To save gas during WWII, farm trucks weren’t permitted to operate further than 35 miles from the farm and farmers had to paint the address on the sides of their trucks as proof.
The town of Neepawa was the first municipality in North America to own its own telephone system.
An early Municipal Act stipulated that every man aged 21 to 60 was required to spend one day a year helping build or repair municipal roads. It was called “statute labour.”
Those are some of the nuggets of provincial history contained in a newly released book on municipal governance in Manitoba, published this fall by the Association of Manitoba Municipalities.
With One Voice: A History of Municipal Governance in Manitoba commemorates the 10th year since the Union of Manitoba Municipalities (UMM) and Manitoba Association of Urban Municipalities (MAUM) merged to form the present day Association of Manitoba Municipalities.
“It will not be boring. I promise,” author Gordon Goldsborough writes in his intro to this book spanning over 100 years of municipal governance. Indeed, it is not.
Goldsborough is an environmental scientist, equally well-known as an historian and past-president of the Manitoba Historical Society as he is as associate professor in the department of biological sciences at the University of Manitoba, and director of its Delta Marsh Field Station on Lake Manitoba.
With One Voice looks at historical “everyday life” events in Manitoba through a municipal lens, such as daylight saving time, rural electrification, and the war waged on gophers, beaver and muskrat and other wildlife deemed pests to farmers and ranchers.
Chapters titled Rats, Roads and (Tax) Relief, City Lights, Much Ado about Margarine, and Reduce, Reuse… Reorganize are lively exploration of topics as diverse as the rise of Sunday shopping, the expanding use of chemicals to control weeds, early road construction from impassable paths, and the entrance of women into local politics and municipal administration. One sidebar article details the precedent-setting event of 1922 in Rapid City when Mary’s McIlvride became the first woman to serve on a municipal council. Apparently, she was not enthusiastic that other women follow suit, lest “some without ability might run.”
Other chapters explore more recent events, including the formation of Unicity in 1972, the installation of video lottery terminals (VLTs) in rural hotels in the in the early 1990s, and the merger of UMM and MAUM in 1999. The UMM was founded in 1905, while the Manitoba Association of Urban Municipalities organized in 1950.
Tracing a century of effort to build infrastructure and provide services for all Manitobans, With One Voice notes in its final chapter the key challenge ahead for this province’s 198 rural and urban municipalities: to continue to do so despite shrinking resources.
Small pie-shaped graphics at the beginning of each of chapter highlight the root of the problem – the shift of population away from rural areas to urban, and the overall decline of population across much of the agro-Manitoba.
Today nearly half of municipalities are home to less than 1,000 souls and 50-year trend lines for many don’t look good. If not reversed, they show as many as 43 municipalities (22 per cent of 198) will have zero population by 2050, With One Voice notes.
What, then, is the future for Manitoba’s “first level of government” as AMM’s guest speaker, the Honourable Preston Manning called local government during his address to the AMM.
“Local government is the foundation on which society is built; it is the most important level of government, and it does not function well without the active participation of willing volunteers,” writes Goldsborough in the final chapter of With One Voice. “Renewal is needed, not merely to relieve those who have long served, but to infuse municipal decision-making with new ways of thinking, new experiences and new ideas.”
With One Voice of fers a glimpse at where municipal governance in this province can go, as an engaging look at where it’s been.
The book was goes on sale in early December at major book retailers in Altona, Brandon, Selkirk and Winnipeg.
For more information contact the Association of Manitoba Municipalities office directly in Portage la Prairie at (204) 857-8666. [email protected]