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Local Government of Canada, 1915 — Ontario

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Historical.—In 1763 Canada, with all its dependencies, passed from French to British rule by the Treaty of Paris, signed on February 10 of that year. From this date to 1774 the country was under military rule. In 1774 the “Quebec Act” of the Imperial Parliament (14 Geo. III, c. 83) gave French-Canadians the free exercise of the Roman Catholic religion, the enjoyment of their civil rights and the protection of their own civil laws and customs. The Act annexed large territories to the province of Quebec, and provided for the appointment by the Crown of a Legislative Council and for the administration of the criminal law as in England. In 1791 the country then called Canada was divided by Act of the Imperial Parliament (31 Geo. III, c. 31) into Upper Canada (now Ontario) and Lower Canada (now Quebec), and the Act established a constitution for each, with a Legislature consisting of a Legislative Council and a Legislative Assembly. In 1841, following Lord Durham's report, the provinces were reunited under the name of the province of Canada by an Imperial Act (3‑4 Vict., c. 35), which established responsible government. The Legislature under this Act consisted of a Legislative Council of 40 members appointed for life by the Crown and a Legislative Assembly of 84 members elected by the people. Subsequently (1853) the members of the Legislative Assembly were increased in number to 130 and (1856) the Legislative Council became an elected chamber.

OntarioPresent Constitution.—Under the British North America Act, 1867, and other legislation, the government of the province of Ontario is vested in a Legislature consisting of a Lieutenant-Governor appointed by the Governor-General of the Dominion, and of one House styled the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, consisting in 1916 of 111 members. The Assembly is elected for four years on a manhood suffrage, and members receive statutory indemnities and an allowance for travelling expenses on a mileage basis. The Lieutenant-Governor is advised by an Executive Council of ten members, now consisting of the President and Premier, the Attorney-General, the Treasurer of the province, the Secretary and Registrar of the province, the Ministers of Education, Public Works, Lands, Forests and Mines and two members without portfolio. The powers of the Ontario Legislature are defined under Sections 92 and 93 of the British North America Act, 1867. (See Canada Year Book, 1914, page 12).

Municipal Organization.—Municipal Government in Ontario traces its origin to the recommendations in the report of Lord Durham (1839), and the District Councils Act of 1841 was the first measure of local self-government in the province. A more comprehensive measure known as the Municipal Act of 1849 provided for the incorporation of local municipalities. In 1868, when the Ontario Legislature met for the first time after Confederation, the municipal corporations of the province comprised 36 counties, 399 townships, and 104 cities, towns and villages. The law respecting municipal institutions in Ontario was revised in 1913 by the Municipal Act (3‑4 Geo. V, c. 43), and is included in the Revised Statutes of Ontario 1914 as chapter 192. It has been further amended by Acts of 1914 (4 Geo. V, c. 33), 1915 (5 Geo. V, c. 34) and 1916 (6 Geo. V,c. 39). Under these Acts the local municipalities of the province consist of townships, villages, towns, counties and cities. The townships consist of an area varying in extent from six to ten miles square.

The territorial division of the province for municipal and judicial purposes is governed by the Territorial Division Act (R. S. 0., 1914, c. 3), and section 11 of this Act provides that, subject to the provisions of the Municipal Act, the Lieutenant-Governor may by proclamation constitute new townships in those parts of Ontario in which townships have not been constituted and may fix the boundaries thereof.

Townships and Villages.—The procedure for the erection of townships is laid down in the Municipal Act. Where found convenient two or more townships may unite for municipal purposes and become incorporated as a Union of Townships. Each township is governed by a chief executive officer styled reeve, and four other members who may be either deputy reeves or councillors, according to the number of deputy reeves to which a municipality may be entitled. This is determined by the number of municipal electors. Where a township has more than 1,000 and not more than 2,000 municipal electors, it becomes entitled to a first deputy-reeve, where it has more than 2,000 and not more than 3,000 to a first and a second deputy-reeve, and where it has more than 3,000 to a first, a second and a third deputy-reeve. These provisions apply also to incorporated villages and towns. The council of a township in “unorganized territory,” that is to say, any part of the province which is not organized by counties, consists of a reeve and four councillors. New villages may be incorporated by the county council out of districts or parts of townships under conditions laid down by the Act as to area, population and other matters. Provision is also made for the constitution of police villages by the county council on the petition of freeholders and tenants in localities having a population of not less than 150 and an area of not more than 500 acres. Police villages are administered by three trustees whose powers and duties are defined by the Act. The trustees of a police village may be created a body corporate where the population is not less than 500.

Towns.—New towns may be incorporated under conditions prescribed by the Ontario Railway and Municipal Board, which was constituted in 1906 under the Ontario Railway and Municipal Board Act (R. S. O., 1914, c. 186); their governing bodies are differently constituted from those of the smaller municipalities. In unorganized territories the town council is composed of a mayor and six councillors elected by general vote. Towns with a population of not less than 5,000 may be composed of a mayor and nine councillors. Towns in counties having a population of more than 5,000 are composed of a mayor, a reeve, as many deputy-reeves as they may be entitled to under the provision previously quoted, and two or sometimes three councillors for each ward into which the town may be divided. Cities and certain towns are for municipal purposes separated from the county. The number of these separated municipalities is 30 according to the latest report on municipal statistics of the Ontario Bureau of Industries. They include the municipalities of Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, London, Brantford, Kingston, Peterborough, Windsor, Fort William, Berlin, Guelph, St. Thomas, Stratford, St. Catharines, Chatham, Galt, Sarnia, Belleville, Brockville, Woodstock, Niagara Falls and Smith's Falls.

Counties.—The members of the county councils are not elected directly by the municipal voters, but each council is composed of the reeves and deputy-reeves of the towns (other than the “separated towns”) and of the villages and townships. The head or presiding officer of the county council is styled warden and is its chief executive officer. In general, the county council has charge of various matters which are common to more than one local municipality within the county, including, for instance, the control of highways, bridges, court-houses, goals, houses of refuge, land registry offices, etc. The county rates are levied and collected through the constituent local municipalities. Provisions for the erection of one description of municipality into another, as for instance a village into a town, are laid down in the Municipal Act, and in this connection, for municipalities in districts that have not yet a county organization, the Railway and Municipal Board, has certain organizing and controlling powers. There are at present 38 county corporations. Four of these are composed of a union of counties, viz. (1) Leeds and Grenville, (2) Northumberland and Durham, (3) Prescott and Russell and (4) Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.

Cities.—Cities are governed by councils composed of a mayor, the members of the board of control, if such a board exists, and two or three representatives of each ward who are styled aldermen. A special feature of city government is that by which much of the business of the city, and especially business of a financial character, is delegated to a board of control. The Municipal Act provides that the council of any city having a population of less than 100,000 but more than 45,000 may by by-law provide for the election by general vote of four controllers who with the mayor constitute a board of control. By the Municipal Amendment Act, 1915 (5 Geo. V, c. 34), this provision is made obligatory in all cities of Ontario having a population of not less than 100,000 and not more than 200,000. Power is granted to the council to pay salaries to the members of the board not exceeding for each member $1,500 per annum. The duties of the board include the preparation of estimates, the awarding of contracts, the inspection of municipal works, the nomination of officers and their dismissal or suspension. The board reports to the council, and its action is subject to their approval or reversal; but the council may not make appropriations or expenditures of any sums not provided for by estimates of the board without a two-thirds vote, which is defined as the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members present. Boards of control have been established in Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton and London.

Submission of By-laws to the Electors.—Another characteristic feature of municipal government in Ontario is the arrangements for direct reference to the electors of important questions and of certain descriptions of by-laws. The regulations governing the procedure for ascertaining the opinion or obtaining the assent of the municipal electorate are prescribed by the Municipal Act. Certain classes of these by-laws involving financial appropriations are only referred to specific classes of the electors such as property owners. The results of the voting on the questions submitted in this way are, however, only for the guidance of the governing body of the municipality and do not bind it to any course of action, except in the case of money by-laws, where the decision of the electorate must be followed. All the municipalities are empowered to pass by-laws to provide for the granting of bonuses in aid of manufactures and railways, and these bonuses may take the form of money grants, guarantees, total or partial exemptions from municipal taxation or the granting of certain other facilities to secure the object desired.

Judicial System.—The supreme court of Ontario consists of (a) the appellate division and (b) the high court division. The appellate division is composed of not less than two divisional courts, each consisting of five judges, who try appeals from the high court and other courts of the province. Appeals from this court to the supreme court of Canada may be made in certain cases. Sittings of the high court division are held by single judges, with or without juries, at least twice a year in each county. The court has jurisdiction in virtually every kind of case. In each county or district there is a court presided over by a judge, who sits at least twice a year, with or without a jury, to try minor civil actions. Each county judge also presides at least twice yearly over a court of general session, with a limited jurisdiction in criminal matters. Criminals may also, with their own consent, be tried by the county judge without a jury. Each judicial district is divided into court divisions in each of which a division court is held by the county judge, or his deputy, at least once in every two months. These courts are for the recovery of small debts and damages. The county judges hold revision courts for the revision of assessment rolls and of voters' lists; they are also judges of the surrogate courts, which deal with the estates of deceased persons.