Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The Limits of Ecological Modernisation in Canada's Atlantic Provinces

Academic journal article British Journal of Canadian Studies

The Limits of Ecological Modernisation in Canada's Atlantic Provinces

Article excerpt

This article examines the institutional framework and main policies for the promotion of sustainable development by the Canadian Atlantic provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. It then discusses how strategies and policy prescriptions recommended by the ecological modernisation concept are guiding sustainable development at the regional level. It reveals that provincial assemblies, sub-national levels of government and other political institutions, as well as civic non-governmental organisations and regionally-embedded economic interests, are developing environmental policies that display wider agendas of ecological modernisation. Finally, the article identifies a number of promising approaches and best practice in ecological modernisation. It concludes that while the Canadian federal system is ambitious in its policy of promoting sustainable development, in practice it has been unsuccessful in delivering its own promise.

THE DEVELOPMENT AND STABILITY of Canada's Atlantic regions and their communities are being seriously undermined by global warming, loss of biodiversity in marine and coastal areas, and other environmental problems associated with pollution, industrialisation and deforestation. Two decades of above-average temperatures and mainly hot and dry summers have caused considerable crop-loss, while summertime smog and ozone have brought an increase in respiratory disorders to vulnerable groups. Canada's Atlantic coastal regions thus appear to have good reason to share common objectives of protecting their natural environments and ensuring sustainable development. Globalisation and state restructuring are undoubtedly challenging the traditional mechanisms of regional policy practised in Canada and elsewhere (Salmon and Keating 2001: 3). There is considerable overlap in Canadian jurisdiction with regard to the implementation of environmental regulations. This implementation is handled with varying degrees of success through cooperation between the relevant federal and provincial agencies. At present, the Canadian public is pressing all levels of government to eliminate this overlap of environmental competence and put forward methods of environmental management that support innovation and competitiveness.1 In addition, both the federal and provincial levels have considerable powers for regional development. The ten provinces and three territories have exclusive competences in managing their own natural resources and land-use planning.

Are the Atlantic regions and their respective administrations capable of implementing policies that incorporate environmental strategies designed to promote sustainable regional development? What existing environmental strategies and actions are being pursued? And what best practice could be shared by regional policy-makers in Canada and elsewhere?

The overall aim of this article is to address these questions by examining the structure of regional governance in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and to shed some light on the under-researched topic of sharing best practice in fostering ecological modernisation at the regional level.2 It will focus on regional governance in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, enhancing understanding of the similarities and differences in environmental policymaking, and of the roles and contributions of the provinces' historic assemblies in particular. The article concentrates on the contribution of provincial government and assemblies - as well as other political institutions, civic non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and regionally-embedded economic interests - in constructing environmental policy and practice that displays a wider agenda of ecological modernisation. Closely associated with the notion of modernisation and progress, the ecological modernisation theory (also known as 'green production' or 'industrial transformation theory') dominated environmental politics in Europe during the 1990s (Weale 1992; Mol and Spaargaren 2000; Weale et al. …

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