Canadian environment and the politics of public and private domains: environmental policy in theory and practice

Robin Lynne Cowling

Research output: Working paperAcademic


A review of pre-modern, modern and post-modern societal trends reveals that Canadian environmental policy is a composite of both the public and private domain perceptions of nature. These domains refer to either a perception of nature as a source of public benefits, or as source of private ones. The fact that both of these domains are expressed in policy both at the level of rhetoric and practice helps to disguise the true policy approach being taken by Canadian governments. It is submitted that Canadian governments are still using mainstream approaches to solve environmental problems. The fact that these mainstream environmental policies are being practised in a society for whom risk has become a norm, further explains why environmental deterioration persists. Using a case study of the siting of a regional sanitary landfill in Alberta, several flaws within the practice of developmental decision making are highlighted, such as: a continuing reliance upon risk assessment as a means of determining the economic and environmental consequences of a project; and, a requirement for increased governmental accountability. A discussion of proposed citizen initiatives suggests that the use of increased participation and legal trusts may be a means to achieve change. In conclusion, it is submitted that the Canadian government is incapacitated by both budgetary and constitutional restrictions in order to substantially change policy at the level of practice and therefore Canada has become caught in an environmental stalemate. Citizens through their demands for the right to be recognised as major stakeholders and for increased governmental accountability may be able to affect change in the future.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDen Haag
PublisherInternational Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Number of pages60
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1997
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

SeriesISS working papers. General series


  • ISS Working Paper-General Series


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