Nothing changes come election time

The January 14, 1929 election contest is compared to the current municipal election season.

  • Nov. 2, 2011 12:00 p.m.

Maple Ridge council was returned for 1929 despite fuss over a pay raise. Reeve Martyn is seated at the head of the table with the man who would supplant him the following year – Solomon Mussallem – to his left.

In this municipal election season, it seems appropriate to consider electoral practices and outcomes of the past.

In 1929, elections were far simpler matters than they are today. A notice in the paper of Dec. 27, 1928 announced that the returning officer required “the presence of the Electors” at the hall in order that they might put forward recommendations for reeve , school board or for a representative of each ward.

This was the nomination part of the election and would occur on Jan. 14, 1929.

In the 1929 contest, controversy started early when someone using the pen name “Veritas” [meaning ‘truth’ in Latin] published a letter in the Jan. 3 issue of the Gazette, accusing the 1928 council of voting themselves a pay increase without a thought for the poor taxpayer.

Coun. Solomon Mussallem took exception to this writing and fired back that he had fought against this increase and had thought it should be cut from $200/year to $100 rather than increased to $300.

He announced that he would be donating his $100 increase to the cost of oiling the roads in his own Ward 2.

The big public meeting – what we now would refer to as an all-candidates meeting – was held prior to the nominations.

In 1929, it was held in the Aggie Hall on a Friday night – depriving the citizenry of its usual dance. At this meeting, the current Reeve, John Martyn, and all the councilors could give an account of their last year’s work and so allow the citizens to decide if any should be returned to office.

Once these people had spoken, it was the turn of the new contenders for their positions.

In his Gazette editorial of Jan. 10, J. Juniur Dougan advised all 1,454 registered voters that they should get out to vote, but should attend the meeting and study the issues first.

Despite heavy fog and the distance many had to travel, more than 300 people turned up for the meeting, with particular note made of the number of women present.

The Gazette newspaper of Jan. 17 presented Reeve Martyn’s speech in its entirety.

He spoke with pride of the year’s major accomplishments:

• removal of a quarter-mile log jam on the Alouette River;

• purchase of a gravel pit on Best Road for $1,000;

• purchase of a grader and two trucks;

• street lighting in Haney and the lower Lillooet Road [232nd]

• the first mile and a quarter of hard surfaced road in the district  – River Road in  Port Haney.

When challenger and former Reeve William Ansell of Webster’s Corners took the stage, he first tackled the salary raises that had so incensed Sol Mussallem. He accused council of being spendthrifts and buying a new grader when the old one was still perfectly good. He observed that the hard-surfaced road began and ended nowhere, leading to heckling that all he was interested in was the Dewdney Trunk Road out at Corners. Gravel, which has been an issue in Maple Ridge since Maple Ridge was incorporated, was also a matter of grave concern for Mr. Ansell, who announced that the gravel being drawn from the Alouette River on the Best Road site did not have sufficient sand and that the pebbles were too large.

From then on, every person who spoke – incumbents and challengers alike – addressing the thorny issues of gravel. Where was it being purchased and at what price? Who was deciding where it should be dumped, and why did some wards get so much more than others. And who was responsible for the damage done by the vehicles hauling the gravel ?

Once the nomination process was complete on Jan. 14 – a simple process involving a proposer and a seconder with no fees attached – there were five days for campaigning before the election on Jan. 19.

When the votes were counted, Reeve Martyn was returned for a fifth term by a vote of 487 to 350, indicating a voter turnout of at least 60 per cent. In fact, all of the incumbents were returned.


Val Patenaude is a director of the Maple Ridge Museum.


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