Bruce Peninsula Municipal Politics

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

"You can't do that to MY neighbourhood!" is a popular refrain heard these days in this region. 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 the world of municipal politics. 

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

In 1842 a tanner from Montreal by the name of Ezra Brown 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. 

In 1897 an edition of the Wiarton Echo reported on some of the issues facing the leaders of that community. In November of that year 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 taxes to the community. 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. to the taxpayers. Furthermore, it was decided that another constable be hired 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.

Discover More About the Bruce Peninsula

Getting to the Bruce Peninsula is a relatively easy driving trip. Here are driving directions from three regions to the peninsula.

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 Lumber History details the impact of the forest products industry on the development of the region.

Bruce Peninsula Lumbering provided the stimulus to develop and grow the pioneer economy on the newly settled Bruce Peninsula. 

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

Bruce Peninsula Travel Routes were often a matter of debate because in the early years, land travel was virtually unattainable for settlers and lumbermen alike.

Aboriginal History: Bruce Peninsula has a long indigenous heritage not just for the native nation living there today, but for other native groups as well.

Aboriginal History: the 1836 Treaty made promises to the native peoples of the Bruce Peninsula which did not last long before everything changed again.

Aboriginal land history continues the story of aboriginal land issues on the Bruce Peninsula. How it happened is a point for discussion by everyone.

Settler Impact on Bruce Peninsula Natives was not only from the imposition of treaties, but also from British military plans.

"Half Mile-Strip" Treaty made it possible for a relatively smooth overland connection to be built between Owen Sound and the Lake Huron shoreline.

Catherine Sutton: aka Nahneebahweequay was a hero, fighting for her Indigenous rights and those of her family.

Allenford United Church history details not only some important information about that community's church, but also about one of the founders of this Ontario community.

Colpoys Bay Vista - Awesome! A short drive from either Wiarton or Owen Sound is one of the most magnificent views to be found in the province of Ontario!

Dyer's Bay Ontario: Began as a Lumbering Settlement and today it is a wonderful vacation retreat.

Elsinore Ontario is the southern-most point on the Bruce Peninsula, located about half-way between Owen Sound and the Lake Huron shoreline.

Forest Products on the Bruce Peninsula contributed greatly to the growth and development of that region of the province of Ontario.

Gillies Lake: aka Ghost Lake has a mysterious past as its original name, Ghost Lake, implies.

Great Grey Owls on the Bruce Peninsula was a surprise discovery for ornithologists and others. Sadly, the story of their visit had an unfortunate conclusion.

Pioneer Campers: Hope Bay mostly considered the peninsula untamed wilderness and some of the locals were not about to disappoint them!

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

Pioneer Missionary James Atkey arrived on Colpoys Bay to minister to the native community near Oxenden until a treaty uprooted his parishioners.

Pioneer tourists first visited the Bruce Peninsula in the 1800s and the region continues as a great recreational and tourism destination today!

Pioneer Vacations on the Bruce Peninsula got an eerie start in the Hope Bay region of the peninsula.

Lighthouses  Lighthouses were vital to Georgian Bay Sailing.

Sauble Beach Ontario has seen it all. A fishing outport; a sawmilling centre; and an internationally acclaimed tourist resort area!

Sauble Beach  This popular beach is known as Canada's Daytona Beach.

Lion's Head  Sailors often sought refuge from the stormy Georgian Bay waters in its well-protected harbour.

Park Head  Grand Trunk Railway in Park Head Ontario was an important railway depot on the Bruce Peninsula when in 1894 the first train chugged through Park Head.

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 shipwreck diving which has become so popular that tourism has become an important part of that community's economy. 

Tobermory pioneers experienced a life in a community that was anything but the tourism hive of activity that it is today.

A Flowerpot Island cruise is not only entertaining, but it is also very educational as you will see things that you have never viewed before!

Wiarton Ontario  This historic community was a great place to live in the early settlement days and still is a busy tourist stop on your way up the Bruce Peninsula.

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

Wiarton Ontario’s First Newspaper  A catalyst in supporting road construction and bringing the railway to Wiarton in hopes of making the town the economic leader of the area. But disappointment looms...

Wiarton news: 1890s, as seen in the pages of the local newspaper revealed problems typical of today's communities 

Wiarton Beet Industry was to be a great boost to the town's economy. Instead, it left most people with a bad taste in their mouths.

Travel the Bruce: Owen Sound to Wiarton  A wonderful journey from Owen Sound to Wiarton.

Travel the Bruce: Wiarton to Tobermory  Relaxing and historic journey.

Bruce Peninsula  The Bruce Peninsula is a compelling place, with a rich history, to visit. Once you have traveled there, we guarantee that you will return, again and again!

  1. History Articles
  2. Bruce Peninsula
  3. Bruce Peninsula Municipal Politics