The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Daily News (Kingston, ON), Dec. 18, 1877

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Vessel Taxation

The Court of Revision, through Ald. McIntyre, reported, recommending that on the petition of a number of vessel men, the assessment on sailing vessels and trade propellors, be reduced to 20 per cent of the present taxation, and on steam passenger vessels be 40 per cent of the present taxation. The petition asked the reduction to be 10 per cent.

Ald. McIntyre moved that the report be received, and that the assessment be reduced to 10 per cent, and spoke in favour of a greater reduction than the report recommended.

The Mayor stated that he had an opinion from the City Solicitor, that the Court of Revision had no power to exempt vessel property.

Ald. McIntyre said that notwithstanding the opinion of the Solicitor, the Court of Revision and he himself thought vessels were entitled to certain exemption, as in the case of vacancies in houses, where they threw off one half. Vessel property had not been remunerative during the past few years, and some consideration might be shown to those gentlemen who had put their earnings into this kind of property.

Ald. Walkem also supported the resolution, which he believed was only justice to the vessel owners.

Ald. Allen said he would be very glad to contribute his share in order that vessel property might be exempted as much as possible from taxation; but he protested emphatically against exempting the mail boats which were laid up here every winter, and on which were paid no taxes whatever. He thought that Aldermen Gaskin and Gildersleeve should not vote on such an important matter as this, as they were interested parties.

Ald. Gaskin explained at some length the reason why he had in years past advocated the reduction of taxes on vessels. He showed how vessel property had been very unrenumerative for several years, and this past season was no exception. In reply to Ald. Allen, Ald. Gaskin said his taxes were paid, and the Company with which he was connected did not petition for a reduction, so that he had nothing to gain by the reduction. He went on to say that he did not believe it was the intention of the law that vessel property should be taxed in the same manner as real estate in cities and towns. People living there had the benefit of streets, boardwalks, street lamps, etc., which vessel property did not require, and the vessel men got no return for the money paid by them. Ald. Gaskin went on to refer to the heavy expenses under which vessels were run, and said that the Council ought to understand that the prosperity of the city of Kingston very largely depended on the shipping trade. If the vessel men were not used in the matter of taxation in Kingston as in other places, Kingston will lose the trade for which it was the natural shipping point.

Ald. Gildersleeve said he never saw a more deliberate attempt to kill the goose that had laid the golden egg than the attack of Ald. Allen on the mail boats, which every spring brought a large sum of money to be spent in the city. He spoke very strongly in favour of exempting vessel property as much as it possibly could be done, as this was Kingston's greatest hold in business.

After some further discussion,

Ald. Dupuis moved that the matter be laid over until information be obtained from other lake ports as to the method pursued there. Withdrawn.

The Mayor suggested that the Council should petition the Legislature to give them power to exempt or reduce taxation of vessel property.

Ald. McIntyre's motion was then adopted.

Wharf Extension

Mr. James Swift wrote as follows: "My application to you for permission to build a narrow strip in front of my wharf at the foot of Johnson street for the protection of the slip by keeping it from filling in as it is now doing, not having been acted upon, owing, as I understand, to misapprehension, of what was required by me, I beg to say if you will allow me to proceed with the work I will do so under the direction of your Engineer and will guarantee that it will in no way injuriously affect the interests of the city, but on the contrary prove a benefit. I will also satisfy you that the Grand Trunk Railway authorities have no objection."

In this connection, the Mayor submitted an opinion of the City Solicitor as follows: "I am of opinion that the City Council has no power to allow the prayer of this petition as to occupying a part of the slip at the foot of Johnson Street, because: 1 - It is part of the public navigable waters. 2 - Because it is the public means of reaching the waters of the harbour and one of the public communications between the harbour and the city, all persons having a right to its use, even if the Council assumed to allow Mr. Swift the privilege asked. The wharf erected on the slip would retain its public character. The slip is part of the highway formed by the navigable waters of the lake and cannot be obstructed legally. The Council will recollect that the Minister of Justice at Ottawa insisted that the part of the Ontario Act giving the Power Dry Dock Company the exclusive right to the slip at the foot of Union Street should be repealed and it was repealed. This Council derives its power from the Ontario Legislature and could not, of course do what the Legislature was unable to do."

Ald. McIntyre said he had a resolution on the subject. The opinion of the Solicitor with reference to the Power dry dock had no bearing on the matter in question. Mr. Gildersleeve had a similar favour to that asked for granted on a former occasion. He moved that the petition of Mr. Swift be granted. The privilege asked for by Mr. Swift would be valuable in securing work for a number of men during the winter, besides being of great value to a number of gentlemen interested in the shipping business.

Ald. Noble seconded the motion.

Ald. Gildersleeve said that what Ald. McIntyre said respecting the favour given to himself was incorrect. The privilege asked for by him was simply the repairing of a wharf which had got out of repair, and the opening up of the drain at the foot of Queen street. All that was wanted was to cover up the drain, as it was very offensive. It was only to give the slip at the foot of Queen street an even footage, and to so cover up the drain for the benefit of the people in that locality. His opinion was that the street existed still, and he could be compelled to remove what he had erected on it at any time. What Mr. Swift asked for was that a strip from Johnson Street may be added to his wharf. The reason he assigns was that he wished to protect the wharf. He (Ald. Gildersleeve) did not think the granting of the privilege would be prejudicial to the city, and he would be in favour of granting it. He hoped the City Solicitor would devise a scheme for granting the request of Mr. Swift.

Ald. Allen said that when they gave Ald. Gildersleeve permission to fix his wharf, they did not give him power to build fences and houses on them. He contended that the resolution was out of order, and it was not right to introduce such electioneering matters at the eleventh hour, as Ald. McIntyre had done. An Act of Parliament only could allow persons to close up a portion of the street to build a wharf. He called upon the Mayor to rule the resolution out of order, because it was contrary to law. He argued that the permission to close Union Street for the purpose of opening the dry dock should be cancelled. He protested against the "poor man" cry at this time of the year, when the elections were near at hand.

The Mayor asked Ald. McIntyre to withdraw the resolution, in the face of the Solicitor's opinion.

Ald. McIntyre said he would refer it to the Committee on Wharves and Harbours.

Ald. Drennan said it should be referred to the Committee on City Property.

Ald. McIntyre moved, seconded by Ald. Noble, That the communication be referred to the Committee on Wharves and Harbours to report, and that Mr. Swift produce a map of the improvements proposed to be made.

Ald. Gaskin did not see why, if it was illegal, it should be referred back to the Committee. He could not understand why so much opposition should be raised to the improvement of the harbour. The improvement of this property was absolutely necessary. Many years ago permission was given to the late Mr. James Harty to enlarge a wharf, and there was no reason why permission should not be given now. He held that every encouragement should be given to Mr. Swift for the enlargement of this wharf. (Applause.)

Ald. Allen said he did not care what the people said about his vote on this subject. They could cheer and stamp as they pleased. He thought Ald. Gaskin ought to be the last man to speak about the wharf in which he was interested, that which belonged to the late Mr. Harty. He had no right to a seat at the Council as one of the proprietors of that wharf.

Ald. Gaskin rose to a point of order, and denied that he held stock in the wharf.

Ald. Allen warmly protested against the giving of the street to build the wharf, and questioned even the right of Parliament to give permission to build it. He advised the withdrawal of the resolution or else the referring of it to the Committee on Streets as the proper Committee.

Ald. McIntyre said that the reason why the resolution was moved was because Mr. Swift's letter was only read that evening. He was quite prepared to say that not a fraction of the city's right would be interfered with by the contemplated improvements. No more objection could be entertained to Mr. Swift's improvement than was made in the case of the late James Harty and also of Mr. James Richardson. So far as the workingmen were concerned, it was no false principle to speak in their favour. He had been stopped on the street by working men, who had told him they could not see why the opposition should be raised.

Ald. Allen moved in amendment, seconded by Ald. Drennan, That the petition be referred to the Committee on Streets to report.

Ald. Allen said that what Ald. McIntyre had stated about being stopped on the street by workingmen to ask why opposition had been raised to this wharf was mere nonsense, as the men would not get any more wages for the work done. He would vote to the last against the giving away of the city's property.

Ald. Allen then withdrew his resolution, and Ald. McIntyre's was carried.

p.2 Sixty-four vessels are laid up in Toronto, a larger number than for years back.

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Dec. 18, 1877
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Rick Neilson
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Daily News (Kingston, ON), Dec. 18, 1877