Statistics Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Common menu bar links

Local Government of Canada, 1915 — Quebec

Archived Content

Information identified as archived is provided for reference, research or recordkeeping purposes. It is not subject to the Government of Canada Web Standards and has not been altered or updated since it was archived. Please contact us to request a format other than those available.


By C. J. MAGNAN, Inspector General of Roman Catholic Schools, Quebec.

Political Organization.—Under the constitution conferred by the British North America Act, 1867, the Legislature of Quebec may enact laws respecting education, such public works as relate only to the province, the administration of the public lands of the province, colonization, agriculture, asylums, prisons, organization of the legal tribunals, municipal institutions and, in a word, everything which concerns its particular interests. The province has its own Legislature modelled after that of the Federal Parliament, and this Legislature is composed of the Lieutenant-Governor, a Legislative Council and a Legislative Assembly. There is also an Executive Council, which is composed of the Lieutenant-Governor representing the King, assisted by councillors or ministers. The Lieutenant-Governor convenes, prorogues and dissolves the Houses, and to him is reserved the power of sanctioning the laws passed by the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Council. Each of the ministers who compose the Executive Council has usually charge of a department or ministry, and the following departments are now in existence: (1) Department of the Attorney-General; (2) Department of the Provincial Secretary; (3) the Treasury; (4) Lands and Forests; (5) Colonization, Mines and Fisheries; (6) Agriculture; (7) Public Works and Labour; (8) Roads.


Legislative Council.—The Legislative Council consists of 24 members who are appointed for life by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council. A legislative councillor must be at least 30 years of age, must be a British subject resident within the province and must own unincumbered property of the minimum value of $4,000 situated within the division represented. Besides the right of approving or rejecting Bills adopted by the Legislative Assembly, the legislative councillors may propose, discuss and adopt measures which do not affect the public revenues. Such legislation must be ratified by the Legislative Assembly. For the purposes of the Legislative Council, the province is divided into 24 constituencies. Nova Scotia is the only other province of Canada with bicameral parliamentary representation.

Legislative Assembly.—The Legislative Assembly is at present composed of 81 members elected by 82 counties, the counties of Charlevoix and Saguenay being represented by a single member. To be eligible for membership one must be at least 21 years of age, a British subject and free from any legal incapacity. A Legislature may only last for five years without re-election. Every year the members must be convened in session by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council for the despatch of public business, for voting the necessary appropriations to all branches of the public service and for the amendment of existing laws and the enactment of new ones. The Assembly alone has the power of dismissing a ministry which has ceased to represent the views of the majority of the people and also alone has the right to introduce bills as to the raising or employment of the public revenues. The Assembly is presided ever by one of its members called the Speaker, who retains office until dissolution of the House that elected him. He does not vote, except by a casting vote in cases where the votes on both sides are equal in number.

Municipal Organization.—Under the French regime the municipal system was almost unknown. It was the same under the English regime until 1840 when at the union of the provinces municipal authorities were first established in Lower Canada. Before this date the province of Quebec had nothing which could be called an organization of local authorities. The maintenance of the roads was regulated by an old statute of 1796, which was administered in the name of the Governor by a Chief Road Inspector (Grand Voyer). This arrangement, imperfect as it was, sufficed until the increase of the population and the progress of commerce and industry made it obsolete.

It was Lord Sydenham's Special Council of 1840 that endowed Lower Canada with its first municipal organization. This measure, however, was only partially applied, because the French-Canadians, disturbed by the troubles of 1837-38, suspected a trap on the part of England. To reassure the French-Canadians and to make them understand the necessity for good municipal organization a fellow countryman was needed who spoke their language and held their faith. This man was A. N. Morin, father of the Municipalities Act of 1845. Amended in 1847 and in 1855, this Act was finally replaced by that of 1860. Since 1867 the municipal law has been promulgated by the provincial legislatures, and in 1870 the Quebec Legislature enacted the “Municipal Code of the Province of Quebec”.

At present the province of Quebec possesses an excellent municipal organization; it is subdivided into several hundred county, township, parish, village, town and city municipalities. According to M. Lareau: “These are so many small governments which assure independence to the people, initiate them into the duties of public administration and train them better to understand the more complicated mechanism of a general administration.” Under municipal organization, the citizens themselves choose and appoint those who shall watch over their special interests.

Municipalities.—A municipality is a territory circumscribed by law, whose inhabitants constitute a corporation, that is to say, a body politic or legal person, charged with the duty of administering the affairs of common interest to the inhabitants of a municipality. There are two kinds of municipalities: local and county. Local municipalities (Local municipalities in Quebec correspond to the communes in France.) consist either of a parish, a part of a parish, a township, a part of a township, a village, a town or a city. The county municipality consists Local municipalities in Quebec correspond to the communes in France of all the local municipalities of a county. Each municipal corporation is represented and administered by a board called the municipal council.

Local Municipalities.—These are constituted in the manner and according to the rules laid down by the municipal code; they are divided into two classes: rural or country municipalities and town and village municipalities. The former are subdivided into parish, part parish, township, part township, etc., municipalities. The municipal council is the organ of the local corporation. It consists of seven councillors chosen by the electors of the municipality, or appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council when the electors fail to elect within the limits of time prescribed by the law. The town or city municipal council consists of a certain number of aldermen elected by property owners and of a certain number of councillors elected by property owners and tenants. The council of a local municipality is presided over by a mayor elected by the members, or in default of election appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council. He presides at meetings of the council, watches over the interests of the municipality and maintains order and peace within its boundaries. The power conferred upon the municipal corporations are extensive; they are defined by law and apply generally to all questions of purely local interest. They relate especially to roads, waterways, health, regulation of the sale of alcoholic beverages, maintenance of peace and order, imposition of trading licenses, etc. To meet the cost of administration the municipal council has the right to collect by direct taxation of the taxable property of the locality, or by trading licenses, etc., all necessary sums of money within the limits of its powers. These levies are known as the municipal tax. The municipal taxes are levied on real property according to its value as inscribed on the valuation roll and on a list prepared by the Secretary-Treasurer and called the collection roll.

County Municipalities.The county is a part of the territory of the province containing a certain number of municipalities. The inhabitants of each county constitute a county corporation, and this corporation is represented by a council composed of the mayors of all the local municipalities of the county. The county council is presided over by one of its members elected annually at the March meeting and called a prefect; in default of such election the prefect is appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor-in-Council. The place where the county council meets is called the capital of the county, and is fixed by the council itself. This council deals with all interparochial matters, that is to say, those which are common to more than one parish or local municipality. It has jurisdiction over roads and waterways running through two or more parishes, which are then county roads and waterways. The county council exercises all the powers conferred upon it by law and administers all the county business. It fixes the place where the circuit court is to sit, acts as a court of appeal from the decisions of the local councils and provides for the building of a Registry Office, which is a public office established by the provincial government for the registration in special books of deeds affecting real property, such as deeds of sale, contracts of marriage, wills and deeds of gift inter vivos.