Newfoundland Commission of Government

The Commission of Government was a non-elected body that governed the Dominion of Newfoundland from 1934 to 1949. Established following the collapse of Newfoundland's economy during the Great Depression, it was dissolved when the dominion became the tenth province of Canada on March 31, 1949. It was composed of civil servants who were directly subordinate to the British Government in London.


Newfoundland's economic difficulties were exacerbated by debt incurred during the First World War and the collapse of fish prices during the Depression. In 1933, following a prolonged period of economic crisis and severe budgetary deficit, and civil unrest that culminated in a riot which brought down the previous government, the government of Prime Minister Frederick C. Alderdice asked the British and Canadian governments to establish a royal commission (the Newfoundland Royal Commission) to investigate the dominion's continuing crisis and to suggest a solution to its problems.

The commission (commonly known as the "Amulree Commission") was chaired by Lord Amulree, appointed by the British government, and also included Charles Alexander Magrath, appointed by the Canadian government, and Sir William Ewen Stavert, who represented the Newfoundland government.

The commission recommended the temporary suspension of responsible government in Newfoundland, and replacing it with a Commission of Government made up of the British-appointed Governor and six commissioners appointed by the Crown made up of three British officials and three Newfoundland-born appointees.

Alderdice was in favour of this recommendation and accordingly put it to the House of Assembly, which duly approved the proposals and thus voted itself out of existence.

The Commission of Government was sworn in on 16 February 1934,[1] with Alderdice as vice-chairman, and immediately set about reforming the administration of the country in hopes of balancing the government's budget. With the help of grants in aid from the United Kingdom the Commission attempted to encourage agriculture and reorganize the fishing industry. While it did much to expand government health services to rural areas, for example, it could not solve the basic economic problems of a small export-oriented country during a time of worldwide economic stagnation.

American and Canadian military spending in Newfoundland during the 1940s caused an economic boom and allowed the Commission of Government to consider how to reintroduce a system of democratic government. However, the British government believed that the wartime prosperity would be short-lived and so it established the Newfoundland National Convention in 1946 to debate constitutional options, which were submitted to the people in two referenda in 1948. By a slender majority, Newfoundlanders chose to become a province of Canada, rather than return to the status of a self-governing dominion. The Commission of Government continued to govern Newfoundland until March 31, 1949, when the dominion joined Canada.

Chairmen of Commission of Government

1934–1935David Murray Anderson
1936–1946Humphrey T. Walwyn
1946–1949Gordon MacDonald

Members of the Commission of Government

Name From To Role
Frederick Charles Alderdice 16 February 1934 1936 Commissioner for Home Affairs and Education, Vice Chairman 1934-1936
Sir John Hope Simpson 16 February 1934 1936 Commissioner of Natural Resources and Acting-Commissioner of Justice
William Richard Howley 16 February 1934 1937 Commissioner for Justice and Attorney General 1934-1937; Vice-Chairman 1936-1937
Thomas Lodge 16 February 1934 1937 Commissioner of Public Utilities
John Charles Puddester
(knighted in 1939)
16 February 1934 1947 Commissioner of Public Health and Welfare; Vice-Chairman 1938-1947
Everard Noel Rye Trentham 16 February 1934 1937 Commissioner of Finance
James Alexander Winter 20 April 1936 1941 Commissioner of Home Affairs and Education
Robert Benson Ewbank 28 July 1936 1939 Commissioner of Natural Resources
Sir Wilfrid Wentworth Woods 15 January 1937 1944 Commissioner of Public Utilities
John Hubert Penson 10 May 1937 1941 Commissioner of Finance
Lewis Edward Emerson
(knighted in 1944)
15 September 1937 1944 Commissioner of Justice and Attorney General 1937-1940, Commissioner of Defence 1940-1944
John Henry Gorvin 31 May 1939 1941 Commissioner of Natural Resources
Ira Wild 16 February 1941 1946 Commissioner of Finance
Peter Douglas Hay Dunn 30 June 1941 1945 Commissioner of Natural Resources
Harry Anderson Winter 20 May 1941 1947 Commissioner of Home Affairs and Education 1941-1944, Commissioner of Justice and Commissioner of Defence 1944-1947
Sir George Ernest London 5 September 1944 1945 Commissioner of Public Utilities
Albert Joseph Walsh
(knighted in 1949)
5 September 1944 1949 Commissioner of Home Affairs and Education 1944-1949, Commissioner of Defence 1947-1949
James Scott Neill 28 September 1945 1949 Commissioner for Public Utilities and Supply
William Henry Flinn 28 September 1945 1949 Commissioner of Natural Resources
Richard Lewis Malcolm James 12 September 1946 1949 Commissioner of Finance
Herman William Quinton 1 January 1947 1949 Commissioner of Public Health and Welfare 1947-1949
Herbert Lench Pottle 19 September 1947 1949 Commissioner for Public Welfare

See also


  1. "The Commission of Government, 1934-1949". Retrieved 2019-12-09.


Details as per notices in The London Gazette:

  • Notice dated January 31, 1934, issue no. 34021 of February 6, 1934, p. 834
  • Notice dated April 21, 1936, issue no. 34280 of May 1, 1936, p. 2800
  • Notice dated July 29, 1936, issue no. 34312 of August 7, 1936, p. 5184
  • Notice dated January 18, 1937, issue no. 34363 of January 26, 1937, p. 554
  • Notice dated May 10, 1937, issue no. 34400 of May 21, 1937, p. 3297
  • Notice dated September 15, 1937, issue no. 34439 of September 28, 1937, p. 6016
  • Notice dated May 31, 1939, issue no. 34634 of June 9, 1939, p. 3883
  • Notice dated March 6, 1941, issue no. 35102 of March 11, 1941, p. 1447
  • Notice dated June 3, 1941, issue no. 35183 of June 6, 1941, p. 3223
  • Notice dated July 3, 1941, issue no. 35208 of July 4, 1941, p. 3821
  • Notice dated September 14, 1944, issue no. 36709 of September 19, 1944, p. 4343
  • Notice dated September 29, 1944, issue no. 36724 of September 29, 1944, p. 4491
  • Notices dated September 28, 1945, issue no. 37305 of October 12, 1945, p. 5026
  • Notice dated September 12, 1946, issue no. 37747 of October 4, 1946, p. 4945
  • Notice dated January 25, 1947, issue no. 37868 of January 31, 1947, p. 559