On July 1, 1873, Governor-General Lord Dufferin went to Charlottetown to preside over the ceremonies as Prince Edward Island joined Confederation. He passed under an archway with a sign that read: “Long Courted, Won at Last.”
It took six years to get Prince Edward Island into Confederation, but Newfoundland held out for eighty-two years! The oldest Dominion in the British Commonwealth became part of Canada officially on March 31, 1949.
Newfoundland delegates attended the Quebec Conference in 1864 and reported favourably, but in 1869 the Confederation party was badly beaten in a general election and the plan was dropped.
In 1894, Newfoundland was in a period of depression, largely owing to a bank failure, and the proposal to join Canada was revived. This time, Canada was the unwilling suitor and would not accept the marriage contract.
The world-wide depression in the 1930s hit Newfoundland hard and Dominion status was lost. A commission government took over, appointed by Britain. After the war, the commission government called a national convention, to which the people of Newfoundland sent delegates to decide how the country should be governed. There was little interest and only thirty per cent of the people voted.
Two referendums had to be held after that. In the first, nearly ninety per cent of the people voted and the proposal to resume commission government was defeated. The second referendum on July 22, 1948, resulted in a very close vote: Confederation with Canada 78,323; Newfoundland with its own responsible government 71,334. The city of St. John’s wanted Newfoundland to govern itself, but the “outports” swung the balance in favour of joining Canada.
Agreement with the government of Canada was reached on December 11, 1948, and Newfoundland became Canada’s 10th province on March 31, 1949. Joseph R. Smallwood, who had led the drive for joining Canada, was the first Premier.