking it for granted; 5) then when the next economic downturn arrives, since the state now is running a deficit, the politicians have to convince the voting public that they need to raise taxes to cover the deficit, or face losing a program that they now depend on, in which case the public usually concedes to higher taxes in order to keep that program running; 6) then the taxes are once again set at a proper level to pay for government and its present programs, causing the cycle to start over once again. This cycle tends to be more likely in more liberal states, and in states that are more likely to be affected by recessions of that state’s primary economic sectors, have less of a culture of self-sufficiency, and don’t have term limit laws, as well as a host of other similar things. The result is that, over time, the tax rate in all of the states continues to get higher and higher without end, never getting lower, but always higher.

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Before Confederation with Canada in 1949, Newfoundland was a divided dominion. As any Canadian would, the people of Newfoundland considered every aspect of their decision between uniting with Canada, remaining under the Commission of Government or taking the responsible government deal. This report will analyze sources from the times leading up to Confederation and the impact they had on individuals. Everyone had the right to their own opinion, but it became clear that some groups were louder than others in their beliefs of the best future for Newfoundland. Prosperity and security were the top priorities of each citizen at the time. People wanted to have confidence in their future government to protect their rights and allow them to enjoy full and satisfying lives. Each option for Newfoundland had benefits and limitations, however to achieve the greatest sense of well being on the island, the people had to make sacrifices. Joining Canada ended up being the most feasible option for Newfoundland and as a result of that decision, the new Canadians in Newfoundland experienced stability and comfort from 1949 onward. Through the propaganda and persuasive notions, the people exercised their rights to their own opinions and votes, which ultimately empowered each individual. The soon-to-be Canadians in Newfoundland gained prosperity and security even with the uncertainty of their government by using their voices to persuade others, exercising the right to vote and eventually deciding the fate of Newfoundland.

The people of Newfoundland were seeking financial, social and emotional safety leading up to Confederation. They wanted to make sure that their best interests were taken care of in the future. Citizens were bombarded with strongly worded articles, cartoons, poems and songs to persuade them to vote for Confederation, Responsible Government or Commission of Government. Confederation with Canada meant that Newfoundland would become a Canadian province. The Responsible Government Deal would result in American control of the island. Contrarily, remaining under Commission of Government meant that Britain would continue in its supervisory role over the appointed group of commissioners in Newfoundland. These options were portrayed very differently in the newspapers and media at the time. A caricature, by W.J. Groves published in “The Independent” newspaper in April of 1948, illustrated the views of a responsible government supporter. The image exhibits two men piling property taxes, Canadian taxes and new provincial taxes onto a Labrador retriever symbolizing Newfoundland. The dog appeared to be quite frustrated and weighed down by the taxes; which implied the negativity Newfoundland would feel under Canadian government. The cartoon is very biased, as many cartoons were in 1948. The artist showed the drawbacks of joining with Canada however did not show the positive effects that those new taxes could have on Newfoundland. There may have been more taxation included in the deal, but with that money the government could provide a lower cost, but higher standard of living (P.Y.M, 6). With Confederation there would be a “clean sweep” of “[the] dole, disease, hunger, graft, custom duties [and] responsible government” (The Confederate, 3). While union with Canada would be wiping out these things, it would also potentially abolish the chance of an independent government system in Newfoundland. Eliminating these parts of life in Newfoundland was of course very appealing to most people and outweighed the fact that Newfoundland could not be autonomous. The island could potentially rid itself of unfair taxation, poor care for the “aged and blind” and high infant mortality rates with Confederation (P.Y.M, 6). Yet even with these things out of the way, many still questioned the prosperity Newfoundland could have as a Canadian province.

Despite all of the benefits of creating a union with Canada, many saw that the strong US ties on the island were more promising than anything Canada had to offer. During the Cold War, the United States had five military bases in Newfoundland because it was on the “shortest Great Circle route between North America and Europe” (Gwynne, 316). The Americans stationed themselves in Newfoundland during the Cold War for protection from Soviet bombers of the eastern American cities. The economy of Newfoundland became relatively reliant on the United States and many citizens married Americans at this time. This greatly swayed people’s opinions on the responsible government deal. Half of Newfoundland was convinced that they would be more stable and secure if they joined the United States.

When it came time for the second referendum in Newfoundland, the island was split. All of the propaganda from the responsible government side and the confederate side had vastly effected people’s decisions when checking off the voting ballot. Most newspapers were full of articles and cartoons saying that under Confederation there would be no tax on anything (The Confederate, 1), while others proclaimed that new, heavier burdens would be placed on the shoulders of Newfoundlanders. Some newspapers portrayed the responsible Government deal as a “golden opportunity” (The Independent, 1) for Newfoundland and others showed that abandoning Canada would be like disowning family. On July 22nd, 1948 the votes came in and Confederation took the win with 52% of the vote (

Newfoundland needed to change because it could not support itself or stand alone. The only partner that could restore prosperity and security on the island long-term was Canada. The people of Newfoundland gained more comfortable and successful lives in Confederation, but also became empowered by their freedom to voice their opinions and have an influence on the government. Since the final vote was within 5%, it was clear that every individual voice mattered in making that monumental decision. For one to feel prosperous and secure, it does not necessarily mean that they never have to make sacrifices or have worry free lives. Having a significant voice is what gives a person greater self-confidence. The people of Newfoundland found that confidence within themselves in the years leading up to Confederation.

Works Cited

“Archived: Canadian Confederation.” Library and Archives Canada., n.d. Web. 17 Mar. 2013. <;.

“The Bridge to Prosperity.” Cartoon. The Independent [St. John’s] 29 Mar. 1948: 1. Print.

Groves, W. J. “Taxes Under Confederation.” Cartoon. The Independent [St. John’s] 5 Apr. 1948: 1. Print.

“It Will Be a Clean Sweep.” Cartoon. The Confederate [St. John’s] 31 May 1948: 3. Print.

M, P. Y. “Honest Beliefs.” The Evening Telegram [St. John’s] 20 July 1948: 6. Web.


Royal Commission on Renewing and Strengthening Our Place in Canada (N.L.). The Strategic Importance of Newfoundland and Labrador to Canada. By Gwynne Dyer. St. John’s, N.L.: Royal Commission on Renewing and Strengthening Our Place in Canada, 2003. Newfoundland and Labrador Government. Web. 17 Mar. 2013. <;.

“Under Confederation You Will Pay…” Cartoon. The Confederate [St. John’s] 21 Apr. 1948: 1. Print.


Canadians enjoyed prosperity and security to a great extent between 1946 and 1963. The union of Newfoundland and Canada confirmed the feeling of prosperity and security for both Canadians and Newfoundlanders. Security refers to the feeling of safety and personal freedom. Prosperity involves the success and happiness people feel when in a thriving condition. However women did not experience prosperity and security to the same degree as men did, because they did not have the same opportunities in the work force. Canadians experienced a greatly improved degree of prosperity and security, confirmed by the union with Newfoundland, because the quality of life for Canadians and Newfoundlanders was immensely improved due to expectations of higher living standards being met and more access to public services and economic security.

Firstly, Newfoundland’s expectation of higher living standards was met when they were united with Canada. The Commission of Government administered Newfoundland for 15 years and during that time, Newfoundland experienced both economic and social changes that raised their expectations for their future lives, which included a higher standard of living (Baker, The Tenth Province). This higher standard of living included having a better job, better living conditions, and being in an overall more prosperous state. Newfoundland joined Canada in the hopes that these expectations would be met. Before becoming a part of Canada, Newfoundland was struggling, some of these issues as a result of the depression. It was a society that relied heavily on its small fishing ports and fishing industry to support itself. In addition, Newfoundland’s economy was very dependent on all exports: fish, forest products, and minerals. So their economy was sometimes in a vulnerable state. Newfoundland suffered a decrease in revenues and an increase in expenses that were being spent on relief programs, which caused a serious debt issue. Newfoundland was by no means in a prosperous or secure position. In a primary source artifact, a telegram from a confederate proves the way people thought confederation would improve their lives, “I honestly believe that confederation with Canada is the best solution to our problems… our cost of living will come down and our standard of living will rise” (The Evening Telegram. p.6). It is evident that the writer of this telegram recognizes the great opportunity for prosperity and security with the confederation of Newfoundland. “I do not want to return to conditions as they were in 1933; no I do not want to go back, I want this island of ours to forge ahead.” (The Evening Telegram. p.6). This primary source proves that when the union happened, Canadians were more prosperous due to a higher standard of living and fair distribution of taxes. Canadians were also more secure due to a healthier population, a lower infant mortality rate and better care for their people. (The Evening Telegram. p.6). The quality of living for Canadians and new Canadians was extremely improved with the union of Newfoundland and Canada and provided more prosperous and secure lifestyles.

Furthermore, the confederation of Newfoundland to Canada was very beneficial to Newfoundland because it gave them more access to public services and better economic security, which would help improve Canadians’ quality of life. Before Newfoundland’s confederation in 1949, it relied very heavily on international trade, which left its economy in an uncontrollable and vulnerable state (Higgins, Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site). International trade was not easy to predict or depend on, so it was one of the factors that caused Newfoundland’s depressed economy. The union with Canada provided great security for Newfoundland’s economy in international trade (Higgins, Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage Web Site). Canada was wealthier than Newfoundland, so it was able to ensure security and help Newfoundland with international trade and having more countries to import from and export to. This economic security made Newfoundland much more prosperous and secure because they did not have the same vulnerable economy that they had before. Newfoundland had very good industries, but were benefitted from much more when they were part of Canada, a bigger, more prosperous country. Newfoundland’s union with Canada also gave Newfoundland access to many more public services. This included, judicial systems, police systems, infrastructure and transportation services. Newfoundland gained opportunity to use many services but also received improvements on the services they already had. For example, they would be given more aid to infrastructures, such as roads and bridges. In the primary source artifact, a 1949 postal cover, it shows the Canadian beaver welcoming the Newfoundland dog to Canada. It says “Industry and Courage for a better Canada and a Greater Newfoundland” (Collections Canada). This shows that the union would not just bring improvements to Newfoundland but would also make a better Canada. For example, Newfoundland would bring their great industries to Canada, such as the fishing industry and then Canada would help to create more trades between other countries. This poster shows that they plan to work together to make both countries stronger, more secure and more prosperous. The access to public services and economic security that Newfoundland received improved the quality of their lives and increased their ability to enjoy prosperity and security.

In conclusion, the confederation of Newfoundland to Canada confirmed the great feeling of prosperity and security for Canadians due to the increase in living standards, more access to public services and greater economic security. Canada was able to benefit from the union, and so was Newfoundland. The primary artifacts prove that the confederation of Newfoundland significantly improved the quality of life for Canadians and Newfoundlanders.


During the time of Confederation, most Newfoundlanders did not enjoy security and prosperity to a large extent. The definition of prosperity and security is to be financially stable and successful, while having the feeling of safety with your country, home and family. According to two letters that were written by Newfoundlanders (who are referred to as P.Y.M and Hr. Grace) in the late 1940’s during the time of Confederation, they were not financially stable/ successful, not did they enjoy a feeling of safety with their country and families. They did not enjoy prosperity or security because the Newfoundlanders in favor of Confederation feared that Confederation wasn’t going happen, the anti- Confederates were scared because they didn’t want Confederation to happen, while both sides were not enjoying prosperity because their country needed Canada to financially support them in order for them to be prosperous.

The Newfoundlander Confederates were not enjoying security during this time. P.Y.M, a Newfoundlander in favor of Confederation wrote in his letter that he felt “Feelings of shame and indignation” (pg 6) with the Anti-Confederates because they had made a “Disgraceful attack” (pg 6) on Joey Smallwood, a confederate. This attack would have made the Confederates not feel secure in Newfoundland because the Confederation was making the people pick sides, whether they supported Confederation or if they did not. P.Y.M, like many others, might not have had that feeling of safety because they supported the idea of Confederation. P.Y.M also wrote that he did not want Newfoundland to return to the conditions that they were in 1933, “I want these lands of ours to forge ahead.”(pg 6). So, another reason that the Confederates did not enjoy security is because since they were so in favor of Confederation, there must have been a feeling of fear if it did not happen that their beloved country would go back to the awful conditions they experienced in 1933. For all these reasons, the Newfoundlanders in favor of Confederation did not enjoy security to a large extent.

The Newfoundlanders who were not in favor of Confederation also did not enjoy feelings of security during this time. One reason that they did not enjoy security was because they feared for the safety and futures of their families if Confederation was to happen. Hr. Grace, a Newfoundlander wrote that he feared that the children of future generations would curse them for “selling our birthrights and theirs”(pg 6). They also feared that they would lose their country that they loved so much, which would make anyone feel insecure “I love every rock, hill and stump of our old island home.”(Hr. Grace, pg 6). Another reason that the Newfoundlanders did not experience feelings of security was because they feared that crime rate would go up if they joined Canada, “Let us not sell our country, the crime would be just as black as if we sold our mother.” (Hr Grace, pg6). For these reasons, the Newfoundlanders who did not support Confederation did not enjoy security during the time of Confederation as well.

Lastly, no Newfoundlanders, whether they supported Confederation or not, did not enjoy prosperity during the time of Confederation. In both letters, the writers felt that the financial conditions in Newfoundland at the time were not good. P.Y.M who was in favor of Confederation wrote that “Confederation with Canada is the best solution to our problems”(pg 6). The problems that he then lists (such as: unfair distribution of taxes, cost of living, poor living standard, bad health care) are all clear examples that the Newfoundlanders were not enjoying prosperity. Hr. Grace who was not in favor of Confederation, wrote that he was uneducated, which is a clear indication that the Newfoundlanders were not enjoying prosperity. Therefore, Newfoundlanders did not enjoy prosperity during the late 1940’s, during the time of Confederation.

Newfoundlanders did not enjoy prosperity or security during the time of Confederation with Canada. This was because the Newfoundlanders in favor of Confederation feared for the future of their country if it did not happen, while those not in favor of Confederation feared for the future of their country if it did happen, and all Newfoundlanders did not enjoy prosperity because the conditions in Newfoundland were so horrible.


Prosperity, a collective’s well-being or success based on its independent sustainability and its financial state, and security, a collective’s protection from danger or risk that could negatively impact its prosperity, go hand in hand on the subject of Canadian Confederation. Although Confederation began in 1867, Newfoundland and Labrador didn’t become a province of Canada until 1949 (Dunn). Before this decision, there were many political cartoons and other documents directed at the Newfoundlanders, who voted for or against entering Confederation during the referendums of 1948. During this time period, Newfoundlanders did not enjoy prosperity and security, due to their discord of opinions, their financial vulnerability, and their need for a stable government, all of which can be revealed through the images and writings before the entry into Confederation.

The inclusion of Newfoundland into Confederation was a debate that sparked in 1864. Although Newfoundland had not attended the Charlottetown Conference, Ambrose Shea and F. B. T. Carter went as observers to the Quebec Conference, and were impressed with the Quebec Resolutions (Library Archives of Canada). However, when they brought the Quebec Resolutions back to Newfoundland for debate, a large amount of people were against Confederation, the legislature voted to set aside further discussion of the resolutions, and Newfoundland continued to be an independent colony within the British Empire (Library Archives of Canada). After the next attempt at Confederation in 1895 had been shut down (Library Archives of Canada), joining Canada wasn’t up for major discussion until 1948, as seen within the opposing poems of The Confederate and The Independent. On April 21st, 1948, The Confederate had published a poem called “Newfoundland’s Dream”, written by W.P. Williams, which portrays a conversation between Newfoundland and “a maiden fair/With maple leaves around her brow”, who represents Canada. The conversation revolves around Newfoundland seeking advice from Canada, who suggests joining Confederation, which is positively described as “a sun-lit road/O’er which a rainbow, bending, /Gave promise of bright new dawn/My people’s troubles ending”. This implies that becoming a part of Canada is the solution to all of Newfoundland’s problems, which is the overall message that the pro-confederate newspaper wanted to convey to the citizens of Newfoundland, in hopes that they would support the option of Confederation. The opposite message was conveyed by The Independent, an anti-confederate newspaper, who, on April 26th, 1948, published the poem “The Spider and the Guy” (also known as “The Newfie Ain’t So Goofie”), which was based on and referred to “The Spider and the Fly” by Mary Howitt. The poem also revolved around a conversation between a cunning spider, representing Canada, who wants to convince a wise fly, representing Newfoundland, to join his party, by promising “A bonus for the baby, a Pension for the Old and thin,” and by having a “budget ready, for the simple Little Guy”. Alternatively, the end of the poem reveals that the Newfoundland fly didn’t end up getting caught in Canada’s web of Confederation. As indicated by the last line “Confederation glitters- All that glitters is not gold”, the message conveyed by The Independent is that Confederation is a trap, and wouldn’t benefit Newfoundland as much as people believe that it would. Furthermore, the same idea is also represented through The Independent’s cartoon with the slogan “Come into my Parlor!” which was published on May 31, 1948. The cartoon depicts a map with both Canada, which is covered by a web with a large spider on it, and Newfoundland, which has a small fly on it. Similar to “The Spider and the Guy”, the final message within this cartoon is that although Canada (the large spider) may seem inviting and friendly, it is a trap in an attempt to consume Newfoundland (the small fly), entangling the smaller nation into Confederation (the web). These contrasting documents represent the differing opinions from people in Newfoundland during 1948, which does not assist in the success of the independent sustainability of Newfoundland, but rather adds to the negative impact on its prosperity, thereby negatively affecting its security as well.

Not only was Newfoundland troubled by the conflicting perspectives of their citizens, but it was in poor financial state, further diminishing its likelihoods of enjoying prosperity and security. After gaining much debt from World War I, Newfoundland had accumulated even more after World War II, its debt growing rapidly from $43 million in 1920-21 to $98.5 million in 1933, causing the nation to be on the verge of bankruptcy (Baker 33). Newfoundland`s financial suffering can be revealed through the propaganda that targeted the citizens of Newfoundland, which is used in The Confederate’s cartoon “It Will Be a Clean Sweep” (published May 31st, 1948). The image focuses on a broom labelled “Confederation” that is sweeping out a pile of papers and garbage, a few of which are labelled “Disease”, “Graft”, and “Hunger”. This implies to the Newfoundlanders that with Confederation, their home land would be given a new start, without the negative aspects that were impacting Newfoundland at the time, including its poor financial state. The financial troubles of Newfoundland are further emphasized as one of the papers being swept out says “Dole”, representing the past necessity of the dole, which contributed greatly to Newfoundland’s debt, as a quarter of the population required the able-bodied relief by the early 1930s (Baker 33). Furthermore, The Confederate’s cartoon “Under Confederation You Will Pay” (published April 21st, 1948) also refers to the poverty in Newfoundland to promote Confederation. This cartoon portrays a variety of items that are common among Newfoundlanders, such as their “farm”, “livestock”, “schooner”, and their “fishing gear”, claiming that Newfoundlanders would pay “no tax” for any of those items. Through comforting the Newfoundlander’s fear for their financial problem, The Confederate persuaded citizens to vote for Confederation in the upcoming referendum, as it would result in fewer taxes to pay. The same financial issue can be revealed in The Independent’s cartoon “Taxes Under Confederation” (published April 5th, 1948), but using the opposite perspective. In the cartoon, Newfoundland is depicted as a foal, who is hooked up to a small wagon that contains a large bag labelled “Property Taxes”, while two men, “Joe” and “Bradley”, were about to load more large items, labelled “Canadian Taxes” and “New Provincial Taxes”, onto Newfoundland’s wagon. The Independent portrays “Joe” and “Bradley” in a negative light, as the two men are depicted to be the ones adding to the burden of Newfoundland; this was another clever way of belittling Confederation, as the two men in the cartoon symbolized the president, F. Gordon Bradley, and the campaign manager (who later became the first Premier of Newfoundland after confederation), Joey Smallwood, of the Confederate Association (Hiller). More significantly, the symbolism within the cartoon also conveys the message that Newfoundland was too weak and fragile (like a baby donkey), to carry the burden of all the new taxes that would be imposed if it were to join Confederation, thereby reminding Newfoundlanders of their frail financial state, and once again using their fear of national bankruptcy to sway the votes towards the newspaper’s desires. Through analyzing the propaganda present in 1948, which reveals that Newfoundland was financially vulnerable, one can infer that Newfoundlanders did not enjoy the sustainable and protected financial state that prosperity and security entails.

On top of its poor financial state, Newfoundland did not have a stable government, which also contributed to why it did not enjoy prosperity and security. In 1934, due to its financial vulnerability as well as the collapse of its responsible government, Newfoundland gave up its status as an independent colony, and turned to Britain for help and relief (Canada History). Britain then assigned the Commission of Government, which consisted of 3 Newfoundlanders, 3 Britons, and a British governor (named Sir David Murray Anderson), which would rule until Britain deemed Newfoundland “self-supporting” (Baker 34). However, at the end of World War II, Britain was also facing dollar shortages, and preferred to lose the duties of governing Newfoundland, so after consulting Canada about the possibility of Confederation, a plan for the referendums of 1948 were created, making Newfoundland’s future based on the votes of its people (Baker 37-41). These referendums brought up much debate; citizens had different opinions of what the best course of action would be, and many options were considered, as seen through The Confederate and The Independent’s cartoons. Solidly against Confederation, The Independent published a cartoon on March 29th, 1948, depicting a man, who stood on Newfoundland soil, holding one end of a bridge labelled “Responsible Government” while American Uncle Sam, who was standing on U.S.A. land, held the other end. The cartoon also contained the words “The Bridge to Prosperity” and “Don’t Throw the Golden Opportunity Away”, creating an overall message that the Newfoundlanders should choose annexation to the United States to solve their government problem. However, although the image portrays Uncle Sam smiling and making a welcoming gesture, he holds the “Responsible Government” bridge up higher than the Newfoundlander does, as if he was hesitant to lay it down, representing that that although the Truman government had wanted to take in Newfoundland (as it also had good positions for naval bases), they revealed that it would be a difficult matter to get passed through Congress, and didn’t want the possibility of the Labrador land dispute resurfacing, as it would impact their higher priority goal of receiving British and Canadian cooperation in the Cold War (Earle). Because of this, the option of U.S. annexation was never put on the referendums, leaving Newfoundlanders with the choices of reverting to its own responsible government, joining Confederation, or continuing Britain’s Commission of Government (Baker 50). Nevertheless, the creation of the cartoon promoting annexation to the U.S. at a time so close to the first referendum, which took place in June, revealed The Independent and its supporters’ desperation of avoiding Confederation, as well as its refusal to give up its options. This differed greatly from the aforementioned Confederate’s cartoon “It Will Be a Clean Sweep”, which also brings up the subject of government. In the cartoon, one of the slips of paper being swept out says “Responsible Govt”, representing that all of the past troubles relating to their government, including the failure to meet the interest payments and the collapse of Newfoundland’s responsible government, would be wiped away, relieving Newfoundlanders from their worries. Although this cartoon contrasts The Independent’s efforts of preventing Confederation, both cartoons use the Newfoundlanders’ concerns for the stability of their government to persuade the citizens towards opposing options. As seen through the variety of governments being promoted towards the Newfoundlanders, there was a large amount of dissonance within Newfoundland’s government and how the nation would be governed, therefore preventing Newfoundlanders from experiencing prosperity itself, let alone the protection from negative impacts to it.

In conclusion, during the years before Confederation, Newfoundlanders did not experience the well-being/success based on its independent sustainability and its financial state, or the protection from danger or risk that could negatively impact these aspects of the nation. This is shown as The Independent and The Confederate continuously indicate contrasting thoughts and opinions, revealing the disagreements within the citizens of Newfoundland, as some agreed with the ideas of Confederation while others strongly opposed it. Also, the publications portrayed the financial issues Newfoundland had at the time, conveying the poverty and inadequacy that its citizens experienced. Moreover, through their political cartoons, The Independent and The Confederate also promote and encourage various options for the future government of Newfoundland, revealing the instability of the Newfoundland government in the process, which reinforces the lack of prosperity and security for the Newfoundlanders of the time. This lack of prosperity and security led to the final referendum, where only a slight majority supported joining Canada, resulting in the outcome that has shaped the lives of over 500, 000 people for more than half a century. The decision of entering Confederation has been controversially debated by historians for over 50 years, and will continue to be discussed and studied, providing a greater perspective of how one choice significantly impacts the course of a former nation’s future.


“Archived – Newfoundland – Provinces and Territories – Canadian Confederation – Library and Archives Canada.” Library and Archives Canada. Government of Canada, 14 Dec 2001. Web. 13 Mar 2013.

Baker, Melvin. “Falling into the Canadian Lap: The Confederation of Newfoundland and Canada, 1945-1949.” Final Report – Royal Commission on Renewing

and Strengthening Our Place in Canada. Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, 2003. Web. 12 Mar 2013.

Dunn, William et al. “Newfoundland Joins Canada.” Canada: A Country by Consent. Artistic Productions Limited, 2011. Web. 12 Mar 2013.

Earle, Karl McNeil. “Cousins of a Kind: the Newfoundland and Labrador Relationship with the United States.” American Review of Canadian Studies 28.4 (1998): 387-411. Print.

Hiller, J.K. “The 1948 Referendums: Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage.” Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage. Memorial University of Newfoundland, 1996-2000. Web. 13 Mar 2013.

“Newfoundland.” Canada History. Access HT, 2013. Web. 12 Mar 2013.


A people of the darkly washed, sea-sprayed, windswept and rocky island called Newfoundland, the Newfoundlanders of 1949 were no different than the hardy inhabitants before them. These burgeoning “Canadians” of England’s longest-serving colony underwent the same questioning of self-identity as Leif Erickson’s men of L’Anse aux Meadows, Cabot’s explorers of Cape Bonavista, and the grieving population who lost one-quarter of their men in WW1’s Royal Newfoundland Regiment. Bounding through an era known for geopolitical power plays, brash Red rancour and cultural metamorphosis, it appears that the Newfoundlanders suffered a fractured sense of prosperity and security throughout the era of 1946 to 1963, largely as a result of the friction involved in the Confederation on March 31, 1949. Only joining Canada upon Confederation in 1949, Newfoundland and Newfoundlanders are very much new to Canada; they did not fight as part of Canada in the World Wars and many islanders to this day were not born in “Canada”. Throughout the period of 1946-1963 (but mostly in the time period around 1949), the people of Newfoundland underwent an inner struggle regarding Confederation, revealing a fractured sense of prosperity marked by economic unease, as well as security in the form of questioning Canadian political manoeuvring. The tactful actions of Canada in capitalizing on Newfoundland’s uneasiness are revealed very clearly in two primary sources: the editorial cartoon “It Will Be a Clean Sweep”, and W.P. Williams’ poem “Newfoundland’s Dream”. The causes of such a fractured prosperity and security were the tense and passive-aggressive nature of mainland Canada throughout the debate of Confederation, the deep inner conflict about the relinquishment of identity through joining the rest of Canada these historically bold people faced, and the desperation to which Newfoundlanders felt they needed to become part of Canada economically.

The aura surrounding Canada’s actions towards Newfoundland during the debate around the 1949 Confederation were very much passive-aggressive and forceful. The Canadian actions toward Newfoundland involved bully tactics and petty politics played on the large scale. In the wake of a large American population being established in Newfoundland, Canada appointed a High Commissioner to watch over Canadian military and economic interests on the island. Following a cooperative relationship between Newfoundland and Canada during the Second World War and an economic boom from American and Canadian construction jobs during the 1940s, these actions were seen very much as subtly audacious and obvious in their ultimate goal. In the comic “It Will Be a Clean Sweep”, Canada is depicted as the wielders of a broom that is brushing Newfoundland into Canada with force and ignoring the values of Newfoundlanders. This forceful depiction of Canada wielding a broom, which is moving or manipulating Newfoundland away from it’s own values, very powerfully conveys the total question of security Newfoundlanders felt during the period of Confederation and in the 1946-1963 period in general, as the new province began to integrate further with its new country. It is only understandable then, that those living in Newfoundland were hesitant to join this country that through the use of bully tactics wanted to force its way into acquiring the Maritime province. Newfoundland continued to experience animosity after Confederation because of the continual encroachment of mainland Canadian foreign policy into the new province after 1949. In the poem “Newfoundland’s Dream”, the line “Your government Gods have failed/Now why not try Confederation?” sums up this idea of a Newfoundland that has given up on self-governance and is yet unable to return to British rule. It was after the economic decline in Britain, where the former empirical power realized in 1945 that it could no longer support an economically ailing and inefficient colony, that Canada began to step up to the plate, quite forcefully, as has been evidenced. The promise of prosperity through a union with Canada was in itself fractured; whilst truthful and generally beneficial for Newfoundland, the idea of Confederation only came out of a British failure to run Newfoundland economically efficiently, and as a result seemed to Newfoundlanders as a distinct second-best option. It was this deft, passive-aggressive manipulation and manoeuvring of Canada (the “broom-wielder”) to wrestle control of a Newfoundland abandoned by Britain into a new union, that created one aspect of the fractured sense of prosperity and security that Newfoundlanders enjoyed in the period around Confederation.

Beyond the actions of Canada, it was the deep-rooted and darkly ingrown fears of how Newfoundland would have to relinquish its identity through joining Canada that aided in creating the fractured air of economic prosperity and the question of security against Canada in the period surrounding Confederation. The idea of joining another country (which was the prospect of Confederation at the time) remains one that carries the baggage of implying that by joining, you are taking on part of a new identity, and not holding on to your old one. To the culturally rooted and independent Newfoundland, such a prospect almost turned them away from Confederation, as referendum results suggest; in fact Confederation as won with only a 52% approval among the voters. In the editorial cartoon, “It’s Will Be a Clean Sweep”, Newfoundland and Newfoundlanders are depicted as being forcibly swept into the union, while their values and identity are left behind. It is perhaps this idea, more than any other that created the fractured sense of values that has been referred to in this essay. Whether economic differences and a reliance on small business, or a different approach to foreign policy, this casual sweeping away of values proved to be among the hardest to overcome for the Newfoundlanders considering joining Canada. In the poem “Newfoundland’s Dream”, such fears are echoed with “The fathers ate the sour grapes/The children’s teeth are set on edge/ And now they see the falling faith … My people’s troubles ending”. The people of Newfoundland were extremely torn about this relinquishment of identity, which provided them with their traditional ideals of prosperity and security for generations, such as steady economic growth and splendid isolationism in terms of foreign policy on the world stage. At the end of the day, they moved beyond this fracturing and decided that it was important to look to the best interests of the dominion in joining Canada, and just hope that the identity stuck with Newfoundland and its strong people.

In addition to the deft political manoeuvring and identity crises, the Newfoundlanders experienced a conflicting inner decision towards Confederation as a consequence of the society collectively knowing that they would be better off joining Canada economically. Many people remained critical of Confederation, but the poems and cartoons of the time reveal that beneath all of the animosity towards Confederation laid a unanimous realization that at the end of the day, Newfoundland would be financially smart to join Canada. In the political cartoon “It Will Be a Clean Sweep”, looking beyond the fact that Newfoundland is being somewhat forcibly swept into Confederation (and leaving behind characteristics of its previous dominion state) the image reveals further messages. Newfoundland is also subtly being swept from the dark into the light, signifying the collective feelings at the time that, whatever the arguments against Confederation, Newfoundland would benefit in many ways and see an overall jump in security and prosperity. It must be remembered that economically, Newfoundland at the time was very much in a “dark ages”. Despite a wartime economic boom (funded mostly by Canadian and American interests), the island’s economy was mainly the fishing industry, run on an individual scale and distributed throughout sparse fishing villages as opposed to a central economic centre. Confederation did bring an “enlightenment” to the Newfoundland economy, which experienced period of great prosperity afterwards; in fact it was only two years after Confederation, in 1951, that the first factory-fishing boat (whose abilities of mass fishing led in part to the post-Confederation economic boom) saw deployment out of Newfoundland. Ironically, it was this involvement with Canada and subsequent deployment of factory-fishing boats that led to the depletion of the cod stocks in the 1990s, but that is fodder for a different essay altogether. Similarly in the poem, “Newfoundland’s Dream”, the lines “Is now well-known in my own land/For isolation e’er retards/The progress of your thrifty island” captures the feeling of conflicted decisions regarding Confederation. Despite the fact that people remained bitter about it (and wanted to return to “isolation”, as approximately 44% of Newfoundlanders did in a 1948 referendum), Confederation was still bound to lead to greater economic prosperity than Newfoundland currently had. It had become “well known” that “isolation…retards [economic growth]/ of your thrifty island”, meaning that despite what Newfoundlanders wanted to believe, they knew deep down that economically, Confederation was the right decision. This collective indecision but unconscious knowledge of the right decision created an atmosphere in the postwar period that very much fostered the fracturing of the ideals of economic prosperity, and as a result also called into question the security of an economically weak Newfoundland against an encroaching Canada. As a result, when it came to potentially joining the country in 1949, Newfoundlanders were extremely hesitant and critical, but it was with a sombre realization that they pieced together their fractured ideals of prosperity and realized that the best future lay with a Newfoundland as part of Canada.

It was the tense and passive-aggressive nature of mainland Canada throughout the debate of Confederation, the deep inner conflict about the relinquishment of identity through joining the rest of Canada, and the desperation to which Newfoundlanders felt they needed economically to become part of their neighbour, that caused the strife over Confederation between Canada and Newfoundland. This strife only highlighted the issues that had plagued Newfoundland throughout the past generations, but promised to provide benefits upon Confederation. It created a fractured identity for Newfoundlanders, and too fractured their own questioning of what economic prosperity and security from an encroaching Canada was. The French philosopher Voltaire said “Life is thickly sown with thorns, and I know no other remedy than to pass quickly through them. The longer we dwell on our misfortunes, the greater is their power to harm us.” One can only hope that should a similar decision to Confederation be faced again by Canada, our country would have the foresight to look beyond immediate effects and take a rational, long-term outlook, as the Newfoundlanders finally did in working towards rebuilding fractured economic prosperity and embracing a secure relationship with mainland Canada.

Works Consulted

Baker, Melvin. “The Tenth Province, Newfoundland Joins Canada, 1949.” Newfoundland’s Confederation 1949. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2013. <>.

Bethune, Brian. “Don’t Tell the Newfoundlanders: The True Story of Newfoundland’s Confederation with Canada.” N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2013. <;.

CBC Radio Digital Archives. “Has Confederation Been Good for Newfoundland? .” Digital Archives. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2013. <;.

“Confederation.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2013. <;.

Higgins, Myles. “Newfoundland (Celebrates?) 57 Years of Confederation.” Canada Free Press. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2013. <;.

Hiller, J.K.. “Newfoundland and Canada: 1864-1949: Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage.” Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2013. <;.

“Newfoundland Joins Confederation: A Brief History of Newfoundland.” Canada: A Country by Consent. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2013.


Canada was and still is known for being rich in prosperity and security. Canadians certainly enjoy their wealth and security, but at what expense? Did the citizens of pre-confederated Canada really want to join confederation? Prosperity is defined as wealth and success, while security is defined as the state of being free from danger or threat. Newfoundland is an interesting case study when talking about confederation. Newfoundland had to endure paying more taxes, had to make the decision of joining Canada and had to decide if joining confederation would end badly, as it did with Ireland and England. By using Newfoundland as an example we can see reasons as to why confederation had potential to be a bad idea for Canada.

Firstly, Newfoundland had to endure paying more taxes then they originally did before joining confederation. By looking at the cartoon “Taxes under confederation” we can see the donkey representing Newfoundland, and as you can see by looking at the cartoon, politicians are loading taxes on Newfoundland’s wagon, leaving them with more weight to pull. Newfoundland is a small island and giving them more weight to pull and having the donkey in the cartoon look anxious shows that Newfoundland was concerned about the matter of confederation. This cartoon is a great example of when Newfoundland eventually did join in confederation because it shows some of the hard ships that were placed upon them at the time.

Furthermore, the decision for Newfoundland to join confederation was a difficult one. Newfoundland was happily independent, however, they were also facing their own share of hardships that would be decreased if they joined Canada. Newfoundland was very poor and struggled to provide for it’s population. Only four percent of the people of Newfoundland voted to join the Dominion of Canada in 1948, after three years of intense and emotional debate. In the mid-1940s renewed prosperity raised the question of Newfoundland’s future. The cartoon “The Independent” is trying to show that by getting Newfoundland to join Canada, they became more wealthy and it’s people gained a sense of security as a result.

Finally, Newfoundland had to make a choice. Did they want confederation, or not? Newfoundland was a colony of Britain, just like Canada. But Canada was thriving, and had extreme prosperity and security. Britain was feeling as though Newfoundland was dragging them down, costing them too much money for much a small, insignificant island. At this time Britain wanted to let go of Newfoundland, but ultimately it was Newfoundland who was forced with the decision to cut ties.

In conclusion, looking at Newfoundland can help us picture the discussion that was likely happening in Canada in 1867 at the time of confederation. As a province, we can see that the decision to join Canada was not an easy one. The decision to join was plagued by worries brought on by higher taxes and a struggle to support a population, but was also a matter of pride. Overall though, over the years, Newfoundland can also be seen as showing that the decision for the other provinces to join confederation. And, as for Newfoundland, confederation was a good choice for it to, as it is now a happy part of Canada.

Work Cited

long, a., tense., & debate, d. (n.d.). Newfoundland and Canada: 1864-1949: Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage. Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage/Patrimoine de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador–Entry Page: Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage. Retrieved March 27, 2013, from

ARCHIVED РNewfoundland РProvinces and Territories РCanadian Confederation РLibrary and Archives Canada. (n.d.). Bienvenue au site Web Biblioth̬que et Archives Canada / Welcome to the Library and Archives Canada website. Retrieved March 27, 2013, from


Having a good though at a positive future for ones self is promising when living a secure life. The last major event to take place regarding confederation of Canada was the inclusion of Newfoundland into the Dominion of Canada. This happened in 1949 and signaled the beginning of a greater level of prosperity for all Canadians. The Newfoundlander’s were promised many stages of positive change. Many were also judged and under minded for wanting to confederate. The Editor Evening Telegram classifies Newfoundlanders feelings toward being criticized for wanting to confederate, and proved why it was the best thing to do. Newfoundland enjoyed many levels of prosperity and security because it caused a rise in their standard of living and evenly distribute taxes.

Firstly, Newfoundland’s standard of life was promised to be drastically improved post confederation. As said in the editor evening telegram “a healthier population, less TB, a lower infant mortality: better care for our aged and blind, and our war vets, too, would get a better deal” the benefits being offered to the Newfoundlanders would be life changing. There is doubt in their minds that they would prosper once they decided to join confederation but from 1946 and 1963 an outcome from the promised benefits was not yet proved to exist. These promises offered many different and useful types of security. For example feeling secure with ones health and health insurance and having job security, which would allow residents to become more financially secure. These promises that made Newfoundlanders want to confederate promised them a higher quality of life, and when someone is offered something so powerful they do not think twice.

Secondly, Another great assurance toward the Newfoundlanders was evenly distributed taxes. “I believe in the fair distribution of taxes, with the wealthy bearing the heavier burden” as, said in the Editor Evening Telegram, meaning the more money you have the more taxes you must pay. This makes a huge amount of sense. With this promise financial security will the Newfoundlanders reward. If all the wealthier people would evenly distribute there money then Newfoundland would prosper, Canada realizing this, they offered exactly what Newfoundland would want. Being able to prosper from your own nation could drastically encourage people to choose to confederate.

In conclusion, the Editor Evening Telegram showed ones man thoughtful opinion on confederation for the better. His opinion proposed a change. Canada promised many helpful and extraordinary advantages to Newfoundland in order to bribe them into confederating. The artifact was historically significant because it gives readers a sense of the promises made. Prosperity and security was highly enjoyed by Canadians as being promised many amazing things would.


It took Newfoundland until 1949 to join Confederation since the population didn’t see how they would benefit from the trade with the other colonies. In addition, Newfoundland was so far away from the mainland, that many people were concerned that they would end up paying taxes to build a railway which they would never use. Newfoundland joined to be relieved of their financial debt. There was an enormous British pressure to join Confederation, since the British feared an independent Newfoundland might seek union with the U.S to escape debt. Confederation, the unification of Canada, provided Newfoundland with an opportunity to achieve prosperity and security because there would be no tax, Canada would be independent, and it would be a fresh start.

To start off, one of the reasons Newfies were hesitant to confederate was that they believed they would have to pay more taxes. In 1948, a cartoon was made by The Confederate, which attracted Newfoundland specifically, promising that they wouldn’t have to pay any taxes at all. Not even on houses, farms, livestock, boats, fishing gear, or schooners.

Additionally, under Confederation Newfoundland would unite with the rest of Canada which would mean that Newfoundland would not have to rely on Britain or the US for financial support. The cartoon from The Independent promotes Newfoundland to vote for a responsible government, and to trade with the US. Despite the responsible government supporters, the British government restricted any financial assistance if Newfoundland chose independence. Britain, itself in a poor financial condition after the war, was in no real position to offer support. It is also possible that the British government preferred Confederation, and thus wanted to make it appear as attractive an option as possible to the people of Newfoundland.

Finally, by joining Confederation, Newfoundland would prosper since at the time Canada’s industries were blossoming, making Canada one of the world’s leading exporters of raw materials. American investment in the Canadian economy was growing enormously. It was Joey Smallwood who should be given credit for convincingly persuading Newfoundland to join Confederation. He acknowledged that Confederation would offer Newfoundland with a better life since their economic dilemma would end through programs in Canada’s social safety net. This includes family allowances, unemployment insurance, and old-age pensions. The artifact from The Confederate argues this exactly, that Confederation will be a “clean sweep” for Newfoundland, brushing away old issues such as disease, graft, hunger, customs duties, dole, and responsible government.

By joining the rest of Canada, Newfoundland would prosper and be secure by not having to pay taxes, not needing to rely on financial support from Britain, and enjoying Canada’s social programs for a new approach of living a better life. The artifacts suggest change rather than continuity. In fact it uses change to grab the attention of the people of Newfoundland. They all describe how Confederation will change the state in which Newfoundland was and form a much stronger nation by unification. Everything that has happened back then has shaped how our country is today.


“ARCHIVED – Newfoundland – Provinces and Territories – Canadian Confederation – Library and Archives Canada.”Bienvenue au site Web Bibliotique et Archives Canada / Welcome to the Library and Archives Canada website.14 Dec. 2001. 16 Mar. 2013. <;.

Hiller, J.K.. “Confederation Rejected: Newfoundland and the Canadian Confederation, 1864-1869: Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage.” Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage/Patrimoine de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador–Entry Page: Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage. 1997. 26 Mar. 2013. <;.

Bélanger, Claude . “Newfoundland Joins Canada – Newfoundland and Confederation 1949.” Marianopolis College, n.d. Web. 16 Mar. 2013.


At the start of the Post World War II period, Newfoundland and Labrador experienced a turning point in their social and political positions. What was still undetermined was whether or not they would continue to have an independent existence or unite with the Canadian people as the most easterly Province. The idea of joining the rest of the Confederation was expressed in numerous ways, including polarizing collections of political cartoons that were distributed to both Canadian and Newfoundland citizens alike. These propaganda like images encouraged people to review and consider the scenarios before them. While many Newfoundlanders favoured the idea of an independent nation, others recognized the value of the promises being made to them if they joined Canada. Eventually, two Referendums were held, one on June 3rd followed by another on July 22nd 1948. The first Referendum provided no clear decision on the matter; as a result a second Referendum was necessary. The second Referendum offered one of two possible outcomes, a Responsible Government through its continued relationship with Britain or Confederation with Canada. Although the vote was very close, the upshot of it was Newfoundland and Labrador became an official province of Canada on March 31st, 1949. While they were not part of the original Confederation of 1867, they began to enjoy financial security, safety and a positive connection working with the Canadian government. Due to their new relationship with Canada, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador enjoyed relative prosperity in the post war period of 1946 to 1963.

One of the key factors that encouraged Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans to join Confederation was the promise of no federal taxes on personal property, lively hood equipment or livestock. There we also significant subsidies provided by the Canadian Government to the new Province. For example, the Province was given a start up grant of $3.5 million annually, reducing some 10 per cent per year for a total of 12 years, to assist the transitional government. This funding was sorely needed and its offering is reflected in the political cartoon “Don’t throw the Golden Opportunity away” image. The complex Newfoundland Act, established between the British Government and Newfoundland and Labrador in 1933, was also protected under the new relationship with Canada. This preservation helps ensure certain rights remained in force for the people of the new Province regarding Taxation and centralized Government. The “Under Confederation You Will Pay” Political Cartoon speaks to some of these safeguards.

The new province had reason to trust their provincial interests and needs would be protected despite the new relationship. By virtue of being an island province, the people had a unique way of life which they were determined to protect. They trusted that they would be able to raise their children and families as Newfoundlanders first and Canadians second. Due to their physical isolation, it was vital for them to maintain a sense of freedom and continue their distinct way of life.

The most important and largest industry on the Island was Fisheries. This activity in the eastern Province, while always successful, exploded after joining the Confederation. In particular, the Frozen Fish industry grew enormously and proved mutually beneficial to the Province and Federal Government. In fact, to encourage growth of this industry the Federal Government loaned more than $800,000 to companies involved in frozen fish production between 1943 and 1949. This was a great deal of money at the time and provided serious financial backing to the growing enterprise.

Joining Confederation in 1949 was a pivotal time the history of Newfoundland and Labrador. The decision was largely believed to be a positive event for Newfoundland and Labrador, but many at the time, and perhaps even still today, felt the transition should have been handled better. Perhaps more money or greater freedoms were desired but not secured by the Province. Some even believed a conspiracy was afoot to “force” the Province into joining Confederation using scare tactics. For example, in the attached political cartoon “The Bridge to Prosperity”, we see an image of Uncle Sam from the USA trying to get Newfoundland and Labrador to join the states. This may have unnerved some of the people. The heavy American presence in the area immediately after the Second World War helped to renew the Canadian Government’s interest in offering a helping hand to Newfoundland during the post war period. Fortunately for Canada, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador accepted. The new-found bond and arrangement between the Canadian Government and the new province provided an opportunity to engage in mutual prosperity and growth, while at the same time affording a level of security to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, worried that the USA might want to secure the island as a new State in the Union.

Today, if Newfoundland and Labrador had not joined the Confederation, one can only imagine what their existence would look like. If they had not come under the Confederate flag of Canada they may have remained merely an obscure British outpost, been seized by the United States of America, or perhaps establish themselves as an independent nation, struggling to survive. The prosperity and security of any nation or people in a globalized society is dependent on its relations with others. The citizens of Newfoundland and Labrador, although late in becoming part of our great nation, were able after the Cold War years, to establish an internal confidence and stability previously missing. Still, it has been argued these many years since joining the Canadian landscape that the people of Newfoundland and Labrador have not always done so well under the Maple Leaf flag. But this can be said of any long term and complex association. It’s interesting to review the artifacts below to give us a humorous reminder of how our country became what we proudly call home, Canada.

Works Cited

British, serving as merchant mariners in the. “The Second World War, 1939-1945: Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage.” Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage/Patrimoine de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador–Entry Page: Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage. N.p., 25 Mar. 2013. Web. 25 Mar. 2013. <;.

“Confederation – The Canadian Encyclopedia.” The Canadian Encyclopedia. N.p., 25 Mar. 2013. Web. 25 Mar. 2013. <;.

“Fisheries Technology Since Confederation: Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage.” Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage/Patrimoine de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador–Entry Page: Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage. N.p., 25 Mar. 2013. Web. 25 Mar. 2013. <;.

“Introduction: The Confederation Debate.” Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage/Patrimoine de Terre-Neuve et du Labrador–Entry Page: Newfoundland and Labrador Heritage. N.p., 25 Mar. 2013. Web. 25 Mar. 2013. <;.

“Newfoundland Act.” The Solon Law Archive. N.p., 25 Mar. 2013. Web. 25 Mar. 2013. <;.

“newfoundland.flv – YouTube.” YouTube. N.p., 25 Mar. 2013. Web. 25 Mar. 2013.


After World War 2, Newfoundland was faced with major financial difficulty. It had very few options; go bankrupt or join with another country and be relieved of the burden placed on its shoulders. Afraid that the United States would recruit Newfoundland before they had the chance, Canada quickly started negotiations. Following an immense amount of debate, Joey Smallwood ultimately signed the Terms of Union on December 11, 1948 joining Newfoundland to Canada. Was this the right choice for Newfoundland to make, as many so passionately believed, or was this a mistake that Newfoundland didn’t ultimately benefit from? In my opinion, the way to answer this question is to analyze the prosperity and security in Newfoundlander’s lives resulting from Confederation. My definition of prosperity is the quality of one’s life, which his or her wealth, health and connection to loved ones are all major factors in. Furthermore, security to me is the certainty of financial stability, job safety and protection from harm. After studying the primary sources provided from this time, I have concluded that in exchange for joining the Confederation Newfoundlanders were promised the enjoyment of prosperity and security due to family allowance, raised standard of living and relief of debt.

The Confederation promised to benefit Newfoundlanders due to the assurance of a family allowance. Due to the overwhelming financial debt that Newfoundland was facing at the time, the idea of an incentive to procreate or “baby bonus” was appealing. More children would mean more help on the farm or in the business of a family and make them money at the same time. Many Confederate Newfoundlanders, including the author of the letter to the editor in The Evening Telegram, believed that “the family allowance plan [was] a marvelous one”(par. 4) and would bring Newfoundland an abundance of fortune along with other aspects of the Confederation. Family allowance gave families wishing to have more children the financial security of knowing that they would be able to support their offspring, as well as the prosperity of reaping the rewards of larger family.

As well, the Confederation promised to benefit Newfoundlanders and result in a higher standard of living. This would ultimately encompass “a healthier population, less TB, a lower infant mortality: better care for [the] aged and blind, and [the] war vets, too…”(par. 4, “Honest Beliefs” The Evening Telegram). All of these aspects would contribute immensely to the over all security and prosperity enjoyed by Newfoundlanders at this time. A healthier population with lower infant mortality held the promise of making Newfoundland a flourishing province, while the pension for seniors would provide them with the financial safety needed to enjoy stability.

Finally, the promise to relieve Newfoundland of the financial debt burdening it tipped the scale onto the side of Confederation. Newfoundland had a period of prosperity during World War 2, but when the war ended so did the cash flow. Newfoundland’s “governmental gods [had] failed”(Newfoundland’s Dream, par. 7) and consequently some believed that it was time to “try Confederation”(Newfoundland’s Dream, par. 7). The guarantee that “Under Confederation a Newfoundlander would] pay NO TAX” on his or her “house”, “farm”, “boat”, “livestock”, “schooner” or “fishing gear”(The Confederate, 21 April 1948 p.1) ensured great prosperity among Newfoundlanders, leading them to believe that the Confederation could be responsible for Newfoundland’s “troubles ending.” (Newfoundland’s Dream, par. 8)

In conclusion, family allowance, a higher standard of living and relief of prior debt all combined to promise Newfoundland a wealth of prosperity and security in return for joining with Canada in the Confederation. After World War 2, Newfoundland was failing to thrive on its own; the pledged bonuses of Confederation would allow it to do so. This is proven through the cartoons, poems and letters that Confederate Newfoundlanders posted in local newspapers in order to make their voices heard and illustrate all of the possible benefits to be reaped from joining with Canada. Ultimately, Newfoundland became the successful province that it is today. I personally suspect that we may not be saying the same had it not joined with Canada, which illustrates the true extent to which Newfoundlanders enjoyed prosperity and security due to Confederation.


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