Evolution of Local Government Districts
Generally speaking, local government districts were created to provide an administrative vehicle for the collection of taxes and processing of land transfers in areas that formerly comprised disorganized municipalities and remote school districts in unorganized territories. In the 1920’s and 1930’s the boundaries of several municipalities were disorganized by the Provincial Government when, due to financial difficulties after the depression years, it was no longer economically viable for them to continue operations. The remote school districts in unorganized territory were taken in to relieve them of the responsibility for collection of school taxes. Other local government districts were formed due to the development of industrial townsites, i.e. mining, atomic energy and hydro-electric power. The Province assumed responsibility for the administration of these local government districts under The Local Government Districts Act enacted in 1944.
Resident Administrators were appointed to collect taxes and to administer the affairs of the local government districts. The position was named “Resident” Administrator as they were expected to reside in the local government district or in the village or town where the office was located. These administrators held civic service status and were directly responsible to the Supervision of Local Government Districts who in turn reported directly to the Municipal Commissioner. In 1953, the Department of Municipal Affairs assumed the function previously carried out by the Municipal Commissioner.
From the time of incorporation until school divisions were established in the late fifties to early sixties, road construction and maintenance was administered by the Department of Public Works (later by D.P.W. successors) and the individual school district on a 50/50 cost-sharing basis. Once the country school districts were abolished (late fifties to early sixties), responsibility for the administration of roads and all other services was transferred to the local government districts. Cost-sharing basically remained the same except costs were shared between the individual local government district and the Province.
Local Government districts were granted powers, in varying degrees, by orders-in-council, which in time made certain parts of The Municipal Act applicable to them. Gradually over the years, local government districts were structured along the lines of a municipality, with significant differences in terms of responsibility and authority. Eventually, sometime in the mid-seventies, local government districts were given the rights, powers, duties and liabilities of a municipality under the Municipal Act but remained under the control and supervision of the Provincial Government.
The Local Government District of Mountain
The Local Government District of Mountain was incorporated on January 1, 1945 by letters patent. The district was comprised of thirty-four school districts in unorganized territory. It is believed that the District was formed as a result of settlements being established throughout the area that required some form of municipal government. Until this time, the only form of local government had been that of the local school districts. It was not economically feasible to incorporate the area as a rural municipality due to the vast area of largely marginal land (2607 sq. kms) and the relatively sparse population.
Early in 1969, The Local Government District of Mountain divided into seven divisions and a member was elected, at a public meeting of resident ratepayers, in each division to form a local committee. The function of the committee was to advise the Resident Administrator in carrying out the administration of the District. This was also the case in the many other local government districts and the committees became known as a Local Advisory Committee. Eventually, the Local Advisory Committee members were elected at the polls. In 1975, a reeve attained the head of Council. The Resident Administrator assumed the role of municipal secretary-treasurer in guiding the council.
In 1976 a by – law was passed by the Council to reduce the number of wards in The Local Government District of Mountain from seven to six, amalgamating Wards 3 and 4, with Ward 4 being eliminated.
Important dates that apply to the three largest communities in the District are:
April 20, 1953
Effective date of the formation of The Unincorporated Urban District of Birch River. Boundaries were later enlarged by By – Law No. 77 dated May 26, 1955.
January 2, 1963
Effective date of the formation of The Unincorporated Urban District of Mafeking.
January 1, 1972 Effective date of the change in status from The Unincorporated Urban District of Birch River to The Unincorporated Village District of Birch River which gave the locality more powers under The Municipal Act.
May 1, 1974
Introduction of The Mountain Planning Scheme 1973 in the communities of Mafeking and Birch River.
January 1, 1978
Effective date of formation of The Unincorporated Village District of Pine River.
The Local Government District of Mountain’s Administration Office was located in the Town of Swan River until November 1, 1992 when it opened its new office in Birch River.
The Rural Municipality of Mountain
A new Municipal Act came into effect January 1, 1997. All but two local government districts in the Province were converted to rural or urban municipalities under this new legislation although to date the Province continues to recognize that it is not economically feasible to withdraw funding from these areas.
The Local Government District of Mountain became The Rural Municipality of Mountain as at January 1, 1997, and the position of the Resident Administrator became the Chief Administrative Officer. The Unincorporated Village Districts of Birch River, Pine River, and the Unincorporated Urban District of Mafeking all became Local Urban Districts.
At one time the population of the District was recorded at 3899. In 1968, certain area and communities including Duck Bay, Camperville, Baden and Westgate were removed from the Local Government District of Mountain and placed under the jurisdiction of Northern Affairs. Population was recorded as 2,959 in 1976 and as of the census, taken in 2001 was 1,589. The 2011 Census was 1,104 and the 2016 Census was 978.