Laying the Groundwork for Conflict, 1891-92

AuthorC. Ian Kyer
 
EdwardFrederickNedClarkeandtheth irtynine
aldermen who made up the Toronto city council were much concerned ab out
theCit ystransitsystemThe thirt yyearfranchise of thedetested Toronto
Street Railway Company (TSR) was coming to a close. There was no doubt
that the TSR had to be replaced, but determining what ought to replace it
occupiedaverylargepartoftheiragendaAStreetRai lwayCommieehad
been formed to hold hearings and consider whether the City itself ought to
assume ownership and operation, or grant a new franch ise to another pri
vate sector company. Transit was increasingly important because the City
hadgrow nsubsta ntiallya ndnow had apopulation of morethan
Much oft hat growth was from the an nexation ofs urrounding commun
Seato nVil lagei na ndParkd alei nAs Jesse Middl etonwo uldlat er
writeTorontonolongerfou nditself acompactlile citybuta straggling
big one, outgrowing its civic services as rapidly as a small boy outgrows his
pa nta lo ons Moving aboutth iseverexpandi ngcity was noteasy Streets
were unpavedwit h the dust kept down byst reet sprinklers  a horse
drawn half cistern mounted on t wo big axles with a tube across the back
from which water was spread onto the dirt roadway.Thewelltodotra
versed these roads in their car riages, but the working class had to walk or
takethe horsedrawnstre etcarsoft heTSRSome formofimprovedt ransit
systemwas neededto servethe expanding cityand tobeer getpeople to
their jobs in the central core.
MayorClarkek newthe importance oft ransita ndthe diculties ofef
fectingc hangeHewouldsoon beseek inghis fourthoneyearter mint hat
oceelections were then held each JanuaryHe was very much apolit
ician even while mayorhe wassii ngin opposition as aCon servative
MPPin the provincial legislature He owed both positions to the fact that
hewasa prominentmember ofthe OrangeOrder infacthe hadbeen the
founder and publisher of the Ora nge Sent inel, wh ich was considered to be
the voice of the group).AsaCity politicianhewasknownforh isnancial
and administrative reforms. That reform program explains in part why he
wascommiedtoending themonopolyheldbytheTorontoStreetRa ilway
Company and why his enthusiasm for the establishment of a publicly owned
and operated transit system was rapidly growing.
Clarke’s growing enthusiasm for a publicly run transit system was shared
by many people in Toronto; however, not all of those people could vote. As
one commentator on civic government then wrote, Canadian municipalities
wereregardedasaspeciesofjointstoc kcompanyonlythosecontributing
thecapital beingal lowedtoshare int hedirec tionofits aairs Thus, the
vote was only given to men and unmarried women who owned or rented
aproper ty with an assessed value ofat least  orwho had an income
over that amount. This meant that many users of the t ransit system had no
meaningful say in the maernevert helessa number of those who could
vote favoured some form of public ownership. Even Clarke’s opponent in the
itwould be abig mista keto grant another thir tyyeartran sitfranc hise to
theprivatesectorwithoutthe Cityatleastaemptingtooperatet hesystem
year or two as an experiment — if nothi ng else, it would allow the City to
learn the true value of the fra nchise. To his mind, even a poorly operated
transit system would be preferable to selling the franch ise before its true
value was dete rmined.
The public sentiment was reected by a lively meeting on the Stre et
RailwayQuestionheldinearlyJanuaryBetweent woandth reehu n
dredpeople aendedtheme etingat StAndrews Hallto discuss the issue
The meeting had been ca lled with the support of the mayor, but neither he
noranyalder menaendedW hilet hiswasnot editdidnotdet erthosewh o

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