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Small municipalities kept from gas-tax revenue should amalgamate: Lemieux

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Small municipalities in Manitoba are letting $14 million in gas tax dollars sit in a federal pot because they have not filed the necessary paperwork to collect it.

Some of the money goes back as far as 2009, Local Government Minister Ron Lemieux told the annual convention of the Association of Manitoba Municipalities, where he made the case for municipal amalgamation.

The province first raised the matter formally in last week’s speech from the throne. It wants dozens of small municipalities to join up with their neighbours before 2014’s municipal elections.

Manitoba has 196 municipalities, 92 of which fail to meet the legal threshold of 1,000 persons. A law setting 1,000 as the minimum population for a municipality has been in place since 1997. Until now, it has not been enforced.

Lemieux left no doubt today that the Selinger government will be pushing hard for small local governments to get cracking on amalgamation. Formal notices will go out to municipalities shortly. By next fall, the province expects smaller municipalities to have their amalgamation plans in place.

The minister said some municipalities, in part because of their small size, have failed to get the necessary annual audits done to qualify for federal fuel tax rebates.

Municipalities have complained that it is often difficult for them to obtain the audits because only so many accounting firms will perform them. Lemieux’s response is if there were fewer municipalities, these audits would not be as difficult to get done.

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