Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Municipal-amalgamation bill ready to go through the mill

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THE Selinger government introduced legislation Wednesday setting out deadlines for the amalgamation of small municipalities.

Bill 33, The Municipal Modernization Act, would require towns and rural municipalities with fewer than 1,000 people to submit plans to the province by Dec. 1 for amalgamations that would take effect on Jan. 1, 2015.

The bill empowers Local Government Minister Ron Lemieux to extend the deadline for submitting plans under special circumstances. The effective date of an amalgamation can also be extended to July 1, 2019.

The Selinger government signalled in last fall's throne speech it would require small municipalities to amalgamate with neighbouring jurisdictions.

The move has drawn considerable criticism from affected municipalities, and the Opposition Conservatives have admonished the government for failing to properly consult municipalities before announcing its intention.

Meanwhile, a disgruntled rural municipality in southwestern Manitoba wants to secede from the province and join Saskatchewan. The RM of Glenwood doesn't agree with the province's plan to save money through municipal amalgamation.

Glenwood Coun. Walter Finley says the RM's administration costs are already low and amalgamation would drive them up.

Finley says Glenwood has more in common with Saskatchewan than with the provincial government in Winnipeg, which he says doesn't care much about the western half of Manitoba.

Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall says it's an interesting idea, but there would be a catch.

"Here's the big one: They're going to have to decide on whether or not they're prepared to change football teams.

"They're going to have to give a pledge of allegiance, if they were come, to a big green flag with a white S on it, and maybe they're not that interested in that," Wall said.

He acknowledged it could be a challenge getting to the RM after learning it's not on the boundary with Saskatchewan.

-- staff / The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 3, 2013 A4

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