This letter is to express my concerns and questions about the amalgamation into which the southwest Manitoba rural municipalities of Edward, Albert and Arthur have been forced.
Three times over the past few months I wrote to several government representatives, including Premier Greg Selinger, Municipal Government Minister Stan Struthers, deputy minister Fred Meier, assistant Leita Kalinowsky, assistant Kaila Weibe, municipal services officer Wendy Wolfe, AMM director Joe Masi, MLA for Arthur/Virden Doyle Piwniuk, MLA for Brandon East Drew Caldwell, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and MP for Brandon-Souris Larry Maguire. As of this date, I have not received even one reply.
The terms that were decreed in the forced RM regulations are fundamentally unfair to the RM of Edward.
My council and their staff have tirelessly and selflessly spent countless hours and have done everything in their power to protect our town of Pierson and the rural residents, and the government has dictatorially attempted to remove every vestige of control from our local government.
We, the RM of Edward:
• have a higher population than either Albert or Arthur
• have a higher assessment than either of the others
• have the only sustainable town in any of the three RMs
Yet, Struthers totally ignored normal practice (of representation by population) when he allocated Albert and Arthur three wards with one councillor each — and then turned around and gave Edward only one ward with three councillors; along with absolutely no representation given to our town — a thriving and growing business and residential area; not to mention we are the third-largest oil-producing rural municipality in the province. To my knowledge, the government has not so far refused the millions of dollars of revenue and taxes generated by the industry in this region!
My most recent request was for the government to revisit this decision and revise it to be a fair, equitable agreement between the three parties; either each RM has, at the very least, equal wards and equal representation; or conversely, the whole new forced RM has a totally at-large representation.
The current document is not acceptable.
I believe it is time for us, the residents of the RM of Edward and the Town of Pierson, to make our concerns known to the public and to other RMs and towns. This government has been nothing but bullying and dictatorial to my council and administrative staff, and refuses to work with them to formulate a reasonable, fair solution to forced amalgamation.
Government representatives were invited to attend a recent meeting with the ratepayers and residents of the RM and town; and not only did not show up — they never bothered to even reply to the request!
Do not be complacent in other areas — it may be your turn next. Get to know your elected officials and administration staff. Do they exhibit and encourage open communication, transparency, honesty and integrity? Are they fair-minded and do they treat you with respect and courtesy? If they do, support and encourage them. If not, participate in replacing them with men/women who do portray those characteristics.
Go to any RM office and ask to view financial statements, budget projections and minutes of past council meetings. It is your legal right to view these documents and the CAO must “on the request of a person, provide access”; Municipal Act, Part 9, Division 2, 263(1), pages 139-140.
Get informed, attend meetings, participate and most importantly vote … or do not complain!