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Municipal Restructure

 

Municipal restructure is a term used to describe a boundary or governance change that has a significant impact on a municipality, a regional district, and citizens. The province has a program that assists municipalities with a restructure proposal through financial assistance and by other means. One of the purposes for the financial assistance is to pay for a study to be undertaken by a consultant to review the implications for the restructure.
 

The most common type of restructure is where a municipality wants to extend its boundary to an electoral area that is adjacent to its boundary and the area has political representation from a regional district and/or an improvement district and may also receive services from those local governments and other agencies.
 

The boundary of every municipality is defined in the document that incorporated the municipality known as Letters Patent. The boundary is permanent but it can be changed on occasion by amending the description to add or delete properties. Since Letters Patent are brought into effect by Cabinet order, the boundary description can only be changed by Cabinet order.
 

Another type of restructure is the amalgamation of two or more municipalities into one municipality. Amalgamation is a rarer form of restructuring in the province. The most recent amalgamation was the merger of the District of Abbotsford and the District of Matsqui, resulting in the incorporation of the City of Abbotsford in 1995. The province has enacted legislation in the Community Charter, (section 279) which prohibits the amalgamation of municipalities unless both of them agree to it.
 

In the case where the restructure is a municipal boundary extension, there are a number of changes that need to be considered. For example, in most cases electoral areas are represented on the regional board by a single director. Improvement districts generally have three to five trustees. If an area is brought within a municipal boundary, it will receive greater representation through an elected mayor and council, it will reduce the number of agencies with authority to make decisions for the area and it could enable more comprehensive land use planning. In addition, municipalities have more financial flexibility and a wider range of tools to meet local economic, social and environmental needs than regional district or improvement districts.
 

A restructure study that identifies the implications for a municipal restructure can be initiated by the residents of an area outside a municipal boundary, or it can be initiated by the municipality itself. However, there must be agreement by both the municipality and the area outside its boundary to study the impacts of a restructure before a restructure study process can proceed.
 

Municipal restructure is guided by the following principles:

  • The process for examining municipal restructure should be locally initiated and focused;
  • The decision to restructure must be made by the electorate through a referendum;
  • The vote should be made by an informed electorate; and
  • All sectors of the community need to be involved in the discussion.

The Local Government Structure Branch has a facilitative role in the restructure process by:

  • Providing advice on impact of restructure changes to local governments, communities, and individuals;
  • Facilitating the decision-making process and discussions between various stakeholders in the restructure process;
  • Administering provincial financial assistance to communities seeking restructure changes that is available under the Local Government Grants Regulation; and
  • Preparing Supplementary Letters Patent for consideration by Cabinet to implement the restructure.

There are three components to provincial financial assistance:

  • Restructure planning grants fund governance review studies and the public consultation process;
  • Restructure assistance grants provide financial assistance to a restructured municipality. These are per capita grants provided in conjunction with assistance from other ministries; and
  • Restructure implementation grants fund some administrative costs for a restructured municipality.

Further information about restructure can be found in Managing Changes to Local Government Structure in British Columbia: A Review and Program Guide.
 

Further information about municipal boundary extension can be found in the:

 

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