Sunday, May 25, 2008
Commission of Government in Newfoundland
The Commission of Government in Newfoundland was established in response to an extraordinary set of circumstances. The collapse of world trade during the GREAT DEPRESSION of the 1930s was particularly damaging to Newfoundland's economy, which depended on exporting large quantities of fish and forest products. In 1933, following several turbulent years of severe budget deficits and heavy foreign borrowing, the government of Prime Minister Frederick Alderdice asked the British government to establish a royal commission to investigate Newfoundland's financial difficulties. The commission's report blamed both political corruption and international conditions for Newfoundland's predicament, and advocated replacing RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT with a "Commission of Government" that would rule until Newfoundland was self-supporting again.
Alderdice, Frederick Charles b. Nov. 10, 1872, Belfast, Ireland [now in Northern Ireland] - d. Feb. 28, 1936, St. John's, Newfoundland [now in Canada]), prime minister of Newfoundland (1928, 1932-34). In 1924 he was appointed to the Legislative Council. In the summer of 1928 he assumed the office of prime minister following the resignation of his cousin, Walter S. Monroe, from that post. After the defeat of his United Newfoundland Party in the general election of October 1928, Alderdice led the opposition in the House of Assembly until 1932 when he and his United Newfoundland Party were elected to office. Alderdice was to be the last prime minister of Newfoundland before Confederation. Following the election he also took on the portfolios of Minister of Education and Minister of Finance and Customs, holding the latter office only until August 1932. In 1934 responsible government was officially replaced by commission government (no national referendum was ever held on this constitutional change). Alderdice served as Commissioner for Home Affairs and Education in the new Commission of Government until his death.The commission government took office in February 1934 and remained in power until Newfoundland became a Canadian province in 1949. It was presided over by a governor who acted on the advice of 6 commissioners appointed by the British government. During its tenure the commission government introduced a number of reforms, including a land resettlement scheme, the reorganization of the civil service and the creation of the Newfoundland Fisheries Board. With the outbreak of WWII in 1939, however, large-scale reconstruction was postponed in favour of a total war effort.Gradually much of the original goodwill toward the commission government dissipated, and after the war there was increasing agitation for the return of self-government. Consequently, in the first of 2 referendums held in 1948 to decide the island's future, commission government placed a distant third (behind the restoration of responsible government and Confederation), and when Newfoundland entered Confederation on 31 March 1949, few Newfoundlanders mourned the passing of the commission government.Fred Alderdice on the other hand was rumoured to have been caught with his hand in the gouvernment purse more than a few times.Probably a good friend to Sir Richard Squires and Frank Moores no doubt.