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Responsible Government

April 21-23, 2005

Hampton Hall, Marine Institute

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the advent of Responsible Government in Newfoundland and Labrador. From 1855 to 1934, this system of government shaped our province’s development. How did it operate at that time and in this place? We will look at the 80 plus years which preceded 1934, and, to a lesser extent, its operation in the province after 1948. Though the system termed “Responsible Government” has some generally recognized features, its specific form and history varied from country to country and evolved over time. How were the demographic, economic, social and political realities of Newfoundland and Labrador both shaped by and reflected in our political system? Early lectures will provide the imperial and national backgrounds to the 1855 constitution. Other speakers will examine specific questions. We know that through most of our history the “Separation of Church and State” was hardly a dominant principle of our system. Why was this and what were its ramifications for our political development? What of the role of the press? How did newspaper editors shape and reflect the political issues facing the country in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries? Who could vote? Who was left out and why? How were electoral districts delineated? How were members of the House of Assembly chosen at the local and party levels? What was expected of MHAs and how did their role change over time? We hope to spark debate on these issues and more. Responsible Government did not end in 1949 but was, of course, changed as Newfoundland and Labrador became a province in a federal system. We will look at this change as well.

Thursday, April 21, 2005 8:00 p.m.

David Alexander Lecture – The Transition to Responsible Government in British North America: Some Afterthoughts, Dr. Phillip Buckner

Friday, April 22, 2005 8:00 p.m.

Panel Discussion “The Experience of Responsible Government”

His Honour The Lieutenant Governor The Honourable Edward Roberts, chair
Sandra Kelly
Honourable T. Alex Hickman QC
Senator William Rompkey
James J. Green QC

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Morning Session

9:00-9:15am Welcome – Terry Bishop-Stirling, President, NHS

Overview of Responsible Government

9:15-9:50am Responsible to Whom?: Democratic Government 1855-2005 – Dr. Jeff Webb
9:50-10:00am Questions

Structure: How it all Worked

10:00-10:20 The Franchise 1855-1949 – Terry Bishop-Stirling
10:20-10:40 Drawing Lines and Creating Balance: Electoral Districts and Cabinets under Responsible Government – Bert Riggs
10:40-11:00 Questions
11:00-11:20 Coffee
11:30-11:50 Exceptional Circumstances: Labrador and the French Shore – Dr. James Hiller
11:50-12:05 Questions

Afternoon Sessions

Institutions: Church and the Press

2:00-2:20 Church and State Under Responsible Government: the Denominational Compromise – Dr. John FitzGerald
2:20-2:40 “Government by Journalism” – Dr. Maudie Whelan
2:40-3:00 Questions
3:00-3:30 Break

Communities: How it Worked at the Local Level

3:30-3:50 How Public Opinion was Expressed in Communities Without Newspapers – Jessie Chisholm
3:50-4:10 “Power at the Palace”: examples of the influence of Roman Catholic Parish Priests over their Parishioners along the Southeast Avalon during the “Hard Times” of the 1920’s and ’30’s – Dr.Tom Nemec
4:10-4:30 Harbour Grace and Responsible Government- Dr. Roy Goodwin
4:30-4:50 Questions