City of Hamilton (Ont.). Office of the Mayor

Identity area

Type of entity

Corporate body

Authorized form of name

City of Hamilton (Ont.). Office of the Mayor

Parallel form(s) of name

  • Mayor of the City of Hamilton
  • City of Hamilton (Ont.). Mayor's Office

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Other form(s) of name

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Description area

Dates of existence



The Act of Incorporation of Hamilton required that the affairs of the city be managed by a Mayor and a Municipal or "Common Council", replacing the previous government by the Board of Police. The Mayor and Councillors composed City Council. Two Councillors were elected in each of the five municipal wards established by the Act, and together they named one other person to serve with them on Council. From among their number the Councillors chose the Mayor, who held office for a one year term. The system, at times, could cause problems as in 1854 when all the Councillors successively were nominated for mayor and were defeated. Minors and non-citizens were ineligible to run for office, and property qualifications were established. The Mayor was paid a salary in lieu of fees and prerogatives.

In April 1872, in the midst of a period of labour agitation, a Special Committee reported to Council on the method by which the Mayor was elected. Its report concluded that the present system was objectionable on several grounds: first, electors wanted to select the Mayor themselves; second, the election of the Mayor by councillors deprived one ward of an elected alderman; third, it implied that each alderman was suitable for the office of Mayor when the electors had voted for him as an alderman, not as Mayor; and fourth, the position "would be elevated in dignity and independence and the interests of the Electors would be advanced by his being elected by the people at large." In 1874, Benjamin Charlton became the first Mayor of Hamilton elected by a civic vote. Individual Mayors could leave their impact on both the office and the city. For example, Charles Magill (1854-55) championed the construction of the waterworks. T.J. Stewart (1907-08) was a vocal advocate of the municipal ownership of utilities. Lloyd D. Jackson (1949-62) promoted urban renewal in the city. The inaugural addresses which the Mayors presented to Council from 1898 until 1973, included in Council minutes, reflected their concerns and plans for the municipality and outlined the accomplishments of previous Councils.


Legal status

Functions, occupations and activities

The duties of the Mayor were set out both by provincial statute and municipal by-law and by precedent. The Mayor performed an important ceremonial role, representing the city at a wide variety of functions. He acted as an ex officio Justice of the Peace in the municipality and sat on the local Police Commission. As member of numerous civic committees and boards including the Boards of Health and Revision, he had the power to make appointments to certain municipal bodies. As Chief Executive Officer for the city, the Mayor presided over Council and signed by-laws after they had been passed and affixed with the city's seal. He ensured that municipal laws were duly executed and enforced. Charged with supervising the conduct of the subordinate officers of the corporation, the Mayor reported to Council on personnel matters. And, finally, the Mayor played a key role in the formulation of civic policy, recommending measures to Council on a wide range of concerns including health, finance, security, and urban services.

The Mayor was responsible for dispensing charity in the municipality. The guardianship of orphans and vagrant children was placed in his hands in 1849; he was empowered to arrange apprenticeships for such children. The provision of outdoor relief was also under the control of the Mayor, who heard applications for charity. The creation of the position of Relief Officer under By-law 728 in 1894 was indicative of the formalization and separation of the various functions of municipal government and of the growing size of the city. This by-law relieved the Mayor of personal responsibility for the administration of relief; nonetheless, the new official was placed under his immediate control and direction.

In the pre World War I period, the Mayors of Hamilton in large part were members of the civic business elite and were eager to promote the economic aggrandizement of their community in the hopes of attaining pre-eminence in the urban hierarchy. Enthusiastic proponents of the growth ethic, with very mixed results, they sponsored municipal investment in the private sector in the forms of the direct purchase of stock, bonusing, tax write-offs, and fixed assessments, particularly in the areas of transportation and industry. For example, in 1849 Hamilton Council decided to take stock in the great Western Railway in the belief that its construction "...would greatly promote the prosperity of this city." Council was an eager supporter of the 1850 provincial bill permitting municipal corporations to subscribe to stock in the enterprise, and the Mayor undertook a letter writing campaign to other communities to solicit their cooperation in constructing the line. Indeed, an important function of the Mayor had become that of consulting and communicating with other levels and branches of government. Moreover, the Mayor often sat as an ex officio member of the Board of Directors of companies in which the municipality held stock and was empowered to vote on city-owned shares. For a time before 1888, a stipend from at least one directorate, that of the Hamilton and North Western Railway, composed part of the Mayor's salary.

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