Prince George was incorporated as a municipality almost one hundred years ago today, on Saturday March 6, 1915. The event was a milestone that almost didn’t happen, given the heated political wrangling that enveloped the subject from the get-go.
At issue was the involvement (and equitable representation) of the area’s three distinct townships — South Fort George, Central Fort George, and Prince George — the officials of which were never much given to agree on matters in the first place.
A 15-person committee comprising five residents from each townsite first met to discuss joint incorporation under one civic administration on June 15, 1914. Seven-and-half months later, words were still flying, fists were still shaking, and hardly an issue on the negotiating table had been resolved.
There were several matters of contention, the foremost of these being which lands to incorporate (combining all three townships would prove a costly and complex administrative undertaking); how to handle taxation (property in Prince George held an assessed value three to four times higher than property in Central Fort George); and how to involve the Grand Trunk Pacific railway, which owned the Prince George townsite, was expected to make local improvements that had not yet been carried out, and was inconveniently located in Winnipeg, over 2,000 kilometres by train from the Fort George negotiating arena.1
Indeed, the issues at hand became so divisive that South Fort George withdrew from the incorporation process, and the remaining members of the incorporation committee resorted to holding mass public meetings in an attempt to clear a patch of common ground around the matter. By the time the committee members headed to Victoria to confer with the provincial government on February 1, a general consensus had finally been reached — it being that “the wisest and safest course for Prince George at this time [is] to oppose incorporation at all, under any circumstances.”2
But with the provincial legislature’s parliamentary session set to end in early March, the window of opportunity for incorporation was closing fast, and the parties soon arrived at a workable solution: only a portion of the Prince George townsite would be incorporated, a plan that had been generally approved during a mass public meeting held on January 12, 1915. The area to be incorporated — what we now know as downtown Prince George — encompassed some 1,092 acres bounded by Fraser Avenue (now Carney Street) to the west, the Nechako River to the north, the Fraser River to the east, and Bowser Avenue (now 17th Avenue) to the south. In this form, the new municipality barely squeaked into existence: the “Fort George Incorporation Act” was passed by the provincial legislature on March 6, 1915, the very last day of its lawmaking session.3
With incorporation now a done deal, residents of the newly minted municipality dusted off their duelling mitts and turned their attentions to the upcoming municipal election — Prince George’s first — set to take place on May 20, 1915.
- “Incorporation delegates leave for Victoria,” Fort George Herald, 30 January 1915, page 1.
- “The municipal incorporation act passed by legislature for this city,” Prince George Post, 13 March 1915, page 3.
- The Exploration Place, Online Exhibits, “Opening New Caledonia – Prince George Maps – City Maps – Accession A981.4.1″
- Fort George Herald: 20 June 1914, page 1; 19 December 1914, page 1; 16 January 1915, page 1; 30 January 1915, page 1; 13 February 1915, page 1; 5 March 1915, page 1; 12 March 1915, page 1.
- Prince George Post: 13 March 1915, page 3.