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Election coverage from an earlier era


The election held in Canada on June 18, 1962 resulted in a minority government. John Diefenbaker’s juggernaut in the Commons was humbled and sent back to work stepping over the casualties.

Lester Pearson’s Liberals didn’t make as much headway as they expected from the voters falling out of love with the Conservatives. They got only 99 seats. Social Credit got 30 (their strength came from the Canadian West and from Quebec) and for the first time, the election was enjoined by the New Democratic Party. They received 19 seats but leader Tommy Douglas lost his seat and only got into the Commons in a byelection.

Here in Newfoundland, Premier Joey Smallwood jumped into the election battle on Pearson’s side. No surprise there.

A month before the election, Newfoundland journalist Albert Perlin wrote, “in an election in which every seat may count, Newfoundland’s premier wants all seven of the province’s ridings to be on the Liberal side when the votes are in.”

With the campaign winding down, Perlin (and others for sure) could see that a minority government was a possibility. “Dief The Chief” lost his historic majority (the largest number of seats ever for a successful federal Canadian party) largely through high unemployment and a slumping dollar. It didn’t help Diefenbaker to argue that our cheaper dollar made for happier incoming tourists and happier Canadian exporters; California oranges now cost more and that was our fault — the Americans hadn’t put up the price.

Fifty-three years ago we had a little splinter party in the Newfoundland legislature. John O’Dea sat in the House as member for St. John’s South under a brand new banner, United Newfoundland Party. His colleague, James Higgins, had been defeated in his bid for the St. John’s East seat in the previous provincial election. When the federal election came up, Smallwood was happy to announce with Pearson here, that the United Newfoundland Party had decided to support our federal Liberal candidates.

The UNP was made up of former PCs who were convinced Smallwood was right on Term 29 but who could not bring themselves to come in under the Smallwood banner. Interpretation of No. 29 in the terms of union with Canada brought new sting and vigor to the argument of special status within the Canadian Confederation for historically disadvantaged Newfoundland. Some say it was as much about Diefenbaker/Smallwood acrimony as anything else.

That federal election gave Smallwood six Newfoundland seats, not all seven.

During the campaign, where Pearson was escorted and hailed by Smallwood across Newfoundland, even our weather turned against Diefenbaker. Perlin reported:

“The Conservatives, showing a livelier spirit than ever before, were disappointed that fog forced Prime Minister John Diefenbaker to land at Argentia instead of Torbay on his flying visit to Newfoundland.

“With their parade through the streets of St. John’s cancelled, the Conservatives drove to meet the prime minister’s cavalcade midway between the capital and Argentia and escorted him to the city.”

“After a television appearance,” Perlin continued, “the Conservative leader spoke at a rally in St. John’s following rousing assurances of another Conservative victory from provincial Tory Leader James Greene and St. John’s West and East members of the Commons, William J. Browne and James McGrath.”

The substance of Diefenbaker’s argument for Newfoundland ears was that his administration had provided more money and aid for Newfoundland since 1957 than the Liberals had given between 1949 and 1957.

Of course, on the surface that’s probably right, given the way money has a way of growing by the number and not by the value.

But, as Perlin also noted in commenting before this election was decided, “the character of the campaign has taken, as was expected, an almost totally local aspect with national issues very much in the background.”

 

Things to occupy us …

Besides an election there were plenty of things going on here 53 years ago to divert our ever-wandering attention. For instance, the squabble over the route of power lines.

This piece is taken from Perlin’s The Newfoundland Record magazine dated May-June 1962:

“Following months of controversy, the opponents of the Newfoundland Light and Power Company’s plan to string overhead power lines across the entrance to St. John’s historic harbour had their way. Coming for decision before the municipal council, the power company’s application was defeated by a vote of four to two. The company has said that a submarine cable would be costly and might be damaged by ships dragging their anchors. Purpose of the desired line is to bring power from the steam plant inside the harbour entranced to the eastern half of the capital.”

And further on, this interesting snippet from the same source:

“With the newsprint and logging industry the greatest single prop of the Newfoundland economy, changing conditions and trends must always attract a lively interest. An item of news made by the forest industry (in April 1962) was contained in a table in the Dunfield Report on the Logging Industry. It showed that in 1959 Newfoundland pulpwood cutters had the highest average daily rate of pay east of Ontario.”

Then there was the novel occurrence of a logger going home at night: “Roads have greatly changed the form of woods operations in Newfoundland. Among other things they have made it possible for many loggers to work out of their own homes, commuting to the cutting sites. In some areas, Bowaters is providing buses as the foundation of a commuter system.”

 

Launching the Regiment’s history

Adding his voice to another small news item from a month prior to publication of the Record, Perlin said, “the Royal Newfoundland Regiment wrote its history in gallantry and blood during the First World War in Gallipoli and later in many desperate battles in France. Much has been written about its record but all efforts to produce an official regimental history have so far been frustrated by a variety of circumstances. This task has now been entrusted to Canadian military historian, Col. G.W. Nicholson with the expectation that the book will be finished by the time of the Regiment’s 50th anniversary in September 1964.”

“The Fighting Newfoundlander” was, in fact, published in 1964. “More Fighting Newfoundlanders” came out five years later. It was also by Nicholson.

 

Made his name 20 years before

Albert Perlin’s (1901-1978) columnizing on the Confederation debate of the mid-to-late 1940s is the subject of the Hollohan and Baker 1986 book “A Clear Head in Tempestuous Times.” He had initially objected to the proposal of Confederation with Canada being foisted upon us, as it were. He thought that after Commission of Government, we should have been allowed to revert to Responsible Government and from there, perhaps the confederation move might spring up from among us; by our own initiative, let’s say.

Nevertheless as events moved rapidly and the decision to join Canada squeaked through, Perlin did not continue to object. He watched as the benefits from Canada came flowing in. And he went with that flow.

 

Paul Sparkes is a longtime journalist intrigued by the history of Newfoundland and Labrador. Email psparkes@thetelegram.com.

 

 

Lester Pearson’s Liberals didn’t make as much headway as they expected from the voters falling out of love with the Conservatives. They got only 99 seats. Social Credit got 30 (their strength came from the Canadian West and from Quebec) and for the first time, the election was enjoined by the New Democratic Party. They received 19 seats but leader Tommy Douglas lost his seat and only got into the Commons in a byelection.

Here in Newfoundland, Premier Joey Smallwood jumped into the election battle on Pearson’s side. No surprise there.

A month before the election, Newfoundland journalist Albert Perlin wrote, “in an election in which every seat may count, Newfoundland’s premier wants all seven of the province’s ridings to be on the Liberal side when the votes are in.”

With the campaign winding down, Perlin (and others for sure) could see that a minority government was a possibility. “Dief The Chief” lost his historic majority (the largest number of seats ever for a successful federal Canadian party) largely through high unemployment and a slumping dollar. It didn’t help Diefenbaker to argue that our cheaper dollar made for happier incoming tourists and happier Canadian exporters; California oranges now cost more and that was our fault — the Americans hadn’t put up the price.

Fifty-three years ago we had a little splinter party in the Newfoundland legislature. John O’Dea sat in the House as member for St. John’s South under a brand new banner, United Newfoundland Party. His colleague, James Higgins, had been defeated in his bid for the St. John’s East seat in the previous provincial election. When the federal election came up, Smallwood was happy to announce with Pearson here, that the United Newfoundland Party had decided to support our federal Liberal candidates.

The UNP was made up of former PCs who were convinced Smallwood was right on Term 29 but who could not bring themselves to come in under the Smallwood banner. Interpretation of No. 29 in the terms of union with Canada brought new sting and vigor to the argument of special status within the Canadian Confederation for historically disadvantaged Newfoundland. Some say it was as much about Diefenbaker/Smallwood acrimony as anything else.

That federal election gave Smallwood six Newfoundland seats, not all seven.

During the campaign, where Pearson was escorted and hailed by Smallwood across Newfoundland, even our weather turned against Diefenbaker. Perlin reported:

“The Conservatives, showing a livelier spirit than ever before, were disappointed that fog forced Prime Minister John Diefenbaker to land at Argentia instead of Torbay on his flying visit to Newfoundland.

“With their parade through the streets of St. John’s cancelled, the Conservatives drove to meet the prime minister’s cavalcade midway between the capital and Argentia and escorted him to the city.”

“After a television appearance,” Perlin continued, “the Conservative leader spoke at a rally in St. John’s following rousing assurances of another Conservative victory from provincial Tory Leader James Greene and St. John’s West and East members of the Commons, William J. Browne and James McGrath.”

The substance of Diefenbaker’s argument for Newfoundland ears was that his administration had provided more money and aid for Newfoundland since 1957 than the Liberals had given between 1949 and 1957.

Of course, on the surface that’s probably right, given the way money has a way of growing by the number and not by the value.

But, as Perlin also noted in commenting before this election was decided, “the character of the campaign has taken, as was expected, an almost totally local aspect with national issues very much in the background.”

 

Things to occupy us …

Besides an election there were plenty of things going on here 53 years ago to divert our ever-wandering attention. For instance, the squabble over the route of power lines.

This piece is taken from Perlin’s The Newfoundland Record magazine dated May-June 1962:

“Following months of controversy, the opponents of the Newfoundland Light and Power Company’s plan to string overhead power lines across the entrance to St. John’s historic harbour had their way. Coming for decision before the municipal council, the power company’s application was defeated by a vote of four to two. The company has said that a submarine cable would be costly and might be damaged by ships dragging their anchors. Purpose of the desired line is to bring power from the steam plant inside the harbour entranced to the eastern half of the capital.”

And further on, this interesting snippet from the same source:

“With the newsprint and logging industry the greatest single prop of the Newfoundland economy, changing conditions and trends must always attract a lively interest. An item of news made by the forest industry (in April 1962) was contained in a table in the Dunfield Report on the Logging Industry. It showed that in 1959 Newfoundland pulpwood cutters had the highest average daily rate of pay east of Ontario.”

Then there was the novel occurrence of a logger going home at night: “Roads have greatly changed the form of woods operations in Newfoundland. Among other things they have made it possible for many loggers to work out of their own homes, commuting to the cutting sites. In some areas, Bowaters is providing buses as the foundation of a commuter system.”

 

Launching the Regiment’s history

Adding his voice to another small news item from a month prior to publication of the Record, Perlin said, “the Royal Newfoundland Regiment wrote its history in gallantry and blood during the First World War in Gallipoli and later in many desperate battles in France. Much has been written about its record but all efforts to produce an official regimental history have so far been frustrated by a variety of circumstances. This task has now been entrusted to Canadian military historian, Col. G.W. Nicholson with the expectation that the book will be finished by the time of the Regiment’s 50th anniversary in September 1964.”

“The Fighting Newfoundlander” was, in fact, published in 1964. “More Fighting Newfoundlanders” came out five years later. It was also by Nicholson.

 

Made his name 20 years before

Albert Perlin’s (1901-1978) columnizing on the Confederation debate of the mid-to-late 1940s is the subject of the Hollohan and Baker 1986 book “A Clear Head in Tempestuous Times.” He had initially objected to the proposal of Confederation with Canada being foisted upon us, as it were. He thought that after Commission of Government, we should have been allowed to revert to Responsible Government and from there, perhaps the confederation move might spring up from among us; by our own initiative, let’s say.

Nevertheless as events moved rapidly and the decision to join Canada squeaked through, Perlin did not continue to object. He watched as the benefits from Canada came flowing in. And he went with that flow.

 

Paul Sparkes is a longtime journalist intrigued by the history of Newfoundland and Labrador. Email psparkes@thetelegram.com.

 

 

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