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Judge reserves decision on amalgamation law

A Court of Queen's Bench justice has reserved judgment on whether dozens of tiny Manitoba municipalities should be bound by the province's new municipal-amalgamation law.

The Association of Manitoba Municipalities wants the court to declare the jurisdictions should not be required to merge with their neighbours because of the actions of a provincial cabinet minister.

They argued this week Municipal Government Minister Stan Struthers overstepped his legal authority last fall when he wrote letters to 42 municipalities pressing them to merge with their neighbours in advance of a Dec. 1 deadline for submitting amalgamation plans to the province.

The province is requiring 85 municipalities with populations under 1,000 merge with neighbouring jurisdictions.

The legislation was signalled in the 2012 throne speech, but it didn't come into effect until last September.

The municipalities argue Struthers crossed the line when he prescribed certain mergers in his letter while the municipalities were still negotiating with their neighbours. In some cases, jurisdictions had several different merger options. They argue any potential negotiations were poisoned by the minister's interference.

Although some of the 42 municipalities who received the letters still plan to amalgamate to form larger municipalities, several others want the court to remedy the situation by freeing them altogether of the requirement to amalgamate.

Comments are not accepted on this story because they might prejudice a case before the courts.

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