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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Participatory governance, sprawl and sustainability in Gatineau, Quebec Morison, Stephen J.


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.

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