Why the Niagara-on-the-Lake mayor is actually called ‘Lord Mayor’

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Published March 23, 2023 at 11:10 am

Here's why Gary Zalepa is referred to a 'Lord Mayor' rather than just 'Mayor."(Photo: Denis Cahill)

Canada has thousands, if not tens of thousands, of mayors in cities and towns from coast-to-coast.

However, there is only one Lord Mayor in the entire country and at this moment, he is the elected leader of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

While to many it may sound a touch pretentious, by winning the mayoral race in October, his new title is Lord Mayor Gary Zalepa.

So where did this lofty sobriquet originate?

It’s not been 100 per cent confirmed, but legend suggests that England’s Prince Edward, the Duke of Kent and Strathearn (1767-1820), bestowed the title upon the mayor of Niagara during a visit to the town in the early 19th century, in recognition of the town’s history as the first capital of Upper Canada.

While it was a title of common usage in Britain, particularly in those days, no one used it here, opting simply for Mayor, instead. That does sound odd since Canada was not yet a country and the majority of residents, outside of the Indigenous, were from England.

That changed in the early 1920s when Jerry Mussen took a liking to the Lord Mayor moniker and started using it. But after Mussen, it once again fell out of favour and was used only sporadically.

Some 50-plus years ago, that changed once again when the Regional Municipality of Niagara Act of 1969 actually legislated that “The mayor of the Town of Niagara-on-the-Lake shall be known as the Lord Mayor.”

Excluding Mussen, there have now been 12 Lord Mayors since that 1969 declaration.

 

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