Charlotte Whitton Calls for Backup (1952)

Charlotte Whitton sought new rights from the province to manage postwar growth in Ottawa. Image: Ted Grant / Library and Archives Canada. Accession 1981-181 NPC, Item 61-1180, fr. 25-30.

It wasn’t quite clear in 1952 how City of Ottawa could manage the rapid growth that took place after the Second World War, or if it even had the power to do so. A number of housing projects, in particular those at Manor Park and Mann Avenue (Strathcona Heights), had presented significant political and functional challenges to the city and exposed the shortcomings of an civic administration unaccustomed to managing large-scale development projects.

In this one, I will not (yet) get into a detailed outline of the development of Manor Park. It’s still coming, but for now, more correspondence transcripts. In this case, correspondence between Ottawa Mayor Charlotte Whitton and Municipal Affairs Minister George Dunbar offers a glimpse into how the issue was being discussed. These meetings eventually resulted in the Seymour Commission of 1953, which I will transcribe in another piece.

                                          December 24, 1952

Your Worship:

In reply to your communication of December 19th in reference to matters discussed in my office on December 18th with the Honourable Dana Porter, the Honourable Wm. Griesinger and myself.

It was pointed out that meeting that section 258 of The Municipal Act provided that a municipal council could, if they saw fit, pass a resolution requesting a judge of the county court to investigate any matter with the good government of the municipality or the conduct of any part of its public business, etc.

It was explained to you at that meeting that The Public Inquiries Act was not applicable to a municipality in view of the fact that the provision for investigation was contained in section 258 of The Municipal Act.

It was also pointed out if the council of the City of Ottawa did not desire an investigation held under the authority of section 258 of The Municipal Act, the only way they could obtain a different kind of investigation would be to petition the Ontario Legislature for a Private Bill authorizing an inquiry similar to that provided for in The Public Inquiries Act.

- 2 -

It was also pointed out to you at that time that I could not give you any assurance that such a Private Bill would be passed by the Legislature in view of the provision in section 258 of The Municipal Act, and you were also advised that the passing of a Private Bill depended upon, (1) the recommendation of the Private Bills Committee and (2) the approval of the Members of the House.

I would remind you that I and my colleagues have no knowledge that would justify us recommending council apply for a Private Bill.

Yours very truly,

[George Dunbar,]
[Minister of Municipal Affairs]

Her Worship
Mayor Charlotte Whitton,
City Hall,
OTTAWA, Ontario.1George Dunbar, Minister, Department of Municipal Affairs, Ontario, to Charlotte Whitton, Mayor, City of Ottawa, December 24, 1952. Archives of Ontario, RG 19-43 Box 152 File 1.

A few days earlier, Whitton sent Minister Dunbar the following letter.

Office of the Mayor

Charlotte Whitton, C.B.E.

December 19th

[Stamp: Received Dec 22 1952
Office of the Minister of
Municipal Affairs]

Private and Confidential

Hon. George Dunbar,
Minister of Municipal Affairs,
Parliament Buildings,
Toronto, Ontario.

Dear Mr. Minister:

Thank you for all you are doing to further the work of the Council of the City of Ottawa, the interests of the City itself, and particularly, to assist me, as Mayor, in the heavy and increasing burdens of that office in Ottawa, at the present time.

Particularly may I thank you for arranging what was a most satisfactory conference with the Hon. Mr. Kennedy and the special conference with the Attorney General and the Minister of Planning and Development at which, I am afraid, I remained neither as good tempered nor as good mannered as I might have. But you understand what a really "adept" thing this problem is.

Before I discuss the final proposal with any of our officials even, I felt that I should send a draft up for you, Mr. Orr and the Honorable [sic] the Attorney General to consider.

I therefore enclose copy of this memo in duplicate, and copies of my memo to Council, without, of course, the chart which I showed at the conference.

I would be grateful for your reference of this to your colleague, the Hon. Mr. Porter and any suggestions which might be offered re any changes. I propose to take this resolution through caucus and then to Council for the inaugural meeting on January 5th in order to assure passage for the private bill as early as possible.

Yours sincerely,

Charlotte Whitton

Mayor.2Charlotte Whitton, Mayor, City of Ottawa, to George Dunbar, Minister, Department of Municipal Affairs, Ontario, December 19, 1952. AO RG 19-43 Box 152 File 1.

The following are the documents enclosed by Whitton.


Pursuant to the approval, given by Council on December 15th, 1952, to wit, that in re certain land developments,

"the Mayor's Report be received and that Her Worship be
authorized by this Council to act upon her report in
accordance with the recommendations contained therein,"

I have conferred with the appropriate provincial authorities along these lines and beg to recommend:

That the Council of the Corporation of the City of Ottawa request the enactment by the Legislature of the Province of Ontario at the earliest possible date in the ensuing session, of a private measure which will confer upon a Special Commissioner, to be named by the Minister of Municipal Affairs, but to report directly to the Council of the Corporation of the City of Ottawa, all the powers of a Commissioner under the Public Inquiries Act to inquire into

the land transactions and related matters, as set forth in the report of Her Worship the Mayor to Council on December 15th, 1952, and

such other additional references of a comparable nature, concerned with comparable developments as may be included in the reference to said Commissioner by the Council of the Corporation of the City of Ottawa.3Charlotte Whitton, "Draft Report (Tentative) of the Mayor," n.d. AO RG 19-43 Box 152 File 1.

Whitton’s report to Council dated December 15, 1952 outlined the issues surrounding the Manor Park development as she saw them.


Ottawa, December 15, 1952

To Members of Council:

On November 3rd I made an undertaking with Council to study, myself, the returns made to a series of questions re various land developments in the Manor Park area and particularly to report upon the non-payment through exemption as land expropriated by the City of certain lots therein.

It was not possible during the pressures of the meetings re the Civic building sites and the election campaign to discharge the promise fully. On December 2nd I undertook, myself, to assure a report to this meeting of Council.

On December 9th I recommended to the Board of Control:

"That the City Solicitor and the City Tax Collector be
instructed to take up at once with Alvin Enterprises the
payment of taxes, water rates and Local Improvement charges
absorbed by the Corporation of the City of Ottawa on
properties exempted from these payments by the use of Alvin
Enterprises, Ltd., of the status of expropriation which
power of expropriation the City, having obtained from the
Province entrusted to the solicitors for Alvin Enterprises
Ltd. to exercise as a private corporation."

The Board of Control decided, myself dissenting, to instruct the City Solicitor to report further on the matter before the collection of the taxes, under debate.

I thereupon advised the Board, and now report to you, that I felt it incumbent upon me in the duties laid upon me under Section 229(c) of The Municipal Act, to ask for your instruction to proceed.

(Sec.229(c) requires the Head of Council

"to communicate to the Council from time to time such
information and recommend to it such measures as may
tend to the improvement of the finances..........of
the municipal policy.")

Upon going further into this matter, I find that, in respect to $240.74 of these taxes, expropriation was apparently made first by the City, then transferred to the developers, from whom it was expropriated by the Department of National Defence and that it is probably that a grant in respect to the taxes exempted it is properly a claim of the City under The Municipal Grants Act.

Moreover, upon going further into the matter and examining a disturbing series of correspondence, memos, Minutes of the Board and strong protesting reports from certain of our own officials against special considerations, contrary both to by-laws and practices, being accorded the various enterprises of the same group of promoters, I am recommending to Council under this Section of the Act, a much broader and more inclusive area of review and examination, and of other and more than a mere claim against certain tax payments, I deem due to this City in right and in spite of the agreement, originally made between the Township of Gloucester and the promoters in 1947, and the continuance of which is in contravention of some


Ottawa by-laws and policies, as far as I can ascertain, due amendment, would seem open to examination and question.

Moreover, if certain information laid before me be correct, there is a considerable block of some 50 lots, part of Peerless Houses of Canada, Ltd., in which certain personnel may also be in these Enterprises, concerned in similar extraordinary privilege. There may be more and other lands similarly treated.

Moreover, from Board of Control correspondence and Minutes, it would appear that the full significance of the City of Ottawa, in November 1949, consenting to the continuance upon annexation of the Agreement of April 15, 1947, between the Corporation of the Township of Gloucester and the Manor Park Realty Company was never fully reported to Council nor examined by them, if, in fact, by the Board of Control itself.

There would appear to be reason to examine whether such blanket consent was indeed valid, for this agreement would appear to have been in conflict with certain existing by-laws of the City.

Board of Control records reveal a series of extraordinary requests and concessions for special considerations to these developers re building restrictions, watermains, sewers, fuel tank installation, streets, roads, signs, etc., which were stoutly refused by certain of the City's responsible officials, in which they were supported by the Board of Control until May 4, 1950. At that date the Building Inspector and Fire Chief still refused to consent to permits and the Board concurred in their stand though Alvin Enterprises stated they would withdraw from the project.

The matter was referred back by the Board to its Committee on the matter.

The Secretary of the Board of Control reports no further entries re the matter in the Board's Minutes, nor does there appear to be any reference to modification, either way, in the Minutes of Council.

But on May 12, 1950, the press reported that the Building Inspector had issued the permit upon certain modifications being accepted by the developers. Whether these conformed in full to Ottawa by-law and practice is not clear; certainly there appears to be no official report thereon in Board or Council Minutes.

In light of information, some of which it would appear was never fully laid before Council, I submit at this time to Council, the rough plan of all these Manor Park etc. lands presented herewith, and advise Council that for several weeks, amending by-laws and zoning provisions, in my judgment tending to create grave monopoly privileges, have been proposed by the same enterprises or their related interests.

I further recall to Council the detailed information in its possession (see Minutes - August 5, 1952) in reply to a questionnaire on this matter of Manor Park Enterprises, and I recommend to Council, at this time, no such incidental matter as following through on this one parcel of tax claims but

That in justice to the City, in fairness to members of the Board of Control and Council, and to certain fine and responsible officials of this City, and particularly to the residents of these areas, whether homeowners or tenants, that this matter be referred back to Her Worship the Mayor and


That she be instructed to proceed at once to discuss with the appropriate provincial authorities and to report back to the Board of Control and Council what procedures and measures should be taken to clear up all the matters relating to the expropriation, sale, use, exemptions, tax payments, special considerations, etc., involved in any or all of the following land and building companies, reported to be as follows:

Manor Park Realty Company - Letters patent issued February 5th, 1947 -

Directors as of annual return March 31st, 1952:

A.W. Beament
C.C. Radcliff
R.B. Davis
K.J. Greene

Peerless Houses of Canada Limited - Letters patent issued March 27th, 1946 -

Directors as of annual return March 31st, 1952:

Preston Davis, Columbus, Ohio.
Herbert S. Cook, Scarsdale, New York.
Randolph Martin, 349 Elgin Street, Ottawa.
(A.W. Beament reported to be Solicitor)

Dennison Houses Limited - Letters patent issued the 17th of April, 1950 -

Directors as of annual return March 31st, 1951:

A.W. Beament
Roger B. Dennison
R.B. Davis

Manor Park Shopping Centre Limited - an Ontario company incorporated by Letters patent dated 28th November, 1950 and having its head office situated at Ottawa.

Manor Gardens Limited - an Ontario company incorporated by Letters patent dated 31st August, 1949 and having its head office situated in Ottawa. (Solicitor - A.W. Beament)

Alvin Enterprises Limited (A.L. Vineberg, Montreal and Associates) - an Ontario company incorporated by Letters Patent dated 22nd April, 1950 and having its head office situated at Ottawa (Solicitor - A.W. Beament)

In my judgment it is necessary to seek the provincial authorities' advice relating to this matter because much of what is involved for the City of Ottawa, as well as the controversy re local improvement charges in Manor Park, originate in the continuance into Ottawa of certain aspects of the agreement made between the developers and the Township of Gloucester on April 15th, 1947 and which, I have reason to believe, should be re-examined as to certain aspects as to whether they could have been applicable without amending by-laws or indeed special legislation re the City of Ottawa.

Charlotte Whitton
Mayor.4Charlotte Whitton. "The Mayor - Under Section 229(c) of the Ontario Municipal Act," December 15, 1952. AO RG 19-43 Box 152 File 1.


1 George Dunbar, Minister, Department of Municipal Affairs, Ontario, to Charlotte Whitton, Mayor, City of Ottawa, December 24, 1952. Archives of Ontario, RG 19-43 Box 152 File 1.
2 Charlotte Whitton, Mayor, City of Ottawa, to George Dunbar, Minister, Department of Municipal Affairs, Ontario, December 19, 1952. AO RG 19-43 Box 152 File 1.
3 Charlotte Whitton, "Draft Report (Tentative) of the Mayor," n.d. AO RG 19-43 Box 152 File 1.
4 Charlotte Whitton. "The Mayor - Under Section 229(c) of the Ontario Municipal Act," December 15, 1952. AO RG 19-43 Box 152 File 1.