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
About the author
C. Ian Kyer is a distinguished lawyer, historian, and author. For more than thirty years he practised law with the Faskens law firm, where he led the Technology and Intellectual Property Group. Ranked as one of Canada’s top 500 lawyers, he has advised both private sector parties and federal, provincial, and municipal governments on numerous projects, including public-private partnerships. He has often been praised for his even-handed approach and his ability to bring parties together. But Ian was an historian before he became a lawyer (with a PhD in Medieval ecclesiastical history), and on his retirement from the Faskens partnership, he has returned to history. He has written a history of the Faskens firm, an historical novel about Salieri and his relationship to Mozart, and numerous short biographies for the Dictionary of Canadian Biography.
“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
“[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)
"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