A History of St. John's City Council, 1888 to 1981


Melvin Baker


(a version of this article was originally published in the Encyclopedia of Newfoundland and Labrador, vol. 2 (1984)

Control of municipal affairs in St. John's after the establishment of representative institutions in Newfoundland in 1832 lay with the Colonial Government. Roads, law and order, poor relief and medical attendance on the sick poor were all under Government administration. By contrast the local hospital, administered by an elected board of residents, and the town's schools, which were run by appointees of the various religious denominations, were financially assisted by the Legislature. Certain other services such as fire protection, street lighting, and the water supply were left to private enterprise. The coming of Responsible Government in 1855 further centralized the Island's administrative control in St. John's. In that year an overall Board of Works was appointed to administer all public buildings, property, roads and streets in Newfoundland. In St. John's the Board of Works was responsible for the construction and maintenance of roads and all sanitary matters, including the sewerage system which it constructed after 1863. The Board also controlled the expenditure of public funds in the city; in the outports this authority was delegated to local "road boards," appointed by the Governor-in-Council. Government control of St. John's was also exercised by the Surveyor General, who had authority to enforce the colonial laws regarding street lines and plans and the materials to be used in the construction of buildings.

The water supply and fire protection remained separate from the colonial government. In June 1846 some of the town's merchants had formed the St. John's Water Company to service the Water Street commercial district. The paucity of the Company's water supply from George's Pond led the merchants in 1859 to seek a larger source. In January 1859 they established the General Water Company which was to provide water for the whole town. The water source finally decided upon was Windsor Lake, about 7 km (4.5 mi) from the center of St. John's. After 1863 residents paid for the new service through a rental assessment on property and a duty on all coal imported into St. John's. In 1863 the General Water Company was also given responsibility for a reorganized fire brigade. Under the Fire Brigade Act of 1863 the Company was required to organize and pay for a new voluntary brigade, which subsequently was composed of members of the several existing voluntary companies.

In 1888 this municipal arrangement was changed when St. John's was given a limited form of self-rule in the form of a partially elected and partially appointed council with authority over the water supply, streets, sewers, parks, the fire brigade and building regulations only. With regard to taxation and municipal expenditure, the Newfoundland Government's 1888 Municipal Act (51 Vic., c. 5) placed several checks on the St. John's Council to quiet the fears of property owners. The Council was required to submit to the colonial legislature an annual balanced statement of its revenues and expenditures and to obtain legislative approval for any taxation increase. Its revenue was to be that of the Water Company supplemented by the annual legislative grants for street building, lighting and cleaning. The 1888 Municipal Act also imposed on the town a civic debt of $607,000, which was to represent the purchase price of the capital stock of the General Water Company and the cost of needed street and sewer improvements. On this debt Council was required to make two annual interest payments to the Colony, the Colony thus having a first charge on municipal revenue.

The Council was composed of two government appointees and five members elected on the basis of a ward system. The former representation had been included because the Newfoundland Government would raise any loan Council might need and guarantee the interest payments on it to investors. In the first year of its operation, the first Chairman of the Council, as the chief municipal official was called, was to be one of the two appointees; in the future, he was to be chosen by a vote of the seven councillors. The town was divided into five wards with a councillor elected from each. An election was to be held in November of every third year from the first election. The first election held under the 1888 Municipal Act was on August 30, 1888, and was the first election in Newfoundland to use the secret ballot in voting. The municipal franchise was given to every male resident who had paid annually at least $2.75 in assessments to the General Water Company. Moreover, corporations were given a vote on the same basis. The result of the 1888 election was the election of the following candidates: Ward One, John Carnell; Ward Two, Francis St. John; Ward Three, Moses Monroe; Ward Four, Michael Power; and Ward Five, William Morison. The two Government appointees on the new Council were James Goodfellow, who was to be the Chairman, and James Fox.

With its rented offices in the Keough Estate Building on Duckworth Street, the Council held its first regular meeting on September 28, 1888 and appointed its officials. At subsequent meetings later in the year, Council set up a committee system from its numbers to oversee the management of various municipal departments. These committees were responsible for Finance and Ways and Means, City Chambers and Clerks Department, and Sanitary and Fire Departments. From the beginning of its operation the Council's affairs were intertwined with the colonial politics of the day. In 1890, following the election in 1889 of the Liberal Party led by Sir William Whiteway, a change was made in the Government representation on Council. While Fox resigned voluntarily in January to accept a seat on the Newfoundland Legislative Council, Goodfellow refused to do so and was removed by the Government in May. The two Government positions on the Council were taken by Liberals John Harris and George Knowling. The new Chairman of the Council was the Ward Four councillor, Michael Power.

The worst problem the Council faced was financial, the town having run a deficit in its budget since 1888. In order to provide additional revenue for Council, in 1890 the Whiteway Administration passed an act authorizing the Legislature to alter or disallow Council's estimates of its revenue and expenditure, and by a joint resolution of the two Houses to prescribe an alternative budget. Under the authority of the new legislation a resolution was passed imposing licence fees on resident auctioneers, non-resident vendors, and on all the fire and insurance companies doing business in St. John's. It also taxed horse owners, whether their horses were used for private or commercial purposes. Moreover, all houses within St. John's not subject to water and sewerage rates were to be assessed three percent on their appraised rental value. With these additions to the municipal revenue, it was hoped by both Government and Council that the civic budget would be balanced for 1890.

Financial solvency was not to be the case in 1890 for Council because the 1890 Municipal Act was subsequently disallowed by the British Colonial Office. It was disallowed on the grounds that it was "unconstitutional ... to delegate to the two Houses of the Colonial Parliament powers of legislation and imposition of taxes without the concurrence of the Governor." Consequently, Council had an 1890 deficit of $7,423.89, which the Government hoped to ameliorate by new legislation in 1891. The 1891 Municipal Act reintroduced some of the taxes imposed by the 1890 Act and broadened the franchise to include any male British subject over twenty-one years who was a householder. The Act also gave Council control of Windsor Lake in order to regulate traffic on it, and empowered Council to purchase property within the municipal limits for its own use. Finally, the civic election scheduled to be held in November 1891 was postponed until the fourth week of January 1892. Despite the extra revenue available to it, at the end of 1891 Council was unable to collect some of the taxes provided for by the new Act and Council was left with an 1891 deficit of $17,308.02 and had to default on its interest payment for the last six months of the year on its debt to the Colony.

The first St. John's Municipal Council thus left to its successor a total civic debt on December 31, 1891 of $838,378.27. This compared to a debt of $607,000 when Council had come to office in 1888. On the other hand, some substantial local improvements had been made. The first was the partial construction of a new sewerage system at a cost of $180,000. In addition, a municipal dock had been constructed in the west end of the town and two parks, Bannerman and Victoria, laid out. Moreover, the Council had greatly improved the physical appearance of the town by macadamizing streets and laying block pavement on sidewalks in the Water Street commercial district.

The second municipal election was held on January 23, 1892. Two councillors, Monroe and Morison, did not seek re-election, but Morison's son Donald was elected in Ward Five. Of the incumbents, only Carnell and Power were re-elected. In Ward Three Goodfellow was returned while in Ward Two John Southcott Jr. was elected. The two appointees to the new Council were Edward W. Bennett and Thomas Mitchell, the latter being elected Chairman at a meeting of Council on February 26.

At the 1892 session of the Legislature an extensive municipal act passed consolidating the various colonial acts under which Council administered the town and closing the loop-holes which had led to so much tax avoidance under the 1891 Municipal Act. These colonial acts included the 1846 St. John's Rebuilding Act and its subsequent amendments, the 1863 Sewerage Act, the 1879 Sanitary Act and the 1887 Water Company Consolidation Act. As a check on municipal expenditure, the Whiteway Administration inserted a provision in the 1892 Act restricting Council's authority to undertake any street widening without the approval of the Governor-in-Council and requiring Council to employ the Surveyor General in all cases of land arbitration. This provision critically limited Council's ability, following the fire of July 8,1892, which destroyed much of St. John's, to take concerted action for the rebuilding of the town.

Indeed, the Whiteway Administration took complete responsibility for the rebuilding and, at a special session of the Legislature convened in August, passed legislation giving control to the Governor-in-Council and the Surveyor General. The Municipal Council, thus, had all its power under the 1892 Municipal Act with regard to the rebuilding and the widening of streets taken from it. This action the Whiteway Administration justified on the grounds that the Colony would have to raise a rebuilding loan and guarantee its interest. Ultimately, the Government did not raise a loan specifically for the rebuilding of St. John's, but rather issued debentures under the authority of the 1892 Rebuilding Act to compensate landowners for street improvements. This expenditure was added to the Council's consolidated debt, although the Council had had no say in its expenditure. In 1896, by which time the building was completed, the Whiteway Administration through amending legislation restored the rebuilding authority it had taken away from the Council in 1892.

The Council's total loss of property and revenue due to the 1892 fire was $40,467.58, $25,967.58 of which was written off as water and sewerage rates owed by persons whose property was destroyed. With another deficit at the end of the 1892 fiscal year, Council once more defaulted on its interest payments to the Colony. With little revenue at its disposal, from mid-1892 onwards Council had a limited role, its energies being mainly concentrated on maintaining the two public parks and the water and sewerage system, and on repairing and cleaning streets. In 1895 it lost control of the fire brigade when the Government established a St. John's Fire Department under colonial management. The Inspector-General of the Constabulary was to be the head of this Department, for which Council was to contribute an annual maintenance grant of $7,000.

Needless to say, the Colony's political and financial difficulties in 1894 and 1895 left their mark on an already beleaguered St. John's Municipal Council. Following the re-election of the Whiteway Liberal Party in 1893, Chairman Mitchell was replaced on December 30 by a more loyal supporter of the Administration, Thomas Edens. On January 4,1894 Councillor Power was elected Chairman. When the Conservative Administration of Augustus Goodridge assumed office in April 1894, the two Liberal appointees on Council were replaced by two Conservatives, Thomas Mitchell and James Callanan. When a new administration took office in December 1894, Bennett and Edens regained the Council seats they had lost. On the financial side, Council's debt rose from $838,278.27 at the end of 1891 to $1,657,793.75 by the end of 1895. This latter figure included the Whiteway Administration's expenditure on the rebuilding of St. John's as well as the arrears on the interest the Council had incurred since 1891 on its debt to the Colony.

Council's precarious financial situation was further compounded by the collapse on December 10, 1894 of the Colony's two banks -- the Commercial and the Union. Council did not hold a full meeting until January 24,1895, the reason, it seems, being that members were too preoccupied with their own businesses. At this meeting it was agreed to accept payment of water and sewerage rates at the note values guaranteed by recent government legislation. The Council also decided not to start legal proceedings against tax defaulters. On April 18 Council reduced the wages paid to its laborers and undertook a thorough review of its expenditures. This review in turn led to the dismissal of several officials and the lowering of the salaries of others. Despite this retrenchment, Council again could not meet the 1895 interest payment on its debt. In response, Government withheld the annual legislative grants for lighting and cleaning St. John's. A municipal election was scheduled to be held in January 1895, but because of the financial chaos Colony and municipality now agreed to postpone this for a year.

Two issues dominated the January 23,1896 civic election: the financial state of the municipality and its need for greater autonomy. Of the incumbents, John Harris, who had been elected in 1893 in a by-election following the death of John Carnell, and Power were returned. In Ward Two Thomas Keating won, while in Ward Three John O'Dea was the successful candidate. In Ward Five the former Conservative appointee on Council, James Callanan, was elected. The two Liberal appointees on the new Council were Edens, who was reappointed, and R.A. McCoubrey. The new Council held its first meeting on February 7 and elected Power as its Chairman. The Council's subsequent campaign to put the municipality on a sound financial footing resulted in March 1898 in a reduction in the debt Council owed the Colony from $1,854,142.33 to $1,210,000.00. The Conservative Administration of Sir James Winter, which won election in October 1897, replaced in November the Liberal appointees with Conservatives John W. Foran and John Furneaux. The new administration then added to the new consolidated debt the cost of a proposed Water Street paving contract which was entered into with the Canadian railway builder Robert Reid making the total debt $1,350,000.00. In St. John's the railway would be exempt from municipal taxation. Moreover, Reid would operate a street railway and construct a new railway terminus in the west end of the town. The site for this new terminus was the Municipal Basin, which formed part of the Marine Promenade, an area of land which Governor Sir Gaspard LeMarchant had given to the citizens of the town in 1852 as a public park. To ensure that the elected Council would not raise any obstacle to the deal made with Reid, in March 1898 the Government introduced legislation to replace Council with a three-member appointed commission.

The Municipal Commission proved highly controversial from its inception. As might be expected, all the Municipal Councillors except the Conservatives O'Dea, Foran and Furneaux, vigorously protested their removal from office, which was to take effect on May 2,1898. In an April 30 resolution passed with the votes of Councillors Power, Harris, Callanan and Keating, Council strongly deplored the withdrawal of elective local government from St. John's, a change for which they said, no "adequate reason" had been given. Noting that citizens would now be taxed by a body not directly responsible to them, the four councillors blamed the failure of the system created in 1888 on selfish, politically inspired government interference and stated that the new municipal act was but a "continuation of this condition of things." What St. John's needed, they asserted, was full incorporation rather than the "obnoxious commission" about to be instituted.

The commission form of government lasted until 1902, but only because colonial politicians were preoccupied with the 1898 Railway Contract which was finally renegotiated in 1901 by the Liberal Administration of Robert Bond. The first members of the Municipal Commission were all administration supporters: former Councillor O'Dea, Thomas White and Herbert C. Burchell, the Government Engineer who became Chairman of the Commission. For 1898 the Commission was unable to make the interest payment on the reduced civic debt, and the Winter Administration was persuaded the following year to reduce the debt to $1,000,000, an amount on which the municipality was still unable to meet its annual interest payments. White remained on the Commission until 1899 when he was replaced by P.C. O'Driscoll. The following year both O'Driscoll and O'Dea left the Commission and H.F. Bradshaw was appointed, he and Burchell forming a two-man municipal body for the remaining life of the Commission.

In 1902 Bond abolished the Commission and passed legislation providing for an elected Council consisting of a mayor and six councillors, all elected at large. The old household franchise, which gave the vote to all male householders twenty-one years of age and over, was restored along with the vote for corporations. Election of Council was to be held in June of every fourth year from 1902 onwards. On the financial front, Council's continuing financial problems were the main reason, it seems, for the Colony retaining the considerable control of civic management and expenditure the 1888 Municipal Act had given it. Thus, Council was required to seek legislative approval for any change in the 1902 Municipal Act. The civic debt remained at $1,000,000. Council was still made liable to the Colony for the annual interest payment for the $140,000 Water Street paving contract. These debt obligations, then, gave the Colony a first charge on municipal expenditure before Council could allocate its revenue for other purposes. Thus, Council was still bound by the 1902 Act to submit to the Legislature an annual balanced statement of its revenues and expenditures and to obtain legislative approval for any taxation increase.

The first election held under the new Act was on June 19, 1902. In the mayoralty race George Shea defeated Thomas White, while John Bennett, William Ellis, Charles Muir, John Harris, John Anderson and Michael Kennedy were elected as councillors. Since Bennett had received the highest vote among the six, he was referred to as the Senior Councillor and as such was to preside over Council meetings in the absence of the Mayor. Out of Council funds the Mayor was to receive an annual salary of $600 payable in monthly instalments; for the six councillors a sum of $900 was to be made available, the amount each councillor was to receive being based on his attendance at Council meetings. For the 1902 fiscal year Council had to abide by the estimates devised by the former Municipal Commission; these provided for only half-payment of the yearly interest on the civic debt owed the Colonial Government, a practice the Commission had been following since 1899 and one which Council would be forced to adopt again in 1903 and 1904.

After 1904 Council was able to put its finances on a sound footing and meet its total interest commitments to the Government. In part this financial stability was the result of an arbitration award Council won in 1904 from the Bond Administration. In 1898 the Winter Administration had given the Marine Promenade to the Reid Newfoundland Company. The Municipal Commission and, after 1902, the Municipal Council had pressed the Colony for financial compensation for the land it had lost. Although on July 6, 1900 the Commission had appointed Magistrate J.G. Conroy as its arbitrator, the Bond Administration had refused to follow suit, asserting that the municipality's interest in the Promenade had been provided for by Winter's reduction of the civic debt in 1898. The dispute came to a head in September 1902 when the newly elected Municipal Council refused the Reid Company street boundaries for the erection of several buildings until the Government consented to arbitration. In November 1902 Council gave way to the Reid Company's demand, but in February 1903 its determined resistance led the Government to agree finally to arbitration. The arbitration process dragged on for more than a year and on May 4,1904 Council was awarded $250,000. After the Government made an unsuccessful appeal to the Supreme Court to set the decision aside, in January 1905 the Bond Administration transferred the award to the credit of the civic debt, thereby liquidating Council's outstanding interest account and reducing its total indebtedness. Council's financial situation in 1904 was further enhanced by a taxation increase scheme put forward by Council and approved by the Legislature. Under this taxation proposal, increases were made in the coal duty and in the sewerage rate.

Council's new-found financial stability enabled it in 1904 to undertake a major improvement in the water system. Under the supervision of John Ryan, Council's engineer, the work was completed in November 1906. In November 1905 Council was also in a position to contribute half the annual salary of $2,000 for a permanent medical health officer for the town, the Government having agreed to provide the other $1,000.

On June 26, 1906 St. John's held its second election for a mayor and six councillors. In the race for mayor Michael Gibbs defeated incumbent Shea and a third candidate, Councillor John Anderson. Only two of the councillors elected in 1902, Ellis and Kennedy, stood again in 1906 and both were successful. The four other successful candidates were John Carew, Samuel Collier, John Cowan and James Martin. During the life of this Council, the municipality in July 1908 experienced its first civic strike when the sanitary workers briefly struck following the suspension of a couple of their members. In 1910 Council had legislation passed with regard to water and sewerage connections in the houses of the working poor. The 1910 Municipal Act also contained provisions giving Council authority to regulate the height and location of buildings, to prevent the pollution of Windsor Lake, to regulate the establishment of fire escapes and lavatories in workshops and factories and to declare a dwelling unfit for human habitation and have it removed.

Gibbs did not run for mayor in the June 27,1910 election and he was succeeded by William Ellis, a councillor who won by acclamation. Only incumbent Councillor James Martin sought re-election and he was successful in his bid. The other five successful Council candidates were John Coaker, James Channing, Charles Ryan, James Mullaly and Martin Myrick. This Council held the town's first official "Clean-up Day" on May 15, 1911, while on August 9, 1911 it opened the town's first civic-owned offices after having purchased the Seamen's Home in late 1910. On January 17, 1912 Council accepted the gift of a large farm in the Waterford Valley known as Rae Island as a public park. Named Bowring Park in honor of its benefactors, it was officially opened on July 15,1914.

On July 1, 1914, the elective form of municipal government was once more replaced by the commission system of government. On this occasion the change was brought about by public pressure which had been created by a citizens' committee formed on December 29, 1913, by the Board of Trade and its President, William Gilbert Gosling. The committee's goals had been to make a thorough study of the town's civic problems in the areas of housing, sewerage, lighting, public health, street repairing and cleaning, water supply, fire protection, and taxation and to recommend possible solutions to the House of Assembly during its 1914 session. The result of the committee's work was the appointment by the Governor-in-Council of a twelve-man commission to administer the town's affairs for one year and to draft a new municipal Act based on their experience in governing St. John's. Appointed to the Municipal Commission were John Anderson, Charles P. Ayre, F.W. Bradshaw, William Ellis, William Gilbert Gosling, John Harris, Edward Jackman, James McGrath, Francis MacNamara, Isaac Morris, James Mullaly and J.W. Withers. Ellis had accepted a place on the Commission from Prime Minister Morris on the understanding that he would be named Chairman, a position he claimed to be rightfully his because of his long record of municipal service. At the first meeting of the Commission on July 2, however, Gosling moved that the chief executive be selected by majority vote. He then easily defeated Ellis on the first ballot, the latter resigning in disgust the next day.

The commissioners spent their first five months in office dealing with the town's services. Departmental heads were given greater administrative powers with direct responsibility for the hiring of casual laborers, an authority which in the past had all too often been exercised by the Mayor and Council for patronage purposes. They also removed from the municipal payroll about twenty aged laborers who, in the absence of a municipal pension scheme, had been kept on the pay sheets at a reduced rate. Each of these men was now given a pension out of general revenue at a much lower rate than his previous salary. A Stock Department was created to coordinate the purchase of all departmental supplies. Economic measures were also applied to the Sanitary Department, the most expensive of all the civic divisions. The Municipal Commissioners also turned their attention to a reorganization of the two water distribution districts which Council had established in 1904.

Despite meeting regularly on Tuesday evenings, the commissioners were not able to have a draft bill ready when the Legislature convened in April 1915. Subsequently, the Government secured legislation to extend the life of the Municipal Commission until June 30, 1916 with a new Municipal Council to be elected the following day. The completed bill, or Charter as it came to be called, was eventually presented on March 28, 1916 to the Morris Administration, which decided to refer it to a Joint Select Committee of the Legislature because of the great amount of detail involved. Morris also decided to convene a public meeting to give citizens an opportunity to examine the Charter before it received legislative approval. Out of this April 6,1916 meeting, which was attended by more than 1,500 people, came a citizens' committee of thirty members to examine the Charter and report on it to the Select Committee of the Legislature. The citizens' committee decided to ask the Legislature to postpone action on the Charter until 1917 to give it time to study the proposed legislation thoroughly. The committee's approach was shared by the Joint Select Committee, which subsequently received permission from the Legislature to sit out of session and report back on the Charter in 1917. Consequently, legislation was passed at the 1916 session providing for a Municipal Council to be elected in June 1916 to hold office for two years. This new Council was to have the same composition as before the 1914 constitutional change. The legislation also called for the holding of a plebiscite in September 1916 to ask the same taxpayers eligible to vote in the June election whether they were in favor of the adoption of a ward system for the selection of councillors in future elections.

Gosling was a candidate for mayor in the election held on June 29 and he easily defeated his only opponent, W.A. O'D. Kelly. The six councillors elected were Isaac Morris, Dr. James Tait, Henry Brownrigg, James Mullaly, Charles Ayre and Nicholas Vinnicombe. In the plebiscite that followed on September 26 the turnout was very low, those in favor of election at large carrying the day. On July 10, 1917 the Joint Select Committee reported that because of the demands which had been made on its members by the war effort, it had not been able to devise a bill based on the Charter. Consequently the Legislature decided to extend the life of the Select Committee and to empower it once more to sit out of session. Disappointed by these developments in July 1917 Gosling asked the Government to pass certain sections of the Charter upon which the Council, the citizens' committee and the Joint Select Committee were in agreement.

The first of these was the imposition of the City Tax to replace the water and sewerage rates Council collected. The 1917 Municipal Act also empowered Council to use its funds towards the building of houses for the working poor. This assistance was to be offered through the letting and selling of houses or by lending and guaranteeing funds to building societies seeking to help those in need. Such societies were to be given a bonus of ten per cent on the cost of any house built for the designated group.

Despite this success Gosling disliked the piecemeal approach of the Government, and in 1918 pressed for the enactment of the whole Charter. He failed once more, this time because of a change of administration that in January 1918 saw Morris replaced by William Lloyd. Lloyd postponed any action on the Charter during the 1918 session, claiming that his administration was not yet ready to move on the matter. The new administration did, however, pass legislation extending the life of the Municipal Council from June 30, 1918 to December 31, 1919. On May 9, 1919 Gosling and his Council agreed to remain in office only if the Government would pass the Charter during the 1919 session. The Government accepted this condition, but during the 1919

session the Lloyd Administration was defeated by the passage of a non-confidence vote. Before the defeat, however, Lloyd was able to pass legislation extending the life of the Council from December 31,1919 to June 30,1920, on an understanding with Council that the Charter would finally be dealt with in 1920. Council's extended term enabled it to carry out a modest housing program in 1919. With a government guarantee for a $50,000 loan from the Royal Bank, by December 1919 Council had constructed off Quidi Vidi Road twelve six-room semi-detached frame houses which were intended for the working poor. The following year Council was able to have another ten houses completed and sold in the same area.

On January 30, 1920 Gosling asked the Liberal Administration of Richard Squires, which had won election in November 1919, to pass the Charter at the 1920 session of the Legislature. Squires agreed to do so and in June the Charter was passed by the House of Assembly. In anticipation of its passage by the Legislative Council, Squires had separate legislation passed at Council's request postponing the civic election scheduled for July until late 1920, with a new Council to take office on January 1, 1921. In the meantime the town would be administered by a board of commissioners appointed by the Governor-in-Council. On July 5 Gosling and former councillors Ayre, Morris, Mullaly and Vinnicombe were appointed to the commission. However, the Legislative Council, which wanted more time to examine the Charter, refused to give its approval and the Government was forced to enact legislation extending the life of the municipal commission to June 30,1921. The Charter passed both Houses of the Legislature on August 2, 1921. As the election for a new Council was not to be held until December 1921, another Act was passed appointing a new commission to replace the one that went out of office on June 30, 1921. The new commission, whose term of life was to last until the end of 1921, did not assume office until July 26, thereby leaving St. John's without any local government for nearly a month. For both business and health reasons Gosling refused a place on the new commission and his place as the chairman of the commission was taken by Isaac Morris. Others appointed to the commission were Samuel Collier, W.H. Jackman, James Mullaly, Samuel Peet and Nicholas Vinnicombe.

The 1921 Municipal Act finally recognized St. John's as a "city," the inhabitants of which formed a "body politic and corporate," but the city was still not given full incorporation. While the Charter gave the Governor-in-Council powers to veto municipal loans, expenditures and taxation, the Act did give Council additional authority for raising loans for municipal improvements. Council was to be permitted to borrow money once the approval of the Governor-in-Council had been obtained and to establish a sinking fund for the repayment of all future civic loans. The Act, moreover, imposed an annual poll-tax of five dollars on all males twenty-one years of age and over who did not pay the City Tax. The Act also contained a provision whereby persons in future who entered into leases could purchase the freehold title to the land being leased. Moreover, the Act empowered Council to use its funds to provide or to assist in providing for the medical care of newly born and sick children and for the medical examination of school children.

The election for the office of mayor and the six councillor positions was held on December 15,1921, with future elections to take place every fourth year. The franchise was given to any male British subject twenty-one years of age or over who was either a householder or paid the poll-tax. Although women could vote, they could not run for municipal office on the grounds that they were ineligible to vote at a colonial election and hence be a member of the House of Assembly. The commission chairman Morris ran for Mayor but lost to Tasker Cook. The six councillors elected were James Martin, Philip Outerbridge, Nicholas Vinnicombe, Samuel Collier, Charles Ryan and Reginald Dowden. The new position of Deputy Mayor was to be determined by a vote of all the Council. During the tenure of this Council, part of the corroded 51 cm (20 in) water main on the Portugal Cove Road was relaid, and the wooden Gull Pond dam at Windsor Lake was replaced by a concrete structure. Moreover, LeMarchant Road was widened and dilapidated houses removed in the vicinity of the newly built Grace Maternity Hospital. In 1924 Council took over the management and upkeep of Bowring Park. However, with interest payments on the civic debt taking up about twenty-five per cent of the annual budget, Council remained strongly committed to a policy of strict economy. Any significant civic improvement could not take place, Cook noted in a 1925 "Bricks without Straw" address to the Rotary Club, until there was a great increase in property taxation, an unpopular measure that Cook and previous mayors had been reluctant to implement.

Cook's approach was successful for he was returned by acclamation in the 1925 Civic election. In the December 8 election women who were twenty-five years of age and over were permitted to run for Council because of legislation passed earlier in the year by the Newfoundland Government which gave the vote to women twenty-five years of age and over. No women were elected, although one, Julia Salter Earle, came within eleven votes of claiming the sixth and final Council seat. The six candidates elected were Joseph Fitzgibbon, Dr. Archibald Tait, William Brophy, Philip Outerbridge, Charles Ryan and James Martin. In 1926 and 1927 the new Council laid larger pipes to connect the conduit at Windsor Lake to the two mains to St. John's. The following year the Windsor Lake watershed was expanded by the inclusion of nearby Round Pond. Other work carried out by this Council included the construction of concrete bridges at Rennie's Mill and at the Long Bridge, and the building of concrete public steps, mainly in the Duckworth and Water Street area. It was also this Council which appointed on April 28, 1928 the city's first Town Planning Commission under Section 92 of the 1921 City Act. Its members were James Kent (Chairman), Boyd Baird, Rudolf Cochius, William Howley, J.J. McKay and William Robinson. The work of this Commission was to study thoroughly the lands and roads both within city limits and to the extent of 1.6 km (1 mi) outside the limits. The Commission was to report periodically to the Council on the opening of new streets, the improving and extending of existing streets, the laying out of building lots, the reserving of land for firebreaks, parks and playgrounds, and the overall expansion of St. John's.

Council's close political identification with the unpopular Liberal Administration of Richard Squires proved to be its own undoing in the civic election held on December 9, 1929. In this election Charles Howlett defeated Cook in the mayoralty election. Howlett had campaigned on a strong anti-Liberal administration platform and had criticized Council's borrowing system whereby past administrations refused to permit Council to borrow money in the open market. This situation he proposed to ameliorate by asking the Legislature to give St. John's full incorporation. In the race for the six Council positions only one of the six incumbents, Charles Ryan, was re-elected. The five new councillors were Andrew Carnell, John P. Kelly, Jonas Barter, James Chalker and Ernest St. Clair Churchill. Carnell was elected Deputy Mayor by his Council colleagues and, following the death of Howlett on March 31, 1932, administered St. John's as Deputy Mayor because of a special act of the Legislature passed on April 30, 1932 which did away with the necessity of holding a by-election on the grounds that the city could not afford the cost of such an election, both St. John's and Newfoundland being in the midst of a world economic depression.

One immediate result of Council's goal of gaining greater financial independence from the Newfoundland Government was its success in August 1930 in getting Squires to turn over to Council the city's portion of the annual legislative road grants for the electoral districts of St. John's East and West. At the 1932 session of the Legislature, the Government took this road grant, along with several public subsidies totaling approximately $60,000, from City Council in an effort to maintain the financial solvency of the country. These subsidies were the annual legislative grants for the upkeep of Bowring Park and the maintenance of the city's lighting and sanitary services, and road and bridge system. In addition since 1925 Council had received half of the fees collected by the Government for motor and driving licences issued to persons residing in St. John's. In 1932 the Government reduced Council's share of this revenue from one-half to one-quarter, a move which along with the other actions resulted in Council's defaulting on its interest payments to the Government for that year.

Later in the same session the Government passed legislation incorporating the plan of debt adjustment which had been suggested earlier by Howlett. Under this act, Council was empowered to borrow a sum not exceeding $3,500,000 by the issue of municipal bonds, and to make this loan a first charge on the assets and revenue of the city once Council had repaid the Government a total of $2,000,000. Despite this additional borrowing authority, Council's financial problems prevented it from raising the full loan. Consequently, in August 1932, Council floated only a $500,000 bond, which was guaranteed by the Government. Under the terms of this bond Council was required to establish a sinking fund for the repayment of the principal and interest of the bond, which was due in 1947. To ensure that there would be sufficient revenue for this sinking fund, Council agreed to turn over to the banks one-half of the monies it received from the Government on all coal imported into St. John's. The money from this bond issue was to be used to repay the amount Council owed the Warren Bituminous Paving Company of Toronto for paving New Gower and Duckworth Streets in 1931; the remainder was to be spent on general municipal improvements. With the money available from this bond issue and with a reduction in January 1934 in the annual rate of interest the Government charged Council for its share of the country's debt, Council was able in the future to meet its general expenditure through strict economy.

In the 1933 municipal election Andrew Carnell was elected Mayor by acclamation while, in the race for councillor, only three of the five incumbents were re-elected. They were Chalker, who was subsequently elected Deputy Mayor, Ryan and Kelly.The three new councillors were Philip Outerbridge, Michael Caul and James Spratt. Outerbridge, soon afterwards resigned from the Council and was replaced by John Williams in an April 8,1935 by-election. With the establishment of Commission of Government in February 1934, the new Council initially found no improvement in its working relationship with the Government. The difficulties between the two levels of government centered on Council's financial affairs, which the Commission considered to be inefficiently managed by an incompetent "road and sewerage board." In 1934 the Commission offered Council a $500,000 loan for city improvements and a start on a housing program. It was refused by Council on the grounds that the Commission wanted complete jurisdiction over all city expenditure until the loan was repaid. Two years later the Commission gave serious consideration to the notion of abolishing the Council and appointing in its place a city manager, but shied away from this course of action because of its unpopularity, the Council being the only remaining elected body in Newfoundland.

Council's hostility towards the Commission no doubt was in part a reaction to the Commission's disdain for it. Council also felt that it had a legitimate grievance against the Government which the Commission should ameliorate, believing that the city's past and present financial problems were caused by government interference. Hence, Carnell pressed the Commission to have the city's funded debt of $1,648,904.54 owed to the Government reduced.

Council remained steadfast in its position, and in June 1937 the Commission agreed to a compromise in order to create a better working relationship with Council. The Government decided to reduce the city's funded debt to $1,000,000 and to give the city an annual grant of $20,000 in place of the funds Council previously received from motor car fees and for the upkeep of Bowring Park. The 1937 Municipal Act incorporating this agreement also abolished the poll tax, which Council had found very difficult to enforce. The Act also provided for the establishment of a Municipal Arrears Commission to take charge of the collection of all taxes in arrears. The appointment of such a commission had been included by former Mayor Gosling in his Charter, but Councils after 1921 had never acted on this clause. Now, its appointment had been insisted upon by the Commission of Government as part of its compromise on city finances. The Arrears Commission was appointed in 1938.

The 1937 Act also empowered Council to establish zoning by-laws to allow for the erection of certain types of buildings in various areas of the city. Despite this financial agreement, Council was able to give only limited financial assistance, for instance, to the efforts of the St. John's Regatta Committee after 1937 to lay out a public park at the head of Quidi Vidi Lake. This park, known as King George V Park, had been established the previous year by the Committee.

Carnell was returned by acclamation once again in the 1937 municipal election. Of the six candidates elected as councillors, three were incumbents: Chalker, who was again elected Deputy Mayor by Council, Spratt and Kelly. The three new councillors were John Tobin, Kenneth Ruby and John Meaney. During the tenure of this Council a change was finally made in the salaries of the mayor and the six councillors, which Council for several years had wanted increased. Under the 1921 City Act the mayor was to receive an annual salary of $1,000 while his councillors received generally about $500 each.

Under the change the Commission of Government made in 1938, the mayor was to receive in future $1,600 per annum and each councillor $500. Also, in 1938 Council signed an agreement with Golden Arrow Coaches Limited to operate a bus service in areas of the city not serviced by the street railway, which had been operated since 1924 by the Newfoundland Light and Power Company. In May 1939 Council submitted to the Government a housing scheme that called for the formation of a building organization to provide houses for the working poor but as no money was forthcoming from the Government the scheme was abandoned.

Better housing for St. John's residents was a central issue in the municipal election held on December 15,1941. Carnell easily defeated his only opponent, P.R. McCormac, for the mayor's chair. The six councillors elected were Eric Cook, Edward Lawrence, Oliver Vardy, James Spratt, John Kelly and John Meaney. Both Lawrence and Meaney died in 1943 and were replaced on Council by A.M. Fraser and H.G.R. Mews, who were elected in a by-election later in the year. Soon after the new Council took office in January 1942, Cook moved to have Council act quickly on the housing question. On April 11, 1942 Council asked the Government to appoint a commission of enquiry into St. John's housing conditions. A thirteen-member commission was appointed on May 12 which was to report to both levels of government. Supreme Court Justice Brian Dunfield chaired this Commission of Enquiry on Housing and Town Planning, which, between November 1942 and January 1944, produced five reports. Essentially, Dunfield proposed that the Government and Council co-operate in making a new, planned, garden suburb in the valley north of the city. To acquire the necessary land and to build the houses, he suggested that a public housing corporation be formed which was independent of both levels of government.

By early 1944 Council's ability to contribute to this housing scheme depended to a great extent on its efforts (which had begun in August 1942) to have the city's funded debt to the Government of $1,000,000 readjusted and, if possible, abolished. After several meetings with the Commission of Government a compromise was finally reached on March 3,1944 that saw the city's funded debt of $1,000,000 being waived, thus saving the city $30,000 in annual interest payments. Because the Government had not established a sinking fund for the repayment of the civic debt, this $30,000 represented in effect a perpetual payment on Council's part to the Government. Later, in November, the city secured legislation authorizing it to issue bonds on the credit of the city for an amount not exceeding $3,000,000. The money from the sale of these bonds, which were repayable within twenty-five years, was to be used to repay the city's outstanding indebtedness to the banks for past civic improvements and to pay for future municipal projects. Of this $3,000,000 loan $1,200,000 was to be lent to the St. John's Housing Corporation, set up in July 1944 to undertake the building of the northern suburb later known as Churchill Square. A sinking fund was to be set up to help with the repayment of the bond upon maturity. Other legislation secured by this Council was an act in 1942 which gave to the Council the authority of the Municipal Arrears Commission, which had gone out of office on December 31, 1941. In 1945 Council had an act passed which extended the city's northern boundaries to include the new suburb being built by the St. John's Housing Corporation. Also, in 1945 the management of Council's Bowring Park Committee was broadened from consisting only of the mayor and three councillors to include these officers as well as three nominees from the Board of Trade, one of whom was to be a member or representative of Bowring Brothers Limited. Finally, separate legislation was also passed by the Commission of Government which provided for the election to be held in 1945 on the second Tuesday in November rather than in December and that, in the future, all civic elections be held on that Tuesday in every fourth year.

The 1945 election was held on November 13. Carnell was returned as mayor defeating Deputy Mayor Eric Cook and James Gibbs whose fathers had been mayors of St. John's. In the contest for the six councillor positions, four of the incumbents, Spratt, Mews, Vardy and Kelly, were re-elected. The two new councillors were William Ryan and Eric Jerrett. The Council chose Spratt as the Deputy Mayor, the tradition now being well established that the position went to the councillor finishing first in the polls. Under this Council a further increase was made in 1946 in the remuneration paid to the elected members of Council. The mayor's annual salary was increased to $2,400 while that for each councillor was to be $1,200. In 1947 Council approved the appointment by the Commission of Government of a six-man Traffic Control Committee to regulate city traffic and to advise the Government on legislation the Committee might consider to have it enact. The following year Carnell renewed efforts to have a new artificial ice rink built for St. John's with the appointment of a Citizens' Committee, the goal of which was to raise the necessary construction money from both the Government and citizens in general.

Public transit was reorganized by Council because of the apparent inability of the deficit-operated street railway system to meet the city's growing traffic demands especially in the newly built Churchill Park area as well as in the expanding western end of the city. With the franchise of the Newfoundland Light and Power Company terminating in 1946, Council had a study made of the future of railway and bus services in the city. The study's report recommended the consolidation of all public transportation under one system, preferably one based on bus transportation. Subsequent Council negotiations with the Light and Power Company led to the taking up of the street tracks, the street car having run for the last time on September 5,1948. The privately owned Golden Arrow Coaches Limited apparently never had the necessary capital to provide an expanded bus service and in October 1949 had its franchise revoked by Council. In 1950 a new franchise was given to the Capital Coach Lines.

The 1949 municipal election, which was held on November 8, saw a major upset in the mayoralty race. Carnell was defeated in his fifth try at re-election by Councillor Mews. The six councillors elected were George Nightingale, who became Deputy Mayor, James Higgins, Joseph Fitzgibbon, Eric Jerrett, James Tucker and Leo Earle. Jerrett died in February 1950, and Douglas Oliphant, who had finished seventh in the 1949 election, succeeded him after winning a by-election later in the year. The main goal of Mews and his Council was to balance the budget, which before 1949 had operated on a deficit basis for several years. A balanced budget was necessary, Mews was informed by financial institutions, for the city to be able to raise funds for capital improvements.

After 1950 Council had a balanced budget through a policy of strict economy in its expenditure. Council was greatly assisted in 1950 by an interest-free transitional loan of $150,000 from the Province that was redeemable in eleven years. The need for this loan arose because the city had lost a large part of its revenue the previous year when Newfoundland joined the Canadian Confederation. In particular the coal duties were abolished under Canadian-Newfoundland tax-rental agreements. The House of Assembly replaced these duties with new sources of taxation: in 1950 by the Business Tax and in 1951 by the Water and Fuel Oil Taxes. In 1952 legislation was passed by the Province providing for the appointment of a City Comptroller and a City Planning Officer, the latter to form part of a joint planning office with the Newfoundland Government for both the capital and Province. Also, in 1952 separate legislation was passed by the House of Assembly whereby the Province took over the city's financial interest in the St. John's Housing Corporation.

Like his predecessor Andrew Carnell, Mews proved to be a popular politician. In the civic election held on November 10, 1953 Mews was re-elected Mayor by acclamation. Of the incumbents, five were returned. They were Higgins, who was subsequently elected Deputy Mayor, Nightingale, Fitzgibbon, Tucker and Earle. The new councillor elected was Gordon Warren. During his second term as Mayor, Mews oversaw the completion and official opening in 1955 of the St. John's Memorial Stadium, an artificial ice rink which had been dedicated as a tribute to those Newfoundlanders who lost their lives in World War II. Although a Citizens' Committee had been set up in 1948 to raise the necessary funds for the rink's construction, the Committee had had great difficulty in getting sufficient funds. Consequently, in 1954 Council received authority from the Government to float a bond issue of about $7,000,000 to pay for the building, while the public itself subsequently subscribed approximately $342,000 in funds. The Stadium thus became civic property and was managed under a Council-appointed commission consisting of the Mayor, the City Clerk, the City Comptroller or the Financial Supervisor, and eight persons nominated by the Council.

In 1954 Council also undertook an improvement to the city's water system by laying a main to connect the system with Petty Harbour Long Pond. This work, which was completed in February 1955, was necessary because of inadequate water pressure for fire protection in the western and northwestern sections of St. John's. In 1956 Council purchased land adjoining Bowring Park, which greatly increased the size of the park, while the following year it had legislation passed by the House of Assembly authorizing the city to operate a public bus service, and to hold a referendum during the November 1957 municipal election to ask voters which day of the week (except Sunday) citizens wanted as a whole holiday in St. John's.

Mews again won re-election by acclamation in the November 12, 1957 election. In the election for the six councillor positions four of the five incumbents who ran were also re-elected: Higgins, who remained Deputy Mayor, Fitzgibbon, Tucker and Nightingale. The two new councillors were Geoffrey Carnell and Alec Henley. Tucker resigned from the Council on March 31, 1958, and his successor was Robert MacLeod, who won a by-election that year. In the referendum held during the 1957 election, voters decided upon Saturday as the weekly day to be a whole holiday for St. John's residents. One of the first acts of this Council was to complete negotiations for the purchase of the privately owned Capital Coach Lines. Because both Council and the company disagreed on the value of the rolling stock, a three-man arbitration board had been appointed, which in September 1958 set the purchase price at $197,376,45. The new bus service was managed by a body established by Council, which gave the St. John's Transportation Commission complete control of all bus operations. However, the Commission was required to make periodic reports to Council and was financed on capital expenditure by Council. In 1959 the Commission acquired twenty new diesel busses and constructed a new bus terminal, which was opened in January 1960.

It was also during the tenure of this Council that efforts were initiated to provide public housing for low income groups and suburban housing for more affluent individuals. In 1961 Council had a comprehensive city survey prepared by Project Planning Associates Limited of Toronto and funded by CMHC. This survey called both for urban renewal schemes to be carried out in the city's central area, the Blackhead Road area located on the Southside Hills in the southeast of the city, and the Mundy Pond area in the western part of the city, and for the development of suburban housing in new areas. In connection with this last proposal, by 1961 Council had already reached an agreement with CMHC that would see the Corporation develop a new land assembly scheme in the northeastern section in St. John's.

During the 1961 municipal election campaign Mews declared that he would serve only one more term if he was re-elected. In the election held on November 14, Mews defeated his two opponents, John King and Robert Murphy. Three of the incumbents were returned in the election for councillor: Higgins, Carnell and Henley. The newcomers to Council were William G. Adams, who was later elected by Council as Deputy Mayor, Walter Carter and James Fagan. Higgins resigned from the Council in September 1963, and his successor was Gerald Wiggins, who won a November 1963 by-election. During Mews's last term as Mayor, property was acquired in 1963 for the development of the northeast land assembly scheme, while in 1965 negotiations were entered into with CMHC for the development of a public housing scheme at Buckmaster's Field. Action was also taken on the urban renewal front, with Council in 1964 making a start on the expropriation of land in the congested city center to the north of New Gower Street. The following year Council made an agreement with the St. John's Commercial Centre Co. Ltd. for the eventual commercial development of the area, once all the houses were purchased and torn down. Other major public works were carried out by this Council. A municipal swimming pool and bathing houses were opened at Victoria Park on August 3,1963. In addition, the Waterford Valley Trunk Sewer was completed in 1963 to connect St. John's with the town of Mount Pearl. During 1963 the city's Sanitary Fill Dump was relocated from its old location near Stamp's Lane to a new area at Robin Hood Bay, off Logy Bay Road. One of Mews's last acts before retiring from Council on December 31, 1965 was to secure in October 1965 a donation of symbols of civic authority for St. John's from municipalities in Great Britain and Ireland. Specifically, from Dublin, St. John's received a replica of the Mayor's chair used in that city, while Ayr, Scotland, gave a mace. From Bristol, England, St. John's got a new gavel.

The 1965 municipal election was held under a broader franchise. Under the 1965 City of St. John's Act the age of voter qualification of householders was lowered from twenty-one years to nineteen years. In the election for Mayor, Deputy Mayor Adams defeated Councillor Henley. In the contest for the six councillor positions, John Crosbie polled the highest vote and subsequently became Deputy Mayor. The other five councillors elected were Walter Carter, James Fagan, Geoffrey Carnell, Thomas Doyle and Jim Browne. Crosbie resigned from the Council in July 1966, and his successor was Clarence Englebrecht (Bob Lewis), who won a by-election held on November 15 that year. Carter resigned from the Council in 1968.

Soon after Adams and his Council assumed office in January 1966, former Mayor Mews announced in an address to the Rotary Club the existence of a secret fund totaling $2,000,000 which Council had set aside for the construction of a new city hall. The fund's existence had not been made public, Mews later asserted, because of a general public attitude that St. John's could not afford such a building. The fund had been in existence since the early 1950s when the proceeds from the sale of a piece of city land was used to form the basis of a capital savings account for the financing of essential public works. Over the years the account had been augmented by the proceeds from the sale of other lands, engineering fees, assessments for water and sewer lines, and the services for the sub-division of public lands. The site eventually chosen for the new City Hall was part of the land north of New Gower Street which Council had expropriated in 1964 as part of its urban-renewal scheme for the city's central area. Although this land had been leased to the St. John's Commercial Centre Co. for commercial development, by 1967 the land had reverted to the city after the company backed out of its development proposals. Consequently, Council decided to use for itself the eastern portion of this land containing about 4.5 ha (11 acres). Construction of the new building began in February 1969; it officially opened on October 10,1970, having cost the city approximately $3,500,000 to design and build.

During Adams's first term as Mayor, improvements were also made to the city's water supply that substantially raised the level of Windsor Lake. In 1966 the city entered into an agreement with the Province whereby the latter would share half the cost of new street pavement. In 1967 the Mundy Pond Trunk Sewer was completed between Water Street and Blackler Avenue, and a new municipal depot was opened on Blackler Avenue. In the same year a community center, known as the St. John's Recreation Center, was opened in the old drill hall at Buckmaster's Field. Buckmaster's Field was also the site of a public housing scheme consisting of 211 units which Council constructed in 1966 with the financial cooperation of both the Provincial and Federal Governments. In 1969 Council had legislation passed enfranchising the wives and husbands of householders who were nineteen years of age and paid municipal taxes. Moreover, this act increased the number of councillors to be elected in the next election from six to eight.

The November 18, 1969 municipal election for Mayor was a re-run of the 1965 race, with Adams again defeating Henley for the position. In the election for the eight councillor positions, the successful candidates were Leonard Stirling, who was subsequently elected Deputy Mayor, Clarence Englebrecht (Bob Lewis), James Fagan, Brian Higgins, Dorothy Wyatt who became the first woman elected to Council, Jim Browne, Albert Andrews and Geoffrey Carnell. During the tenure of this Council, construction began on a Council-endorsed, four-lane highway that was to be a branch of the Trans-Canada Highway and which would enter the city's downtown at the east end of the Waterford Valley. Financed by the Federal and Provincial Governments, the $52,000,000 harbor arterial was not fully opened for traffic until October 1979. As part of its goal of improving traffic circulation within the city itself, in 1970 Council purchased the right of way to land from the vicinity of Bay Bulls Road near Bowring Park to the Prince Philip Parkway, following a course through Molloy's Lane, Fairview Acres and the Mundy Pond area. This land was envisaged by Council to be used for the eventual construction of a cross-town arterial highway that would connect the harbor arterial with the Parkway. The Council also entered into an agreement with the Federal Government for a Neighborhood Improvement Program grant of $1,600,000, which would at last start work on the city's long-sought proposal for the urban renewal of the Mundy Pond area. The Council in 1972 also approved a major twenty-storey office and hotel complex on Water Street to be known as Atlantic Place. Finally, in 1973 it had legislation passed by the provincial Legislature making a substantial change in the municipal franchise. Hence, the vote was given to any Canadian citizen or British subject who was nineteen years of age or over and had been a resident of the city for a period of one year prior to the election.

In the first election held under this new franchise, on November 13, 1973 Councillor Wyatt defeated Adams and Dr. Patrick McNicholas for the Mayor's chair. The eight councillors elected were John J. Murphy, who was later elected Deputy Mayor, Miller Ayre, David Riche, David Barrett, James Fagan, Brian Higgins, Eric Gullage and Ray O'Neill. Under Wyatt's mayoralty, Council in 1974 approved a major development proposal for the vacant land to the west of City Hall. Under an agreement made with Trizec Corporation of Montreal, a $75,000,000 office-hotel-shopping center complex was to be constructed with parking space for 600 cars. The Corporation did not follow through on its plans, however, and Council subsequently reclaimed control of the land. In 1975 Council decided to erect a municipal parking garage on Water Street close to the nearly completed Atlantic Place. Both the garage, which cost the city $8,410,003, and the first phase of Atlantic Place were opened in 1976. Also, in December 1976 the city received its first City Manager when E.P. Henley was appointed to that position with responsibility for overseeing the general administration of Council. In 1976 Council had legislation enacted enabling the general public to examine for historic or academic reasons all public and special minutes of Council held prior to 1925. For the public minutes held after 1925, Council does not allow their availability to the public for such purposes on the grounds that they were bound with the special minutes of Council. In 1977 St. John's hosted the Canada Summer Games as a result of substantial lobbying by Council over several years to hold the amateur athletic event.

In the November 8, 1977 election, Wyatt was re-elected to her second term as Mayor, defeating her only opponent, Deputy Mayor Murphy. In the election for councillor, the successful candidates were Ray O'Neill, who subsequently was elected Deputy Mayor, Suzanne Duff, Brian E. Higgins, James Fagan, David Barrett, Frances Innis, Hugh Baird and Andrew Wells. Higgins died in 1979 and Tom Osborne replaced him on Council after winning a by-election on September 25, 1979. This Council held the city's first St. John's Day on June 24, 1978, a celebration which became an annual event. Also, during 1978 Council agreed to a compromise with the owners of Atlantic Place who had decided not to build a hotel on top of the existing nine-level office structure. The following year construction began on the building of a cross-town highway to connect the harbor arterial to Prince Philip Parkway. The arterial was opened in December 1981. In 1980 Council approved the construction of a ten-storey office building known as the Toronto-Dominion Building at Water, Duckworth and Prescott Streets. Again, during 1980 it had the provincial Legislature pass legislation changing the city's taxation system from a rental value to a capital value system. The following year Council altered the basis for representation for Council when it voted on September 2 to implement a partial ward system. Hence, Council was to have four councillors elected at large and four elected on the basis of a ward system, one in each of the four wards. In 1981 Council also approved a public housing project near Quidi Vidi Lake.

In the November 3, 1981 election Wyatt lost the mayoralty to John Murphy. A third candidate in the race was Councillor O'Neill. In the election for councillor at large, incumbent Duff polled the highest vote of all the candidates and was subsequently elected Deputy Mayor by the new Council. Other councillors elected at large were Ron Pumphrey, David Barrett and James Fagan. In the wards Andrew Wells won Ward One, John Tessier Ward Two, Bruce Tilley Ward Three and Tom Osborne Ward Four. This Council took office on December 1, 1981.