The History of the Laurentian Learning Centre
Construction of Laurentian Public School
The original Laurentian Public School was built on September 29, 1957 at a cost of $200,000 after a lengthy approval process by the City of North Bay and the Ontario Municipal Board. The original by-law, providing for Laurentian’s construction, can be found here. In the 1960s, the 1757m2 (~19,000 sq. ft.) school underwent further construction with an addition to the southern portion of the school. No site plan was available at the time of writing. In the pre-2011 narratives an inspection was commenced. The structure consisted of a single story of block steel columns and beam constructions without a full basement. Laurentian Public School was a French Immersion school until 2011 when it underwent extensive renovations. After the renovations, it was converted into the Laurentian Learning Centre (LLC).
The running of Merle Dickerson
Merle Dickerson was mayor of North Bay for 20 years, from 1954-1960, 1966-1971, 1973-1980, and 1982-1984. First elected in the municipal election of 1953, he took office at the beginning of 1954. In 1955, he sent a list of parking tickets to the city manager with a request that they be “fixed”, forcing the council to take a vote to explicitly ban the practice. In 1958, he entered the nomination contest to be the Progressive Conservative candidate in Nipissing in the 1958 federal election, losing to former city councillor John Kennedy. In 1960, he extended an invitation to Fidel Castro to visit the city as judge of a community beard-growing contest. He stepped down from the mayoralty in the 1960 municipal election but ran for and won reelection as an alderman. He ran for mayor again in the 1965 municipal election. In 1966, he participated in a committee of mayors appointed to study the feasibility of Northern Ontario separating from Ontario to form a new province, alongside G. W. Maybury of Kapuskasing, Ernest Reid of Fort William, Leo Del Villano of Timmins, Max Silverman of Sudbury and Leo Foucault of Espanola. In 1967, he fended off an attempt to unseat him on the grounds of insolvency, after a businessman for whom he had previously cosigned a car loan declared bankruptcy. In 1968, he called upon the federal government to support a plan to build a canal to enable shipping traffic through Northern Ontario along the Ottawa River and French River systems. In his second stint as mayor, he served until 1971, when he ran for election to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario in the 1971 provincial election as an Ontario Progressive Conservative Party candidate in Nipissing. He lost to Richard Smith by a margin of just 44 votes. He then ran for reelection as mayor but was defeated by Bruce Goulet. He ran for mayor again in the 1973 municipal election, defeating Goulet. In 1975, Dickerson was arrested in a police raid on the Canton Gardens restaurant in North Bay, when he was found playing poker in an illegal gambling room. He was found guilty and sentenced to 15 days in jail. In the subsequent 1976 election, he was returned to office. He ran in the 1977 provincial election, again as a Progressive Conservative in Nipissing, and lost to Mike Bolan. In the 1978 municipal election, Dickerson was reelected for what he had stated during the campaign would be his final term as mayor. Following the election, however, he faced corruption charges spurred by allegations that he had offered bribes to ineligible voters, including an underage teenager and several non-residents of the city, to vote for him, as well as claims that he had offered a competitor, city councilor Ed Deibel, a job in exchange for his withdrawal from the mayoral race. On July 7, 1980, Judge Ward Allen of the Nipissing District Court found Dickerson guilty of the charges, ordering him immediately removed from the office and barring him from running in any election for two years. Despite not being able to run for office, he actively campaigned on behalf of other council candidates he favoured. Once he served his sentence, he ran again in the 1982 municipal election, hoping to rehabilitate his image. He was re-elected, although Deibel petitioned the Ontario Supreme Court for an injunction against Dickerson taking office, which was not granted. Dickerson remained in the office until his death on June 9, 1984