The Politics of Municipal Annexation: The Case of the City of London's Territorial Ambitions during the 1950s and 1960s

By Meligrana, John F. | Urban History Review, October 2000 | Go to article overview

The Politics of Municipal Annexation: The Case of the City of London's Territorial Ambitions during the 1950s and 1960s


Meligrana, John F., Urban History Review


Abstract

Southern Ontario's local government system was under considerable stress immediately following the Second World War as rapid urban growth spilled over traditional municipal units. This situation generated a number of potential local government reforms. The paper focuses on the politics surrounding one type of reform, annexation. The London-Middlesex region is used as a case study to answer the question: why, how, and under what conditions did annexation come to dominate the regional political discourse? The paper examines the political tactics, procedures, and strategies that the City of London employed to support and articulate Its territorial ambitions before the Ontario Municipal Board (OMB) and other forums during the 1950s and 1960s. London's 1961 annexation was the fiercest and final annexation battle that the OMB decided between the city and Middlesex County. The paper also unpacks the politics surrounding the 1961 annexation by reviewing the minutes of local council meetings, government reports, recor ds of the OMB and newspaper articles. It concludes that London's annexation success resulted from the city's superior political skills, a disorganized rural opposition; and the proceedings and operations of the OMB that divorced the issue of municipal boundaries from local governance, thereby biasing the outcome in favour of annexation.

Resume

Le reseau municipal du sad de l'Ontario a ete considerablement ebranle immediatement apres la Seconde Guerre mondiale lorsque le rapide essor urbain s'est mis a progresser au-dela des limites des municipalites existantes. Cette situation a engendre plusieurs tentatives de reforme sur le plan municipal. Cet expose porte sur la politique que suscite un type de reforme particulier, solt l'annexion. La region de London-Middlesex fait l'objet d'une etude de cas destinee a illustrer pourquoi, comment et dans quelle conjoncture l'annexlon en est venue dominer le discours politique regional. On examine les tactiques, les strategies et les moyens d'action potitiques employes par la ville de London pour presenter et appuyer ses ambitions territoriales devant la Commission des affaires municipales de l'Ontario et clans d'autres contextes au cours des annees 1950 et 1960. L'annexion du comte de Middlesex a London en 1961 a ete 1'enjeu de Ia derniere et de La plus acharnde des luttes que la Commission a eu a trancher a l' egard d'un tel rattachement. L'examen des proces-verbaux des assemblees des conseils locaux, des rapports gouvernementaux, des dossiers de la Commission et des articles de journaux revele egalement la politique que cette annexion a fait naitre. On conclut que le succes de la demarche entreprise par London a decoule de la remarquable habilete politique de son administration et du manque d'organisation des opposants ruraux, ainsi que des procedes et activites de la Commission qui, en ayant pour effet de separer la question des frontieres municipales de celle de la gestion publique, ont favorise l'annexion.

Introduction

Annexation is the legal means by which municipalities acquire jurisdiction over surrounding lands. From a planning standpoint, annexation represents a potential long-term solution to the management of urban growth. However, annexation's apparent planning goals can be clouded by the intense local and regional political conflicts over changes to the territorial status quo of local governments. Annexation is a zero-sum game that produces winners and losers. Any municipal territorial enlargement must come at the political and jurisdictional expense of another municipality or, as is usually the case, from a rural government such as a township and a county. [1] This political contest manifests itself in local government conflicts over the amount, direction, and type of urban growth. The conflict usually pits the urban support for annexation against the rural opposition.

This paper explores the political methods and tactics employed by the City of London to successfully gain substantial territory from the surrounding townships during the 1950s and 1960s. …

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