The Newfoundland conquest of Canada in 1949


The postage stamp seen above was issued by Canada Post in 1949 to commemorate the entry of Newfoundland into the Canadian Confederation. My father was a stamp collector and proudly placed the stamp seen in the photo into his album. However, he had his own version of events.  Allow me to relate the events as told by my dad. I should warn you that my dad’s sense of humour was slightly unusual.

How Newfoundland took over Canada in 1949

He told me: “In 1949, we Newfoundlanders officially took over the other nine provinces of Canada. It was a bold move on our part. Though we possessed no political experience, you understand, we accepted the task of governing a nation that stretched from the Atlantic to the Pacific to the Arctic. It was a monumental task. However, we didn’t complain. Although we had no money, we understood one of the most important things about governing. Screwing around and wasting money doesn’t really matter. Taxpayers expect it. Today, politicians have invented deficit financing, and government debt is even more trivial.

“When Newfoundland signed the confederation documents, at the stroke of a pen, good old Joey Smallwood became the only living Father of Confederation and thus possessed bragging rights. He informed people of his great negotiating skills, as he had convinced the nine Canadian provinces to relinquish their independence and join in confederation with the sovereign nation of Newfoundland. No Father of Confederation rose from the grave and contradicted his interpretation of events. Thus encouraged, he continued to employ his advantage to the fullest. Walking on water was simply a matter of time and opportunity.

“Joey had developed the skill of storytelling to an art form. We Newfoundlanders refer to this as yarnin’, and Joey’s prodigious talent placed him in the company of some great politicians who had never allowed truth to ruin a good story or debate. Where would we be today without the outrageous promises and excuses of politicians? If taxpayers were deprived of their God-given right to complain, they would lose one of the great pleasures of life and be forced into silence. Besides, in the case of ‘St. Joey of Smallwood,’ who could seriously argue with a man who had visited the queen in Buckingham Palace with a slit in the arse of his pants?”

At this point in the story, my dad glanced around to be certain that my grandmother was not listening, as he had employed the word arse. He continued.

“Following the Canadian tradition, Joey raised financial mismanagement in Newfoundland to new heights. He was a very creative man. It caused concern in Ottawa, as they did not like competition in such matters. Next, Joey signed a hydro deal with Quebec that in hindsight was a disaster for Newfoundland. However, Joey understood another of the guiding principles of the Canadian government: as long as you are colourful and beloved by the newspaper reporters, you will be successful. If you show hindsight in the rear of your pants, then it is necessary to put on a good front, as well. Place a red rose in your lapel. We now refer to this as the ‘Pierre principle.’”

Today, I remember my father’s words and smile. I understand his exaggerations. I know what he meant about the Canadian press. When Trudeau reversed his promise not to institute price and wage controls, he did not “flip-flop,” but simply engaged in a “philosophical realignment.” However, whenever Joe Clark did anything, even walking with his wife, he was portrayed as a “bumbler.” Some of us remember the “Joe who” jokes.

The press of our nation does not always serve the public well. Trivial facts that are amusing or interesting are often stressed at the expense of policy. The press seem to believe that readers view the latter as boring, and think that people are more interested in the type of underwear politicians wear, rather than their ideas.

This trend has continued to this day. Many newspaper reporters cover an election as if it was a Hollywood popularity contest. Issues are often relegated to the background.

The above quote is from the book, “Arse Over Teakettle,” an amusing tale of a Toronto family as they struggle to cope with the privations and battle news from Europe during the Second World War. For a link to this book:

The Most Common Characteristics of Canadians 

Although I have previously place a post on this blog about this topic, at great risk, I would like to repeat my dad’s version of a few of the characteristics of “Mr./Ms. Typical Canadian,” even though he/she does not exist. My father realized that no generalization is sufficiently general that exceptions do not occur, but he believed that these qualities were true of most Canadians, whether they had been born in Canada or had adopted it as their homeland. The reader should beware, as you have already been exposed to my father’s eccentric view of history.

1. Canadians are possessed with the seasons and thus never stop talking about them. Without weather to grumble about, they would be forced to remain silent in elevators or, heaven forbid, go out and vote in an election for something to do.

2. Before Canadians will believe that something or someone is great, they require confirmation by other nations, especially Americans. However, after they guzzle two bottles of Canadian wine, they concede that their vintages are among the world’s finest and that the hangovers are “world class.”

3. Canadians not living in the Toronto area all know that it is an evil place, even if they have never stepped foot within its precincts. Astute political observers expect a Toronto Separatist Party to develop sometime in the near future.

4. In a crowd, Canadians prefer invisibility to being obvious. They are invisible when in foreign lands, despite the fact that they are the only people in the world who speak the English language without an accent. Also, they are the only North Americans that know that the final letter of the alphabet is pronounced “zed.” They know what double-double means. In summer, they have barbeques, not barbies or cook outs.

5. Though Canada is not a Christian nation by constitutional law, the majority believe in a code of ethics that is similar to “Christian values,” whether an individual is a Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, atheist, or agnostic. The phrase, “I’m going to put up an agnostic tree next Christmas,” is as Canadian as hockey, maple syrup, or Tim Bits.

6. Canadians strive to see both sides of an argument. Tolerance and compromise are preferred to dogmatism. However, if their favourite hockey team does not make it to the playoffs, they allow no arguments over the statement, “Well, there’s always next year.”

7. Canadians are passive by nature, hate to make a fuss, and prefer to keep their opinions private. (The latter quality, I might add, is now being destroyed by Facebook and Twitter.) However, if they are aroused, they can become a potent force. An international hockey tournament is a sure-fire way to arouse the residents of the land of the maple leaf. They are also quick to adopt Europe’s finest sporting traditions. (For an example, Google articles written about “crazed” soccer fans at professional games.)

8. Patriotism is an internal emotion, independent of flags, symbols, and rousing anthems. Besides, most Canadians do not know the lyrics of their national anthem. They would hold their hands over their hearts when saluting the flag, but during most of the year, it is too cold to take their hands out of their pockets.

9. Canadians are usually practical by nature, though it is said that they are the only people in the world that step out of the shower to take a pee.

10. Canadians believe they should obey the law, even if it is inconvenient. However, they do not recognize any customs that refer to tipping and resent adding the expected 15 or 20 per cent to their restaurant bills. The Goods and Service Tax (GST), they hate with a passion, and they love asking, “Can I pay cash?” (wink wink).

11. Canadians think that individualism should be tempered by their collective responsibilities toward others. This noble attribute is not respected by those Canadians who drive their cars along crowded avenues in summer with their stereos blaring with the force of the Jolly Green Giant breaking wind. The IQ of these individuals is inversely proportional to the volume of their sound systems.

12. Canadians tolerate crown corporations and royal commissions, though they understand neither.

If you recognize a part of you in the preceding list, congratulations! According to my dad, you are a member of the Canadian majority. He also claimed that the only truly Canadian joke was: “The world will come to a cataclysmic end at ten o’clock tomorrow evening—ten-thirty in Newfoundland.”

The above quote is also from the book, “Arse Over Teakettle.”

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