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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Agricultural planning, justice, and municipal governance : an examination of planning conflicts, pluralism, and complexity in southwestern British Columbia, Canada Dring, Colin Charles


Since the late 1980s, national and sub-national levels of government in North America have increasingly devolved responsibilities for agricultural planning to local governments. Local government control of farmland and farming through planning and policy tools, unequally distribute benefits and harms among impacted parties (e.g., farmers, Indigenous peoples, farmworkers). Additionally, municipal agricultural planning has the potential to contribute to food justice outcomes. This dissertation examines the role of municipal agricultural governance in achieving food justice through an interdisciplinary qualitative case study conducted in Southwestern British Columbia (BC), Canada. Three substantive dissertation chapters examine this role in food justice. Chapter 2 explores the capacity of municipal governments in Metro Vancouver to govern diverse agricultural systems, characterizing practices that constitute agricultural planning. This chapter shows that the municipal governing system simplifies the agricultural system resulting in disconnected from multiple scales of planning action. Chapter 3 examines representation and engagement of impacted agricultural stakeholders in local planning processes. Applying a justice framework, I show how municipal agricultural planning processes exacerbate injustices in participation, representation, and engagement. In Chapter 4, I analyse land use conflicts in Richmond, Canada showing the politics of land use planning results in debates around farmland uses, place-based identities, and which agricultural stakeholders should be privileged. This chapter describes how political mobilization, by agricultural stakeholders, can shift decision-makers’ stances on who to support with planning policies and legislation. Chapter 5 describes a collaborative research project with the Province of BC addressing a gap in agricultural planning education by developing an introductory agricultural planning course. The overall dissertation findings suggest that in this region, the municipal governing system is at odds with an agricultural system oriented towards justice. Local government approaches to agricultural planning are involved in the creation of privileged agricultural subjects which are, in turn, influenced by the politics of planning and participation in formal planning processes. The findings challenge normative conceptions of municipal governance and agricultural planning as technical and value-neutral exercises. Rather, agricultural planning, in contexts of complexity, requires the development of planning tools that contribute to equitable food systems.

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