Portage-Lisgar Community Spotlight

The following is a random profile from Portage-Lisgar:

City of Portage la Prairie

Website: www.city.portage-la-prairie.mb.ca

On the map for 170 years since La Verendrye was on the scene (1738), 50 years since Archdeacon Cochrane had brought the first settlers to this prairie wonderland (1853), and Portage has been a town for 25 years (1881), some of the local entrepreneurs felt it was time to think of something bigger and of our future. As we marched into the new century, Portage la Prairie had many fine brick buildings – six banks, numerous imposing churches, well-stocked department stores, and farm implement distribution warehouses.
There were flour mills, oat mills and brick yards. The census revealed we had exceeded 5,000 souls and were growing, so why not think BIG? A “City” like Winnipeg or Brandon?
A fine start had been made in putting in a water and sewer system, and the rotting wooden sidewalks were being replaced by concrete. The Canadian Pacific Railway, which had arrived in Portage 25 years before, had been joined by the Manitoba and North West Railway, The Canadian Northern and the Great Northern.
The Grand Trunk was approaching soon. All these mainlines converged at Portage. Immigrants were flooding the prairies, and Portage was supplying them. Chicago of the North, some said. So a new charter was drawn up and the Province was persuaded to approve it and give us a “city” form of local government. Although there was some talk of giving the new city a different shorter name, it was decided to keep the old longer one, which tells a whole history lesson by itself.
A hundred years ago, then, on February 13, 1907, we became THE CITY OF PORTAGE LA PRAIRIE.
By Barry Bills
The Portage Heritage Advisory Committee would like to acknowledge the efforts of those Portagers whose dreams and aspirations brought about the city status in 1907. Congratulations to the city on reaching this milestone and may the city continue to grow and prosper into the future.
Portage’s first step along the path to city status came with the establishment of the Twenty Thousand Club in September 1906. This group of citizens created a surge of civic loyalty and pride which demanded measures to increase Portage’s population, prestige and prosperity. This club sponsored the publication of lavishly illustrated brochures promoting Portage as a most desirable place to settle and conduct business. And when the Census Bureau in Ottawa released figures from the 1906 census showing that Portage’s population had exceeded 5,000 (actually 5,106), the Twenty Thousand Club demanded that the town become a city.
These Portage boosters made it clear that only city status could provide the powers necessary to attract business and settlers, and bring the community’s population up to the targeted level of 20,000 citizens over a period of years. Portage’s town council enthusiastically endorsed these ideas and directed the town solicitor to formulate a resolution for a city charter.
Special meetings of the town council debated what special powers should be placed in the charter. These would included the power to purchase lands for industrial use, create incentives for businesses, issue debentures to raise funds for city projects, purchase lands outside the city boundaries, and expropriate private businesses within the city such as Portage’s Central Electric Light Company. Council entrusted lawyer Edward Anderson, a former Portager now a resident of Winnipeg, with the task of drafting and guiding the proposed charter through the Manitoba Legislature.
Under his guidance a delegation from Portage led by Mayor Edward Brown met with the Law Amendments Committee in Winnipeg and persuaded them to endorse the proposed charter. As a result, the Charter of the City of Portage la Prairie received royal assent February 13, 1907, and Portage became the third city to be created in Manitoba after Winnipeg and Brandon.
The Daily Graphic had already held a vote on whether the new city should be given a new name, or retain the name Portage la Prairie. Voting was light to say the least. Only 92 ballots were completed, although many people expressed their views in person at the Daily Graphic office, but failed to fill in a ballot. However, 87% voted to retain the existing name. Today, Portage la Prairie has a steady population of 13,000, but has not yet reached the goal originally set by the Twenty Thousand Club.
Present day city boosters continue their efforts to promote its growth and prosperity which is evident in residential and industrial development and the many public services available that contribute to the well being of the community.