Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


This thesis, based mainly on provincial and federal government and Hydro-Electric Power Commission of Ontario (HEPC) records, seeks to show how electricity was provided to the rural residents of Ontario. The first rural customers were added to the Commission's lines in 1912, and Hydro's engineers spent several years thereafter devising new applications of electricity for farm residents. Hydro tried, moreover, to create a rural rate schedule that conformed with its dictum of providing "power at cost on an equal basis to all." By 1920, the HEPC was organizing Rural Power Districts, the administrative foundation on which its rural program would be built.;Agrarian and small town discontent over the slow progress and high cost of Hydro's rural service was partially placated by the decision of E. C. Drury's Farmer-Labour government in 1921 to use provincial funds to pay half of all rural primary transmission line construction costs. Three years later, the grants-in-aid were extended to include secondary lines. During the Great Depression, Hydro and the Ferguson, Henry and Hepburn governments were able to sustain the moderate growth achieved in the Rural System during the 1920s. However, changes such as service charge reductions, low interest loans, free power, and shorter service contracts produced mixed results. Then, in 1941, wartime materials and power restrictions imposed by the Dominion government brought the HEPC's rural construction program to an abrupt halt.;The Commission spent the war years tinkering with rate schedules, reorganizing the Rural Power Districts, and repelling the latest in a series of "flat rate" agitations that dated back to 1918. In 1946, urged on by the Progressive Conservative government of George Drew, the HEPC launched a "Five-Year Plan of Post-War Rural Hydro Development." The plan's objective of 85% farm electrification was achieved in just four years, but rural extensions continued apace until 1958. In that year the provincial grant-in-aid was rescinded in Old Ontario, that is to say in the area of the province south of Lake Nipissing. While much of rural Ontario was not served by Ontario Hydro until after World War II, the thesis nonetheless makes the case that the publicly-owned utility was a world leader in the field of rural electrification.



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