Planned provincial legislation could give Thompson power to change its number of councillors

The City of Thompson will have the option to reduce the number of councillors it elects in 2022 and beyond if planned provincial legislation passes and is proclaimed.

The Progressive Conservative government announced March 9 that it has introduced legislative changes that would allow Brandon, Thompson, Portage la Prairie and Flin Flon to set their council size without provincial approval, as all other municipalities outside of Winnipeg are already able to do.

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Thompson’s previous council looked at reducing the number city councillors down to six from the current eight, plus the mayor, in 2018, but shelved the idea when the province informed them that there wasn’t time in the legislative agenda to pass changes to the Thompson Charter act, which sets Thompson’s council size at eight councillors plus the mayor.

The idea was touted as a cost-cutting move in the wake of Vale Manitoba Operations significantly reducing the amount of money they provide the city in lieu of property taxes at the start of 2018.

Council approved first reading of a bylaw to change the number of councillors in February 2018 before abandoning the attempt in late April.

Current city manager Anthony McInnis said the proposed legislative changes, which also include electoral rule amendments and measures related to excess taxes and tax sales, are welcome.

The City of Thompson is pleased to see the government of Manitoba is taking action to align practices on council size for the cities of Brandon, Thompson, Portage la Prairie and Flin Flon with the rest of Manitoba’s municipalities outside of Winnipeg,” he said March 10. “Thompson is governed by both the Thompson Charter and the Municipal Act. The Thompson Charter, despite its name, is a provincial act governed by the province, rather than the municipality. Whereas cities governed by the Municipal Act are free to change the composition of their councils by their own authority, Thompson and the previously mentioned cities currently must appeal to the province in order to make changes, which must be done through the legislature in Winnipeg. The new council under the leadership of Mayor [Colleen] Smook welcomes the changes to clarify the inconsistencies between the acts. Council has not yet determined if any changes will be proposed to the composition of the local council, once the proposed revisions by the province are enacted.”

Thompson’s council consisted of six councillors and a mayor from 1966 to 1969, and seven councillors and a mayor from 1969 to 1972. The elected body held steady at eight members plus the mayor from 1972 to 2002. Despite the stipulations of the Thompson Charter Act, which took effect in 1990 , council reverted back to seven members plus the mayor until 2010, when it expanded to its current and legally required size.

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