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Municipal Restructure

 

Rural communities receive services from regional districts and often from improvement districts.
 

As community growth occurs, residents may find that these local governments can no longer provide the level of local representation or services necessary to meet local community needs. When these communities are located near municipalities, the municipalities may also experience complex servicing, land use or development issues as a result of the growth in the outlying rural areas. Municipal restructure becomes an option for local consideration.
 

Municipal restructure can provide improved service coordination to a large area, more comprehensive land use planning, and more services and better representation to previously rural communities. Under the Community Charter, the Province recognizes municipalities as an order of government within their jurisdiction. As such, municipalities have a great deal of flexibility in determining how best to meet local economic, social and environmental needs and how best to provide local services. Under the regional district system, all rural residents in an electoral area are generally represented by one regional district director. Citizens in a municipality are represented by a council of 5 to 9 members. Municipal residents continue to be represented in the regional district system.
 

The desire for improved local representation and improved local service provision, and a strong overarching community vision motivate local communities towards municipal restructure.
 

Municipal restructure may be initially identified as an option by individuals or groups in the outlying communities or by the municipality. However, there must be agreement by the municipality to study the impacts of a restructure before a restructure study process can proceed. Municipal restructure may be implemented by a major boundary extension, or as a transformation of an existing municipality into a new municipal corporation. This could include a change in municipal classification or status. For example, a village may become a district municipality.
 

Municipal restructure also includes the amalgamation of two or more municipalities into one municipality. Amalgamation is a rare form of restructuring in British Columbia. The most recent amalgamation was the merger of Abbotsford and Matsqui into the City of Abbotsford in 1995. Under the Community Charter (section 279), the forced amalgamation of municipalities is prohibited.
 

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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 holds a facilitative role throughout this process. Staff provide advice on structure change to local governments, communities, and individuals. Staff facilitate the decision-making process and discussions between various stakeholders to the process. The Branch administers provincial financial assistance, which is available under the Local Government Grants Regulation to local communities undergoing change in local government structure. There are three components to this assistance:

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

The Branch also prepares Letters Patent for the consideration of Cabinet.
 

Municipal restructure is one form of structure change that enables citizens to get the local government and local services they want and need.
 

 

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