William Holmes Howland

William Holmes Howland

William Holmes Howland (11 June 1844 – 12 December 1893) was Mayor of Toronto from 1886 to 1887.

Prior to William Holmes Howland becoming Toronto's 25th mayor, he was a businessman who was elected president of the Board of Trade in 1874-1875. He was involved in many causes like the Toronto General Hospital, the Christian Missionary Union, the Mimico Industrial School for Boys and he was interested in improving the living conditions of the slum areas of the city.

He turned to municipal politics to try to help the city with problems like drunkenness, slum conditions, filthy streets and to clean up the foul water supply.

In 1884 the Ontario legislature changed voting laws to allow women to vote. Unmarried women and widows of voting age that owned or rented property assessed at over $400 were allowed to vote. Mayoralty races started to go after this group of people in future elections. Howland campaigned for morality, religion and reform with the support of the Municipal Reform Association and is elected by a margin of 1900 votes. His campaign coins the motto "Toronto the Good" for the city.

During Howland's first term he had much controversy. He was removed as mayor after personal finance problems made him transfer his assets to his wife. After that he didn't have the property qualifications to be mayor. Another election was called and he went back to the nomination meeting after he had transferred his assets back to himself. There were no other candidates so he was again confirmed as mayor.

Many problems arose when he came back as Mayor. Senior officials were arrested for misuse of funds after a coal-supply scandal broke out and a street railway strike that was backed by Howland had the militia brought in after three days of rioting. His attempt to restrict liquor licences was also defeated by council.

One good achievement was the appointment of an Inspector to the police department to fight vice and prostitution.

During his second term, council's time was occupied with projects like the Don Improvement Scheme, construction of a new city hall and court house, waterworks improvements and street paving. He was finally able to have the number of liquor licences issued by council reduced after the passing of the "Fleming Bylaw".

He didn't seek re-election and left politics. He spent the rest of his life trying to sort out his personal business affairs that suffered during his mayoralty.

Howland's father was Sir William Pearce Howland, the only American born Father of Confederation.


* "Mayors of Toronto, Volume 1, 1834-1899", Victor Loring Russell, ©1982, Published by: The Boston Mills Press (reprinted with permission)

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