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Municipalities arguing against amalgamation in court today

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The Association of Manitoba Municipalities is arguing the provincial government overstepped its bounds by prescribing that certain municipalities amalgamate last fall in advance of a Dec. 1 deadline for proposals.

Legislation that took effect last September requires that some 85 Manitoba municipalities with populations of less than 1,000 amalgamate with a neighbouring jurisdiction.

However, the AMM argued in Court of Queen’s Bench this morning that Municipal Government Minister Stan Struthers overstepped his authority by issuing letters late last October to some municipalities dictating who their dance partners would be.

The association said he should have waited until after a government-imposed Dec. 1 deadline on affected municipalities to submit amalgamation plans before weighing in on the matter. The group argues that the minister violated the law by dictating, in some cases, which municipalities should join together.

AMM lawyer Greg Tramley said that while the government left the door open for municipalities to make amendments to his proposals, they could only do so under certain conditions.

Struthers may have only intended to write the letters to move the process along, but he did more than that, Tramley said. He was dictating terms when he should have been awaiting their plans.

"They (the government) were not free to... send that kind of letter," Tramley said.

The AMM wants the court to rule that municipalities not be forced to amalgamate in cases where the minister sent inappropriate letters.

The hearing resumes this afternoon.

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