Raucus election included burning effigy
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.
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.