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11. Municipal Government
taken from "Sourisford and Area From 1879"

The first settlers had many problems that they had to deal with on an individual basis but they also had problems that had to be dealt with by the population at large. One of the most important of these was the establishment of some kind of municipal govern¬ment. As many of the earlier settlers came from eastern Canada, mainly Ontario, it was only natural that they were inclined towards setting up the munic¬ipal units on a county basis as was done in Ontario.
The first administrative unit set up for south¬western Manitoba was the Turtle Mountain Land District, provided for by Order-in-Council on April 14,1880. Its authority extended from range 15W and included the first five rows of townships north from the International boundary. It was administered from the lands office at Old Deloraine, on 19-2-22.
When the Manitoba lands were under the juris¬diction of the federal government as part of the North-West Territories, the formation of municipal units was left to local initiative which only resulted in four municipal units being set up. When the land in this area was annexed to the province of Manitoba, the settlers in this area had no say in the matter in either the framework or functions of the munic¬ipalities they were to operate, as they came under the Manitoba Municipal Act of 1880. This western part of the province was annexed to the former small province in 1881 and by an act of the Manitoba Legislature in May of 1881 chapter nine established Rural Municipality No. 30 or Souris River, and chap¬ter 10, The Rural Municipality of Turtle Mountain, No. 31. The Souris River municipality was to take in the first six rows of townships in ranges 23 to 29 and Turtle Mountain the first six rows of townships in ranges 17 to 22.

A second act was passed in 1881, in an attempt to institute in Manitoba a system of county government for inter-municipal activities. This divided the added south-western territories into two counties, Turtle Mountain and Souris River. Until the population warranted separate county administration, these two were to be grouped with Brandon and Dennis count¬ies for county purposes, the whole to be known as Brandon county. A third act placed this large county within The Western Judicial District for judicial pur¬poses.

These large municipal governments proved to be too large for a warden and six councillors to adminis¬ter directly, in an area that was just developing and where communications were poor. An act of the legislature passed in 1883 set up four municipalities within the county of Turtle Mountain and four in the county of Souris River. The four in Souris River were: Medora, Arthur, Inchiquin and Brenda. Each municipality countained nine townships. Medora's boundaries were ranges 24, 25, 26, townships 1, 2, 3. Arthur's were ranges 27, 28, 29, townships 1,2,3. Inchiquin's were ranges 27, 28, 29, townships 4, 5, 6, and Brenda's ranges 24, 25, 26, townships 4, 5, 6. With the coming into effect of this act, elections were held immediately in all the municipalities except Inchiquin which never became organized. James Downie was the first reeve elected under these boundaries for the municipality of Arthur.

These frequent changes in municipal boundaries were an attempt to find the size of municipal unit that would best serve the needs of a new area with dif¬ferent needs for the populations of the different areas included in the general Souris River area.

The nine township municipalities did not prove to be satisfactory at this stage of the area's development. Consequently by an act of the Legislature passed in 1890 the municipal boundaries were redrawn and Arthur was enlarged to include ranges 26, 27, 28, 29. Townships one to six inclusive. These were the boundaries of Arthur Municipality until 1905 when it was divided into the three municipalities of the pres¬ent, Albert, Edward and Arthur. Arthur's boundaries are ranges 26 and 27 townships 1 to 4 inclusive.
The duties and responsibilities delegated to these early municipalities by the provincial government included building and maintaining bridges, roads, establishing and supporting school districts, collect¬ing municipal and school taxes, and other duties such as weed control, health inspection, relief and stray animals. In 1883 further powers were granted to the municipalities, including, power to bonus industries and railways by cash donations and by tax exemp¬tions for any number of years. Councils could sub¬scribe for any number of shares of stock in payment of any sum borrowed by an incorporated railway. They could also endorse or guarantee the debentures of a railway company, they could issue debentures for stipulated purposes, could grant loans in aid of rail¬ways and issue debentures to provide them, and could encourage local industries by granting bonuses or exemptions from taxation. In a special section of the act the amount of assistance to railways was limited to 25 cents an acre within a municipality actually alienated from the crown. Arthur munic¬ipality never seems to have become involved in rail¬way assistance but they did bonus a grist mill and after trying for some years to finance expensive im¬provements by special levies they resorted to issuing long term debentures for public works.

The providing of municipal services in a newly settled area presented many problems for the early councils because their area was more thinly popu¬lated than the municipalities further east and was ated than the municipalities further east and was more subject to crop failures due to periodic droughts. This resulted in the municipality being called on every few years to assist farmers in the purchase of seed grain and fodder and, of course, in these dry years tax collections were greatly reduced while the need for essential service such as schools and better roads remained the same. These periodic crop failures from one cause or another persisted through until the failures of 1930 to 1936 which were the longest continuous stretch of crop failures experi¬enced to that date or since. This was accompanied by a world wide depression when there was almost com¬plete breakdown in markets for agricultural products at a profitable price level. The livestock population of Arthur as well as that of adjoining municipalities was decimated. Any herds that survived had to be shipped out of the area for pasture and winter feed. These conditions were beyond the financial capacity of the affected municipalities to deal with so the senior provincial and federal governments had to come to their assistance in providing relief for most of the citizens and in providing seed and feed and tractor fuel to sow limited amounts of crop in the hope of a more favorable year and also the cost of freighting livestock and people to more fortunate areas of the province. The senior governments because of the prevailing depression and widespread unemployment were themselves hard pressed to offer much assistance, but because they had greater bor¬rowing power they were able to help the country and municipalities to survive. As more favorable years returned, the municipalities in south-western Man¬itoba including Arthur were faced with large debts due to the Province making the necessary financial advances to the municipalities to allow them to meet the extraordinary demands made on them during this period. The situation of the farmers following these years was serious. Much of the land was now either owned or controlled by mortgage companies and most farmers were faced with rebuilding their farm operations with very limited resources.
In view of these facts, and to allow for a more rapid recovery for this area the Provincial Govern¬ment convened a cabinet meeting in Melita attended by the affected municipalities to try and work out a course of action that could speed the recovery of this section of Manitoba. As a result of this meeting the Province agreed to cancel the debts of the Munic¬ipalities to the Province for relief payments and ad¬vances for seed and feed and other debts owed by the municipalities to the province because of the con¬dition that prevailed from 1930 to 1936. At the same time the federal Government established a reclama¬tion farm north of Melita to experiment with cultural practices and grain varieties and alternate crops suit¬able for the area, to minimize the effects of drought in the future. Fortunately these conditions have not been repeated to any degree to the present time.
With the return to better crops and economic conditions the municipality was able to collect most of tax arrears and were able to move ahead with other projects such as upgrading and improving the whole municipal road system and gradually introducing new municipal services for the residents.
The idea of creating a system of County govern¬ments for Manitoba has not been realized to this time. This does not mean that there had not been inter-municipal undertakings, but rather than rigid County boundaries for participating in inter-munic¬ipal projects, the municipalities seemed to prefer to enter into joint projects as best suited the needs and convenience of their residents. Sometimes a munic¬ipality would have a geographical division of their municipality in hospital or other services districts. There have been attempts over the years to introduce large municipalities but these have been rejected by the municipalities.
At this time there is in effect in Arthur, agree¬ments with one or more other municipalities for a Weed Control Board, Hospital District, Senior Cit¬izens Home, Personal Care Home, Ambulance Ser-vice, Library Service, Arena, Recreation Area, and Fire protection and Veterinary Services.
Keeping in mind the sparse population compared to other agricultural areas in the province of this area we enjoy a good level of municipal services and institutions.
To carry on municipal government over the years has required councillors to take time from their own farms or other occupations to carry on the minicipal work. Arthur municipality has been well served by the councillors chosen to represent it over the years. In the earlier years there were annual elections for council so there were frequent changes in personnel. The following is a list of councillors for his area as accurate as possible from records still available.