The foundation of the
modern Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador was laid in the formation in
1948 of the Newfoundland Confederate Association. The Confederate president was
F. Gordon Bradley, but the general secretary, campaign organizer and all around
sparkplug was Joseph R. Smallwood. Their purpose: to carry on the campaign for
union with Canada, which bore many of the hallmarks of political electioneering.
More than 100 Newfoundlanders from all parts of Newfoundland and Labrador were
invited by Smallwood to become vice-presidents; Gregory J. Power was named
assistant campaign manager and Charles F. Garland financial secretary treasurer
and chairman of a war veterans' advisory committee. Two other advisory committee
chairs were appointed - Fred Kirby for teachers and Harold Horwood for labour.
The association was formed
at a meeting March 26, 1948 in the Ballroom of the Newfoundland Hotel in St.
John's. A few weeks later, on April 6, it began publication of its newspaper
"The Confederate" to promote the cause. The Confederate side would go on to win
the referendum and Newfoundland became Canada's tenth province. On January 5,
1949 the association held a celebration dinner at the Newfoundland Hotel when
Bradley and Smallwood were presented with engraved silver cups to commemorate
the referendum victory.
The referendum won, the
Terms of Union negotiated, and the provincial government appointed, a revived
Liberal Party held a founding convention April 28-30, 1949 to prepare for the
provincial election of May 27. In the first election in the new province the
Liberals won 22 seats, the Progressive Conservatives, formed from the ashes of
the Responsible Government League took 5 seats, and Independent 1 seat. The
Liberal Party would remain in power in Newfoundland until the early 1970s. In
the Liberal 22 years of government, Newfoundland experienced some of the
greatest social changes in it's entire history emerging as an educated modern
province with a growing economy.
In 1989, the Liberal Party
regained power and prepared for the 1990s, a decade that would be a Liberal
decade. With a new decade came new problems and challenges. In 1992, the people
of Newfoundland and Labrador would face the greatest economic disaster since
confederation when the northern cod fishery was closed due to stock depletion.
Designed to last two years in order to allow stocks to rejuvenate, the fishery,
which is the lifeblood of the province, has never recovered to its former glory.
The consequences of the fishery collapse were more than simple economics. The
provinces cultural and social existence was at stake.
Despite the disaster of
the fishery, the province did see a strong economic surge in the 1990s that is
still occurring. Under the leadership of Clyde Wells and later Brian Tobin,
major developments have been signed that see oil being drilled of our shores.
The education system was restructured and the tourism industry flourished under
successful "Celebrations" banners such as the 500th anniversary celebration of
John Cabot's voyage to Newfoundland in 1497.
Premier, Roger Grimes continued the trend of strong leadership and is speedily
making his mark as one of this province's best leaders. Voisey's Bay was completed with great success and advocates
were put in place to protect our youth, as well as all of our citizens. Labour negotiations reached a new level of success with contracts signed
representing thousands of public workers.
The Liberal Party in
Newfoundland and Labrador has been the dominant political party since
confederation in 1949 and are
responsible for many of the major social transformations that has occurred in this
province in the last half century. Those developments, which include Memorial
University, countless new schools across the province and an greatly improved
standard of living, have made the Liberal Party the voice of social development
in Newfoundland and Labrador. With leadership as its trademark, the Liberal
Party of Newfoundland and Labrador will continue to shape and influence this
province through the strong morals and principles of Liberalism.