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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Evaluating the productivity of referral processes : Habitat referrals in British Columbia Arduino, Maria Serena


This thesis develops a set of criteria and a framework for assessing the productivity of the habitat referral process operating in British Columbia. The habitat referral process is a mechanism by which applications for projects potentially affecting fish habitat are referred to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans by other government agencies or directly by applicants. Approvals, usually in the form of permits, leases or licenses, are issued or refused depending on the comments that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and other agencies have expressed when reviewing the application. There are four good reasons for studying this topic: 1) as one of the government's activities the referral process is included in the major review of government programs that is presently being undertaken; 2) there is evidence that some of the existing referral processes are unproductive: discontent is being expressed by the people involved in referrals, and the process itself shows obvious signs that there are problems (backlogs, delays, overtime); 3) criteria and a framework for assessing the productivity of referral processes were not available before this study; and 4) referrals account for a considerable portion of the workload of the Habitat Management function of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. In the thesis, firstly the referral process is set in the context of the governance system: its relationships with the other processes and mechanisms used in decision-making for resource management and protection are described. Secondly, a framework for assessing the productivity of the referral process is developed. This was derived mainly from the literature on productivity improvement and decision-making. Finally, the set of criteria is developed, drawing from the interviews with people involved in referrals, an analysis of the evolution of the referral process, and the specific literature on the referral mechanism. The criteria are displayed in a tree, from the most general to the most specific. Criteria are then explained and discussed individually, and examples of how the criteria can be translated into practical terms are also provided. The criteria help identify problems in the referral processes under review and suggest possible solutions. The improvement of the performance of the referral mechanism is seen in the context of its evolution. It is recognized that the trend is toward more upfront planning and consequently fewer projects being reviewed through referrals. This 'tool' - the criteria and framework - will prove useful to anybody who wants to assess the productivity of the habitat or other referral processes. It will help them to identify the problems and to find the appropriate solutions.

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