Rural amalgamation inevitable, says communities expert

A rural communities expert from Manitoba says Prince Edward Island municipalities need to work together towards amalgamation.

'If they don't do anything, it's a lack of leadership municipally'

Bill Ashton is the director of The Rural Development Institute at Brandon University in Manitoba. (www.brandonu.ca)

A rural communities expert from Manitoba says Prince Edward Island municipalities need to work together towards amalgamation.

Manitoba has already amalgamated 112 of it's rural communities down to 47.

The province mandated the change in 2012, but the rural communities had a say in who they partnered with, the name of the new jurisdiction and how it would be governed. 

Bill Ashton, director of The Rural Development Institute at Brandon University in Manitoba, said P.E.I. is on the right track by encouraging communities to discuss the idea of amalgamation before implementation.

"P.E.I.'s got this opportunity. They've opened the conversation," he said. "Can the province do more? Absolutely, but so can we locally."

Bedeque and Area residents upset

Ashton said it's municipalities that have to take the lead.

"I think municipalities have to begin to understand, 'What are the options in front of us? How do we partner?'" he said.

"That suggestion is consistent with research done in Manitoba, New Brunswick, Alberta, Saskatchewan. It all points to rural is not viable with small populations and big distances. I think if they don't do anything, it's a lack of leadership municipally."

Amalgamation has already been a tough sell in rural P.E.I.

Hundreds of residents who live in and around Bedeque signed a petition recently, unhappy with the Bedeque and Area's plan to annex a number of surrounding communities.

Ashton said communities have to realize amalgamation will create better rural economic regions. He said it's inevitable and municipalities have to start to work together towards a common vision for the future.

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