Newfoundland; Economic, Diplomatic, and Strategic Studies

By R. A. MacKay | Go to book overview

XIII
THE IMPACT OF THE WAR1

(By G. S. WATTS)

NEWFOUNDLAND in common with her North American neighbours has experienced the full catalogue of now-familiar war problems; but beyond this generality resemblance in incidence largely ceases. This is owing to the unique characteristics of the Newfoundland economy which differentiate her in a rather surprising fashion. These have been fully described in foregoing sections; the economy's comparative simplicity, its extreme dependence on external outlets for its few staple exports and its equally decided reliance on external sources for most of the goods it consumes, the primitive and dispersed nature of its outlying settlements and its lengthy history of chronic depression and vulnerability; finally there is the unique and unforeseen role which Newfoundland came to play in global war strategy.

It is not necessary here to emphasize that Newfoundland entered the war in a condition to which the term semidepressed scarcely does justice. Some improvements from the depths of the depression had occurred, it is true, but activity in 1939 was still only sufficient to afford the most meagre livelihood to the greater number of the inhabitants. The chief explanation, of course, was the chronically low state of the cod fishery. This was far from being offset by the improvement in the forest industries which at best make a moderately small contribution to employment. The institution of Government by Commission with its attending financial arrangements lightened the burden on the taxpayer, but generally speaking

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1
This chapter was prepared in the autumn of 1944 and set in type shortly thereafter since publication was then expected at an early date. In the final revision for printing it was thought to be an unnecessary expense to change the tense throughout since the basic findings appear to be unaffected by the course of events.

-219-

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