Rural Municipalities of Saskatchewan
A rural municipality (RM) is a type of incorporated municipality in the Canadian province of Saskatchewan. The purpose of municipalities is to ensure that services and facilities are made available to maintain safety, and implement the economic, social, and environmental improvements considered necessary and desired by the community at large. A rural municipality is created by the Minister of Municipal Relations by ministerial order via section 49 of The Municipalities Act. The Municipalities Act (MA) oversees the legislation pertaining to rural municipalities as well as towns, villages and resort villages. Northern Municipalities are regulated under The Northern Municipalities Act, and city legislation falls under The Cities Act. That being said, local governments are also cognizant of The Line Fence Act, The Local Government Election Act, The Noxious Weed Act, The Planning and Development Act, The Stray Animals Act, The Tax Enforcement Act as well as other statutes and acts.
Rural Municipalities in the province of Saskatchewan
A rural municipality, often abbreviated RM, is a form of municipality in the Canadian provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, perhaps best comparable to counties or townships in the western United States. Unlike most counties in the United States or Canada, rural municipalities specifically exclude designated official cities, towns, villages, and First Nations Indian reserves from their territory. They are essentially the rural portion of what would normally be a county. In this way, they could perhaps best be compared to certain counties in the state of Virginia, United States, that have independent cities excluded from their territory, although, in Virginia there is usually only one independent city per county, whereas there can be many officially excluded communities in the geographical territory of rural municipalities.
Where a city structure may consist of a mayor and councillor for each ward, a reeve is the local official elected to oversee the discharge duties in relation to the municipality as the chief magistrate. Councillors are members of the municipal legislative body and hold the rank of chief officer for the council representing their district. Councillors are elected to represent the interests and well being of the residents in their division developing, planning and ensuring that policies, programs and services are in place for the municipality. The strength of the policies, bylaws, and decisions made by the council define the direction of the municipality. Council works hand in hand with residents thinking about and identifying the needs of the community from which remarkable actions are able to take shape.
The Municipal Ordinance of 1883 was enacted by the North-West Territories to provide services to a rural area and provide some means of municipal governing. Saskatchewan and Alberta became provinces in 1905. North West Territorial Government issues Statute Labour Ordinance (1897) and sets of Fire Districts, Statute Labour and Fire (SLF) Districts or Statute Labour Districts. Community residents could pay taxes or supply a couple days per quarter section labour constructing roads, bridges, fireguards instead of paying taxes. The prairie fires in the 19th century were devastating affairs with flames raging across the wide open plains miles and miles across burning everything in its path. As the Big Beaver Historical Society point out, "in the late 1800;s and early 1900's, after the buffalo vanished from the prairies, and before it was populated with cattle, there was a tremendous growth of grass on the prairies which made good fuel for fires." Igniting from the spark of the steam engine along the rail line, lightning, or accident, fires grew to hundreds of miles in length, and burned for weeks on end. In the early pioneering days, it often took a river or a rainy spell to extinguish the tremendous flames. Along with great loss to the region, buildings, "Prairie Wool" (the winter feed needed to feed the livestock) of course also lives of animals and livestock, and the very population, the settler's lives were endangered. One fire of the early 1900s is the huge prairie fire that began near Swift Current Creek, and carried on to Moose Jaw (a distance of about 177 km or 110 miles). Another fire burned for several days, starting at the east shore of Last Mountain Lake (Long Lake), and carrying on, burned everything around the lake. The lake is about 93 km (58 miles) in length, and 3 km (two miles) in width to show the terrific extent of the blaze. Prairie fires were a menace to the early settlers. A good fire guard was necessary to protect homesteads in an era where there was no means of communicating to the residents of the imminent danger approaching. However even an excellent fire guard sometimes cannot sway the path of the towering inferno. The prairie fire of 1894 began near Silton, soared across Boggy Creek within an hour and soon carried over the Qu'Appelle River, two natural fire guards unable to diminish the course of the blaze. Residents within the Fire Districts came together to plough several furrows at a 45 degree angle to the wind direction hoping to narrow the fire and re-direct the aim of the devastation. Another technique used was to start a small back fire which was very small in size, and could be controlled. The theory was to remove fuel from the uncontrollable blaze thus creating a fire guard with a burned patch of land. If the fire was coming straight on to the home, settlers would drape themselves in water soaked blankets and thus covered up, lay down upon the field till the blaze had passed .
The early years saw immigrant homesteaders arriving who were coming to the "Last Best West" in search of land. After travelling for days aboard a steamer, and arriving at an Eastern Canadian or American port, the journey continued to the rail's end. These early travellers would then continue by ox and cart, horse and wagon or by foot to locate a surveyor's stake that defined the land they wished to lay claim to. They would then seek out the nearest provincial land titles agency for application forms. These first settlers were settled sparsely about the rural countryside and needed to erect a shelter and set up housekeeping with those sundry supplies they had brought with them. These early homes were "soddies" homes made from breaking the prairie turf and piling the sod for walls. Roofs were made of timber poles for framework, upon which more sod was laid. Once enough logs were cut, the sod homes were replaced by log houses.
Fire districts were later called Local Improvement Districts (1898), typically called LID, were the precursors of Rural Municipalities. December 13, 1909 saw the beginning of the discontinuance of Local improvement districts in favour of smaller rural municipal areas. LID were instrumental at improving the community, honouring those killed in action with the erection of War Memorial Cairns, establishing a suitable site for cemeteries and seeking adequate health care and the necessary hospital facilities where possible. In the early 1900s it was necessary for the councillors to seek a doctor's services to traverse the area ministering to the sick. The Spanish Flue epidemic hit communities hard. Many were sick, and anyone who was well, were taking care of those stricken with the illness, making coffins, burying the dead, and doing chores for families fallen to the flu. When the rail line came through, if the rail was laid down outside of town, the settlers came together to move the buildings from the first settlement three or four miles away to be placed astride the new transportation route. Old Nipawin picked up and moved their settlement. Settlers who came to the Parkside area, moved their businesses to Willis, when the rail came through. The movement to the rails caused the name of Willis to adopt the new name of Parkside, and the original Parkside location some four miles south and one mile west of the rails changed its name to Honeywood to avoid confusion.*
Typically, an RM consists of about nine townships, each six miles by six miles in area. Settled areas of denser populations could form urban municipalities with a village, town or city governance. Further improvements came to the rural municipalities in the form of consolidated schools replacing the one room schoolhouse, telephone lines came in the early 1900s, electrical power lines were installed in the 1950s, followed by the installation of farm water and sewer. The councillors were required to provide ensure an adequate water supply and improve recreational facilities. Early streets were gravelled, street lights installed, trees planted in parks and in the community, community rinks, ball diamonds, horse race tracks and arenas were typical improvements to the rural areas. Farmers welcomed irrigation which arrived following world war two, an improvement made available by Prairie Farm Assistance, Federal Government grants, and the Saskatchewan Department of Agriculture supplements.
Municipal councils are afforded political powers having corporate status incorporated to govern a territory. The rural areas are in need of core infrastructure and essential services including, animal control, building codes, crime prevention, emergency measures organisation, fire prevention, garbage removal, land planning, recreational faciliities, and program implementation, roads and transport, snow and ice removal, water and sewer treatment facilities. Council has within its authority the ability to decide if a day or a portion of a day is a civic holiday. North of the tree line in northern Saskatchewan the large Northern Local Improvement District was replaced by the Department of Northern Saskatchewan in 1972 and was not subdivided into smaller Rural Municipalities.
Old Post, Saskatchewan is the largest Rural Municipality encompassing 1,757.00 square kilometers in area and it was formed from the last Local Improvement District. Saskatchewan's largest and smallest rural municipalities in terms of population are the RM of Corman Park No. 344 and the RM of Glen McPherson No. 46 with populations of 8,354 and 73 respectively. There are currently close to 300 rural municipalities serving in Saskatchewan ranging in number from Argyle No. 1 to Beaver River No. 622.
For more information:
Rural Municipalities of Saskatchewan
1921 Canada Census: Place of Habitation :: Rural Municipalities Delves into changes in RM placenames
13 ways to kill a community Doug Griffiths. Saskatchewan South East Enterprise Region. 2014 SSEER.
From buffalo grass to wheat : a history of Long Lake district Shiels, Leonard A.
The golden jubilee of the Nipawin rural municipality, no.487 : 1913-1963 Allan, Gladys Lillian Lamb, Allan, Billie Lamb. Publication information Codete, Saskatchewan: s.n., 1964
Happy Valley happenings : Big Beaver and district Big Beaver Historical Society
History of Rural Municipality of Excelsior No. 166 : 1910-1967 Charles Lee. Publication information Saskatchewan: R.M. of Excelsior, 1967
List of Rural Municipalities in Saskatchewan
Memories and musings : book II Leonard Loppe. c2002
Municipal Relations Home/About Municipal Relations/Municipal Administration/Elections-General/Understanding the Role, Time Commitment and Powers of Municipal Council Government of Saskatchewan.
Reflections of the Past. History of Parkside and the Districts of Bygland, Cameo, Hilldrop, Honeywood, Ordale and Spruce Glen. Compiled and published by Parkside and District History Book Committee. c1991.page 626.
Municipal Council Member Handbook Government of Saskatchewan Advisory Services and Municipal Relations Branch. March 2012
Rural Municipality Wikipedia
Rural Municipal Administrators' Association (RMAA)
The Saskatchewan Association of Rural Municipalities (SARM)
Urban Municipal Administrators Association of Saskatchewan (UMAAS)