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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Civic tradition & planning processes : a comparative study of two resource communities in Northern Ontario Lewis, Jill

Abstract

This thesis studies the interplay between civic tradition and planning processes through a comparative case study of two Northern Ontario resource towns, Atikokan and Elliot Lake. It assesses the degree of community-wide social capital in these two towns and examines the origin and nature of their civic traditions. It addresses these questions: once a community's civic tradition has been established, how does this tradition affect the execution of planning processes? Do planning processes have the power to affect civic tradition? It is hypothesized that the structure of planning processes employed during the communities' formative years unintentionally wove the communities' social fabrics. Historical documents and interviews with key informants indicate that technocrats from the provincial government and private consulting firms planned Elliot Lake prior to the arrival of its citizens, while Atikokan was developed in the absence of a master plan and with little guidance from the state. Subsequently, both communities lost their major industries, re-doubled their efforts, and built new economic bases. In preparation for economic renewal, Elliot Lake employed an open, participatory planning process, while Atikokan's redevelopment took place behind closed doors. It is concluded that the structure of formative planning processes is a symptom, rather than a cause, of social capital formation. It is the philosophies, attitudes, and values of resource towns' 'founding fathers' (often managers from the resource companies or government-appointed administrators) and pioneers, as well as the resource companies' corporate cultures, that serve as the primary breeding grounds of its social capital. Once formed, social capital manifests itself in a community's conscious civic culture. This culture then passes on from generation to generation. A community's response to consequential disruptions in the macro-environment determines the way in which a community's civic tradition evolves. Planning processes merely reflect and reinforce a community's civic tradition; they do not fundamentally change it. Therefore, planners ought to understand the civic culture of the communities in which they work and they ought to employ planning techniques that are appropriate to a community's social, cultural, and political dynamics.

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