VOTING IN WINNIPEG CIVIC ELECTIONS

VOTING IN WINNIPEG CIVIC ELECTIONS

By George Siamandas

ONE MAN ONE VOTE?

In the first civic election Mayor Francis Evans Cornish won 383 votes compared to 179 for his opponent William Luxton. But there were only 384 registered voters. Some people like Mayor Joseph Andrews (mayor 1898-1899) got to vote 66 times. How did it happen? At the time property owners were allowed to vote more than once in each ward in which they held property. Many property owners were listed ten fifteen, twenty, thirty times and some like Joseph Andrews mayor during 1898-1899 was registered to vote in 66 locations. Plural voting was not abolished in Winnipeg till 1965.

The aim of qualifying to vote was to represent property not people. In 1914 there was a request by business people and city council supported by Mayor Thomas Russ Deacon, that the companies like his own, Manitoba Bridge and Iron Works should have a vote on money by-laws and should be able to instruct the manager how to vote. Labour opposed this vehemently and it was never passed by the Manitoba Legislature.

Sanford Evans was mayor from 1909 to 1911. A journalist by background he had come from Ontario. Evans was aided in his campaign by his ownership of the Winnipeg Telegram which denounced his political opponent with editorials charging him as a liar. The big election issue that year was whether prostitution should continue to be tolerated in a segregated district. Evans won on a platform of wanting to make Winnipeg a clean city.

After 1890 one was allowed to vote in every ward in which they owned property. In 1910 it was estimated that Winnipeg had 6,000 repeat voters. Beginning with incorporation both voters and candidates had to own some property. In 1906 with a population of 100,000 there were only 7,784 registered electors. In 1895 women were given the right to vote if they had property. Women were not allowed to hold office till 1916. The first to hold office was Jessie Kirk elected in 1921 and it was not until 1933 that the second Margaret McWilliams was elected. Winnipeg has had forty-nine different mayors. All had Anglo Saxon names for the first 83 years. In 1957 Steve Juba became the first (and only) non Anglo Saxon mayor after 46 straight Anglo-Saxons.

Six months residency in Winnipeg or have purchased property in the City of Winnipeg, be a Canadian citizen, and be 18.

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