Rau­cus elec­tion in­cluded burn­ing ef­figy

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - NEWS - Karen Bach­mann Karen Bach­mann is the di­rec­tor/ cu­ra­tor of the Tim­mins Mu­seum and a writer of lo­cal his­tory.

Well, we are here. it is of­fi­cial – mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion sea­son is upon us (and ev­ery­one else in On­tario), so i thought it might be in­ter­est­ing to look at a past tim­mins elec­tion that was con­sid­ered to be the first “real” elec­tion in the com­mu­nity.

the 1927 con­test cer­tainly proved to be a gal­va­niz­ing mo­ment in the his­tory of the com­mu­nity.

but be­fore we get to the ac­tual elec­tion, it is prob­a­bly a good idea to look at the roots of this mini rev­o­lu­tion – and they can be found in the 1926 tim­mins Coun­cil. Not that i want to judge the group of men who sat on that par­tic­u­lar coun­cil, but things were just a lit­tle odd… (note: coun­cils in the 1920s were elected to a one year term only – to­day, we elect of­fi­cials to a four year term).

in any event, mayor e.g. dick­son, Coun­cilors J.h. ba­con, e.l. long­more, e.g. eplett, dr. a.p. bren­nan, G.S. drew and dr. e Joyal were elected as the 1926 coun­cil. From the get-go, things were not co­pasetic. the new­ly­elected coun­cil was roundly crit­i­cized af­ter the elec­tion for drag­ging an ef­figy of the for­mer mayor be­hind a car and then set­ting him on fire. al­most im­me­di­ately, ru­mours started that the elec­tion would be con­tested.

by mid-jan­uary, the town clerk had re­ceived an of­fi­cial no­tice that the elec­tion would be con­tested and that a hear­ing was set for Feb. 12th in Cochrane district court. Voter dis­en­fran­chise­ment, polling sta­tions closed later than au­tho­rized and other mi­nor trans­gres­sions were stated as the rea­sons for the hear­ing. Coun­cil had to de­fer all im­por­tant mat­ters un­til a de­ci­sion from the court was reg­is­tered.

Suf­fice it to say that the court ruled that the protest was in­deed mer­ited and a new elec­tion was called for, which would be held on march 5th.

Nom­i­na­tions for mayor and coun­cil were taken, and the elec­tion duly held; dr. macin­nis lost to mr. dick­son by 35 votes; three new coun­cil­lors and three “old” coun­cil­lors came on board and it was hoped that the busi­ness of the town could pro­ceed (there was no burn­ing ef­fi­gies this time around). On­ward and up­ward and all that, right? Well, not quite. No sooner had the bal­lots been counted that newly-elected mayor dick­son and Coun. eplett were charged with bribery. an­other court case, an­other few weeks of un­ease and in­de­ci­sion, and at the end of the trial, the charges were thrown out.

Which brings us to april, and what should have been a reg­u­lar meet­ing of coun­cil, al­though, as you may guess, not ev­ery­thing was nor­mal with this group.

the mayor and Coun, eplett were out of town, but the meet­ing was sched­uled to pro­ceed as planned. two coun­cil­lors showed up for the meet­ing as well a large gallery of ratepay­ers and the town clerk, who all stared at each other un­til 8 p.m. when some­one de­clared no quo­rum and ev­ery­one went home.

Well, when the boys fi­nally got into gear, the re­sults for many were less than stel­lar. First, the coun­cil im­posed a poll tax on res­i­dents; in or­der to col­lect the $5 from each prop­erty owner, the coun­cil or­dered the chief of po­lice to go to each of the lo­cal mines (for starters) and get them to deduct $5 off ev­ery­one’s pay, and then send it to the town. this was done, and then things got ugly as all em­ploy­ees had the money de­ducted from their pay – even if they were not prop­erty own­ers. peo­ple pe­ti­tioned town hall want­ing their money back; law­suits were threat­ened (and sub­se­quently filed). a pro­vin­cial au­dit of the books was de­manded.

then the chief of po­lice re­signed abruptly as he be­lieved coun­cil was get­ting ready to dis­pose of the po­si­tion. the town en­gi­neer was also let go and a pe­ti­tion signed by 384 peo­ple was pre­sented to coun­cil. the coun­cil re­jected the pe­ti­tion and said it was too ex­pen­sive to keep an en­gi­neer on the pay­roll. meet­ings of coun­cil started to be held be­hind closed doors only, putting into ques­tion many of their de­ci­sions. by the end of au­gust, the wheels were fall­ing off of the prover­bial bus. the por­cu­pine power and tele­phone Com­pany (who took over ser­vice from the North­ern On­tario light and power Com­pany) tried un­suc­cess­fully to get a meet­ing with town Coun­cil to dis­cuss rates.

the com­pany ac­tu­ally wanted to re­duce hy­dro rates but coun­cil would not pro­ceed with the draft­ing of an agree­ment, hop­ing that they could cre­ate their own com­pany and man­age it through the mu­nic­i­pal­ity (not at all fea­si­ble, con­sid­er­ing they had just fired the en­gi­neer be­cause they could not af­ford his salary).

the town wa­ter tank was sold for $50; gate valves used on the tank (there were four of them) cost $75 each, so you can imag­ine the up­roar that the sale cre­ated. the bill for the pro­vin­cial au­di­tor came in at an as­tound­ing $4,520.54.

Coun­cil was not happy with the re­port and re­fused to “adopt” it. the town tax col­lec­tor left his po­si­tion be­cause coun­cil over­ruled him (they asked him not to col­lect taxes that were in ar­rears).

Coun­cil voted to post­pone the next mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion (in­stead of be­ing held in de­cem­ber 1926, it was moved to the first mon­day in Jan­uary (4th), with nom­i­na­tions clos­ing on the last mon­day of de­cem­ber (27th) 1926, leav­ing one week to cam­paign.

a “spe­cial grant” was voted for the mayor, giv­ing him $1,200 for “ser­vices ren­dered to the com­mu­nity.” and fi­nally, the tax rate for 1926 was set in de­cem­ber of that year – and coun­cil­lors con­ceded that the rate was in­ad­e­quate and left the town with a deficit.

by the time the Jan­uary elec­tion rolled around, vot­ers were an­gry, frus­trated and oh-so-ready for a change! the elec­tion drew the largest vote (un­til then) in a mu­nic­i­pal con­test. it seems that ev­ery­one in town had an opin­ion and those who were able to, ac­tu­ally went out to vote. e.l. long­more was voted in as mayor (de­feat­ing the in­cum­bent, mayor dick­son); three new coun­cil­lors (pritchard, Car­son and Fran­cis) joined drew, Joyal and bren­nan, who were re-elected. the rau­cous year had helped to get peo­ple in­volved; a mini rev­o­lu­tion of sorts for a com­mu­nity that, up un­til then, was a lit­tle sleepy when it came to mu­nic­i­pal mat­ters.

PHOTO COUR­TESY of THE TIM­MINS mu­seum: NA­TIONAL EX­HI­BI­TION CEN­TRE

I be­lieve the big black tank be­hind the fire hall is the wa­ter tank in ques­tion that was sold for a whop­ping $50 — not one of the 1926 coun­cil’s best de­ci­sions.

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