City of Hamilton (Ont.). Board of Control

Identity area

Type of entity

Corporate body

Authorized form of name

City of Hamilton (Ont.). Board of Control

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Description area

Dates of existence

1909-1980

History

In 1909, the electors of Hamilton, following the example of many other Canadian cities which during the proceeding 20 years had adopted new government structures, approved By-law 860 by a vote of 2,786 to 1,213 thereby providing for the establishment of a Board of Control under the Ontario Consolidated Municipal Act, 1905. The new Board was formed under By-laws 899 and 900. The organization of such municipal bodies was part of the reformist zeal of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, which saw businessmen campaign to restructure local government along more efficient eand orderly lines, imitating the modern business corporation. In part, their goal was to end civic corruption and favoritism and to reduce the influence of aldermen and the ward system, as well as to govern the city paying special attention to the needs of business.

Previously, mayors such as John S. Hendrie (1901-1902) had appealed to voters on a "business platform," promising better municipal management, and under their stewardship several civic bodies of "experts" had been organized including the Hospital Board (1896), the Board of Cemetery Management (1899), and the Board of Parks Management (1900). The new Board of Control served as the executive committee of Council; indeed, its creation was a move to strengthen the executive branch without sacrificing "the democratic form of an elected body." It was composed of four members, elected at large every two years, and the Mayor who served as Chairman of the Board. The Controller receiving the largest number of votes acted as Deputy Mayor and Vice Chairman of the Board.

In the early 1930s, a suggestion was put forth by Mayor John Peebles "to promote the better business administration of the city" by appointing a chief administrative officer. Such an appointment, it was believed, would foster greater co-operation and coordination between the branches of civic government, thereby encouraging continuity in the development of city policy and eliminating the duplication of effort arising from divided authority. The chief administrative officer would be in charge of personnel and would act as a single, informed source whom Council could consult. Peebles' proposal was examined by Council but was not acted upon. For the next fifty years the question of employing a chief administrative officer was raised periodically, but the position was not established. More particularly, the idea was revived during the mayoralty of Victor Copps (1963-1976), who urged the adoption of a "manager type of government" to free the Board of Control from spending its time on administrative details, thus allowing it to concentrate on formulating and enforcing policy. In 1980, Hamilton appointed a chief administrative officer and the Board of Control was abolished.

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Functions, occupations and activities

The functions of the Board were outlined both in the Ontario Consolidated Municipal Act, 1903 (s.277) and in Hamilton By-law 900. Replacing Council's Finance Committee, the financial duties of the Board were many. They encompassed: approving all money appropriations; preparing the city budget and enforcing estimates; making recommendations concerning city finances to Council; regulating and supervising all matters regarding expenditure, revenue, and investments; preparing specifications for and awarding all contracts; and calling for tenders. More specifically, the Board was to manage and report upon all matters relating to the financial position of the Waterworks. Most financial decisions of the Board of Control were subject to amendment or reversal upon a two-thirds vote of Council.

The second major responsibility of the Board of Control was personnel. Subject to the two-thirds approval of Council, the Board held authority over department heads and all other employees appointed by by-law. It supervised the performance of duties and could regulate the employment of subordinate workers. Further, it made proposals concerning the rate of pay of all city employees and was responsible for negotiating with unions on behalf of Council. Each municipal department was placed under the direction of a Controller, and more generally the Board was to oversee the regular inspection of all city programmes and projects. The Board could make recommendations to Council concerning departmental policy and the amalgamation and consolidation of departments and subdepartments. Other tasks of the Board of Control included regulating and supervising all municipal records and reporting on the sale or disposal of land acquired for arrears in taxes. Council minutes contain the recommendations of the Board of Control on these and other matters. Controllers sat on all municipal committees and boards.

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