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MacKenzie, David.

Toronto, University of Toronto Press, c1986. 285pp, cloth, $32.50, ISBN 0-8020-2587-0. CIP

Grade 12 and up
Reviewed by Neil Payne

Volume 14 Number 4
1986 July

Inside the Atlantic Triangle chronicles the decade that led to Newfoundland's entry into Confederation. Although the question of Newfoundland joining Canada had been on-again-off-again since the 1860s, the period before 1939 is covered only briefly in the introduction.

Several factors combined to make union a hot topic in the 1940s. The Depression and political mismanagement during the 30s had effectively made Newfoundland bankrupt and so a serious drain on the British treasury, a drain that Britain could not afford after the war. The war itself was a major contributor. Newfoundland could not afford to defend itself, but it was obviously vital to the defence of North America, especially at a time when invasion seemed a definite possibility. Canada, and to a lesser degree the United States, quickly negotiated agreements with Newfoundland to use it as a forward base for defence. Air and naval bases gew up at Gander, Goose Bay, Argentia, St. Johns, Bay Bulls, Botwood, and several other centres. Thousands of military personnel and numerous large construction projects injected prosperity into the Newfoundland economy and the war provided a bottomless market for Newfoundland exports of fish, iron, lumber, and paper. Trans Canada Airlines brought Halifax and Ottawa within a few hours travel.

By the end of the war, although the military presence was removed, Newfoundland's economy had become integrated with Canada's. The large debt that had built up during the Depression still crippled the government. Britain was unable to bail out Newfoundland, so union with Canada became the most effective means to avoid bankruptcy.

Canada also saw considerable benefits from union. Removal of tariffs would ensure that Canadian businesses would greatly increase their share of trade with Newfoundland. Newfoundland and Labrador provided important strategic benefits. Probably most pressing was the awareness that the alternative was probably an eventual takeover by the United States.

This book is a carefully written history that makes extensive use of government and diplomatic documents of the time, including personal diaries of the principals. There are twenty-six pages of footnotes and nine pages of bibliography, but these are at the end of the book, so they do not interfere with reading. There is also a good index to provide access to specific information. The author has been able to produce an interesting and very readable account and still maintain solid scholarship.

Inside the Atlantic Triangle is a valuable guide to the last step in Confederation. Principal figures in these events are colourful and familiar personalities such as Joey Smallwood, Lester B. Pearson, Jack Pickersgill, and William Lyon Mackenzie King. It is an interesting story, as well as an important part of our modern history. This book is strongly recommended for all libraries with an interest in Canadian history.

Neil Payne, Kingston C.I., Kingston, Ont.
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