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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Putting the pieces together : tracing fragmentation in Ontario water governance Cook, Christina Lillian


This socio-legal study of fragmentation in Ontario water governance is positioned at the nexus of governance studies and the study of water management. It investigates the legal institutions that contribute to fragmentation in water governance, the associated governance patterns, and the consequences for Ontario water management. This is highly relevant in the Canadian context because jurisdictional fragmentation is frequently cited as a key barrier to improved water management outcomes. Three questions guided this research: (1) How did legal institutions create conditions in which governance is more or less fragmented? (2) How does fragmentation occur? (3) Is fragmentation a problem? To answer these questions the dissertation undertakes a comprehensive, but focused, historical review of water governance in Ontario from Confederation to 2010. The dissertation relies on four sources of data: a review of federal and provincial government documents in Canada; engagement with the academic literature, jurisprudence (Canada, UK, and USA); and data derived from thirty-three interviews and direct observation at four academic and professional water policy conferences. The dissertation makes three key findings. First, legal institutions are sources of jurisdictional fragmentation, creating conditions in which water governance can be more or less fragmented. Second, the dissertation finds jurisdictional fragmentation is associated with a variety of governance patterns. Finally, it finds the water governance and management literature has not been sufficiently critical of the fragmentation-integration challenge, too frequently framing integration as a solution without its own challenges. Fragmentation may or may not be a problem depending on the context; the consequences of fragmentation are variable. These findings are important for moving policy forward. Jurisdictional fragmentation is a key feature of Canadian governance as well as an important feature of governance initiatives that seek to engage stakeholders in place-specific management solutions.

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