De-Amalgamation in Canada: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Although nearly every province in Canada has pursued some form of local restructuring over the past 25 years, municipal amalgamation remains a controversial subject. A vast amount of research has found that consolidation fails to produce promised cost savings, rarely leads to more efficient service delivery, and reduces the ability of citizens to be involved in the life of their local governments. It is no surprise then, that local restructuring proposals have often been met with stiff resistance from local residents. What happens once the die has been cast, however? Is it possible to reverse a municipal amalgamation? If so, is it even desirable to do so? This paper delves into these questions and examines two cases of municipal de-amalgamation: Montreal and Headingley, which seceded from Winnipeg. It examines the fiscal and governance implications of both de-amalgamations and provides a set of criteria to evaluate a proposed de-amalgamation of a consolidated local government. Overall, we find no reason that de-amalgamation cannot be pursued, but we argue that is not often desirable.

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