OUR MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT
by Robert A. Given
In 1950 Etobicoke celebrated the 100th Anniversary of its Township Council. Now, 50 years later,
let us turn back to the pages in that little red anniversary booklet which our society re-printed.
At first all local authority was in the hands of the justices of the Peace for each of Upper Canada's four judicial
districts. These government appointed magistrates met every three months in "Quarter
Sessions" and dealt with jails, courthouses, highways, weights and measures, liquor licenses, and granting non-Anglican
clergymen the right to perform marriages. There seemed to be some reluctance on the part of the authorities to grant even the modified form of self-government based on
the "town meeting". It has been
suggested that the town meeting may have been considered as a culture-bed of republican germs. (In the thirteen colonies such meetings were used to disseminate revolutionary ideas.) Since all magistrates were, named by the
Government, and were usually retired officers or other members of the "Court party", the actual settlers soon began to grumble.
In writing about the very early vestry meetings of Christ Church, Mimico,
Rev. H. 0. Tremayne draws attention to the fact that the wardens were not merely ecclesiastical officials but also municipal.
In 1793 it was provided that any two justices of the Peace might issue a warrant to a constable
of "any parish, township, reputed township or place" authorizing the calling together on the first Monday in March annually of all ratepayers in the parish church, chapel or some convenient place for the purpose of
nominating and choosing parish or town officials. The officials to be selected in this way were a town-clerk, two assessors, one tax-collector, from two to six persons as overseers of
highways and fence-viewers, one pound keeper, and two town wardens.
With respect to the wardens the statute said that as soon as a church was built according to the use of the Church of England, with a parson or
minister duly appointed thereto, the householders should
nominate one warden, and the minister one other, to serve as churchwardens and town-wardens; these being a corporation to represent all the inhabitants, with power to
hold property and to sue, or to defend actions on behalf of the inhabitants. That a Church Establishment for Upper Canada
was considered as a thing settled is dearly shown by this legislation!
foundation of our municipal system was laid with the passing of the District Councils Act in 1841. The ratepayers elected the members of the council although the warden and the treasurer were still appointed by the
Governor-in-Council. John Grubbe and J. W. Gamble represented Etobicoke on the first Home District Council, and John Scarlett was one of the representatives of York Township.
John William Gamble built his home on
the east bank of Mimico Creek south of The Queensway in 1822 and his sawmill on the west bank.
He was chairman of the Home District School Committee when townships were first divided into school sections. He founded Christ Church on Royal York
Road which was Etobicoke's first Church on Royal York Road which was
Etobicoke's first place of worship.
John Grubbe arrived in Etobicoke about ten years later and bought farms on Albion Road between Islington Avenue and the Humber River.
In the 1840s he was founder and first president of the Weston and the Albion plank toll road companies. In 1847 he had village lots surveyed for St. Andrews which was re-named Thistletown and was the first registered plan for a community in Etobicoke. The present system of township and county councils is the result of the Baldwin or Municipal Corporations Act of 1849. This increased the authority of the municipal councils, abolished the practice of appointing local officials by Governor-in-Council and formalizing the regulations regarding the incorporation of municipalities. Etobicoke Township was divided into rural wards preparatory to its first township council election by an act (No. 220) passed in October of 1849 by the Home District Council.
Etobicoke was divided into 5 wards for voting with ward boundries drawn from east to west but not in straight lines necessarily. Ward One was by the lake and Ward Five was at the far north:
Place: School House near the Church
Returning Officer: Peter Van Every
Place: School House Mimico Village
[which was re-named Islington]
Returning Officer: Edward Musson
Place: Culham's School House
Returning Officer: John Moor
Place: Musson's Tavern
Returning Officer: T. Bolton
Place: Tibb's Tavern, St. Andrew's
Returning Officer: J. Russell
Roughly speaking, the ward boundaries were lines drawn from to west across the township along Berry Avenue and the Queensway, along the Base Line which is the southern boundary of
crest Village, along the Dixon Sideroad past the Drive-in along Barker Avenue in Thistletown across
to the northern most part of the Old Malton Road, in Etobicoke, now Rexdale Boulevard.
The first meeting of
Etobicoke's first Council met at noon on Monday, January 21, 1850, at Mr. Kay's Inn on Dundas Street. The council consisted of William Gamble, reeve, W. B. Wadsworth, deputy reeve, Moses Appleby, Thomas Fisher, and John
At the second meeting Edward Musson was appointed clerk. It was resolved that the monthly meetings of the Council should be held in rotation at the following places: Heap's tavern, Stonehouse's schoolhouse, Adam Armstrong's tavern, Court's tavern, Heap's tavern, Mrs. Smith's tavern, Wallaby's tavern, Armstrong's tavern, John Hales' tavern, and T. Smith's. George Roper was appointed collector; Thomas Van Every, Thomas Bolton and John Gardhouse were appointed assessors.
In 1850 the population of Etobicoke was 2,904 and in 1881 it was still almost the same with 2,976.
During this period it was a relatively simple business to manage the affairs of the township. Etobicoke was mostly agricultural, with grain and dairy farming in the north and fruit and vegetable growing in the south. The other industries consisted of flour milling, lumbering in connection with the saw mills, the implement factory of Jacob C. Atkinson at Lambton, and several brick factories at Mimico and other centers. The council met in the hotels and what little other business was necessary (such as correspondence and book-keeping) was usually done in the homes of the officials concerned. It was about 1887 that the township purchased the old auditorium from Islington Methodist Church to be used as a town hall. From then until 1911 the population slowly increased until it was 5,507.
From 1911 the township grew rapidly reaching 21,402 in 1945. Although the increase was slow during the depression years, it was steady and continuous.
After World War II the township grew very rapidly.
In one month the Etobicoke Press reported building permits were issued for over six million dollars in construction. New homes and new factories were being planned in many sections of the township. One of the new subdivisions opened was Thorncrest Village by Marshall M. Foss who purchased the old Sir William Howland farm on Islington Avenue. The street plan of this new suburban type community was prepared by Eugene Giacomo Faludi, one of Canada's leading town planners, and many of the homes were designed by E. C. S. Cox.
To co-ordinate all the building programmes and have them placed harmoniously one with another, the Etobicoke Planning Board was appointed by the Township Council in 1944. It was an outcome of the Etobicoke Reconstruction
Committee which was organized near the end of World War 11. Chairman of the planning board was William A. Armstrong who was particularly well qualified, having served as reeve from 1934 to 1942 except for one year, and
previous to that been a trustee on a school and fire board. He was also a member of the Toronto and Suburban Planning Board. In September 1944 Dr. Faludi and his Town Planning Consultants were engaged to prepare a
thirty-year plan to guide the township. Etobicoke was the first municipality within the Toronto metropolitan area and the first township in all Canada to have a master plan. An exhibition was held in the Old Mill in
March 1947 to show the citizens how the township has grown from the earliest times and how it may be expected to grow with sound planning, perhaps having a population of sixty thousand in 1975. Considerable research,
study, and discussions as well as hearings before the Ontario Municipal Board were necessary before the plan could become official. The first phase of the plan regarding use of the land within the township became legal
when it was signed by the Minister of Planning and Development on August 27, 1948. The twenty-fifth ammendment was approved by the provincial authorities on September 12, 1950.