Journal article

The role of municipalities in stimulating economic growth: Evidence from the petroleum manufacturing industry in southern Ontario, 1860--1960

1 Jan 2008

This dissertation concerns the role of Canadian municipalities in stimulating economic growth. In particular, it focuses on the ability of municipal governments to stimulate the accelerated, sustained growth of local industry sectors through appropriate and timely public policies and actions.

The case is the petroleum manufacturing industry in southern Ontario during the period 1860-1960. This industry first developed following the discovery of crude oil deposits in southwestern Ontario during the 1850s. By the early 1860s, the petroleum manufacturing industry had begun to centre on the eastern outskirts of London, in a place that came to be named London East. The industry remained concentrated there until the early 1880s, when it shifted to Petrolia, a village in the centre of the crude oil producing region. At the century's close, the industry shifted again, this time to Sarnia, where it remained concentrated throughout the first half of the twentieth century, and was greatly expanded during and shortly after the Second World War by the development there of a large petrochemical manufacturing industry.

To assess the influence of municipalities on the development of the petroleum manufacturing industry in these three urban areas, this dissertation relies on documents and records held in various archives and private collections, as well as other contemporary sources, including government publications and newspapers. The main conclusion is that municipalities can stimulate the accelerated, sustained growth of local industry sectors by implementing land use policies that encourage the dense spatial clustering of industry sectors within their territories, by accommodating the transportation requirements of industry sectors through timely, strategic infrastructure investments, and by assisting with their land assembly needs at critical moments through the use of municipal land expropriation powers.

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