22 Years of New Edinburgh

New Edinburgh Incorporation_Page_1
An Act to incorporate the Village of New Edinburgh, in the County of Carleton. It received Royal Assent on August 15, 1866.

The Village of New Edinburgh was incorporated by an act of the United Province of Canada (Canada West) under a year prior to Confederation. What is perhaps interesting is that, at the time, it was customary to allow a settlement incorporate once it had reached a population of around a thousand. For its own part, New Edinburgh was said to have reached no more than 300.[1] In his Ph.D. thesis, Gregory Stott suggested that:

     There is one clue to the motives for incorporation. At the same time as the bill for incorporation appeared, the Provincial legislature was considering an Act to incorporate the “Ottawa City Passenger Railway Company.” This important transportation act and the act incorporating New Edinburgh both received Royal Assent on August 15, 1866. The incorporation of the railway company stipulated that the tracks would begin in New Edinburgh and run into Ottawa along various streets. Significantly, the Act provided “Ottawa and the adjoining municipalities … are respectively authorized to make and to enter into any agreements or covenants with the said company…” as they related to the maintenance of roads, sewers, waterlines, and of course rail lines that would be created or affected by the creation of the new service. Ir seems likely, therefore, that the call for municipal status in New Edinburgh has much to do with the development of a street railway. Both the stables and headquarters for the transportation network were to be in New Edinburgh. [2]

Stott continues suggesting that the bulk of ratepayers in the predominantly rural Gloucester Township would have little interest in – or use for – a street railway. This, of course, is quite similar to the state of affairs today, as the support for large public transportation projects is generally more fairweather among the distant suburban and rural areas than it is for those inside the city.

In general, the relationship between Ottawa and New Edinburgh was amiable and there was a high level of integration, with New Edinburgh being hooked up to Ottawa’s water system and a user of their fire protection. It would be in the last four years that things came to sour.

The year 1882 marked a decided turning point in the relations between the city and the village, and consequently the actions pursued by Ottawa contributed to the poisoning what had been a relatively amicable relationship. In December, an Ottawa City Council committee reported that the city should embark on a massive expansion programme, annexing New Edinburgh and significant portions of both Gloucester and Nepean Townships. Heightened expenditures left Ottawa with an impressive infrastructure. However, the increase in local rates caused many people to flee to the outskirts, settling in the neighbouring townships and New Edinburgh. Coupled with this exodus of ratepayers, the economic slowdown of the 1870s left the city with liabilities that outweighed assets. For Ottawa City Council the best solution was to bring suburbanites back forcibly into the urban fold in order to recover this lost taxation. [3]

Unsurprisingly, the New Edinburgh council found this to be a hostile move [4] and the community mobilized against it. The mobilization was temporarily successful, and the first annexation bill, introduced in 1883, ultimately died in committee. [5] Ottawa’s intentions were now public and – much like Rockcliffe Park later on – the village both adopted and was given a style and identity of wealth and luxury. The “Vice-Regal Suburb.” [6] While the village was able to win a three-year reprieve, the trend toward municipal annexation across the province (and indeed across North America) was both unmistakable and unstoppable. New Edinburgh was annexed by the City of Ottawa in 1886/7.

[1] Stott, Gregory (2004). “Suburban Dilemmas: The Development and Amalgamation of Ontario Suburban Municipalities 1853 to 1897.” Ph.D. Diss. McMaster University, p. 63.
[2] Ibid, pp. 64-65.
[3] Ibid, p. 183.
[4] Annexations and amalgamations, of course, have remained similarly controversial. Individuals are understandably upset when their attempts at tax arbitrage are thwarted and those recipient locations are similarly upset. Death and taxes!
[5] Stott (2004), p. 185.
[6] Ibid.