Rural communities in Manitoba are uniting in opposition to two proposed pieces of provincial legislation, and the Town of Virden is no exception.
The Association of Manitoba Municipalities (AMM) recently hosted an online discussion and urged its membership to put their concerns in writing. At this week’s socially distanced regular meeting at Tundra Oil & Gas Place, Council decided that a letter drafted by Chief Administrative Officer Rhonda Stewart would be sent to Premier Brian Pallister and Municipal Affairs Minister Rochelle Squires. “We sat in on an online session regarding this, and there are some very unhappy people over this,” said Deputy Mayor Tina Williams.
Under Bill 48, the Planning Amendment Act and City of Winnipeg Charter Amendment Act, a Capital Region will be set up which will consist of Winnipeg and 17 surrounding municipalities. A regional approach to land use planning and development will be adopted, mandatory timelines for approvals will be introduced, and applicants will have the right to appeal to the provincially-appointed Municipal Board if they disagree with a locally elected council’s decision. This will apply to development agreements, subdivisions, building permits, conditional uses, and zoning by-laws. The municipality may have to bear the cost of the appeal process and any delays in the development if a decision goes against them. Bill 49, the Building and Electrical Improvement Act, would delegate authority to a government-appointed adjudicator. The Office of the Fire Commissioner would be removed from the process of granting building permits and replaced by an individual reporting directly to the government.
Like their counterparts, Virden’s council is concerned that the legislation, which has yet to be proclaimed, will erode their ability to represent their ratepayers and make autonomous decisions regarding land use planning, with control over it being transferred to the province. In a brief interview following the meeting, Mayor Murray Wright summed up the Town’s position. “We are not in favour of what they are doing. That’s the bottom line,” he said. “The way it’s being presented in Winnipeg is that they want to move ahead and have control of what happens in the outlying communities. And as some people have mentioned in passing, if they are going to be calling the shots, why do we need councils? If there’s a discrepancy, one person in Winnipeg gets to make the call on what happens here.
“This is not just Virden…There’s all kinds of municipalities that are totally against this because it’s taking away their municipality’s rights, and how they make things work with the taxpayers in mind.”
Locally, Virden joins the R. M. of Wallace-Woodworth and the Trans-Canada West Planning District in standing against the legislation. Related link: https://www.empireadvance.ca/news/local-news/bills-48-and-49-have-councillors-worried-about-creeping-provincial-control-over-local-democracy-1.24140023