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Feature Article

RED DEER BECAME ALBERTA'S SEVENTH CITY: 1913

Written By: Michael Dawe
Published By: Red Deer Advocate Centennial Book
Article Used with permission. © Copyright Michael Dawe and and the Red Deer Advocate, 2007
2007-01-01

Red Deer became Alberta\

During the early part of the last century, Red Deer enjoyed one of the greatest booms in its history.

The population of the community increased tenfold from a mere 323 in 1901, when Red Deer was incorporated as a town, to nearly 3,000 a dozen years later in 1913.

There was such a sense of good times and prosperity in the community that people were confidently predicting that the town would grow to more than 30,000 by the early 1920s.

It was therefore not surprising that as 1912 came to an end, there were serious proposals that the Town of Red Deer be incorporated as a city.

There were important arguments in favour of such a move.

Cities were better able to sell debentures, an important consideration for a community which was heavily relying on borrowing to finance the construction of new roads, waterworks, power facilities and public buildings.

There was also the prestige of becoming the seventh community in Alberta to gain city status.

There were other considerations.

North Red Deer had become a separate village in 1911 and the residents of Red Deer West (West Park) were investigating the possibilities of incorporation.

Under provincial legislation, the Town of Red Deer could only annex such areas if it received a petition signed by two-thirds of the residents of the affected area.

There had already been a petition for annexation submitted by some residents of North Red Deer.

Red Deer town council wanted to change its charter so that it could have more flexibility in handling such requests.

The town’s solicitor, G.W. Greene, presented a draft bill of incorporation at the first town council meeting of 1913.

In order to expedite matters, the draft proposed that the current town charter be simply amended by substituting the word "city" for the word "town."

The only other change dropped the requirement for two-thirds consent for annexation. The town councillors unanimously approved the proposals.

The new mayor, F.W. Galbraith, then invited the council and town administrators to an oyster dinner at the Crown Cafe.

The draft bill was approved by the municipal committee of the Alberta legislature with virtually no debate.

Edward Michener, who was Red Deer’s MLA and also the leader of the official Opposition, piloted the bill through the remainder of the legislative process.

The bill was unanimously approved on March 10.

The lieutenant-governor gave his assent on March 25. Red Deer officially became a city.

Surprisingly, the news was not greeted with much fanfare back in Red Deer.

The Red Deer Advocate had a front-page article on the incorporation, but it was quite a small one.

There were much bigger articles on the announcement of a provincial election and a proposal to build new factories in Red Deer.

The new city council did announce a competition for the design of an official city coat of arms.

Entries were received from all over Canada, but the winner as A.B. Mitchell, a local jeweller.

He was awarded a $25 prize for his submission.

Meanwhile, city council began work on the new city charter, a job that proved to be time consuming and occasionally contentious.

Mayor Galbraith proposed that all residents, 21 years of age or older, be given the right to vote in municipal elections.

The majority of aldermen balked at this radical idea.

They decided instead to give the vote to all adult property owners.

This was still a significant advance as it meant that married women with property could now vote, unmarried women and widows with property having been given this right in 1901.

There were also arguments over tax exemptions for churches and a minimum tax on lots.

The former idea was accepted, while the latter was eventually dropped.

Council also agreed to add to the charter the power to establish and operate "prison farms and reformatories.”

The Alberta legislature after the provincial election made a few amendments to the city’s draft charter, but basically approved what had been presented.

The lieutenant-governor gave his consent to the new charter on October 25, 1913.

Red Deer was now fully incorporated as a city.

There were still no celebrations held. Moreover, the city commissioners reported a delay in receiving the charter from Edmonton.

In 1964, during the replacement of the old City Hall with a new one, the original city charter was thrown in an incinerator as part of the clean-up.

A new certificate of incorporation was issued by the provincial government on June 29, 1971.

That is the document that is now displayed in City Hall.

This article was written by Michael Dawe for the Red Deer Advocate’s Centennial Book. The Heritage Community Foundation would like to thank Michael Dawe and the Red Deer Advocate for permission to reprint these materials online. Please visit the Red Deer Advocate online.The images in the article are part of the collection of the Red Deer Archives. Please visit them online.

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