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Pathways to Winnipeg history
PastForward: Winnipeg's digital history
History of Winnipeg

City Government

History of City Government

On July 27th, 1971, Royal assent was given to Bill 36, being Chapter 105 of the Statutes of Manitoba, known as The City of Winnipeg Act. This Act incorporated the R. M. of Charleswood, R. M. of Fort Garry, R. M. of North Kildonan, R. M. of Old Kildonan, Town of Tuxedo, City of East Kildonan, City of West Kildonan, City of St. Vital, City of Transcona, City of St. Boniface, City of St. James-Assiniboine, City of Winnipeg and The Metropolitan Corporation of Greater Winnipeg into a unified City of Winnipeg, commonly referred to as "Unicity".

The election of the first Council was held on October 6th, 1971 and the new City came into legal existence on January 1st, 1972. The new unified City Council consisted of 50 Councillors elected on the basis of one from each of the 50 wards and a Mayor elected from the City-at-large.

The inaugural meeting of the new council took place in the Council Chamber, Council Building, Civic Centre on January 4th, 1972.

All Members of Council, including the Mayor, were elected for a three-year term. The Act provides that the election of members of succeeding Councils shall be held on the fourth Wednesday of October, 1974, and in each third year thereafter, and the members so elected shall take office, and the Council shall be constituted on the first Tuesday next following the declaration by the Returning Officer of the result of the election of Members of the Council.

Thirteen Community Committees were established under the Act; however, in 1974, on the recommendation of the Ward Boundaries Commission, the provincial government enacted legislation whereby the St. Johns Community ceased to exist; Stranthcona and Norquay Wards being transferred to the Lord Selkirk Community and Riverton and Talbot Wards being transferred to the East Kildonan Community, thereby reducing the communities from thirteen to twelve but still maintaining fifty wards. In 1977 further legislation reduced the communities to six and the wards to twenty-nine. Each is a Community Committee of Council and comprises the Councillors who represent the wards within each particular Community.

In 1989, in accordance with The City of Winnipeg Act, a review resulted in a number of changes to the Community area boundaries and the number of wards for four of the Communities. A subsequent review in 1991 resulted in further legislation passed in 1992, which reduced the communities to five and the wards to fifteen.

Councillors have a dual role, as they are members of Council and members of the Community Committees. In the former role, they are concerned with the legislative decisions affecting the whole city, while in the latter, their concern is with local community issues.

Members of the Council, other than the Mayor, are elected on the basis of one each from the fifteen wards into which the city has been divided. The Mayor is elected at large.

In August 2002, the Province of Manitoba passed a new law to replace the City of Winnipeg Act of 1972. The new City of Winnipeg Charter is a first step toward a new relationship between the City and the Province.

The New Charter

  • Is much shorter (328 pages compared to 603 pages in the old Act; 12 parts compared to 21)
  • Is easier to understand (phrases like “subject to the rights of …” no longer appear)
  • Recognizes the City as a responsible, accountable government
  • Provides broader municipal powers, similar to Ontario and Alberta, and in the newly tabled, draft Community Charter legislation in British Columbia. The new Act is less detailed and more general in the way it describes the City of Winnipeg's authority.
  • Eliminates numerous requirements for provincial approvals.
  • Standardizes inspection requirements, how orders are to be issued and the process for hearing appeals.
  • Enables Council to streamline property planning and development. 

In addition to providing generally greater flexibility, the new Act provides the City of Winnipeg with several new authorities to address pressing community issues. For example, the City will have authority to set up Tax Increment Financing programs and to establish a planning commission. Council will also now have the authority to determine some of its own governance practices - the number of wards, a code of conduct for Councillors, etc.

The new Charter comes into effect on January 1, 2003.

Last update: September 23, 2014

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