Second City, Second Metro: The City of Ottawa Will Steamroll Democracy In Nepean

Nepean City Hall as it appeared in 1966 in Bells Corners. Image: City of Ottawa Archives, Item CA025332-W.

Derek O. “Doc” Campfield’s shadow loomed large in Nepean Township. After having purchased land in Lynwood Village in Bells Corners, he quickly became involved in local municipal affairs and became a staunch defender of the rapidly-growing township municipality’s interests.1For more detail about Campfield and  the growth of Nepean, see Bruce S. Elliott. The City Beyond: A History of Nepean, Birthplace of Canada’s Capital, 1792-1990. Nepean: City of Nepean, 1991.

Campfield decided to submit a detailed brief under his own name, arguing that any attempt to reorganize the regional government or codify intermunicipal relations would represent a violation of moral and democratic principles. His words were appreciated, and rather than submit their own brief along those lines, the Bell’s Corners Property Owners’ Association submitted a very short brief and co-signed Campfield’s submission along with many other similar associations across Nepean.

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  Democratic government is that form of representative government which best meets the needs and desires of those whom it serves.
  The principal alternatives are:

a. The current individual municipal system.
b. Annexation by the City of surrounding municipalities.
c. Metropolitan Government.
d. Regional Government. 

  The current individual municipal system is close to the electorate and ideally suited to reacting to the needs of a small unique community. It is democratic government in its purest form.

  Annexation by the City of surrounding municipalities, on the other hand, without the consent of the vast majority of the electorate, is neither moral nor democratic, and could only be achieved in the face of overwhelming opposition. 

  Metropolitan Government, as established in Winnipeg, has a council directly elected from ten electoral divisions, each including portions of at least two area municipalities and land used for varying purposes. The Councillors are not in any sense delegates of the local councils, and the system is designed to prevent an equal division of power between the central city and suburbs, or the domination of either. The Metropolitan Corporation was made responsible for public transportation, civil defence, mosquito abatement and major water, sewer, road and park facilities in metro proper, and for assessment, planning, zoning and building controls in metro and an additional zone extending about five miles beyond.

  A recent Winnipeg Review Commission found dissatisfaction

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with the lack of any representation of local councils on the metropolitan council, with the partial inclusion of some municipalities in metro, and with the extent of the "additional zone". The Commission recommended changes to meet the latter two objections, and concluded that the metro system may confidently be expected to provide a more effective organization of municipal services. It did not however, examine the additional cost burden resulting from an additional level of government. 

  Because the Ottawa area is less homogenous (i.e. has fewer municipalities, with the City of Ottawa more predominant - ed.) it would probably be impossible to delineate electoral divisions on the Winnipeg model without a serious imbalance of power in favour of the City on the metropolitan council; the other municipalities could hardly hope to have any influence on the election of its members. All of the most controversial aspects of the Winnipeg metro system would thus be greatly magnified in the Ottawa area and even new ones generated. 

  For these reasons, metropolitan government is not only undesirable for the Ottawa area, but also unfeasible. 

  Regional Government can also be rejected for the same reasons as metro government, and also because its tantamount to annexation by Ottawa of the adjacent municipalities.

  We are thus left with the existing system of local government. With an increase in the size of municipal councils to handle their heavy workload, and provision of more workable inter-municipal machinery to effect the necessary planning and co-ordination, it is best suited to meet needs now and in the future. 


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  Mr. Campfield explained that while his Brief was originally prepared as a personal one, it has since been endorsed by the representatives of eleven property owners associations present at a meeting of the executive of the Nepean Township Property Owners' Association. Of the six remaining ratepayers' groups belonging to this Association, five were not present at the meeting, and one (the City View Association) decided to submit its own brief rather than endorse Mr. Campfield's.

  It was noted that this support represents widespread satisfactions with the present government in Nepean, implying public acceptance of township policies and a conviction that the Council is responsive to local needs. Most Nepean residents chose to locate there for these reasons. It was also noted that there is fear that any other form of government would cost more, and might provide services which most Nepean ratepayers do not want and could ill afford. Thus annexation, without the consent of the "vast majority" of those annexed, is regarded as immoral and undemocratic. 

  With regard to the need for more workable inter-municipal machinery, Mr. Campfield made it clear that this should take the form of voluntary cooperation; if additional coordinating agencies are required, they should be lesser authorities subject to the existing municipal governments, and not over them. Nor further definition of workable inter-municipal machinery was provided, although it was admitted that some municipalities may not presently be paying their fair share of services which are of benefit to the whole area.


Notes   [ + ]

1. For more detail about Campfield and  the growth of Nepean, see Bruce S. Elliott. The City Beyond: A History of Nepean, Birthplace of Canada’s Capital, 1792-1990. Nepean: City of Nepean, 1991.