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Amalgamation inevitable for small communities

 Holly Bochurka

Photo by Holly Bochurka

Photo by Holly Bochurka

After Manitoba’s Speech from the Throne in November 19, 2012, amalgamation talks are now underway with Manitoba communities with a population base of under 1,000 residents. Amalgamation is voluntary for the time being, however will become mandatory within a year’s time.

 "Every community that has a population of less than 1,000 has received a letter from the minister instructing them to explore options for amalgamation with their municipal neighbours.  In the case of the Gimli constituency, that includes Riverton in conversation with Bifrost, and Dunnottar in conversation with St. Andrews," said Bjornson.  

In 1997, the Government of Manitoba decided that a threshold of 1,000 residents was necessary in order to be considered a municipality. There are currently 92 Manitoba communities that do not meet the necessary 1,000-person threshold.

“There’s a lot of reasons why we need to do this and need to encourage the municipalities to proceed. First of all, in terms of the building of critical mass and the ability of the community and the tax base within the community to sustain the operations and maintenance in the community," explained Peter Bjornson, MLA for Gimli.

 Bjornson explained that he appreciates the value of the grass roots politics and local representation, and added that it is important for people to realize that a good number of the small municipalities involved have had many of their councils in by acclimation.  With 20% of their expenditures on governess and administration,  current challenges include attaining eligibility of provincial and federal infrastructure dollars as a result of their size and infrastructure satiability.

Outlining the community's potential new ability to pool their resources in terms of economic community development, Bjornson also encouraged looking at a more coordinated approach to emergency measures. He pointed out that there are several things that communities are already doing in partnership that can be formalized and streamlined more efficiently under one political body.  

“I’ve been through this process when the town and R.M. of Gimli (amalgamated) as a councilor, so I appreciate that there’s a lot of work required to make it happen,” added Bjornson.

 Bjornson assured that both governments will provide the necessary supports and address any concerns that the municipalities involved may have.





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