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James Ditson Service

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James Ditson Service
1st Mayor of North York
In office
1 January 1967 – 31 December 1969
Preceded byPosition created
Succeeded byBasil Hall
10th Reeve of North York
In office
1 January 1965 – 31 December 1966
Preceded byNorman Goodhead
Succeeded byposition abolished
Personal details
James Ditson Service

(1926-05-24)May 24, 1926
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
DiedAugust 21, 2014(2014-08-21) (aged 88)
Toronto, Ontario
Political partyIndependent (Municipal)
Other political
Liberal (Federal/Provincial)
Josephine Service (m. 1951)
Children4 daughters[1]
Alma materVictoria College, University of Toronto; Osgoode Hall Law School

James Ditson Service (24 May 1926 – 1 August 2014)[2] was the last reeve and the first mayor of North York, Ontario and oversaw a period of intensification of property development in the municipality.[3] He was also a property developer himself, and co-founder of what is now CHIN Radio/TV International.[2][4]

He was elected reeve of what what was then North York Township in the 1964 civic election, unseating Norman Goodhead by campaigning as a reformer.[1] When he became reeve, North York was the largest suburb in Metropolitan Toronto and the fourth largest municipality in Canada after Montreal, the (pre-amalgamation) City of Toronto, and Vancouver.[5] During his tenure as reeve, North York's status was changed from township to borough as a result of reforms and consolidation in the organization of Metropolitan Toronto that reduced the number of municipalities within Metro from a collection of towns, townships, and villages surrounding the City of Toronto to five boroughs and one city, effective 1 January 1967.[6]

Service was born in Toronto in 1926 and grew up in the North Toronto area was educated at North Toronto Collegiate Institute. After getting his undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, where he attended Victoria College, in 1950, he went to Osgoode Hall Law School for his law degree, graduating in 1955.[7][2][5] He moved to North York in 1954, buying a house in the Forest Grove neighbourhood off of Bayview Avenue.[5]

He ran for town council and was elected councillor for Ward 7 in 1958 and was re-elected in 1960. He first ran for reeve in the 1962 municipal election, but failed to unseat Norman Goodhead, but won when he faced him again in 1964.[5]

During the 1966 municipal election, he campaigned on building what became the North York Civic Centre on Yonge Street that would generate new development in the vicinity,[1] hoping to create a new downtown with office towers and high-rise apartments along Yonge Street in Willowdale.[8] As mayor in 1968, he proposed a high-density office tower development at Yonge and Sheppard Avenue, the first in the area, which would be approved by the Ontario Municipal Board in 1971.[9] As a result of his pro-development polices, during his mayoralty North York led the country in the value of building permits approved.[3]

Service did not run for re-election in 1969 but continued, as a private citizen, to work for redevelopment on Yonge Street as well as building the "Metrodome".[3][10] After he was mayor and acting as a private developer, he secured permission from the Ontario Municipal Board to build a 10-storey office tower opposite the Civic Centre.[11] In 1969, he proposed the construction of a 62,000 domed stadium on surplus land at Downsview Airport in hopes of securing a Major League Baseball franchise for Toronto.[12] After leaving politics, he was part of a committee created by North York to try to secure both a domed stadium and a Major League team, and was involved with trying to arrange for the San Diego Padres to move to Toronto.[13][14]

Service was a Liberal and a close confidante of Keith Davey, a senior federal Liberal advisor,[1] and was also friends with Prime Minister Lester Pearson.[5] While out of office, he He ran as a candidate for the Ontario Liberal Party in the 1963 Ontario general election, losing to Progressive Conservative Dalton Bales in York Mills.[2]

Outside of politics, in 1965, he and Johnny Lombardi purchased Radio 1540 Limited, and the rights to the 1540 AM frequency in Toronto, from Ted Rogers in order to found CHIN-AM, Canada's first multilingual radio station.[15] He also worked with Lombardi to secure a license for CHIN-FM from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission in 1967.[2] However, by 1970, he and Lombardi had fallen out and Service attempted to have the CRTC revoke CHIN's license and award it to him instead, due to alleged mismanagement and breach of broadcasting regulations.[4][16][2]

In the 1970s, in addition to developing property in North York, Ditson also worked as a property developer in London, Ontario and St. Catharines, Ontario.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 "Candidates for Mayor", The Globe and Mail (1936-2016); Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]02 Dec 1966: 12.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 "James Ditson Service 1926-2014", Toronto Star (2010 - Recent); Toronto, Canada [Toronto, Canada]06 Aug 2014: GT7.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 "Service still wants sportsdome: A family decision", The Globe and Mail (1936-2016); Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]22 Oct 1969: 5
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Lombardi buys out Service", Staff. The Globe and Mail (1936-2016); Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]18 June 1970: 10.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 "MUNICIPAL AFFAIRS: James Service: a mandate for change in North York", Godfrey, Scott. The Globe and Mail (1936-2016); Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]23 Jan 1965: 9.
  6. "Resources on Former Municipalities>Metropolitan Toronto Records>Important Dates". City of Toronto. City of Toronto. Retrieved 13 September 2020.
  7. "Mayors ain't what they used to be": [1 Edition] Toronto Star; Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]26 Jan 1999: 1.
  8. "They'd pave paradise", The Globe and Mail; Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]12 Dec 1981: F.3.
  9. "High-density project for Yonge-Sheppard gets OMB approval", The Globe and Mail (1936-2016); Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]23 Jan 1971: 5.
  10. "Service cleans out the office of mayor", The Globe and Mail (1936-2016); Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]25 Dec 1969: 8
  11. "Service's North York tower approved", The Globe and Mail (1936-2016); Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]05 Feb 1977: 5
  12. "FROM THE ARCHIVES", The Globe and Mail; Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]25 June 1994: A.2.
  13. "Where are they now? BUZZIE BAVASI Baseball" Patton, Paul. The Globe and Mail; Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]20 Feb 1988: C.7.
  14. "North York names 17 io work toward dome, major-league teams", The Globe and Mail (1936-2016); Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]01 Apr 1970: 31
  15. "In 1540 Slot: Lombardi Approved In Radio Proposal", The Globe and Mail (1936-2016); Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]25 June 1965: 15.
  16. "Lombardi keeps CHIN frequency", The Globe and Mail (1936-2016); Toronto, Ont. [Toronto, Ont]07 Nov 1970: 29

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