Municipal ownership town : the organization and regulation of urban services in Port Arthur, 1875-1914 / by Steven C. High.
High, Steven C.
SubjectMunicipal services Ontario Port Arthur History
Municipal ownership Ontario Port Arthur History
Public utilities Ontario Port Arthur History
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Municipal enterprise was an innovation born of necessity in the hinterland regions of Europe and North America. In an era of rapid industrial and population growth, urban governments struggled during the late Victorian period to respond to enormous pressure to establish and expand urban services. The nature of this reponse was determined primarily by the ability of private enterprise to satisfy public demand for running water, natural gas, electric generation, electric lights, a street railway and telephone service. Consequently, the greatest manifestation of municipal enterprise was in aspiring hinterland towns and cities where private enterprise had failed to provide these urban services. Port Arthur (a small frontier town at the ‘head’ of Lake Superior) was a pioneer of municipal ownership in North America. While the scarcity of finance capital in the region prevented utility entrepreneurs from providing urban services, the sense of urgency generated by inter-urban rivalry led to indirect municipal intervention (bonuses), and eventually to municipal enterprise. This process was greatly facilitated by an atmosphere of inter-class cooperation conducive to collective action, and to public confidence in the municipal administration. A false dichotomy has been created between the municipal ownership of urban services and private enterprise because historical interpretation respecting utility organization and regulation In large metropolitan cities have been applied to all urban centres. This thesis reconsiders this assumption and responds to several fundamental questions which have yet to be explored. Why did Port Arthur pioneer municipal enterprise in North America? How did the legal environment Influence the scope of municipal activity? Was the municipal administration controlled by a booster-orientated economic elite? How did the municipal ownership of urban services differ from private ownership?