Friday, February 10, 2012

Logistics of Amalgamation

Adam Stirling asked me to come on his program and talk a bit about the mechanics of what it would take to move forward with amalgamation in this region.    Based on that conversation, here are some details people need to think about and consider about amalgamation.

The law in BC will not allow the provincial government to force an amalgamation - sec 279 of the Community Charter
No forced amalgamations 
279 If a new municipality would include 2 or more existing municipalities, letters patent incorporating the new municipality may not be issued unless
(a) a vote has been taken in accordance with section 8 of the Local Government Act separately in each of the existing municipalities, and
(b) for each of those municipalities, more than 50% of the votes counted as valid favour the proposed incorporation.
What this means is that unless the majority of voters in each municipality vote in favour no amalgamation can go forward.

The implication for this region from this comes about if there is a move to amalgamate more than on municipality.   If for example all 13 municipalities were to consider a single amalgamated , there would have to be a referendum in each one of them and if any one fails, the whole thing fails.  For success, I think we would have to look at amalgamations of 2-3 municipalities at a time as going larger is simply not realistic.

To get to the referendum, the municipalities considering the idea of amalgamation begin the process by requesting a grant from the province to study and undertake public consultation about the amalgamation.  The local governments involved would work with the Local Government Structure Branch on the amalgamation concept and gather public input.

An example of the sort of study that would be produced for the first stage can be found on the Trail website.   Trail and Warfield are currently investigating amalgamation.

It is in the consultation process that issues and concerns will be raised by the public.  Some these can be addressed within the current legal framework, some would need legislative changes.   The 2009 amalgamation of Northern Rockies and Fort Nelson required the creation of a new type of local government.

From there in theory one goes to a referendum of the municipalities involved.  Remember there has to be a majority in each municipality taking part in the amalgamation.   Any defeat in any municipality is a veto.

If there is a positive outcome the provincial government provides significant financial support to pay for the implementation of an amalgamated municipality.   As an example, severance for excess management staff or the cost involved in combined several sets of bylaws.

The province seems to be quite good in ensuring there is the fiscal resources available to move forward with amalgamations.   They also seem to reasonably flexible in considering legislative changes to remove barriers to amalgamations.

The steps required:

  1. Request by the councils of all the interested municipalities for a study
  2. A referendum set by all of the councils involved
  3. A vote in favour by voters in each municipality
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