Questions and Answers about Municipal Amalgamations

The following are commonly asked questions about municipal amalgamations. These may assist to answer questions from council members and citizens.

LEGISLATION - The Municipal Modernization Act


Why is the Province requiring municipalities to amalgamate? Why now?
The purpose of the legislation is to modernize municipalities, by creating conditions for stronger municipalities and a stronger Manitoba. Strong municipalities have the capacity to better deliver essential services and meet new and emerging challenges. Stronger municipalities also have large and growing populations and tax bases. As a result, they can better capture economic growth and investment opportunities that continue to grow our province.

What does The Municipal Modernization Act mean for municipalities?
The legislation requires municipalities with less than 1,000 population to develop an amalgamation plan jointly with their partner(s) by December 1,2013. The legislation also requires neighbouring municipalities to work cooperatively to identify which municipality will be the amalgamation partner of a municipality with fewer than 1,000 residents.
Municipalities are best positioned to shape these mergers, based on local circumstances. That is why the Province has asked all municipalities to develop plans to ensure amalgamations are locally designed and that local needs and opportunities are considered as part of the amalgamation process.
Meaningful citizen input on amalgamation is also important; and the legislation requires amalgamating municipalities to consult the public on the content of their plan.

What will happen if municipalities do not submit a plan?
The Province believes municipalities are best equipped to determine who their partners should be and how the new amalgamated municipality will be governed and function. The legislation reinforces and continues to promote that kind of local decision making, while setting a clear timeline and expectation for progress.
However, the Province recognizes that there may be unforeseen circumstances when municipalities may not be able to meet the deadline. For example, if a municipality is impacted by significant flooding. In such circumstances, an extension may be considered.
In the unlikely event that a municipality does not submit its amalgamation plan, the legislation gives the Province authority to amalgamate municipalities. The Province will consider relative strength of communities of interest that exist amongst municipalities in choosing partners for municipalities who do not submit the required plans by the December deadline.

Will extensions be considered?
Extensions are based on significant challenges that prevent municipalities from completing plans such as a local state of emergency. Extensions are not being considered at this time. Municipalities should be identifying partners and working to complete plans by the December 1, 2013 deadline.
In the event of a significant challenge, such as a local state of emergency, the legislation gives the Province authority to grant extensions in unique circumstances up to Dec 1, 2017. In circumstance where an extension is appropriate, the Minister must grant a written order to the municipality and the extension may be subject to specific conditions.

Why is the Province eliminating the requirement for the Municipal Board review?
In order to meet the timelines an expedited approval process is needed. The legislation will eliminate the existing requirement for the Municipal Board to review and make recommendations about all amalgamations. It is important to note that most provinces do not have a Municipal Board review process for amalgamations.
For this initiative, field consultants and Municipal Government amalgamation teams will review plans to ensure that they meet legislated requirements and that they balance interests of citizens and municipalities.
However, there may be certain circumstances where a Municipal Board review is required and the Province will have the authority to refer if need be.

Can municipalities with a population over 1,000 refuse to amalgamate with a neighbouring municipality that is required to do so?
No, the legislation creates a requirement for neighbouring municipalities with a population over 1,000 to work cooperatively to identify which municipality will be the amalgamation partner of a municipality with fewer than 1,000.


Municipal amalgamations need to be in place by the 2014 general municipal elections. What supports will the Province be providing to assist municipalities with amalgamations?
To assist municipalities with their amalgamation discussions and developing their amalgamation plans, the Department of Municipal Government will be providing a number of dedicated resources, including:
  • A secure website (January 2013) - to enable municipalities to access up to date information and materials on municipal amalgamation.
  • An amalgamation guidebook and a template plan (end of January 2013) - to assist municipalities in preparing their amalgamation plans. The guidebook includes a discussion about measures municipalities can take to ensure the interests of all municipal partners are considered and to ensure the newly amalgamated municipality works smoothly.
  • Regional seminars (February 2013) - were held across the Province for municipalities to learn more about the amalgamation plans and to provide Chief Administrative Officers and elected officials with an opportunity to raise questions about amalgamation matters specific to their community.
  • Expert field consultants (March 2013) - are available to provide municipalities with hands on assistance on technical and other matters specific to their amalgamation plans. Municipalities have been assigned specific field consultants to serve as a key point of contact throughout the development of their amalgamation plans.
  • Ongoing support - Municipal Service Officers continue to be available to municipalities at any time throughout the amalgamation process. Municipalities are encouraged to contact a Municipal Service Officer, at 204-945-2572, as required.

Are there any additional costs related to amalgamation that municipalities should anticipate?
Municipalities are not expected to incur significant costs. However, municipalities will be expected to cover any legal costs associated with amalgamations.
Also, it is not anticipated that municipalities will need to engage outside consultants to assist with the preparation of amalgamation plans. However, municipalities are certainly free to do so if they determine it is required.


How will small towns / rural municipalities keep their identity if they amalgamate?
The identity of our communities will never be lost. Our communities have a history and are an important part of our regions and province.
There's no reason why the parts of a new, merged municipality wouldn't still be identified by their former names. They will continue to have highway signs and be named on our maps, similar to places like Anola or Lorette. However, the new municipality would officially be known as something different.

Who decides on the name of our new municipality?
It is up to municipalities to decide on the name of their amalgamated municipality. Several municipalities that have merged have combined their old names - such as Shellmouth-Boulton and Killarney-Turtle Mountain. Others already shared a name and used that name - such as Gimli and Shoal Lake.


When we amalgamate with another municipality, how do we make sure that our municipality's interests will be looked after?
It is important that each partner's interests are looked after once they amalgamate. Legislation already provides a way for this to occur by establishing wards for election purposes.
Through wards, both partners are represented and have a voice at the council table.
Where the amalgamation involves an urban and a rural municipality, one way is to establish an urban ward and a rural ward. However, it is important to remember that all council members have a duty to represent the whole of the municipality, even if elected by ward.

The larger municipality will always determine who the head of council is. Doesn't that give the larger municipality control of council?
The head of council must be elected at large, under The Municipal Act. However, the head of council is elected to represent the whole municipality not just a single ward or area of the municipality.
Mayors and Reeves in Manitoba take their duties and responsibilities to their municipalities seriously. There is no reason to expect that they would change.

Our municipalities have different sized councils. How do we decide on our new council size?
Most municipal councils in Manitoba have 5 or 7 members. This is a good model that should be considered by municipalities.
Ensuring each partner has a voice at the council table is best managed through wards, not through council size.
Once amalgamated, Councils will have different work, not more. Councils should have more time to focus on municipal issues. All Council members will have a duty to represent the interests of the whole of the new municipality.



I live in a rural municipality. I don't get or want urban services. How can I be sure that I won't pay for urban services?
Municipalities have tools now that enable them to deliver services to specific areas of the municipality and tax only those who benefit from the services. These tools include special service and local improvement levies.
Many municipalities are already using these tools, and they will continue to be available to municipalities after they are amalgamated.

How will the priority for service delivery be determined once municipalities are amalgamated? How can we be sure that we don't get "short-changed" for services?
Councils make decisions every day about the type and level of services delivered to their citizens. This will continue.
However, by combining resources, municipalities may be able to operate more efficiently and economically. This could result in monies being redirected to improve municipal services or other priorities.

Will our taxes go up because of amalgamation? Our mill rate is lower than our neighbour's mill rate.
Taxes don't have to increase because of amalgamation. Tools exist now to enable municipalities to manage tax levels. These include special service and local improvement levies. Many municipalities already use these tools.
However, The Municipal Act also includes transitional tools to allow amalgamating municipalities' time to adjust to their new situation. This includes using differential mill rates for a transitional period of time to give municipalities more time to examine service delivery and taxation options, such as using special services.

Urban municipalities often have different priorities than rural municipalities. How can we make sure that urban services aren't being paid for by the rural area?
Tools are already in place to enable municipalities to deliver services to a specific area of the municipality and tax only those who benefit from the services. These include special service and local improvement levies. Municipalities will continue to use these tools as they always have done.
Many municipalities use special services now to ensure urban services, such as garbage pickup, street lighting, street cleaning, are not being paid for by rural ratepayers.

Will the existing reserves of municipalities be kept separate?
Many municipalities have built up reserves for the future benefit of their areas. Specific purpose reserves, such as for machinery or equipment, must be used for their original purpose under The Municipal Act. That won't change.



What are the immediate savings by amalgamating municipalities?
Amalgamation is anticipated to result in some immediate savings on council indemnities and expenses simply by reducing the number of council members and by eliminating a number of inter-municipal committees that will no longer be necessary.

What savings could an amalgamated municipality see in the longer term?
The intent of amalgamation is to strengthen municipalities.
However, it is anticipated that other long term opportunities for savings may result as administrative and operational efficiencies are identified over the long term. Efficiencies could be found for a wide variety of expenditures (eg. reduced costs of attending conventions, consolidated physical operations, reduced election costs, etc.).
Additionally, there will be many intangibles (that cannot be measured financially) that come from a more focused economic development approach.

Will there be savings in staff costs when municipalities amalgamate?
It will be up to the new council of the amalgamated municipality to determine their administrative and public works needs.
Many small municipalities have challenges to recruit and retain qualified staff (Chief Administrative Officers, Building Inspectors, and Water Treatment Plant Operators etc.). Larger amalgamated municipalities are better positioned to recruit and retain qualified staff.
As well, by bringing employees together, the restructured municipality may be better able to cover essential responsibilities.

Will infrastructure and services provided by amalgamated municipalities be higher quality?
While each situation will be unique, opportunities to improve infrastructure and services exist.
Larger municipalities are often better equipped to provide enhanced services as they can take advantages of economies of scale. This means that they have greater opportunities to attract and retain professional expertise, can use equipment more efficiently and effectively, and can distribute costs more widely. They also have better access to funding sources, enabling them to better support infrastructure projects.



Urban municipalities with 750 or more population that amalgamate with a rural municipality generally will become "rural municipalities". Does this mean that they will no longer be required to provide and pay for policing?
Currently, rural municipalities (as well as urban municipalities with less than 750 population) are not required to provide and pay for policing. Urban municipalities with 750 or more population are required to provide and pay for policing. These municipalities receive a higher level of support through the General Assistance Grant.
Requirements for policing will continue after amalgamation. When the amalgamation involves an urban municipality with 750 or more population, that portion of the amalgamated municipality will be required to provide and pay for policing.
As well, a higher level of funding through the General Assistance Grant will be provided to the amalgamated municipality for the former urban municipality.
This has always been the practice for amalgamations involving rural and urban municipalities.


What happens to our development plan and zoning by-law if we amalgamate with another municipality?
Existing development plans, secondary plans and zoning by-laws remain in effect following the amalgamation of two or more municipalities. The newly amalgamated municipality will administer existing planning by-laws until a new development plan and zoning by-law is adopted. The timeframe for adopting new planning by-laws will follow regular plan review cycles.

What will happen to our planning district if we amalgamate? What if we amalgamate with a municipality from another planning district?
If two municipalities that comprise a planning district amalgamate, the planning district would dissolve. Recent examples of this include the Killarney and Turtle Mountain amalgamation and the amalgamation of the Town and RM of Shoal Lake.
In all amalgamation scenarios, newly amalgamated municipalities are encouraged to explore joining existing planning districts or establishing new planning districts with neighbouring municipalities to further support comprehensive and regional approaches to land use planning.