Second City, Second Metro: University Women’s Club of Ottawa Advocates for a Big Regional Council

The University Women’s Club of Ottawa was active in all subjects and its members were frequent commentators on local matters. Source: Ottawa Journal, September 8, 1966, 22.

The University Women’s Club of Ottawa (UWCO) was founded in 1910 by a group of fifty-four women with degrees who came together with the intention of forming a similar club for university-educated women to those in Toronto, Edmonton, and Vancouver. As was the case with many of these voluntary societies, UWCO mission was a blend of social, educational, and charitable ends. In addition to public lectures, to achieve their educational purpose, the UWCO also regularly held study groups on a wide variety of topics. Although they were hardly limited to it, some of the groups represented an opportunity for the members to use their skills and weigh in on the issues of the day.1This is a fairly simplistic boiling down of the UWCO. For an extended look at the history of the first 50 years of the UWCO, see Laurie J. Smith. A Feeling of the Responsibility of Women for Women’: The University Women’s Club of Ottawa, 1910-60Thesis. Ottawa: University of Ottawa, 2002.

In matters of local government, the UWCO were frequent and passionate commenters and advocates for change and the changes they pushed for tended to rankle Ottawa’s own Charlotte Whitton. After having offered up her testimony to Jones and his panel, of the UWCO submission, Whitton snarked that it was “ill-informed and …lost in pursuit of phrases rather than facts.”2David Nesbitt. “Would Scrap NCC: Whitton Urges New Relationship Between Gov’t, City,” Ottawa Journal, March 29, 1965, 1-2.

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A STUDY GROUP
UNIVERSITY WOMEN'S CLUB OF OTTAWA

BRIEF

  An informal poll taken by the study group, of approximately 300 club members, showed that almost all were dissatisfied with the current government arrangements in Ottawa and area. Although more than half of the members of the group, impressed by the quality of Federal projects, favoured a National Capital District administered by the Federal Government, the study group feels that such a solution would be undemocratic, bureaucratic, dictatorial and irresponsive to diverse local needs.

  A continuation of the present system with this intergovernmental disagreements, in equally undesirable. 

  A regional government with a council comprising elected representatives from the various municipalities, appointed officials from the Federal Government, Members of Parliament, Members of the Legislative Assembly, and possibly those Senators with special qualifications, is recommended. It should have a professionally-staffed planning board which would take over the planning function presently performed by the National Capital Commission, and coordinate local planning bodies, which would continue to exist. This regional board must have authority to enforce its decisions, and should have should have a court of appeal for citizens.

  The regional government would manage all capital finances, maintain major roads, public transportation, hospitals and parks; integrate water and sewer systems; set up and area police force; coordinate local fire departments; and build schools.

  The local municipalities would maintain their own fire departments, local roads, schools and garbage collection, and would continue to levy and collect taxes, remitting a share to the regional

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government; the Federal Government would also make a contribution.

  The study group hopes that this Ontario inquiry will lead to inter-provincial discussions and the more desirable goal of considering Ottawa-Hull as a planning and administrative unit.

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HEARING

  Mrs. D.J. Bailey, Mrs. B.A. Keith, Mrs. W.A. Whitelaw, Mrs. E.A. Watkinson and Mrs. C.M. Wiltshire made the submission.

  During the discussion, the following points were added to those made in the written brief:

1) The institution of an ombudsman could perhaps be considered as a part of the board of appeal mechanism which the study group feels is essential, especially in the Ottawa area where numerous expropriations affect the citizens.
2) The relationship of a regional government (with an area of jurisdiction which should be determined by commuting radius from the central city) to adjacent governments in the much larger Eastern Ontario economic region would have to be considered.
3) The proposed regional government is primarily needed to effectively control land uses, and should have more powers, particularly in planning, than present municipalities have.
4) Representation on the regional council should not be directly elected, but chosen from the elected local councils. The Study Group recognized that "representation by population" is difficult if note impossible to achieve in this way, and agreed that a large municipality like the City of Ottawa would require more than one representative, but did not feel capable of developing the proposal in any greater detail.
5) The division of functions between the regional and local governments was not spelled out in great detail, but it was suggested that zoning and building by-laws could continue under

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local jurisdiction as long as they conform to standards set at the regional level and subject to regional government approval by building plans. Similarly smaller sewer and water mains could be built and maintained by local government with trunk mains a responsibility of the regional government. Hospitals should be a regional responsibility.
6) It was suggested that the regional council might comprise 30 members, half of them appointed by the Federal government to represent the national interest and chosen from each province like the members of the National Capital Commission, the other half including representatives of the local municipalities along with the Members of Parliament and some of the Members of the Legislative Assembly from Federal and Ontario ridings in the region. The council should meet only four or five times a year to determine policies.
7) Day to day administration of the regional government should be under a well-qualified "city manager" directing an adequate professional staff similar to (and perhaps comprising some of) the present staffs of the National Capital Commission and the City of Ottawa.

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Notes   [ + ]

1. This is a fairly simplistic boiling down of the UWCO. For an extended look at the history of the first 50 years of the UWCO, see Laurie J. Smith. A Feeling of the Responsibility of Women for Women’: The University Women’s Club of Ottawa, 1910-60Thesis. Ottawa: University of Ottawa, 2002.
2. David Nesbitt. “Would Scrap NCC: Whitton Urges New Relationship Between Gov’t, City,” Ottawa Journal, March 29, 1965, 1-2.

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