Bruce Peninsula Municipal Politics

Bruce Peninsula municipal politics: No matter what the venue, or the issue, seldom is a decision made that suits everyone. 


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The Great Lakes Raconteur

"You can't do that to MY neighbourhood!" is a popular refrain heard these days. Whether its the location of a landfill site, the relocation of a commercial establishment, or something as simple as creating parking spaces, everyone has an opinion about the solution in municipal politics. 

The problems associated with human beings living together in communities are as old as time itself. Owen Sound, or Sydenham as it was originally known, was barely two years old when it faced its first controversy concerning commercial and industrial development. 

In 1842 Ezra Brown, a tanner from Montreal announced his intention to build a tannery in the new settlement. Instead of being delighted at the prospect of an enterprise which would provide both a needed service to the community as well as add to the economic development of the fledgling village, many in the area were appalled at the thought of such a vile smelling operation locating in their midst. 

After much consideration, and I am sure debate, the leaders of the community informed Brown that although his commercial enterprise was a welcome addition to the settlement he could not locate within the boundaries of the community. Instead, he was told to erect his tannery in the forest to the north of the centre of the settlement. 

There is some irony in the selection of the desolate location that was forced upon the pioneer entrepreneur. The tannery, if it had survived today, would be located in the very heart of Owen Sound's commercial district, just north of the corner of 10th Street and 2nd Ave. East! 

The problems concerning the establishment of a tannery were not the last to be heard by area community leaders. A perusal of local newspapers from any year in the history of the region will provide the researcher with a wealth of information concerning problems related to municipal politics, especially in terms of community growth and development. 

The Wiarton Echo reported in 1897 about some of the issues facing the community's leaders. In November a Mrs. GalIoway petitioned the town council. She reasoned that because she lived on the outskirts of the community and did not have access to such benefits as swift fire protection, town water, or street lighting, she should not have to pay municipal taxes. This was not the only petition concerning tax reduction at that meeting. Many other citizens from the more recently settled perimeters of Wiarton also made similar presentations. 

The pleas fell upon deaf ears as council refused to release her from the obligation of paying $3.57 per year in taxes. They also refused to consider a compromise solution of reducing taxes, nor did they offer to extend services to the new neighbourhoods. 

If the decision not to reduce or forgive tax payment to the outlying areas did not rest well with the petitioners, the events of the rest of the meeting must have raised their ire to new levels. At the same meeting council voted to approve the erection of a street lamp in the downtown core at an annual cost of $45.00 to the taxpayers. Furthermore, it was decided to hire another constable to patrol the main street because ladies out for an evening stroll were being subjected to verbal insults and men spitting tobacco juice on the street as they passed by. Council also agreed to reduce the taxes on Weavers' Store as the owner argued that they were too high! 

There is never a solution in municipal politics that will please everyone. Vested interests are the fuel that runs political decision making.

A version of this article first appeared in my Local History column in the Owen Sound Sun Times in 1998.

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Bruce Peninsula Towns & Villages

Towns & Villages: The first Bruce Peninsula towns and villages had a source of water power to run sawmills and a good harbour to ship forestry products to market. 

The 12th of July and Dominion Day Celebrations on the Bruce Peninsula were an outlet from the everyday drudgery of life for pioneers on the Bruce Peninsula.

Allenford United Church history details some important information about that community's church but also about one of the founders of this Ontario community.

A Pioneer Community: Driftwood Crossing (now Allenford): at the southern-most part of the Saugeen/Bruce Peninsula was at the midpoint between the Georgian Bay and Lake Huron coasts.

Land Auction in Amabel Township provided the opportunity for settlers to purchase land and begin a new life in Bruce County. On July 18, 1856, a notice signed by R.T. Pennefather, superintendent general the Indian Department, announced the public auction sale of 144,000 acres of land in the new townships of Amabel and Keppel. 

Barrow Bay Ontario: a Picturesque Georgian Bay Community owes its origin to the once-thriving Bruce Peninsula lumbering industry. Today it is a quiet summer get-away!

Bruce Peninsula Municipal Politics: No matter what the venue, or the issue, seldom is a decision made that suits everyone.

Bruce Peninsula Newspapers Rivalry between the Wiarton Echo and Owen Sound newspapers promoting their communities was often vitriolic and led to acrimony between the two communities.

Dyer's Bay Ontario: Began as a lumbering settlement but may also have been one of the earliest points on the Bruce Peninsula to be visited by French explorers. 

Elsinore Ontario: In the mid-1850s the first settlers arrived in the area just west of Allenford. However, it was not until 1865 when the North Gravel Road, or Highway 21 as it known today, was built that the village of Elsinore was established.

Hepworth Ontario: The early history of Hepworth is tied to two essential commodities, sawmilling and transportation. How Hepworth got its name is also an interesting story.

Lion's Head remained an important lumbering centre into the twentieth century. Today it is a centre of tourism, and the lion's head still guards the southern entrance to the bay. However, the same elements that created the image have continued to erode the rocky outcropping.

Park Head was an important Grand Trunk Railway depot on the Bruce Peninsula.

Sauble Beach: This popular beach in the 1950s was called Canada's Daytona Beach.

Sauble Beach Ontario is one of the most popular summer resorts in the province of Ontario. It welcomed its first summer visitors in the late 1800s and as continued to grow in popularity since that time.

Stokes Bay welcomed fishermen as their first non-native visitors. Today, if you are a fisherman, you will also probably want to try your luck landing a walleye, lake trout or any of the other game fish that live in the coastal waters of Lake Huron.

Tobermory Ontario has a rich history and, is the northern- most destination point for travellers visiting the world famous Bruce Peninsula.

Tobermory Ontario Tourism is focused on Fathom Five National Marine Park, Bruce Peninsula National Park, and, shipwreck diving which has become so popular that tourism has become an important part of that community's economy.

Tobermory Pioneers were first the fishermen who came to reap the rewards of the fishing-rich waters at the top of the peninsula.

Tupper Murray was one of the first names given to the community at the top of the Bruce Peninsula

Wiarton Ontario was known for its excellent natural harbour. It seemed to be a natural choice for the location of a port community. Colpoys Bay offered a natural harbour refuge for sailing vessels from storms on the often-tumultuous waters of Georgian Bay. As well, the harbour was located at the portage route across the base of the Bruce ...

Wiarton had Ambitions to Succeed but while success brought them a railroad and other ventures, one attempt did not have a sweet ending for many in the town.

Wiarton News: 1897 Town Council Report. By 1897 Wiarton was an established community and was experiencing some of the growing pains consistent with a community which was constantly expanding its physical borders. A November 1897 Wiarton council meeting reveals some the problems which that community was facing.

Wiarton Beet Industry: Wiarton's Sweet Enterprise Turns Sour! In their attempts to diversify Wiarton's economic base, a dramatic new industry was incorporated in 1896. Originally called the Owen Sound Sugar Manufacturing Company, the Wiarton Beet Sugar Manufacturing Company looked like it would have a large impact on the economy of the Wiarton area.

Wiarton Ontario's First Newspaper: The Echo viewed itself not only as a messenger of the news of the day, but also as a medium to promote the development of the interests of the Bruce Peninsula, and more particularly those of Wiarton.