Archive for the ‘Winnipeg Mayors’ Category

MAYOR R. D. WAUGH The Mayor That Introduced Playgrounds to Winnipeg

April 12, 2009


The Mayor That Introduced

Playgrounds to Winnipeg

By George Siamandas

© George Siamandas

Mayor Richard Dean Waugh noted for introducing playgrounds to Winnipeg. Waugh’s efforts resulted in a mass public meeting on May 28, 1908, which led to the opening of Winnipeg’s first playground. Waugh was born in 1868 in Melrose Scotland. He came to Winnipeg in 1883 with his parents after living in Kincardine Ont. for a few years. In Ontario he got an early start working as a purser on steamboat lines.

In 1905 Waugh became a member of the city’s parks Board and its chair in 1907. He worked on a committee that developed cycle paths. Waugh would be a sportsman his entire life and was interested in improving the city’s amenities. He was for good roads and for city beautification. He wanted Winnipeg to become one of the beauty spots of Canada. He was active in curling and head of the Real Estate Exchange.


In 1907 as chair of the Parks Board, Waugh tried to convince council to begin to develop playgrounds as existed in the United States. “Small areas of land fitted with amusement paraphernalia. Skilled instructors with the highest moral training.” City Council refused. In May 1908 a meeting of playground enthusiasts met with Mayor James Ashdown. With Ashdown as the group’s chairman he reviewed how best to reach their goal. Ashdown discouraged them from asking the city once again and instead suggested a voluntary association. During the summer of 1908 a model playground was set up at Central School funded by an $800 grant from the Manitoba branch of the Canadian Council of women. It proved a big success. Seven playgrounds were set up in Winnipeg’s north end in 1909 and by 1920, 20 playgrounds were operating. And for winter play, by 1912, skating rinks were being set up.


Waugh had served several terms on the Board of Control and in 1912 was elected mayor. These were Winnipeg’s glory days with civic growth and prosperity at an unparalleled rate. Waugh proved a popular mayor, but Waugh found that his stint as mayor became an intolerable burden on his private business life. His partner Thompson Beattie who had run the business had perished on the Titanic and now Waugh had to return to private life to rescue his real estate and law business.

Waugh recommended several civic reforms upon leaving. He had seen how being mayor was a full time job. He recommended a 2-year term for mayor and the abolition of a property qualification for those seeking public office. Waugh went to England to help negotiate a loan for Winnipeg, which he discovered, had the best financial reputation of any Canadian City. He also visited his hometown Melrose where he found the towns depleted of young people who had emigrated to Canada. In 1915 Waugh became mayor once again and served till 1916. He left to become head of the new Water District Board. By now Winnipeg’s glory days were nearing an end.


Building Winnipeg’s New City Hall

April 12, 2009

Building Winnipeg’s New City Hall

Ending 60 Years of Bickering

By George Siamandas


Winnipeg had been slow to renew its ageing gingerbread city hall. As early as 1910 city fathers had planned to replace it but the First World War postponed it. After WW2 there were plans to replace it once again, but it would take another 16 years of studies and planning before they would actually build it. For decades Winnipeg had envied Saskatoon, Edmonton and Vancouver, cities that had finer civic buildings. By the time Juba was elected he was a big proponent of building a new one. And to dramatise the bad condition the old one was in, he took out an insurance policy on himself should the old city hall collapse on him while he was on the job.

But deciding to build it wasn’t easy. Civic voters had twice turned down money by-laws refusing to pay for building another pet project: the Disraeli freeway. A writer in 1957 chided councillors that there was enough paper from research and studies to build the first floor and that they should just get on with building a new one. Finally in 1957 the city was successful in having taxpayers agree to spend $6m on a new city hall. Voters had opted by 79% for a site across from the legislature at the corner of Broadway and Memorial Blvd. A Canada-wide design competition was held in 1958 and 91 proposals were received, some them quite futuristic. Up to date even for the year 2000.

The winning proposal was more conventional and came from Winnipeg’s Green Blankstein and Russell. The plan to build it on Broadway was abandoned, as Premier Roblin persuaded the city to reconsider the location and put it back in the heart of the warehouse district. As a tool of urban renewal, and together with the plans for a new Concert Hall it was seen as a necessary rejuvenating influence for the area.


By now the old 1886 Gingerbread city hall had few supporters. While some called for it to be saved and used as a civic museum, these thoughts were termed the thoughts of “dreamers and idealists.” Alex Clifton-Taylor an architectural critic from England called it “unbelievably ugly” in a Sept 15, 1956 article, and much too small for a city of Winnipeg’s size. Clifton-Taylor observed that the old city hall had been built in the Victorian period, a time in which “artistic taste was low.” And that a “newly rich class (of Winnipeggers) with lots of money and no taste” had built it. Just to check on his credentials, though the Free Press reporter took him to see the legislature, which he liked.


In approving the new city hall, thrifty Winnipeggers had provided for no frills. This was still a prairie town that counted its $6M public dollars carefully. GBR was challenged to create a contemporary Tyndall limestone building over a steel facade with its interior finished in black Quebec granite. And to provide a high level of interior design within.

But clearly there had been no money to pursue the cautionary note at the bottom of the city’s report recommending the GBR design. It had urged that people want “the buildings that represent their social and civic life not to be just functionally fulfilling, they want their aspirations for monumentality, joy, pride and excitement to be fulfilled as well.”

But costs gradually mounted adding another $3M to the cost. To bury this overrun they renamed it from City Hall to the Civic Centre to express the larger project that had been evolving as parkade was added. Alderman Crawford who was in charge of the project proclaimed the new city hall was so well built with 900 tons of steel, that its life expectancy was 200 years. Winnipeg’s new city hall opened Monday Oct 5 1964.


Upon completion it was named the ugliest building in Canada, “a prison, a shoe box, Lenin’s tomb.” And immediately as the 600 workers took their places the staff complained about overcrowding and being “packed to the gills.” It was already too small.


April 12, 2009


“That barefoot boy

from the wrong side of the tracks”

by: George Siamandas

Steve Juba, became Winnipeg’s first and only non-Anglo Saxon mayor in 1956. He defeated George Sharpe by 2,000 votes and began a colourful era in civic politics. Juba ran Winnipeg for 21 years and never saw any opponents come even close to taking his job away. He withdrew his name from nomination in 1978 consciously ending his own career.

Juba was of Ukrainian descent. He had dreamt of becoming a lawyer but the depression forced him drop out if school. He was a scrounger and business man starting from nothing and finally becoming a millionaire with 2,200 branches of his business, Keystone Supply. He was fiercely independent and operated like a lone wolf. But most of all he was just like the little guy. He continued to live on William Ave even after becoming mayor. And he loved Cadillacs owning 25 of them.

Juba was returned in every election with landslide majorities. The general public seemed to love him, as did the media. But some saw him as a foreigner. One of his opponents was Gloria Queen Hushes who ran against him in 1966. She called him “the barefoot boy from the wrong side of the tracks.” Others like Alderman Crawford offered to raise $100,000 for “the right man” to run against him. He got into public fights with Cabinet Minister Russ Doern making national headlines when he delivered an outhouse to the front of the legislature with a sign describing it as the fitting office of Russ Doern.


Juba led a campaign to reform liquor laws making Winnipeg a modern city. He brought the Pan Am Games in 1967 and ensured it did not cost Winnipeg a single cent by getting the Federal government and the province to pay the costs including the overrun. He was credited with raising substantial funds from the province for city projects like the Disraeli Bridge. He put Winnipeg on the map. He was a big promoter of the city frequently making news across the country. He believed in the potential of tourism and developed the idea of twin cities as a way of encouraging tourism.


Juba was a personality type uncommon in politics. A true individual, he believed that the only way to be truly independent is to not to be beholding to anyone. So he had to become financially independent before he could be politically independent. Juba had a giant ego well suited to the demands on a mayor to create a sense of dynamism and be the showman and entertainer. He truly embodied the general population. He sided with the women who worked to save the Wolseley Elm.

He convinced everyone of the need to rebuild the old city hall by showing people how structurally unsound it was. He took newspaper writers into one of the domes in the old Victorian City Hall and he would make the dome shake by pulling on its flagpole.

So who does an independent politician consult for advice? Juba was known to have had a circle of five people in all walks of life whose advice he sought. One of these is thought to have been Peter Warren. Juba was a true visionary seeing ahead and urging things like casinos, liquor reform, and mass transit options like a monorail. Juba and his wife Elva had no children. His great passion was birds and he spent half of his annual salary of $24,000 buying feed for his special friends.

Mayor Ralph Webb Winnipeg’s First Urban Mayor

April 12, 2009

Mayor Ralph Webb

Winnipeg’s First Urban Mayor

By George Siamandas

© George Siamandas


One of Winnipeg’s most successful mayors proved to be even more colourful than Steve Juba. His name was Ralph Web and he ran Winnipeg during the 1920s and 1930s. A “live wire” compared to all the grey businessmen mayors Winnipeg had till then. One year in Winnipeg and Ralph Webb is a last minute nominee to run for Mayor against an Independent labour party candidate.


Webb was born at sea on a trip between England and India in 1886. He knew no home and worked a sailing ship, on a railroad survey gang and ran a lumber company before moving onto a career in hotel management the manager of Montreal’s Windsor Hotel. Webb came to Winnipeg in to rescue the failing Marlborough Hotel in and soon found himself a candidate for the mayoralty.


Web was a man of strong and outspoken opinions. His comments provoked bitter reaction from his enemies usually from the side of labour and astounded his friends.


Webb joined the Canadian Army in 1914 and lost a leg at Oppy Wood. To almost everyone it was a badge of bravery. You could always hear him coming. A city solicitor of his day remarked that every step in his artificial leg earned him a vote.


So did his support of liquor reform, which was a long time coming. He recognized that it would be a big tourism asset to Winnipeg and asked the police to go easy on liquor issues. He himself was a tee totaler.

One of his earliest acts was to put up an electric sign on old old city hall saying Welcome to Winnipeg. Webb was known in the US as well as Winnipeg. He served eight one-year terms: 1925-1927 and 1930-1934. In between he served as an MLA for Assiniboia.


With his outspoken style Webb attracted the ire of his labour opponents, who refereed to him as Peg Leg Webb. In the 1928 Streetcar strike Webb maintained that it was caused by troublemakers that should be thrown in the Red River. Webb was taken to court and accused of


Webb proud to be a booster and was described as the best adman Winnipeg ever had. He resigned in 1927 to take the new job running the Tourism Bureau. He pioneered the Pines to palm car run on Jan 1926. Designed to create promote Winnipeg and make connections with Americans all along the way to New Orleans. Webb was also a big supporter of improving Highway 75.

He wanted industries to come to Winnipeg and had seen. There was not enough business development as Winnipeg lost in a sea of pessimism when he arrived. It was just after WW1, the completion of the Panama Canal and after the divisive strike.

Thomas Mayne Daly

April 12, 2009

Thomas Mayne Daly

Brandon’s First Mayor

by George Siamandas

Thomas Mayne Daly, Brandon’s first mayor and Canada’s first juvenile court judge. Daly was born on Aug 16 1852. He was born in Stratford August 16 1852 to Thomas Mayne Daly Sr who was Stratford’s mayor and federal MP for Perth. One of two sons, Daly was educated in Toronto becoming a lawyer in 1876. Daly moved to Brandon in 1881 at a time it was a pioneering community of 100. He became Brandon’s first lawyer later becoming a realtor, notary public and commissioner.

The first passenger train arrived in Brandon on Oct 11, 1881, and the city was incorporated May 30, 1882. Initially Brandon promoted itself as the Pearl of the Prairies, but subsequently became better known as the Wheat City. By 1882 the railway transformed Brandon, swelling the population to 3,000 people. Daly who had previous municipal experience in Stratford became mayor in 1882. Daly introduced a $150,000 borrowing bylaw that enabled Brandon to carry out a major public works including sidewalks, fire hall police station, a stream powered fire engine, a cemetery and aid to Brandon Hospital. He became a QC in 1890.

Daly entered federal politics in 1887 winning the Selkirk riding serving for the next 10 years. A strong supporter of western settlement, he established an experimental farm, several public buildings including the Brandon Post Office, and increased support to the immigration dept. In 1892 he became Canada’s first Minister for the interior, Immigration and Indian Affairs and thus the first Manitoba MP to sit on the federal cabinet. Daly was a strong advocate of immigration and trade and in 1893 initiated the North West Immigration Act. Daly moved to BC for a few years but returned to Manitoba in 1902 to reside in Winnipeg and practise law.


In 1904 he became police magistrate. And by 1911 he wrote the standard text “Canadian Criminal Behaviour.” Daly helped develop new attitudes towards young offenders, were young people received special treatment. He worked with various youth welfare organizations including Children’s Aid Society, Winnipeg General Hospital, the YMCA, the Salvation Army and local educational organizations.

In 1908 the federal govt passed the Juvenile Delinquents Act which had force till the 1984 Young Offenders Act. The 1908 act said no juvenile could be found guilty of a crime. Youth was “only a misdirected and misguided child needing encouragement, help and assistance.” In 1909 Daly became Canada’s first juvenile court judge. On the bench, he set an example of fairness and compassion. But his career was cut short.

Daly died suddenly of a kidney haemorrhage in 1911 at age 59. He received a civic funeral. Flags flew at half mast in Winnipeg and Brandon.