Engagement, Information and Capacity: A Long Term Perspective For a Durable Energy Decision Making System in Canada


While questions related to policies, programs and energy projects have been common for many years, they remain and are perhaps more complicated than ever. It could be seen as a cliché to say that we are living during a historic turning point. The rapidity of technical and economic changes, the number of stakeholders and the diversity of interests concerned, the plurality of interrelated aspects, the amount of information being produced, and the level of politicisation create a very high degree of difficulty for all sorts of decision-making processes, from policies to projects. As we know, energy decision-making can create controversy, opposition and take longer than originally planned. Many groups and stakeholders are asking for changes. Public confidence is fragile, demands for more engagement and information are recurrent and some processes are questioned or contested. The Positive Energy Research Team1 does not think the system is broken, but does think that it is in need of ‘informed reform’ – reform that explicitly takes into consideration the policy, planning, regulatory, market and physical energy systems, along with the rise of municipal and Indigenous authorities in energy decision-making. So, when it comes to engagement, information and capacity, how can we improve the process? At this particular moment in Canada, when we are dealing with the implementing stage of the regulation reform, this paper wants to concentrates on those three notions, especially at the upstream and downstream levels of decision-making, and notably for long term policy development and project implementation.2

The challenge addressed here is how to improve the decision-making process to achieve a higher level of public confidence. Three main concepts are at the centre of this objective: engagement, information and capacity. Oriented as much as possible on a “what is working” perspective, the paper explores and develops some processes, tools and practices that illustrate notions. All three sections propose avenues to pave the way for greater public confidence and better decision-making processes in the Canadian energy sector. Part 1 is dedicated to engagement by exploring the principles underpinning best-practices. Part 2 concerns collaborative policies and strategic environmental assessment (SEA) as means to improve upstream decision-making processes and favour clear and shared policy orientations and objectives. Part 3 is focused on a downstream organizational and project perspective and is devoted to implementation and management practices.

These suggested avenues must be developed within the Canadian context of balancing engagement, information and capacity with the realities of a market-based energy system, where investors are looking for timeliness, predictability (in process, if not outcomes) and competitiveness with other jurisdictions. As the Positive Energy Research Team has stated, it is necessary to address the challenges by establishing a workable balance between key energy imperatives: (a) market, competitiveness and economic imperatives; (b) environmental, social, local and Indigenous imperatives; and (c) security, reliability and affordability imperatives.

1. Engagement as co-construction: principles

Things have changed since the 1990s. Public dissent regarding policies and projects is organized and systematic and especially strong in the environmental and energy sectors. We can observe a dynamic “market” of public engagement: a great variety of tools that have, to a certain degree, the objective, at least in appearance, to consult and invite civil society to discuss and influence decision-making for the development and implementation of policies and projects. Some specialists and academics called this the “deliberative turn”3 or “deliberative imperative”4 and whether we are fans or critics of those tools, they are here to stay. A real professionalization of public engagement5 is happening, which serves as an indicator of the institutionalization of the phenomena.

A panoply of approaches, processes and tools are now in use. We observe different sorts in different sectors. From town hall meetings to participatory budget, public hearings, follow-up hybrid committees, concertation tables, online consultation, parliamentary commissions or referendums, there is a huge diversity of engagement processes. Those latter result from choices and affect the participative experience and outputs.

The recognized general principles of public engagement

Based on numerous works conducted on public engagement during the last 20 years6 on a theoretical or a practical perspective, we have identified a series of general principles which inform the implementation of those different processes. We propose eight (8) principles that in one way or another, and to different degrees, seem to be part of any rigorous process of public engagement. The underlying notion is co-construction, which occurs when a plurality of stakeholders are implicated in the production of a policy, a project, a category, a technical or knowledge dispositive7. Even if the capacity to participate in this co-construction depends in part on pre-existing power relations, which limits co-construction and how different points of view are taken into account,8 the main idea here is the relative continuity in the expertise and role of implicated stakeholders in articulating the different dimensions of projects and in specifying the possibilities. From this point of view, co-construction implies a type of engagement that is stronger than what is associated with concertation (cooperation) or consultation”.9

8 principles for a rigorous process of public engagement

1. Upstream engagement: consultation must start at the very beginning of the policy-making process or project investigation. Early engagement is important to build trust with stakeholders and to ensure that engagement outcomes can influence design. The screening of the options to resolve a problem or to develop an activity must be planned with the stakeholders and the affected groups/communities.

A necessary first step to support effective engagement is to establish a common definition and understanding of the issue or decision at hand. The problem definition should influence the choice of engagement tools. However, there are risks associated with initiating engagement processes too early when available information is still incomplete

2. Inclusiveness: the engagement process must include wide-ranging stakeholders. Exclusion is not well perceived or received and participants must be integrated at different stages, ideally with an open perspective. Imposing restrictions or basing the right to participate to an interpretative evaluation is poor engagement practices.10 Some stakeholders may have different status terms of legality and legitimacy, and qualifications may change over time. For example, the role of Indigenous communities and municipalities is increasing within decision-making for the Canadian energy sector.

3. Information, transparency and clarity of the rules: Access to reliable information is a prerequisite for effective and efficient energy decision-making by decision-makers in industry, policy and communities as well as by individual citizens. The rules of the process should be known in advance and must remain predictable. Opacity and improvisation must be avoided. Adaptability, however, can happen, by planning different options with clear conditions.

4. Resources and access: the participants must have the capacity to fully engage. They should have the resources and the time to really contribute to the process. Financing some activities or organizations/groups is an option that must be considered in some cases, even though different mechanisms can be used to assure access and engagement.11

5. Traceability and continuity: it is important for the credibility of the engagement process that one can follow its timeline, retrace its steps and its results. Different synthetises must be produced to keep the process open and accessible in order to allow stakeholders to understand the decision result. It is a question of providing decision rationales – both at the sub-decision level, and at the overall decision level. Continuity in the process with follow–up activities/discussions will reinforce the relations between stakeholders and allow them to stay up to date on monitoring the effects of the policy/project.

6. Influence, modification on the decision and the “no option”: the engagement process has to be meaningful and show that it has some effect on the decision-making. It is a question of trust, for now and for the future. For this reason, it is necessary to be able to see how the policy/project has been influenced and modified to one degree or another by the exercise and how the decision would be without it. Processes are not simply steps to fallow or boxes to check, but rather real exercises in which modification or denial (if appropriate) is still a potential outcome. Expectations for any kind of pre-determined outcome are antithetical to the public trust needed for these processes.

7. Negotiation and compensation: In the last few years, the trend to incorporate negotiation and compensation has grown stronger, once the negative impact that a policy/project could have on specific groups/communities was recognized. The challenge here is to maintain the balance between local or regional stakeholders and public and national interest, even at the international level.12 Identify the ‘win-win’ solutions is essential. An effective means for garnering support among diverse parties is to identify where their goals align.

8. Efficiency: What is the ‘workable balance’ between the appropriate breadth and depth of engagement? Limited resources require choices to be made. The costs and time of the process, including avoiding content repetition, are still important principles for engagement design. Technologies available must be mobilized so that efficiency can be achieved.

This section has discussed principles of engagement and these considerations have to be integrated within the Canadian energy context, modernization schemes, and within the reality of a market based system and the globalized competition between countries. The next sections contemplate how engagement can be improved and with what degree of institutionalization in energy policy development and project implementation – two circumstances that could benefit from increased public confidence and improved decision-making processes.

2. The upstream decision-making process: revisiting policy development

As Bird indicates,13 the regulation phase faces important challenges to assess and decide on projects when the upstream portion, i.e. the policy choices, are not clear. It is a thin and fragile line that divides the policy and regulation dimensions. Clear political orientations and policy objectives are necessary to protect the independence of regulators and prevent conflicts in their roles. In that context, an integrated approach based on collaboration and openness could be a key for better acceptance of results and a stronger coordinated system of policy-making decisions. Best practices could be studied and diffused.

Regarding governance and accountability, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has offered a variety of suggestions to improve regulation.14 Several of these apply to the policy level, with clear articulation of policy goals and principles of open government: transparency, clarity, engagement, public interest, and plain language.

2.1 Co-construction and Collaborative policy

Problem complexity, limited resources and time, the omnipresence of the media and the plurality of perspectives and interests command collaboration. There are different ways to collaborate and collaboration takes different forms. The organization of this collaboration is governance that includes engagement at different moments of a decision-making process, with a goal to pursue the public interest and sustainable development. This general principle of co-construction can be embodied through collaborative policy. “Collaborative policy-making is a process whereby one or more public agencies craft a solution to a policy issue using consensus-driven dialogue with diverse parties who will be affected by the solution or who can help implement it”.15 Particularly used to deal with hard issues or complex sectors like environment and energy,16 collaborative policy appears as a source of innovation and contributes to better informed politicians and creating new solutions. We observe a proliferation of literature on this approach, both from academics and practitioners especially at the local level and from the U.S. west coast. Collaborative process brings engagement and public involvement a degree farther on a series of points.17 In the collaborative process, the objective is to search for a single voice, rather than only hear from all parties involved, in order to focus on interests and not only take positions.18 The primary focus is to find common ground, more than advocate for a point of view. Participants act more as decision-makers, and negotiation, as a standard practice, is usually in open sessions and not behind closed doors. Finally, the outcome is reported in one decision or in a document (principles, orientation, and policy) and the timing is adapted to the object and the challenges.

Changing leadership models is an imperative within this approach. A current trend is to listen and design forums by using “soft political power”.19 More interactive political leadership is a new way to conceive the democratic mandate through a permanent dialogue with civil society and stakeholders.20 A recent initiative, Generation Energy. Moving Canada forward, is an interesting and concrete example of important dialogue activities with civil society in proposing new policy bases and a better place for citizens and engagement. This kind of initiative must be recurrent, formalized, planned in a cyclical fashion and linked directly to energy decision-making processes.

As Ansell and Gash emphasize,21 collaborative governance is formal, public, multilateral and consensus-oriented, including responsibility from stakeholders. For collaboration to happen, a series of conditions must be in place: a complex problem, major implementation challenges, face-to-face interaction, representation/diversity, trust building, horizontal power structure, embeddedness, commitment to the process, shared understanding of issues and intermediates outcomes.22

Usually, collaborative policies are elaborated in different steps. Depending on the approach, we observed three to six steps which overlap to a certain degree.23 Based on the model developed by the Handbook for Public Policy Decision-Making and Conflict Resolution24 we describe four (4) main steps of the process and their major elements,25 as were discussed during the leaders’ workshop based on participants’ different experiences, institutions and processes.26

The first phase is the Assessment Phase. It is ideally conducted by a neutral agency or commission, to identify issues and stakeholders. The assessor will identify the stakeholders, the issues, the resources and the time, and the potential conflicts that a public policy exercise could face. Sharing control is a condition that the sponsor must accept for the collaborative process to be successful.

The model proposes an exploratory exercise using interviews with stakeholders to identify major issues, interests and any need for more information, openness to a collaborative process, the next steps, snowballing to identify additional participants to engage. Early engagement is important to build trust with the community and to ensure that engagement outcomes can actually influence project design. A necessary first step in the engagement process is to establish a common understanding of the issue or decision at hand. The established problem definition should influence the choice of engagement tools. The result of the assessment phase is a report summarizing the key findings.

The Convening Phase uses a facilitator (the assessor or a third party or even a hybrid committee that represent different interests) who will plan the process, provide a statement of purpose, an agreement on ground rules, and the need to gather information. Sometimes, this gathering of information means educating one another or bringing more facts to the dialogue. However, in our case, with complex issues and a multifaceted sector, this phase will produce information.27 Agreement on the information to be produced is important and a “joint-fact finding” approach can be adopted. Studies by expert committees can also be done on specific topics. International expertise or visits to sites, infrastructure and institutions can be arranged.

The Deliberation and Negotiation Phase begins once the information is available (studies, reports); different forms of consultation and engagement processes can be organized. Deliberation operates as a forum, a space where issues are defined and knowledge may be explained through various epistemologies; a spectrum of possibilities28 is discussed. Many tools are mobilised and public debate is documented: from open and inclusive public hearings organised across the country, diffused by the Internet, live and podcasted to electronic exchanges, to presentations from expert panels, by themes or by region. When positions are known, negotiations can start with an integrative bargaining perspective, a “positive-sum” exercise. Negotiations can be set as an arena where interests are arbitrated, with proposed adjustments and priorities, orientations and objectives for the policy. The result of the negotiation is tested and refined in draft agreements, eventually binding the parties to their commitments and ratified by the representatives.

Lastly, the Decision Phase connects the agreement and the formal decision. The official policy content could differ from the agreement for some elements or detailed formulations. Trying to identify ‘win-win’ solutions is the objective, where goals align and where interests overlap. If collaboration is desirable, trade-offs implicate the responsibility and the legitimacy of elected representatives in our representative democracy. That said, it is important to keep contact with the participants, to inform, communicate and explain the choices made by the public authority in the final formulation of the policy. Planning a committee or some tools and resources to monitor and evaluate the policy in line with the agreement may also occur.

The important question that remains is how far should we go concerning the institutionalization of collaborative approaches? Are ad hoc initiatives sufficient? Should we encourage permanent, cyclic and compulsory processes and institutions? This issue is fundamental to important reforms happening in Canada now. Engagement could help formalize the policy development process, to inject more collaboration, predictability, transparency and accountability and identify clear orientations and concrete objectives for the energy system.

2.2 Co-construction of information and knowledge sharing: Strategic Environmental Assessment

Different types of energy decisions require different types of information. For example, energy project decisions require highly localized data. In contrast, energy policy-making requires aggregate information at the national, provincial, regional or local levels. On one hand, science is an important source of information even if for different reasons that go beyond the scope of this article, it is regularly contested throughout the decision-making process.29 Indigenous, vernacular, and citizen groups and individual knowledge and information also have relevance and must be part of the decision-making process.30

A concrete tool that can be used to support a collaborative policy approach by addressing the important question of information is the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).31 For more than 25 years, the SEA has been recognized as a rapidly developing field of research and application to foster sustainable development.32 It is the “natural extension” of the more diffused and institutionalised “Environmental Impact Assessment” (EIA) for projects, where SEA extends assessment to policies, plans and programs. The SEA has been defined as:

“a systematic process for evaluating the environmental consequences of proposed policy, plan or programme initiatives in order to ensure they are fully included and appropriately addressed at the earliest appropriate stage of decision-making on par with economic and social considerations.”33

This instrument developed steadily on a global basis through the 1990s and 2000s, especially in Europe. Canada was among the main countries to plan its institutionalization, alongside the United States, Western Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands and the European Commission, i.e., countries governed by the European Directive on the SEA. “The SEA is being used, both formally and informally, in an increasing number of countries and international organizations”,34 in several fields such as fisheries, forestry, waste management, town and country planning and of course in the energy sector.35

The SEA process follows a number of steps, from screening to follow-up activities. “Even when the SEA is a statutory requirement, as is the case in Canada, the preliminary screening phase that determines the need for a SEA relies on a discretionary mechanism. Decisions generally depend on a significant or major impact of a policy, plan or program (PPP) rather than on lists of inclusions or exclusions”.36 If the PPP implies some significant or potentially important environmental impacts, the screening phase will identify the terms of reference – the reasons for the SEA and scale of considerations37. The scoping phase then identifies what the SEA must take into account. This phase proposes a state of the current situation, the environmental, social and economic objectives and the limitations of the SEA, by framing the different options to be analysed, the implications for the projects linked with the PPP and the methodology to follow (data, epistemologies and consultations). The third phase consists of the evaluation of these options, their comparison and the solutions intended to reduce negative impacts and increase benefits. After that, the revision phase evaluates if the SEA is in accordance with the attempts and usually a consultation exercise is also planned to validate the information, the advice and propositions received and to be sure that the report and the conclusions are well-understood. Once conclusions are made and explained, the SEA report is sent to the public authority and usually released to the public.

From a good practices point of view, a successful SEA process must respect a number of criteria like the ones established in 2002 by the International Association for Impact Assessment: (1) integrated, (2) sustainably led, (3) focused, (4) accountable, (5) participative and (6) iterative.38

The SEA, as a strategic and planning tool, involves a number of advantages and has the potential to contribute to a collaborative policy process. “The SEA can facilitate a proactive approach by ensuring that environmental and sustainability considerations are taken into account during early stages of strategic decision-making processes”,39 by trickling-down sustainability and capturing large scale and cumulative effects40 and with better consideration for alternatives.41 The SEA can improve planning transparency, including engagement of stakeholders by sharing information and interests to potentially decrease the risks of litigations, avoid delays and facilitate the acceptation and implementation of future projects.42 Cashmore et al.43 also identified important benefits: learning outcomes – both social and technical; governance outcomes – e.g. stakeholder engagement; and development outcomes – design choices, consent decisions; and attitudinal and value changes. Some authors also believe SEA helps to sensitize decision makers and enhance governance capacity.44 In the current context of complex problems, pluralistic society and systematic dissent, the SEA appears more relevant than ever. As Lobos and Partidario mention: “it is believed that the dialogues enabled by the SEA could contribute to improve the quality of decision processes, leading stakeholders to work together collaboratively when making decisions”.45 Furthermore, a coordinated SEA process with other levels of government (provinces, municipalities and Indigenous communities) can contribute to fill significant gaps in the availability of energy information given the way Canada’s constitution often generates problems of comparability of energy information across jurisdictions.

3. The downstream decision-making process: projects and co-management

At the other end of the decision-making process, we find the governance of individual projects. How can this part of the system be improved and as a result raise public confidence? Some management structures seem to be more efficient than others.46 To reinforce information, capacity development and engagement, co-management can help tackle these issues. In this section, we define co-management at both the micro- and meso-levels in a long term perspective and at the downstream of the decision-making process.

Co-management is a notion that has been the object of a considerable research over the past few years, in different disciplines and on different subjects. Co-management is usually defined as

“a situation in which two or more social actors negotiate, define and guarantee amongst themselves a fair sharing of the management functions, entitlements and responsibilities for a given territory, area or set of natural resources.”47

Table 1 provides the principal characteristics attributed to co-management. Carlsson and Berkes48 state that co-management can be situated on a continuum, from information exchange among the parties to full partnership. Two kind of specific tools are briefly presented. The first three tools count on long term relations with different kinds of stakeholders, sharing information, knowledge and expertise, activities that contribute to improved understandings, interests and values: long term general agreements; multi-level governance; and permanent relationships through organizational design. These must be considered as an investment and not as an expense or a waste of time, signaling a cultural shift in the way we conceive relations between resources, communities, time and decisions. Three other co-management tools are project-related and based on engagement: impact and benefit agreements; partnership and ownership; and joint follow-up committees. They require production of information and imply capacity development. They have the potential to stimulate the learning process for stakeholders and could contribute to the project’s acceptability and raise public confidence.

Table 1 – Characteristics attributed to co-management

  • A power sharing process;
  • A bridge between different types of stakeholders;
  • Integration of different forms of knowledge
  • Ongoing problem-solving process through a complex structure
  • Evolving process that implies negotiation and learning
  • Formulation of agreements
  • Time and resource consuming, taking longer to reach consensus
  • Certain disequilibrium of resources between parties
  • Adaptive communication tools
  • Third party “regulation”
  • Historical relations
  • Public confidence


3.1 Long term general agreement

This tool specifies the creation of a general agreement between the proponent and a specific group, a region, a territory or a large municipality. This long term option underpins a specific project, with a series of settlements associated with projects or specific activities. This kind of tool results from negotiation and solidifies better long-term relations between the proponent and a specific group of stakeholders. Subjected to review on a regular basis, it also informs future negotiations during a particular project. A general agreement can also be made with a territory.

3.2 Multi-level governance capacity

In this co-management avenue, a variety of jurisdictions gather as a permanent standing committee to plan or perform activities at the regional level or on a specific territory, thereby creating a structure that regularly connects stakeholders. This tool could be particularly efficient to share understandings, interests and values and conducive to reach compromises or consensus.49 Regarding natural resources, this approach could produce a regional integrated management plan.

3.3 Permanent relationships by organizational design

As mentioned for upstream policy development, building long-term relationships between decision-makers, communities and other groups is crucial to creating the ‘safe space’ that is necessary for the various parties to come together and openly discuss their views. In the perspective of organizational design, the proponent can create structures to stay in touch with the interests and concerns of different community organizations. The idea is to be present and aware of the issues and appear as a full partner for regional stakeholders. In that sense, the organization is not only the proponent of a project that could face acceptability issues, but a development actor. The knowledge acquired by this indirect and long term co-management approach is very valuable, especially with time constraints.

3.4 Impact and Benefit Agreements (IBAs) and compensation

IBAs are usually defined in a document (agreement, convention, protocol), between the project proponent and individuals such as a landowner affected by new infrastructure (windfarm turbines, powerline pylons), or groups, located in an Indigenous community, a municipality or a region. The IBA may be required by law or agreed on a voluntary basis.50 IBAs can be designed based on financial benefits, on contributions for specific projects (environmental protection, economic development) or on employment created directly and indirectly by the project. Other possibilities include the decrease of the electricity price or the municipality taxes.51 IBAs are seen nowadays as good practice52 and an integral part of projects, also helping improve acceptability.53 The perception of inequality by civil society is an important factor that must be considered54 and, in that sense, amounts of compensation and its fair distribution are sensible elements. For this reason, IBAs imply procedural justice issues,55 such as who is receiving the compensation and how much it is.

3.5 Partnership and ownership

Another form of co-management tool consists of sharing the ownership of the project. In partnership with one Indigenous community or one or more municipalities, the proponent will approach the community as a full partner of the project, by sharing the benefits in a variety of ways. This is a higher level of co-management compared with IBAs. In the windfarm sector, research findings have been related to the level of public acceptance.56 When local ownership is encouraged, there is a better perception towards the projects, due mainly to community engagement.57 The ownership permits communities to get a better control of the decision-making process as they are included in the planning activities; trust, the base of a co-construction model, is generated.58 Ownership appears to be the desirable way to enable a better use of project benefits that sometimes are dwarfed in the IBAs approach.59 Indigenous ownership of energy project development has also become a force of reconciliation.

3.6 Joint follow-up committees

This tool creates a space for regular meetings and activities of stakeholders to implement and monitor follow-up programs regarding the environmental, economic and social impacts associated with a project. Committees may be established on a voluntary basis or because of conditions set forth by the public authority in authorizing the project. The members of the committees exchange information, knowledge and concerns. In Canada,

“Although the Act [Canadian Environmental Assessment Act] does not require the establishment of a follow-up monitoring and management unit, such units would help to bridge the gap between data collection and decision-making. The “management” dimension of the unit’s mandate would make explicit its role as a catalyst for adaptive management.”60

Issues related to this co-management option include stakeholders’ representation; the agenda definition; access to information; confidentiality; transparency; internal and external communication; and the freedom and resources at the committee disposal. The role of third parties is an interesting and real option to manage the relationship between the proponent, the community and the regulator.

This last element rings true to all the aforementioned co-management tools. Some of them are voluntary, others are mandatory. Either way, these tools depend on support of the elected representatives and the public authorities.


To face current and future challenges, the energy sector should opt for a co-construction perspective, by endorsing principles of engagement; activities should rely on inclusiveness, transparency and efficiency. Regulatory reform at the federal level is underway and important steps have already been taken. Some major principles have been adopted; some are consistent with a large number of recommendations made during consultation and discussion processes held by the government over the past two years and ones we propose in this article. However, the regulation phase is not the entire system, reason why this paper addresses other components of it.

The energy sector must reinforce the formalization of the policy-development process, in a collaborative way, based on an ambitious and productive process of assessment of possible options, informed by the principles of the SEA to identify orientations and objectives. Finally, it must develop co-management tools at the meso- and the micro-levels to harmonize the relationship among stakeholders on a long term perspective, by sharing not only the benefits of projects but also all gathered information; in short, the interests and the values of stakeholders of the energy system.

Inspired by three main themes, Engagement, Information and Capacity and their redeployment, choices have to be made. Ultimately, it is a question of how to create the political feasibility and trust for decision-making. This will depend on the degree of institutionalization developed for these avenues. As we have noted, efficiency and an acceptable balance must be found among stakeholders, taking into account current perceptions and the Canadian context of a market-based energy system. Limited resources require choices with regards to who should be engaged and to what depth. Assured timeliness, predictability and competitiveness is crucial. Key energy imperatives identified as (a) market, competitiveness and economic imperatives; (b) environmental, social, local and Indigenous imperatives, and (c) security, reliability and affordability imperatives must all be taken into account.

* Louis Simard holds a PhD in sociology from the Institut d’études politiques de Paris (2003) as well as a Master’s degree in political science from the University of Quebec in Montreal. His research work focuses on public participation in the environmental and energy sectors: specifically, he examines the effects of public participatory instruments on regulation process, public policy implementation and organizational learning. He is currently working on social acceptability and public participation professionals. He is the co-author of The Professionalization of the Public Participation (2017, Routledge).

  1. The University of Ottawa’s Positive Energy project seeks to strengthen public confidence in Canadian energy policy, regulation and decision-making through evidence-based research and analysis, engagement and recommendations for action. See University of Ottawa, Positive Energy, online: <https://www.uottawa.ca/positive-energy>.
  2. The long version of this paper figures as a report produced as part of the Positive Energy initiative. See Michael Cleland & Monica Gattinger, System Under Stress: Energy Decision-Making in Canada and the Need for Informed Reform, (Ottawa: University of Ottawa (Positive Energy), 2017), which zeroed in on three core “stress points” in Canada’s energy decision-making system: (1) how to strengthen and clarify relationships and roles between policymakers and regulators; (2) how to balance local interests with higher-order regional, provincial, and national interests; and (3) how to strengthen engagement, information and capacity in energy decision-making. These stress points were the focus of three senior leaders’ workshops with diverse representation from government, Indigenous organizations, industry, ENGOs and academia. Workshop deliberations were informed by discussion papers and resulted in this and two additional interim reports: Stewart Fast, Who Decides? Balancing and Bridging Local, Indigenous and Broader Societal Interests in Canadian Energy Decision-Making, System Under Stress – Interim Report #1 (Ottawa: Positive Energy, 2017), online: <http://www.uottawa.ca/positiveenergy/sites/www.uottawa.ca.positive-energy/files/positive_energy-who_decides_dec_2017.pdf>; Stephen Bird, The Policy-Regulatory Nexus in Canada’s Energy Decision-Making, System Under Stress – Interim Report #2 (Ottawa: Positive Energy, 2017), online: < https://www.uottawa.ca/positive-energy/sites/www.uottawa.ca.positive-energy/files/interim_best_practices_discussion_paper.pdf>. Readers are also directed to Michael Cleland & Monica Gattinger, Durable Balance: Informed Reform of Energy Decision-Making in Canada, (Ottawa: Positive Energy, 2018), online: <https://www.uottawa.ca/positive-energy/sites/www.uottawa.ca.positive-energy/files/180418-db-report-final.pdf>, the final report for Phase 1 of Positive Energy. The author would like to thank Monica Gattinger, Mike Cleland, Stewart Fast, Stephen Bird, Rafael Aguirre, Laura Nourallah, Marisa Beck, Shawn Denstedt, Kim Scott and David Mullan for the comments and suggestions. The author, however, bears full responsibility for the article.
  3. See John S. Dryzek, Deliberative Democracy and Beyond: Liberals, Critics, and Contestations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002); Simone Chambers, “Deliberative democratic theory” (2003) 6:1 Annual R of Political Science 307.
  4. Loïc Blondiaux & Yves Sintomer, “L’impératif délibératif” (2002) 15:57 Politix 17.
  5. Laurence Bherer, Maio Gauthier & Louis Simard, The Professionalization of Public Participation Field, 1st ed (New York: Routledge, 2017).
  6. Notably, Loïc Blondiaux, Le nouvel esprit de la démocratie. Actualité de la démocratie participative (Paris : Seuil, 2008); Michel Callon, Pierre Lascoumes & Yannick Barthe, Acting in an Uncertain World. An Essay on Technical Democracy (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2009); Deloitte ‐ Samson Bélair / Deloitte & Touche, “Ouvrir la porte à vos parties prenantes: la clé du développement durable”, 2009, online: < http://globaldialogue.ca/doc/Ouvrir_la_porte_a_vos_parties_prenante.pdf> ; Thomas Dietz & Paul C. Stern (eds), Public Participation in Environmental Assessment and DecisionMaking (Washington: The National Academies Press, 2008); IAIA, “Strategic environmental assessment performance criteria”, (January 2002) International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) Special Publication Series No 1, online: <http://www.iaia.org/uploads/pdf/sp1.pdf>; Debra Sequeira & Michael Warner, “Dialogue avec les Parties Prenantes : le manuel des bonnes pratiques pour les entreprises réalisant des affaires sur les marchés en développement” (2007) International Finance Corporation Working Paper No 39916, online: < https://www.ifc.org/wps/wcm/connect/528c708048855c1e8b1cdb6a6515bb18/IFC_StakeholderEngagement_French.pdf?MOD=AJPERES>; Gene Rowe & Lynn J. Frewer, “The Concept and Enactment of Public Participation” (2005) Science Technology Human Values 30:2 251; Gene Rowe & Lynn J. Frewer, “Public Participation Methods: A Framework for Evaluation” (2000) Science Technology Human Values 25:1 3; Graham Smith, Democratic Innovations: Designing Institutions for Citizen Participation, 1st ed (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2 July 2009).
  7. Loose translation. Madeleine Akrih & al, Dictionnaire critique et interdisciplinaire de la participation (Paris : GIS Démocratie et Participation, 2013) sub verbo “co-construction”.
  8. Dominique Pestre, “Des sciences, des techniques et de l’ordre démocratique et participative”(2011) 1:1 Participations 210.
  9. Loose translation. Supra note 7.
  10. Some decision processes mandatory imply consultation activities, and in some cases, it is mandatory to consult specific stakeholders, as it is for Indigenous communities in line with the duty to consult.
  11. For recent application of no. 3 and 4, see the Supreme Court decisions in Clyde River (Hamlet) v Petroleum Geo-Services Inc., 2017 SCC 40, [2017] 1 SCR 1069; Chippewas of the Thames First Nation v. Ebridge Pipelines Inc., 2017 SCC 41, [2017] 1 SCR 1099.
  12. This point surely takes different forms depending if it is the policy level or the project level.
  13. Bird, supra note 1.
  14. Ibid.
  15. Sacramento State, Center for Collaborative Policy, online: <http://www.csus.edu/ccp/policymaking/policies.html>.
  16. Sørensen & S. Boch Waldorff, “Collaborative Policy Innovation: Problems and Potential” (2014) 19:3, The Innovation J 1.
  17. Oregon Public Policy Dispute Resolution Program, “Collaborative Approaches: A Handbook for Public Policy Decision-Making and Conflict Resolution” (2000) Oregon Public Policy Dispute Resolution Program Working Paper; Gerald Cormick, Norman Dale, Paul Emond, S. Glenn Sigurdson & Barry D. Stuart, Building Consensus for a Sustainable Future: Putting Principles into Practice (Ottawa: National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, 1996).
  18. Like Weible and Sabatier (2009) have shown, collaborative policies increase the convergence of beliefs from rival coalitions. Christopher M. Weible & Paul A. Sabatier, “Coalitions, Science, and Belief Change: Comparing Adversarial and Collaborative Policy Subsystems” (2009) 37:2 Policy Studies J 195.
  19. E Sørensen & Jacob Torfing, “Strengthening Interactive Political Leadership through Institutional Design of Arenas for Collaborative Policy Innovation: Theoretical reflections and empirical findings” (Paper delivered at the PMRA conference, WashingtonDC, 8-11 June 2017).
  20. Some examples of governance typology are proposed in Fast, supra note 2.
  21. Chris Ansell & Alison Gash, “Collaborative Governance in Theory and Practice” (2008) 18:4 J of Public Administration Research and Theory 543.
  22. Ibid; Kirk Emerson, Tina Nabatchi & Stephen Balogh, “An Integrative Framework for Collaborative Governance” (2012) 22:1 J of Public Administration Research and Theory 1; Peter DeLeon & Danielle M. Varda, “Toward a Theory of Collaborative Policy Networks: Identifying Structural Tendencies” (2009) 37:1 Policy Studies J 59; J.E. Innes & D.E. Booher, Planning with complexity: An introduction to collaborative rationality for public policy, (New York: Routledge, 2010).
  23. Lawrence Susskind & J. Cruikshank, Breaking the Impasse (New York: Basic Books, 1987); Barbara Gray, Collaborating: Finding common ground for multiparty problems (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1989); Jurian Edelenbos, “Institutional implications of interactive governance: Insights from Dutch practice “ (2005) 18:1 Governance: An Intl J of Policy, Administration and Institutions 111.
  24. OPPDRP, supra note 17.
  25. This model is enriched in the paper by other recent models. In general, we find the same phases more or less developed, one phase can be divided into two others and so on. Since it is only a model, it has to be adjusted in all cases to the policy issues, the context and the stakeholders.
  26. For example, the development of the energy-policy cycle in Quebec includes selected steps every ten years. The Bureau d’audiences publiques sur l’environnement du Québec (BAPE), an independent environment-related consultation agency, is responsible for a diversity of processes that can be compared with the collaboration steps.
  27. Could correspond to the SEA process that will be presented in the next section.
  28. This might include important distinctions for centralisation or decentralisation of energy production and coordination issues that this kind of choice implies. Some think that the Canadian energy sector suffers from institutional inertia. The increasing rate of local ownership of energy facilities causes a decentralization of power in the energy decision-making system away from large companies and toward (Indigenous and other) communities. The changing ownership structure is understood by many to promote democracy in the energy system.
  29. See Cleland & Gattinger, supra note 2. Canadians’ trust in the objectivity of science is low. A poll among 1,514 from August 2017 shows that 43 percent of the respondents believe that scientific findings are a matter of opinion (“Legerweb online survey”, Legerweb.com, 15-16 August 2017). As a result, communication of scientific information requires building relationships with various audiences and information has to be translated and communicated differently to reach them.
  30. Fast, supra note 2.
  31. The environment must be understood here in its large sense, not only the restricted biophysical dimension. Economic and social dimensions are included as Sustainability Development includes the three pillars.
  32. J.J. De Boer, & B. Sadler, “Strategic Environmental Assessment: Environmental Assessment of Policies (Briefing papers on experience in selected countries)” (The Hague: Netherland, 1996), Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment and International Study of Effectiveness of Environmental Assessment; T.B Fischer, “Reviewing the quality of strategic environmental assessment reports for English spatial plan core strategies” (2010) 30:1 Environmental Impact Assessment Rev 62; R.B. Gibson, “Sustainability assessment: basic components of a practical approach” (2006) 24:3 Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal 170; N. Lee & F Walsh, “Strategic environmental assessment: an overview” (1992) 7:3 Project Appraisal 126; M.R. Partidario, “Strategic environmental assessment: Key issues emerging from recent practice” (1996) 16:1 Environmental Impact Assessment Rev 31; B Sadler & R Verheem, “Strategic environmental assessment: status, challenges and future directions” (The Hague: Netherland, 1996), Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment; S.P. Smith & W.R. Sheate, “Sustainability appraisal of English regional plans: incorporating the requirements of the EU Strategic Environmental Assessment Directive” (2001) 19:4 Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal 263; R. Thérivel, “Systems of strategic environmental assessment” (1993) 13:3 Environmental Impact Assessment Review 145; R. Thérivel & M.R. Partidario (eds), The Practice of Strategic Environmental Assessment (London: Earthscan, 1996) at 206.
  33. Sadler and Verheem, Ibid.
  34. Sadler, “Taking stock of SEA” in B. Sadler & al, ed, Handbook of strategic environmental assessment (London: Earthscan, 2011) 1.
  35. See Simone Caschili & al, “The Strategic Environment Assessment bibliographic network: A quantitative literature review analysis” (2014) 47:1 Environmental Impact Assessment Rev 14; Monica Fundingsland Tetlowa & Marie Hanusch, “Strategic environmental assessment: the state of the art” (2012) 30:1 Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal 15; At the same time, there is an institutional and mythological pluralism for SEA. See Bram F. Noble, “Promise and dismay: The state of strategic environmental assessment systems and practices in Canada” (2009) 29:1 Environmental Impact Assessment Rev 66 : “Indeed, some of the better examples (in Canada) have neither carried the SEA name tag nor occurred under its formal requirements” (at p 66). Noble specifies: “‘SEA type’ practices are ongoing in Canada, many of which carry no SEA label but are based, purposefully or not, on relatively sound principles and methodology. This suggests that there must be some real benefits to the SEA; the problem is that very little is known about such applications as SEA exists nowhere in a formal context outside of the federal Directive” (at p 73).
  36. Gauthier, L. Simard & J.-P. Waaub, “Public participation in strategic environmental assessment (SEA): critical review and the Quebec (Canada) approach” (2011) 31:1 Environmental Impact Assessment Rev 48.
  37. This general process is based, notably on M. Crowley & N. Risse, “L’évaluation environnementale stratégique : un outil pour aider les administrations publiques à mettre en œuvre le développement durable” (2011) 17:2 Télescope 1; Morten Bidstrup & Anne Merrild Hansen, “The paradox of strategic environmental assessment” (2014) 47: 1 Environmental Impact Assessment Review 29.
  38. IAIA, “Strategic environmental assessment performance criteria” (2002) International Association for Impact Assessment (IAIA) Special Publication Series No 1, online: <http://www.iaia.org/uploads/pdf/sp1.pdf>.
  39. Tetlowa and Hanusch, supra note 35; A. Chaker, K. El-Fadl, L. Chamas & B. Hatjian, “A review of strategic environmental assessment in 12 selected countries” (2006) 26:1 Environmental Impact Assessment Rev 15.
  40. Lisa White & Bram F. Noble, “Strategic environmental assessment for sustainability: A review of a decade of academic research” (2013) 42:1 Environmental Impact Assessment Review 60.
  41. Chaker, supra note 39; M. Crowley & N. Risse, supra note 37.
  42. Crowley and Risse, ibid.
  43. Cashmore, A. Bond, and D. Cobb, “The role and functioning of environmental assessment: theoretical reflections upon an empirical investigation of causation” (2008) 88 J of Environmental Management 1233.
  44. Stoeglehner, “Effectiveness and Enhancing, S. E. A.: lessons learnt from Austrian experiences in spatial planning” (2010) 28:3 Impact Assessment and Project Appraisal 217.
  45. Partidário, W. Sheate, “Knowledge brokerage — potential for increased capacities and shared power in impact assessment” (2013) 39:1 Environmental Impact Assessment Rev 26.
  46. David Newell, Annica Sandström, Patrik Söderholm, “Network management and renewable energy development: An analytical framework with empirical illustrations” (2017) 23 Energy Research & Social Science 199.
  47. This definition can also and will be applied to project management. G. Borrini-Feyerabend, M.T. Farvar, J.C. Nguinguiri & V. Ndangang, Co-management of Natural Resources: Organizing Negotiation and Learning by Doing (Germany, Heidelberg: Kasparek, 2000).
  48. Lars Carlsson & Fikret Berkes, “Co-management: concepts and methodological implications” (2005) 75 J of Environmental Management 65.
  49. Salvatore Ruggiero, Tiina Onkila & Ville Kuittinen, “Realizing the social acceptance of community renewable energy: A process-outcome analysis of stakeholder influence” (2014) 4 Energy Research & Social Science 53; Nicolas Milot, “Institutionnaliser la collaboration : planifier le recours aux approches collaboratives en environnement” (2009) 9:1 VertigO, online: <https://vertigo.revues.org/8542#quotation>; Joanne Heritz, “The multiplying nodes of Indigenous self-government and public administration” (2017) 60:2 Canadian Public Administration 289.
  50. For Indigenous communities, the Crown has the duty to consult and accommodate. See supra Fast (2018) concerning the differences between the Indigenous communities and municipalities.
  51. See C. Walker & J. Baxter, ““It’s easy to throw rocks at a corporation”: wind energy development and distributive justice in Canada” (2017) 19:6 J of Environmental Policy & Planning 754; MiningFacts.org (Fraser Institute) identifies six types of IBAs in the mining sector, signed with Indigenous communities: Labour provisions, Economic development provisions, Community provisions, Environmental provisions, financial provisions and commercial provisions. Online: <http://www.miningfacts.org/Communities/What-are-Impact-and-Benefit-Agreements-(IBAs)/>.
  52. Jens Lüdeke, “Offshore Wind Energy: Good Practice in Impact Assessment, Mitigation and Compensation” (2017) 19:1 J of Environmental Assessment Policy and Management 1.
  53. Richard Cowell, Gill Bristow & Max Munday, “Acceptance, acceptability and environmental justice: the role of community benefits in wind energy development” (2011) 54:4 J of Environmental Planning and Management 539.
  54. Christidis, G. Lewis & P. Bigelow, “Understanding support and opposition to wind turbine development in Ontario, Canada and assessing possible steps for future development” (2017) 112 Renewable Energy 93.
  55. Walker, supra note 51.
  56. Rand & Ben Hoen, “Thirty years of North American wind energy acceptance research: What have we learned?” (2017) 29 Energy Research & Social Science, 135; Christidis, supra note 54; Jami, Anahita A & Philip R. Walsh, “From consultation to collaboration: A participatory framework for positive community engagement with wind energy projects in Ontario, Canada” (2017) 27 Energy Research & Social Science 14; Walker, supra note 51; C. Walker & J. Baxter, “Procedural justice in Canadian wind energy development: A comparison of community-based and technocratic siting processes” (2017) 29 Energy Research and Social Science 160.
  57. Jami and Walsh, ibid.
  58. Joel Krupa, Lindsay Galbraith & Sarah Burch, “Participatory and multi-level governance: applications to Aboriginal renewable energy projects” (2015) 20:1 Local Environment 81.
  59. Max Munday, Gill Bristow & Richard Cowell, “Wind farms in rural areas: How far do community benefits from wind farms represent a local economic development opportunity?” (2011) 27 J of Rural Studies 1.
  60. Government of Canada, “Community Engagement for Adaptive Management in Environmental Assessment Follow-up” by John F. Devlin, 2011, online: <http://publications.gc.ca/collections/collection_2011/ec/En106-99-2011-eng.pdf>.

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