The Manitoba Government has now decided that one size fits all does not work well for guiding municipal mergers. That is a small positive step for the know it all people in government.
The next step is to understand that local municipalities have been entering into shared services agreements where they make sense. That practice should be encouraged to continue and expand.
Before going any further however, the government should step back and ask what is the desired end point of merging municipalities. Could or should it look like the county model of municipal management in Alberta? Are there regional mandates such as irrigation or water systems management, affordable housing development, energy utility management, etc. that could be devolved from the provincial government to amalgamated municipal entities? Should recreation infrastructure and services be primarily funded at the municipal level or at the provincial level? Should promoting social and economic development be a provincial or municipal responsibility? Should immigrant attraction and settlement support be a mandate of amalgamated municipalities? Should sales tax “points” be transferred to amalgamated municipalities? Should amalgamated municipalities be given the authority to levy sales or excise taxes? Should amalgamated municipalities manage the school system infrastructure or even its operation like some cities in the USA?
All of these questions need to be asked and debated before rushing into forced amalgamation. It is possible that amalgamation could be a good thing, but we have to articulate and define the destination that we wish to reach.