The Downside of Amalgamation

Since the late 1960′s and early 1970’s, Schumacher began to really change, in large part due to a growing movement towards centralization, amalgamation and globalization.

The first shock came in the 1960’s when the Ontario government began centralizing schools and building larger English & French public and Catholic schools all around the province. In 1968, this resulted in Schumacher High School being closed. Although the high school was repurposed as the District School Board office, its students had to attend a new high school in South Porcupine or go to Timmins. Since then Schumacher students have been bused to schools all over the city, which has lead to a loss of community identity and social cohesion.

Schumacher High School Football team

The Schumacher High School football team photographed at the entrance of the school. Frank Mahovlich, hockey star of the future, is #21. (Schumacher High School Reunion Booklet 1934-68)

The second and most serious impact came on January 1, 1973 when communities in the Porcupine mining camp were forced by the Ontario government to amalgamate into the newly created City of Timmins, even though the municipal townships of Tisdale (Schumacher, South Porcupine) and Whitney (Porcupine) were opposed to it. They put forward, A Proposal for an Alternative Plan for Local Government Reform in the Porcupine Area, that recommended a two- tiered governance structure that would have Timmins & Mountjoy amalgamate and Tisdale & Whitney do the same, along with the establishment of an appointed regional planning board to address issues that affected them all. But this was dismissed in 1972 when Ontario Municipal Affairs Minister, Darcy McKeough, arrived at The Mac auditorium under OPP escort to announce that amalgamation was going ahead – no matter what the people in Tisdale or Whitney wanted.

Due to forced amalgamation, the east end communities of Schumacher, South Porcupine and Porcupine lost their socio-political power and economic tax base. In a new political arrangement, Timmins had the majority of elected representatives on City Council (currently 4), while Schumacher, South Porcupine, Porcupine and Mountjoy had the same (currently 1 each). This gave the west end (Timmins & Mountjoy) supremacy over the east end (Schumacher, South Porcupine, Porcupine). This loss of political and economic control is dramatically noticeable when you look at residential and commercial land use and municipal infrastructure development since 1973 – which has consistently favoured the west end communities over the east end.

Economically, hundreds of millions of dollars worth of taxes collected from east end mining operations over the past 45 years (McIntyre, Dome, Hollinger, Aunor, Hallnor, Pamour, Bell Creek, Kidd Met & Smelter site to name just a few) has primarily gone to develop and expand the west end, and has not been equitably shared with the east end communities where the mines are located. Over time, the east end communities, Schumacher in particular, became more isolated and neglected by the City of Timmins.

Even today, government decisions at all three levels are being made by and for the benefit of west end communities. No other people and place amalgamated into the City of Timmins has experienced more negative impacts and loss of community assets than Schumacher (social, political, cultural, spiritual, environmental, business). The following is a listing of them.

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1) With all recreational activities now centralized and controlled by the City of Timmins, the Parks & Recreation Department purchased the Schumacher Lions Club swimming pool in the 1970′s, but sold it back to the club when a new arena and swimming pool complex was built in Timmins. This resulted in the Lion’s swimming pool being closed and the land being sold. This was the first community asset the people of Schumacher lost due to amalgamation – but not the last.

2) In the 1980’s, the Ontario government decided to eliminate passenger railway service into Timmins and pulled out all the rails lines between Schumacher and Timmins, While the Timmins and South Porcupine train stations remained open and were repurposed, this was not the fate of the historical train station that Mr. Schumacher built in 1911. Schumacher’s railway station was closed and then demolished to build a four lane highway that bypassed Schumacher, rather than being moved, preserved and repurposed as a community museum and tourism office like many other communities have done. This historical building was the second community asset lost.

Train Station

(Schumacher Train Station – built by Frederick. W. Schumacher in 1911)

3) With significant vehicle traffic driving between the Kidd Smelter & Met site located past Porcupine in the east end and Timmins in the west end, there was a need to address cross-town transportation infrastructure in the city during the early 1980’s, resulting in a political debate. Two proposals were on the table. i) The City recommended that Highway 101 be four-laned and pass through Porcupine, bypass most of South Porcupine, four laned or twinned in each direction through Schumacher, go through downtown Timmins and all the way to the Timmins Square mall in Mountjoy. ii) The second route proposed by Schumacher residents (CART – Committee for an Alternative Route for Timmins) was to upgrade Murphy Road, a gravel road that ran north of Porcupine and South Porcupine, into a paved arterial road that would begin by the Pamour Mine at Highway 101 in Porcupine and run to Highway 655 in Timmins.

City officials framed this traffic problem as a “bottleneck in Schumacher” and how to get traffic through or around Schumacher as quickly as possible, even though there was an alternative route being proposed by CART. There was a stalemate when City council voted against four laning or twinning roads in Schumacher. But when passenger rail service was eliminated, it provided a potential corridor to build a four- lane highway to bypass Schumacher.

So the first road option became increasing the amount of traffic on a four-laned Highway 101 that would bypass Schumacher’s downtown business area. CART’s option would diffuse traffic allowing Kidd Smelter & Met site workers and residents two routes to drive from the east to the west end’s of the city. This option would have expanded commercial and residential development potential in the east end on an upgraded Murphy Road arterial, while still allowing a significant amount of traffic to move along Highway 101 through Porcupine, South Porcupine, downtown Schumacher and Timmins all the way to the mall in Mountjoy.

Look west on First Avenue in the 1950s

Look west on First Avenue in the 1950s

Unfortunately the first road option was chosen. Highway 101 was four-laned and built around Schumacher. As predicted, its downtown business area was devastated. Dozens of businesses closed soon after due to the loss of local traffic passing by Schumacher’s downtown and going to Timmins and the mall in Mountjoy. Government promises of money and programs to mitigate the loss of business closures in Schumacher was short lived and withdrawn after a few years. Now, Schumacher has a handful of businesses on its main street, resulting in a significant loss of social and economic vibrancy. This decision has crippled Schumacher ever since.

Currently, Highway 101 traffic between Porcupine and Mountjoy is clogging up the highway and intersections. Large mining ore trucks are tearing up roads and causing safety issues. The irony is that governments are now spending millions of dollars to maintain Highway 101 and trying to rectify this situation, which could have been mitigated if they listened to Schumacher residents.

4) From the late1980’s and early 1990’s, governments gave permission to Jimberlana, an Australian mining company that bought the McIntrye Mine property to “dig up the McIntyre Park” and extract gold remaining in the mine tailings. But, government officials did not thoroughly investigate if the mining technology to extract, transport and process the tailings would work properly. Unfortunately it did not and with numerous technical problems and low gold prices their operations ceased, with the company leaving town soon after.

[McIntyre Park & Tennis Courts (top & middle), Rail Line & Train Station (bottom left) - before all being destroyed]

[McIntyre Park & Tennis Courts (top & middle), Rail Line & Train Station (bottom left) – before all being destroyed]

This resulted in the beautiful McIntyre Park being completely destroyed and leaving nothing but a “toxic lake” and huge security fence around it for years. It became known as Lake Welin after a former Timmins Mayor, Dennis Welin, who asked the Schumacher Lions Club to revitalize and beautify the park again, which they agreed to do. With on-going volunteer efforts and community spirit, Schumacher is slowly getting its park back. Will the Lion’s Club’s vision of a walking trail and park all around Pearl Lake become a reality? We can only hope as the Lions Club is in discussions with government and mining company officials regarding this community initiative.

5) The Schumacher Public Library was closed in 1997 after the City built a new public library in Timmins. The loss of this community asset has prevented parents, students and seniors in Schumacher from connecting with each other in a socially and culturally enriching setting.

6) Also in the late 1990’s St. Francis of Assisi Catholic elementary school was closed, sending more Schumacher students to schools elsewhere in the city. Fortunately, North Eastern Ontario Family and Children’s Mental Health repurposed it as the F.W. Schumacher residence in 2000.

7) Trinity United and St. Chad’s Anglican churches have all closed due to dwindling attendance. Primarily caused by numerous political decisions that have negatively impacted Schumacher’s ability to keep and attract families due to a continuous loss of community assets and services (social, recreational, cultural, business).

8) Even when Schumacher has something great going for it, it seems forces in Timmins always want to undermine the community. Under protest by parishioners that went all the way to the Pope in Rome, St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Schumacher was forced to close in 2005 by the Catholic Diocese of Timmins, even though the church had a large congregation, was financially healthy, and actively serving the spiritual and social needs in the community.

(St. Alphonsus Catholic Church – last mass before closing on April 3, 2005)

(St. Alphonsus Catholic Church – last mass before closing on April 3, 2005)

The primary reason for closure was the Catholic Bishop had a cathedral in Timmins that needed significant repairs and renovations, but few parishioners to cover these costs. So, he forced the closure of St. Alphonsus Church to attract more followers and donations. Even though the people in Schumacher built and maintained the church since the late 1930’s, the Diocese put the church up for sale, rather than working collaboratively with the parishioners and other community stakeholders to try and repurpose it as a community asset.

So, Schumacher has no places of worship where residents can practice their spiritual faith.

9) The Timmins Extendicare long-term nursing home was the only significant community asset built in Schumacher since amalgamation in 1973. But in 2015 it was closed due to over-crowding and an aging building. Again, a new replacement facility was constructed in Timmins instead of rebuilding in Schumacher. This was another significant loss for the community as it was a valuable social service asset.

10) The McIntyre Community Building is of historical significance, but also a very large trade & convention centre situated next to a beautiful park setting over looking Pearl Lake and the iconic McIntyre Mine head frame. It’s also a few blocks from Schumacher’s main street and the Croatian Hall, where from 1938 right up to amalgamation, they all formed a waterfront visitor and tourism hub that socially, culturally and economically tied into and fed off of each other.

Like many other cities that have dynamic waterfront tourist hubs, The Mac and Schumacher can provide the City of Timmins with the perfect opportunity to develop its tourism sector. With numerous events and attractions centred in and around The Mac, Schumacher is ideally located to attract tourist related enterprises like restaurants & pubs, retail shops, boutique hotels, bed & breakfasts, cultural activities at the Croatian Hall, and all within close walking distance.

In 1939, the McIntyre Community Building was one year old, and fulfilling its function of service and entertainment.

In 1939, the McIntyre Community Building was one year old, and fulfilling its function of service and entertainment.

Instead of capitalizing on this opportunity, The Mac has often been threatened with closure and demolition, while Schumacher has been ignored and neglected for 45 years. If the Shania Twain Centre was built next to The Mac and Schumacher was properly developed as a water front tourism destination hub, it may still be operating, instead of losing money, demolished for the Hollinger open pit mine and costing governments a lot of tax payer money to build and operate.

11) Goldcorp owns mining properties all around the community of Schumacher (McIntyre, Hollinger, Coniaurum) that extend from Carium to Highway 655 to the Vipond and Gold Mine road’s. Governments recently approved a plan to operate an open pit mine on the Hollinger property until 2019 and build a road to haul gold ore from the pit to their mill at the Dome Mine. All of these mining related activities will directly affect the community of Schumacher. To facilitate resource extraction, a giant berm was built around the open pit mine to reduce noise & dust and prevent blasted debris from falling on streets, buildings and people in Schumacher.

There has been talk for years that the Hollinger open pit mine might be extended into the community of Schumacher, which has created significant uncertainty and anxiety for the people living there. This uncertainty has negatively affected real estate prices, but also how people living in and outside of Schumacher “psychologically and emotionally” perceive the community and its future. This perpetual state of uncertainty and paralysis that governments and mining companies have exerted over Schumacher for years has prevented its people and organizations from taking control and making plans to revitalize their community, using the surface land in and around it.

Although Goldcorp is currently working with government officials on a mine closure plan, whether the people in Schumacher will have a real say or receive significant benefits to help them rebuild and revitalize their community, which in large part has been destroyed by government and mining company decisions over the 45 years, is still a big question.

View of Schumacher from the Vipond Road looking north. Pearl Lake and the McIntyre Mine are in the background.

View of Schumacher from the Vipond Road looking north. Pearl Lake and the McIntyre Mine are in the background.

12) The latest news affecting Schumacher is the fate of the historical Schumacher Public School, opening in 1918. In April 2016, the Ontario North East District School Board announced that it was going to do a review of schools and Schumacher Public was on the list of possible closures. If this were to happen Schumacher would be decimated by another community asset lost due to government officials who don’t seem very interested in helping its people stabilize and try to revitalize their community. Without a school no one will want to raise a family in Schumacher.

Needless to say, after 45 years of isolation and neglect, the community of Schumacher is a shell of its former glory days before amalgamation. But there may be a glimmer of hope and a light at the end of a long dark tunnel for the people and community of Schumacher as other people and organizations discover what happened to them.

Dr. David Leadbeater is an economics professor at Laurentian University in Sudbury Ontario, who studies the effects of government policies and mining company operations on resource based communities in northern Canada. When he heard what happened to Schumacher since amalgamation it peaked his interest to learn more.

In 2014, he received some funding from the JP Bickell Foundation to begin researching the effects of municipal amalgamation on the City of Timmins, with a special focus on what happened to Schumacher and the east end communities of South Porcupine and Porcupine. He also received funding from the Schumacher Foundation to establish a website to mobilize the knowledge collected and disseminate the research findings nationally and internationally. (www.northerndemocracyinitiative.ca)

Schumacher Public School hockey team. Front row, left to right: Gordon Hammond, Quanto Baldwin, Frank Augustine, Carl Hannah, Bill Harris, Eric Arnott. Back row, left to right: Mr. Bill Wylie (teacher), Henry Fulton, Fred McNaughton, Elmer Turcotte, Leo Boissoneault, Jimmy Smith, Mr. Percy Boyce.

Schumacher Public School hockey team. Front row, left to right: Gordon Hammond, Quanto Baldwin, Frank Augustine, Carl Hannah, Bill Harris, Eric Arnott. Back row, left to right: Mr. Bill Wylie (teacher), Henry Fulton, Fred McNaughton, Elmer Turcotte, Leo Boissoneault, Jimmy Smith, Mr. Percy Boyce.

In January 2016, Dr. Leadbeater released his first research document entitled, Chronology of the Amalgamation forming the City of Timmins (1973), that looks at all of the various political and economic events that led to the creation of the City of Timmins in 1973. Over the next few years he plans to continue his research and publish more findings about amalgamation in Timmins.

To assist Dr. Leadbeater document what happened in Timmins, he is collaborating with Lloyd Salomone, a professional filmmaker whose documentary films have aired on CBC, APTN and the Bravo Channel. Lloyd grew up in Schumacher and plans to produce a documentary film about Timmins. Given what’s happened to Schumacher since amalgamation, the film will have a tragic ending unless the story of its people and those living in the east end communities is significantly altered and completely changed from its current direction and historical narrative.

Continue to The Future of Schumacher

Download the Historical Document –  Schumacher, Ontario: 60 years of Ups and 45 Years of Downs!