Overview of Port Coquitlam’s History
When European explorers discovered this region in the early 1800s, the Coast Salish people had already been hunting, fishing and farming between the Pitt and Coquitlam rivers for thousands of years.
By the 1860s, homesteads, businesses and roads were sprouting up throughout the area. Surveyed land was selling for 10 shillings an acre, and two reserves were set aside for the Kwikwetlem First Nation (kʷikʷəƛ̓əm), named for Chief Kwikwetlem William.
In 1886, the first train passed through the Westminster Junction railway station on what is now Kingsway Avenue, further spurring growth. CPR moved its freight operations to the site of Port Coquitlam from Vancouver in 1911.
Promoters and speculators during the 1911 “Panama Fever” era visualized a great port because the area bordered the banks of the Fraser River. Port Coquitlam never grew as quickly as they imagined it would, but its natural beauty and charm attracted many residents and businesses.
A City is Born
An estimated 1,200-1,500 people had settled in the area when the City of Port Coquitlam was incorporated on March 7, 1913, splitting off from the largely rural District of Coquitlam. Lively Kingsway Avenue, the town centre, was lined with businesses and wooden sidewalks, while CPR was the biggest employer.
A devastating fire on Kingsway in 1920 shifted the downtown to the Shaughnessy Street area, where City Hall had been built in 1914.
Growth was slowed by war and the Great Depression, but the end of the Second World War in 1945 and completion of Lougheed Highway in 1948 brought an influx of residents and businesses. Between 1941 and 1951, the population more than doubled from 1,539 to 3,232. By 1961 it had more than doubled again, to 8,111.
Coming into Its Own
By 1980, when a young Port Coquitlam hero named Terry Fox inspired the world with his Marathon of Hope, the population was about 27,000.
The late 1990s and 2000s saw more population and infrastructure growth, with the renovation of City Hall, Hyde Creek Recreation Centre and the Port Coquitlam Recreation Complex, and construction of Fire Hall #1, the Operations Centre, Leigh Square Community Arts Village, Coast Meridian Overpass and other facilities. The population reached 50,000 in the early 2000s.
Today and Tomorrow
Today, Port Coquitlam is a community of 61,000 with a strategic location in Metro Vancouver, a healthy base of businesses, new commercial and industrial areas, 271 hectares of parkland including the 25-km Traboulay PoCo Trail, well-established neighbourhoods, and a strong sense of community spirit known as PoCo Pride. It also has a growing reputation for progressive governance and for its innovative approaches to managing waste, sustainable development and using technology to engage the community.
Yet while it has grown and remained relevant to the changing times, the City has retained its small-town charm, its authentic historic downtown core, and a tradition of community involvement. This unique blend of the best of the past and the present will continue to serve Port Coquitlam well in the years to come.
Local Government and City Council
Since the City of Port Coquitlam was incorporated in 1913, the years have brought about various changes to its City Council structure and election process.
Mayoralty contests, for example, were held annually from 1913 to 1923. Port Coquitlam Mayors began serving two-year terms in 1923. In 1990, the Local Government Act increased the term of office to three years. R. C. Galer was Port Coquitlam’s longest-serving Mayor, serving 21 consecutive years from 1925 to 1945.
The number of councillors and their selection have also changed over time. From 1913 to 1968, the community elected five aldermen for two-year terms. In 1969, this number increased to six and the elected officials were called Councillors. The term of office for a Councillor increased to three years in 1990 and to four years in 2014.