Tag Archives: 1948

The lessons of Newfoundland’s 1948 referendum

Imagine a North America with three, not two, countries north of the Rio Grande — the United States, Canada and… Newfoundland.newfoundlandCanada Flag Icon

Newfoundland!? That’s right. The Canadian outpost in the north Atlantic. Imagine today a proud population of nearly 530,000, now basking in the proceeds of a thriving offshore oil market, growing interest in summer tourism and a historical reliance on fisheries.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds — and if not for the votes of 7,000 Newfoundlanders on this day in 1948, the proudly sovereign country of Newfoundland and Labrador might exist today as a strategic Atlantic hub.


With an area slightly larger than Bangladesh or Greece, and with a population similar to that of Luxembourg and larger than the populations of Iceland, Belize, Brunei or Malta, the Canadian province today has a GDP per capita of nearly $68,000, in Canadian dollars (as of 2013) — much higher than the Canadian average of nearly $54,000.

On July 22, 1948, nearly 150,000 Newfoundlanders voted in the second of two fiercely contested referenda. They decided, however narrowly, in favor of confederation with Canada. On April 1 of the following year, Newfoundland and Labrador became the 10th Canadian province. The referendum brought to an end 15 years of uncertain status — that’s because in 1934, the essentially independent ‘Dominion of Newfoundland’ reverted back to colonial status after a financial crisis left the country unable to service its debt.

Sound familiar? Relations today between Greece and the rest of the eurozone (most especially Germany) are as strained as ever. With a third bailout effectively ceding control of Greek fiscal policy from prime minister Alexis Tsipras to European authorities, Newfoundland’s example holds instructive lessons on sovereignty and debt. The referendum — and the failure of the pro-independence campaign — also provides a data point for aspiring nations like Scotland and Catalunya.

Nearly 80 years of sovereignty

Newfoundland first won self-rule in 1854, with the introduction of ‘responsible government,’ and it acquired more formal dominion status (equivalent to the dominion status Canada held) in 1907. Continue reading The lessons of Newfoundland’s 1948 referendum

Peres, last lion of Israel’s ’48 generation, weighs post-presidential role


Even though Israel has now lost Ariel Sharon, the curtain hasn’t fallen completely on the generation of leadership forged by the 1948 war for independence.  Shimon Peres will leave the Israeli presidency in July with enough power and potential for one last attempt to secure a Palestinian peace, I argue tomorrow at The National Interest:ISrel Flag Icon

[P]eres, himself a former prime minister, is also part of that group, and it would be overhasty to omit his future potential. At age 90, Peres has already outlived Sharon by five years, and he has indicated that when he steps down in July after seven years as Israel’s president, he could take one last shot at the goal that’s eluded him over decades of public service: a Palestinian peace deal.

He’ll do so not as a stalwart of the Israeli left or as the longtime nemesis of current Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, 26 years his junior, but as the last lion of the ’48ers—a statesman whose mentor was Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, and who found common cause with rivals, including [Likud prime minister Yitzhak] Shamir, [his Labor Party rival and prime minister Yitzhak] Rabin and Sharon, in the hopes of achieving a more secure future for Israel.

I argue that if Peres were to return to active politics for one last push, it would be in the spirit of finishing what Sharon started, though the two politicians spent much of their careers on opposite sides of the political spectrum — Sharon, the ‘bulldozer,’ the hard-charging defense minister and champion of Israeli settlers; and Peres, the longtime Labor leader and the figure most associated with the ultimately failed 1993 Oslo peace accords:

[T]here’s a space in Israeli politics for a galvanizing figure to build an effective anti-Netanyahu coalition with the single goal of achieving a deal with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas. There are already rumblings that Peres will start a new political party this summer, with the reported support of Mossad (foreign intelligence) chief Meir Dagan and Yuval Diskin, the former head of Shin Bet (Israel’s security agency). In many ways, if he were to do so, Peres would be picking up in 2014 where Sharon left off in 2006.