It is almost one year since Local Government Minister Ron Lemieux grasped the podium with both hands, looked up and said “there will be amalgamations.”
He did this last November at the AMM convention in Winnipeg. I can’t wait to hear this year’s decree. I will watch for the hands reaching out to the sides of the podium.
It is too bad that he didn’t stand up two years ago, grasp the podium and say “we think there are too many of you and we want you to plan some amalgamations before the next election.” That would have sent out a clear message to the municipal representatives in attendance that changes are coming.
This decree was done completely without consultation and was a “father knows best” statement if I have ever heard one. Now Mr. Lemieux has thanked everyone for coming to the committee presentations in Winnipeg and he has advised that changes have been made because of those presentations. You can decide for yourself how significant they are, but at least Mr. Lemieux can sleep at night now.
I had my name down to speak to the committee sessions and was sent an email saying they were held for two evenings in downtown Winnipeg. It did not tell me what evening or when I would get my turn.
I had commitments both evenings that I would have had to cancel and possibly make two trips to Winnipeg or sit around the second day and half the night. Quite a system, especially for people outside of the city.
The argument has been made many times that the timeline was unrealistic, and that is certainly valid. There will be a lot of negotiations made under pressure that will result in some big winners and some big losers.
I am not saying for a minute that there will not be some good changes as well. I am saying that financial situations, operating methodology, staffing, equipment, office locations, council structure, geography, assessment, mill rates and many other things will come into play and will have to be taken into consideration.
We all need a push sometimes, but this is too big a deal to mess up. The fact that the vast majority of municipalities already have service sharing agreements including administration has meant nothing to this provincial government. Administration savings have always been the big reason they have said the amalgamations are necessary, despite the many shared admins throughout the province.
Their criteria is that if according to their outdated census numbers that if you don’t have 1,000 residents despite your track record, and your future plans, you just don’t deserve to have your own identity. This is most unfortunate.
The way this issue has been handled is even more unfortunate.
Reg Atkinson, reeve
RM of Cornwallis
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition October 2, 2013