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Participatory governance, sprawl and sustainability in Gatineau, Quebec

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Title: Participatory governance, sprawl and sustainability in Gatineau, Quebec
Author: Morison, Stephen J.
Degree Master of Science - MSc
Program Integrated Studies in Land and Food Systems
Copyright Date: 2011
Publicly Available in cIRcle 2011-08-02
Abstract: Rooted in overwhelming evidence that our societies are not sustainable, this thesis explores the potential for participatory governance to improve the sustainability of land-use planning and decision-making. Participation is argued to be a critical component of governance for sustainability, for at least two reasons: (1) that to sustainably manage the incredibly complex interactions between human society and the environment requires profound understanding of those interactions; and (2) that to implement sustainability-oriented policies requires the consent and effort of those people that interacts with the environment. Focusing on urban sprawl as one facet of poor land-use governance for sustainability, this research took the form of a case study of urban sprawl in the City of Gatineau, Quebec, Canada. I explored the processes that facilitate and obstruct the participation of various people, groups and institutions in land-use governance, and analysed the likely impact of this governance structure on land-use sustainability. I employed policy analysis and 22 ethnographic interviews with local citizens, members of civil society groups, journalists, municipal councillors and public servants. I analysed these data within a framework of “goods” of participatory governance, namely: (1) inclusiveness; (2) popular control; (3) considered judgement; (4) transparency; and (5) efficiency. I concluded that land-use governance in Gatineau generally fails to foster meaningful civic participation: residents are not systematically included or represented, and have little control over governance processes; current processes and institutions do not foster considered judgement on land-use issues; while efforts have been made to improve transparency, this is still very lacking; and, what citizen-engagement exists is inefficient, time-intensive and emotionally demanding. I further concluded that: Land-use governance does not systematically ensure that complete and complex information is considered in decision-making; and Current governance processes are not adequate to build or maintain trust, buy-in and perceived legitimacy with citizens. As such, the current approach to land-use governance, and in particular the failure to foster meaningful civic participation, means that land-use governance in Gatineau is unlikely to produce sustainable outcomes. I end with a set of recommendations, for both the City government and civil society in Gatineau.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/2429/36430
Scholarly Level: Graduate

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