The most pressing issue at last week’s Annual Association of Manitoba Municipalities’ convention was the future of many small municipalities.
Doug Dobrowolski, president of the AMM’s board of directors and a RM of Macdonald councillor, said while some municipal officials voiced their disagreement with the provincial government’s move to encourage municipalities with less than 1,000 residents to amalgamate, he heard others speak in favour of joining forces and sharing administrative costs and service provision.
"I thought there’d be more resistance than what there was," he said.
In fact, the reeve of the RM of Lac Du Bonnet asked provincial ministers attending a forum on Nov. 29 how a merger with the Town of Lac Du Bonnet can be fast-tracked.
Dobrowolski, who was re-elected at the convention to his fifth term as head of the AMM board, said these municipalities aren’t alone when it comes to discussing possible amalgamations.
"These talks have been going on quietly for awhile," he said.
Minister of Local Government Ron Lemieux told convention delegates that all Manitoba municipalities will be receiving letters within the next few weeks outlining the amalgamation process.
While the provincial government seems to be aiming to have new boundaries set up in time for 2014 municipal elections, Dobrowolski said the process is complex and shouldn’t be rushed.
"I hope there will be flexibility in these deadlines," he said.
Another issue raised by many of the municipal officials who spoke publicly at the convention was the need for money to finance vital infrastructure projects.
A resolution was passed asking the AMM to lobby the federal government to add an extra 1% levy for municipal infrastructure on the current rate of eight cents from every tax dollar.
Dobrowolski said he expects that the 2013 federal budget will include a new infrastructure program for Canadian municipalities.
Some delegates spoke at the convention about bridges damaged in the 2011 flood which have not yet repaired. All bridge construction and repair falls under the provincial government’s jurisdiction.
Minister of Infrastructure and Transportation Steve Ashton said all damaged bridges are being assessed by engineers and will be fixed.
"Flood-related issues are probably at the top of our list," he said during a ministerial forum.