If at first you don’t succeed ... change the legislation to make it so.
That’s the message many mayors and reeves believe was sent in a letter from Local Government Minister Ron Lemieux informing them that he will create a new legislation that forces municipalities above a population threshold of 1,000 people to merge with smaller municipalities.
In a letter dated March 13, Lemieux said “The new legislation will require municipalities under 1,000 population and municipalities over I,000 population (who are the logical amalgamation partner for a municipality with less than 1,000 population) to develop an amalgamation plan.”
It further reads that: “The legislation will also provide the province with authority to expedite mergers.”
RM of Woodworth Reeve Denis Carter said his council is 100 per cent opposed to forced amalgamations and questions the leadership of a government that is willing to change laws to get its way.
“It’s very easy for Lemieux to stand up on his perch and tell us to do this, but why would we go out and do something that we know is going to cost our ratepayers more money?” Carter said.
In his letter, the minister says amalgamation can result in “reducing administrative cost and investing the savings into better services” and “realizing savings and efficiencies through economies of scale.”
Carter said it’s hypocritical for the provincial government, which accrued a $1-billion deficit last year alone, to tell municipalities how to save money.
“We have balanced budgets, no debt, and we know things aren’t balanced in Winnipeg,” Carter said. “But let’s go get after the RMs, that I think are doing a pretty good job.”
Carter’s RM was just one of 35 that signed a letter saying the amalgamation plan is ill-conceived and rushed.
The new legislation will be introduced this spring.
“We’re not doing a darn thing,” Carter said.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition March 15, 2013