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Chapter Six - "It is expedient . . . "
|In the end, it was a desire for the amenities of the city that sounded the death knell for the Village of Ottawa East. That and the diminishing power of the old guard now subsumed by the demands of increased population and security conscious industries. The physical boundaries offered by a canal and river no longer set the community apart in the minds of a slim majority. Since most people either worked or conducted business in Ottawa on a daily basis, in their minds Ottawa East was de facto a part of Ottawa. It was time to move on.
|Elliott, in his book "The City Beyond", notes that the desire for annexation rarely came from the suburbanites. "More often it was foisted upon them by interests in the neighbouring city, either influential individuals bent on increasing the value of their own land, or civic leaders seeking an enlarged tax base or other advantages" (1). That appears to have been the case in 1906 as Mayor Ellis rekindled the issue of annexation with the city in his plan for a "Greater Ottawa". With this vision, "Ottawa once more cast covetous eyes on the growing suburbs . . . holding out urban services as bait to convince suburban residents to join the city" (2). To that end a city annexation committee was formed with the idea of investigating the desires of various suburbs.
Areas such as Hintonburg, Ottawa South and Rideauville were, for the most part, willing to negotiate with the city as demand for certain amenities such as city water, electric power and street car lines increased. But that was not the case in Ottawa East Village as there was definite opposition to joining the city. Beginning in 1903, the village had created its own facilities such as water and sewer systems. And the tax rate was comparable to the city. Many villagers felt that the advantages of annexation were outweighed by the benefits of controlling their own destiny. With the release of Mayor Ellis' vision, the battle for village was joined.
The Vision of a Greater Ottawa
Immediately following his third election victory in a row, Ellis unveiled a new plan for the future of the "Washington of the North". He also wanted a future Ottawa to be regarded also as the "Pittsburgh of the North" (3). As reported in the Ottawa Evening Journal on February 6, 1906, he said "The time has come when Ottawa must decide whether it is for all time to be simply the seat of government . . . or whether it will not become an industrial center". Critical to this plan was the acquisition of new territory that would provide "not only sites for factories but also for the necessary homes for the people who would be employed there . . . comfortable houses at moderate rates" (4).
His proposed annexation was to increase the existing 3,365 acres with the addition of 3,704. The plan would add approximately 9,000 to the population of 67,000. This was to be accomplished mostly by taking in the suburbs of Hintonburg, Mechanicsville, Rideauville, Ottawa South and Ottawa East. He noted however, that "I would not propose to annex any of these places without their consent" (5). Since Ottawa East and Hintonburg were incorporated their councils had the authority to approve annexation after a vote. Other areas needed to apply to the province for authorization.
"The most desirable acquisition for Ottawa was certainly Ottawa East" (6). At that time the village was approximately 429 acres with a "population of 1800, two schools, a town hall, sidewalks, decent streets and a complete drainage system". The Ottawa East Water Company supplied "all but 300 of the residents" (7) and the fact that it was privately owned meant a reduced liability for the village. Therefore the assets of the village exceeded the liabilities - a fact that made annexation even more desirable (See Chapter Five - 1907). And it was already an industrial area with a large working class and some industry, including two brick works and various railway shops supporting the Canada Atlantic Railway.
One of the more desirable aspects was the village's proximity to the transportation corridors of the Rideau Canal and rail lines. The geography that had isolated the village for decades now made it essential to Ellis' plan. He argued that, with the various railroads proposing to run lines in different directions outside of the city limits, it would be in the best interest of the capital to have a "general railway policy" controlled by the municipality. He envisioned a central depot with an entrance along the east side of the canal to be used by passenger traffic only. "Freight should be . . . kept outside the present city limits . . . we should not allow the centre of the city to be turned into a vast freight yard" (8). With all the open, cheap land in Ottawa East his problem was solved with annexation. For those who remember when trains ran to the center of Ottawa, they will no doubt agree that this is exactly what happened.
Ellis' specific comments regarding Ottawa East were directed more towards convincing fellow city politicians as to the desirability of acquiring the village. In referring to correspondence from the village council, he noted that there was an "excess of assets over liabilities of $6,500 . . . (and) assessment for 1905 was $500,000" (9). The actual amount was under $400.000 (10). He indicated that the privately owned water works system had cost $45,000 (later figures indicate $50,000) and was so designed that it could be connected to the city's system without difficulty. He went on to point out that, when operated by the city, the water works "would from the first considerably more than pay the necessary yearly outlay upon the capital invested" (11).
Ellis had additional points to buttress his plan for a Greater Ottawa. These included: the provision of "$15 horsepower" from the city-owned electrical system; better fires and police protection; and comparable taxation. These promises however, did little to convince a significant number of villagers.
Village Argument For and Against Annexation
Those opposed to annexation were "firm in their belief that such a course would prove disastrous to the town's interest" (12). They pointed to the obvious advantages of an independent community. It was their initiative and investment that had created a valuable suburb with so much potential. The village now owned a creditable sewer system, lighted streets with sidewalks, a private water system and little debt compared to Ottawa. Moreover the future looked bright for the expansion of the village. The Ottawa Journal in 1906 (13) observed that the village "industrial side is in its infancy while hardly a vacant house can be found". A future expanded village tax base would provide those services, such as police and fire protection, that were lacking at the time.
Mayor Ellis' announced plan immediately polarized the village as evidenced by the following contrasting views reported in the Ottawa Journal on January 1906, page 3:
Walter N. Barry, co-owner of the Harris-Barry Furniture Co. was one of the leading opponents to joining the city. Barry was not only a property owner but also the venerable village clerk from 1897 onwards. He was involved in all aspects of the village operation and his opinion held sway with many villagers. The newspaper characterized him as "a property owner in Ottawa East, with a fine residence on one of the principal streets (Seventh), is emphatic in his position that such a course as proposed would prove the undoing of the village". Barry was then quoted as saying:
"Two years ago we might have viewed the proposition with much favor, but since that time many changes have occurred in Ottawa East, which have cost the town considerable, and I think we have already everything in the way of improvements that the city could give us. With such industries that we have - Cain brick and Odell brick companies, along with numerous minor industries supported by the Canada Atlantic shops. I am firm and absolutely decided that annexation is the one thing we do not need."
Supporting annexation were people such as John P. Cain, owner of the largest industry in the village - the Cain Brick Company. He was an interloper, a recent entrant into village politics even though he was not even a resident of the village! (The 1907 municipal directory lists his residence as Ottawa.) Ownership of property allowed him to vote or run in the election.
In 1906, in his appearance on the political scene, he won a seat on council with the largest number of votes. In 1907 he ran for Reeve and was narrowly defeated by R. J. Biggar (181 to 143). Cain's basic political stance was in total support for annexation as he felt it was necessary for the "upbuilding of the village and a promising future". The Ottawa Evening Journal quotes him as saying:
In reaction to Cain, Joseph H. Patterson, a member of a prominent village family, and an owner of large tracts of land, remarked:
"Not on your life . . . most absurd, simply nonsense, and I don't think you can find a dozen people in the village in favour of it. We don't want Ottawa's heavy encumbrances and further, we shall fight to the bitter end against it".
Cain lost the election but in running, he had put the question to the people and therefore polarized the community. He needed only 30 or 40 votes to swing his way if council put the question to a vote. We will never know the intricacies of the backroom deliberations in both camps but it is clear that many residents had a vested interest in the outcome. Cain stood to not only gain decent fire protection for his large investment in the brickyard, but also unencumbered access to city contracts as a resident, not someone from the suburbs. People such as Lees, Ballantyne, Bowers and Slattery were large land owners and also major shareholders in the Ottawa East Water Company. As such they stood to reap a windfall if the city expropriated their company at the right price. Perhaps annexation was not so bad after all.
The council election results of 1907 indicated that Patterson was "whistling past the graveyard". One intangible vote in the final decision involved the newer residents to the village. For the most part these people worked in or at least serviced the city. Joining the city would remove their non-resident status when applying for jobs. City pay for labour was higher that village pay. To these people it was a question of economics and amenities such as an 'electric streetcar crossing a decent bridge'. Their commitment to an historically independent village did not run deep! They saw the future and, unlike those of Patterson's ilk, recognized that "denial was not a river in Egypt"!
The public debate raged throughout 1906. But although Cain sat on Council there was never any mention of annexation in those minutes. By the summer of 1907 the minutes show that the city's Annexation Committee had entered into a dialogue with the village council. The September 20, 1907 minutes of this committee (14) detailed a report from the City Engineer on a proposal for sewers in Ottawa South. It concluded that before any work could be done it would be necessary to supply the village first. It read:
The Committee then authorized the Mayor to communicate with Reeve Biggar "to ascertain if it is advisable to arrange a meeting . . . for the purpose of the annexation of Ottawa East". The joint meeting was held on October 18, 1907 and was attended by representatives from the city council and the entire village council. In addition "Messrs. James Ballantyne, B. Slattery, D. Coulter and Jas. Patterson" (15) also attended.
The village representatives were presented with terms which were "taken up clause by clause and thoroughly discussed". The basis of the offer was as follows:
(Extracted from the Ontario Railway and Municipal Board Order of December 10, 1907 found in the City Council Minutes, 1907, pages 743-45. The date for the annexation to be in force was as of December 16, 1907.)
From the minutes of the October 18 meeting of both councils it appears that the only change from the city's original offer was an extension of the "fixed assessment" term from five to eight years. This was done to assuage the concerns of the larger landowners who were also speculators. Annexation would increase property values but not taxes - this meant a larger profit in the end.
The offer did not however mention any specific dates or actions regarding the improvement of services or facilities in the village. This was a major concern on the part of those opposed to annexation. They felt that the city would not have the money, given the enormous debt it was now assuming with acquisition of several suburbs, to quickly update the community to city standards.
The issue of the value of the waterworks was essentially deferred. The reported value of the plant ranged from $45,000 to $56,000. The owners, all residents of the village, ultimately did not agree with the final city offer and the matter went to arbitration. City Bylaw 2776 dated June 15, 1908 allowed the municipality to officially take over the company and all related property. The Official Arbitrator, appointed under the authority of the Municipal Act later set the compensation value at $69,951.28. He also awarded $46.18 for half of the arbitration fees. The claim was approved with the passing of Bylaw 2824 on December 21, 1908.
The recommendation of the Annexation Committee was sent to city council and approved. The only additional proviso was that annexation would officially occur on January 1, 1908 and that a vote of the village ratepayers on the question had to occur prior to that date.
On November 5, 1907, moved by Doran and seconded by Beaton, the council passed Motion #72, which read:
The next motion (#73) set the date for the vote as November 20, 1907. The vote was held as ordered with the village clerk Barry acting as returning officer. The result was 142 in favour and 16 against. The report of the vote submitted at the next meeting concluded with"
"The Returning Officer in the presence of the Freeholders then declared that the vote was favourable to annexation" (17)
It was over!
The annexation debate that had gripped the village for two years was resolved. Had the offer from the city finally assuaged the monetary concerns of enough villagers for the pro-annexationists to win? It is interesting to compare the council vote of January 1907 with the final vote. Biggar narrowly defeated Cain, a staunch supporter of joining where the total vote was 324 with a ratio of 181 (56%) to 143 (44%). By November the situation had completely reversed. What happened?
December 13, 1907 was a sad day for many villagers as the council passed its final resolution dissolving itself and the village. There was nothing that could be done. There was no Robert Lees riding to the rescue as he had done in 1888 when the village escaped the city's covetous clutches. People did not take to the streets (amidst the roaming cattle). The trains continued to run. The village just disappeared on paper.
But, perhaps in a final act of defiance, the last-ever council motion did not receive a number. The Clerk, Walter N. Barry, an ardent opponent to annexation, did not write the appropriate number (#90) in the minutes. For the only time in all of the existing minutes, the clerk omitted the number. Now, almost one hundred years later we can acknowledge his sentiment (We hear you Walt!).
In retrospect the subsuming of the village by the city was inevitable. History has shown that every suburb (save and except the rich elite of Rockliffe) was eventually taken in by the voracious city. The huge "megalopolis" that was formed was essentially a patchwork of communities all vying for attention. The city did make some improvements to Ottawa East. Pretoria Bridge was built replacing the inadequate structure that connected Main to Argyle St. across the canal. On January 18, 1909 Bylaw 2828 authorized the laying of 8-inch water pipe from Mutchmor to Clegg; and 12-inch pipe from Robert St. to Main. This finally connected the village to city water. But these, as well as other changes are best described in the next history of Ottawa East that hopefully will be written sometime in the future.
(See also Image Library below the footnotes)
Footnotes: For complete references see Sources
1. Elliott, The City Beyond, p1.
Image Library: The images below relate to the final chapter of Ottawa East Village as well as the subsequent period just after amalgamation with the city.
Place your cursor over the image and a Cue
Card will appear.
|Return to Chapter Five - 1907