• Publication Date: September 25, 2015
  • ISBN: Print (Paperback): 9781552214084
  • ISBN: Digital (PDF): 9781552214091
  • 254 pages; 6" x 9"
Filed Under: Legal History

A Thirty Years’ War

The Failed Public/Private Partnership that Spurred the Creation of the Toronto Transit Commission, 1891-1921


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Product Description

Between 1891 and 1921, the Toronto Railway Company operated Toronto’s streetcars under a franchise granted by the City. The arrangement brought the City a modern electric streetcar system, but the relationship between the two entities was a tempestuous one, marked and marred by almost constant conflict and confrontation. Remarkably, the many court battles that resulted went to the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council on fourteen separate occasions. This book details these legal disputes, and along the way, links them to the city’s expansion and development, its municipal politics, the provincial debates over public ownership of many kinds of utilities, and the legal culture of the day, which reveals a remarkable faith in the courts. This is a fascinating historical story set in its own time and milieu, but which also has considerable contemporary relevance as Toronto — and Canada’s other major urban centres — wrestle with their modern transportation problems. It will be of interest not only to legal historians, but also to those interested in transit and municipal history, and in the correct balance between public and private ownership.

— The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History

Foreword by Andy Byford



A Note on Terminology


Chapter 1: Laying the Groundwork for Conflict, 1891–92

Chapter 2: Seeking the Upper Hand, 1892–93

Chapter 3: Ice, Snow, and a Temporary Thaw, 1893–99

Chapter 4: Crowded Streetcars, 1899–1903

Chapter 5: Uncrowded Suburbs, 1904–07

Chapter 6: A New Battleground, 1907–11

Chapter 7: Seeking Victory By Other Means, 1912–14

Chapter 8: A War of Attrition, 1915–20

Chapter 9: Finishing with the Old Regime, 1921–24

Epilogue: Lessons Learned

A Note on Sources

Appendix: Conditions of sale of the Street Railway Franchise of the City of Toronto, as adopted by the City Council May 5th, 1891



“[A] thoughtful and very timely book. . . . A Thirty Years’ War describes, in great detail, a dynamic and a political dialogue that is still so relevant today. . . . [The book] provides invaluable guidance on how to avoid pitfalls from the past. . . . [I]t flags lessons learned, as, once again, injection of private cash is being mooted as an option to renew and expand our transit system.”

Andy Byford, Chief Executive Officer, Toronto Transit Commission (from the Foreword)

“To understand the evolution of cities at the end of the nineteenth
century and the first two decades of the twentieth, Ian Kyer’s study of
the relationship between Toronto’s councils and the City’s privately
owned transportation system is essential reading. Kyer writes with
authority, but with no hint of stodginess. I do not hesitate to
recommend A Thirty Years’ War, not only to today’s Torontonians, but to readers across the country.”

R.B. Fleming, Author of The Railway King of Canada
“Civil litigators, municipal law specialists, transportation law counsel and members of the solicitors’ bar interested in the psychology of negotiating contracts to the point of brinksmanship (not to mention those, like me, interested in legal history) are invited to read this 254 page gem [ . . .] The study of an historical legal subject, when ably undertaken as in this case, serves contemporary needs and draws much needed light on present-day controversies. A Thirty Year’s War may be enjoyed on many levels, but will prove valuable for advocates and for those who wish to avoid litigation.”
Justice Gilles Renaud, Ontario Court of Justice
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