Political and Administrative History

Political and Administrative History

From 1729 to 1832 Newfoundland was ruled by naval governors appointed by the British government. In 1832 Newfoundland was granted representative government, with an elected House of Assembly consisting of 15 members, but with most power vested in the hands of the Governor and his council of advisors. In 1855 this was replaced by responsible government, whereby governing became the responsible of a prime minister and cabinet chosen from among the members elected to the House of Assembly and answerable to the electors. The Governor remained the representative of the British Crown.
From 1832 to 1855 Greenspond was part of the constituency of Bonavista Bay which stretched north from Bonavista to Cape Freels. The first election was held over several days in November 1832, with the returning officer carrying the ballot box from community to community. Those eligible to vote did so in a public place telling the returning officer the name of the person they wished to vote for; there was no secret ballo t in Newfoundland until 1888. The Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador (Volume 1, p. 681) describes the contest in that first election in Bonavista Bay. It was between Hugh Alexander Emerson, a St. John’s lawyer and William Brown, about whom very little is known.

In 1855, with the advent of responsible government, the number of seats in the House of Assembly was doubled to 30. Bonavista Bay constituency maintained its geographical area, but was apportioned three members in the new House. The members elected over the next 60 years were usually supporters of the conservative party, in one of its many incarnations, with the occasional liberal member being elected, mainly as supporters of Sir Frederick Carter or Sir William Whiteway during their terms as Prime Minister in the 1870s and early 1880s. Indeed, when Sir Robert Bond’s Liberal Party swept the country, winning 32 of 36 seats in 1900 and 30 of 36 in 1904, Bonavista Bay continued to elect Conservatives and by healthy majorities.

The 1869 election was one of the more interesting contests during that period and Greenspond electors were at the forefront in deciding who would represent the area. That was the election that pitted incumbent Prime Minister Sir Frederick Carter and his support for Confederation with Canada against Charles Fox Bennett and his anti-Confederate forces. John H. Warren, a member of the House of Assembly since 1852 and John T. Burton, a member since 1865 were joined in the Confederate cause by M. Carroll. They were opposed by James L. Noonan, Francis Winton and W. M. Barnes. The Confederates would have won the day if not for the voters of Greenspond. Only 182 votes separated Noonan at the top of the poll from Carroll at the bottom. Well over 200 votes were cast for each of the anti-Confederate candidates in Greenspond. It was, together with Keels and King’s Cove, the most staunchly anti-Confederate community in the Bonavista Bay district.

Many of the members who represented Bonavista Bay during the period from 1855 to 1913 were St. John’s merchants or lawyers. Some of the members were residents of the district, such as John H. Warren, Stephen March and James L. Noonan, and later Abram Kean and William C. Winsor. Several were Greenspond residents: Dr. George Skelton was a Whiteway supporter from 1878 to 1885; Frederick White represented the Reform Party from 1885 to 1888; Captain Samuel Blandford was a Liberal member from 1889 to 1893, while his brother, Darius Blandford was a Conservative supporter from 1893 to 1904 and Samuel’s son, Sidney D. Blandford succeeded his uncle in 1904 and served until 1913.
In 1913 the Conservatives, by then in the guise of the People’s Party, received a rude awakening in Bonavista Bay district. All three of their members went down to defeat to the candidates supporting the Fisherman’s Protective Union political party. The FPU was founded in Herring Neck, Notre Dame Bay in 1908 by a fisherman-farmer, William Coaker. It was committed to obtaining a better deal for fishermen and its message soon spread along the northeast coast, where it signed up thousands of members and establishing a local in practically every community along the coast. It decided to enter the 1913 election, as allies with the Liberal Party under Bond, which had lost power to the People’s Party in 1909. The FPU members won 8 of the 9 seats where they ran candidates, including William Coaker, Robert G. Winsor and John Abbott in Bonavista Bay. Winsor and Abbott represented Bonavista Bay until 1924 when conservatives under Walter S. Monroe carried the day.

In 1927 a major redistribution of seats in the House of Assembly saw the creation of 40, mainly single-member districts. Greenspond was part of the new district of Bonavista North, which in 1928 returned Robert G. Winsor, an FPU Liberal, to the House once again. Winsor died in 1929 and was replaced by Liberal Nathan G. Winsor in a by-election. The last member elected to the House of Assembly of Newfoundland before it was abolished with the advent of Commission of Government in 1934 was Conservative William C. Winsor, who had previously served in the House from 1904 to 1913 and from 1924 to 1928.
Many of the members elected from Bonavista Bay served in Cabinet, including James L. Noonan, Alfred B. Morine, Donald Morison, Abram Kean, William Winsor and William Coaker. Sidney Blandford served as Minister of Agriculture and Mines from 1909 to 1917.
After Confederation with Canada in 1949, Greenspond became part of the provincial district of Bonavista North and has remained part of that district through several redistributions and boundary changes over the years. It has been represented in the House of Assembly by both Liberals and Conservatives, including Premier Joseph R. Smallwood from 1949 to 1959 and 1962 to 1966.

With Confederation, Newfoundland began to elect members to the Canadian House of Commons. Greenspond was first part of the federal riding of Bonavista-Twillingate and first elected F. Gordon Bradley to Ottawa in 1949. Both Bradley and his successor, J. W. Pickersgill, were members of the federal cabinet. From 1968 to 1988 Greenspond was part of Gander-Twillingate; in 1988 it became part of Bonavista-Trinity-Conception.

Greenspond Representatives in the Newfoundland House of Assembly 1832 to 1855 under representative government

Greenspond Representatives in the Newfoundland House of Assembly (3-member district) from 1855 to 1928 under responsible government

Greenspond Representatives in the Newfoundland House of Assembly from 1949 Province of Canada (1 member districts)


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