Academic journal article Dalhousie Law Journal

"And the People of the Province": EGSPA's Social Deficit

Academic journal article Dalhousie Law Journal

"And the People of the Province": EGSPA's Social Deficit

Article excerpt

The success of the Nova Scotia Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act (EGSPA) depends on citizen action, changes in attitudes and in the way citizens conduct their lives. In this article the authors discuss the challenges associated with encouraging citizen engagement with EGSPA, and in promoting public awareness and attitudes that support sustainability in Nova Scotia.

Le succès du Nova Scotia Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act (loi sur les objectifs environnementaux et la prospérité durable, EGSPA,) est tributaire de l'action citoyenne, des changements d'attitudes et du mode de vie adopté parles citoyens. Les auteurs de l'article discutent des défis à relever pour encourager les citoyens à faire leurs les objectifs de l'EGSPA, et pour promouvoir la sensibilisation du public et les attitudes qui favorisent la viabilité en NouvelleEcosse.

Introduction

I. Citizen involvement

II. Supporting EGSPA through an environmental bill of rights

III. The challenge of gaining citizen support

IV. Influencing behaviour change

V. Education and communication

Conclusion

Introduction

The Nova Scotia Environmental Goals and Sustainable Prosperity Act1 (EGSPA) is intended to guide the Province of Nova Scotia in creating "one of the most environmentally sustainable and healthiest environments in the world, while growing [Nova Scotia's] economy."2 As that statement suggests, EGSPA is an ambitious statute. It is also unusual in that, unlike more conventional command-and-control environmental legislation, EGSPA announces the provincial government's commitment to achieve twenty-one environmental goals by specified dates. How these goals translate into action and results is not just a legal issue, but also a significant social question. As the legislation itself recognizes, the success of EGSPA depends on citizen action and citizen attitudes. Section 2(c) of EGSPA notes that "the environment and economy of the Province are a shared responsibility of all levels of government, the private sector, and the people of the Province.'"2' EGSPA may, however, enjoy sub-optimal success because citizens may not identify with the goals or may not be prepared to make the behavioural changes required to meet legislative ambitions. Although this social dimension is alluded to in EGSPA, it has not received the attention it deserves. Progress towards full realization of the goals set out in EGSPA would arguably be expedited by an increased focus on citizen participation as a necessary ingredient in motivating and supporting citizens in decision making and actions. Achieving sustainability through effective implementation oiEGSPA requires citizen participation, citizen ownership of the goals of the Act, and public education.4

Public policy development and implementation is a political process involving many participants both inside and outside government. Regulations resulting from progressive policy have been shown to influence behavior changes in positive ways. For example, public health initiatives that encourage participation in immunization programs combined with strategies that provide public support to enable such involvement have achieved positive results and increased participation in immunization programs.5 Cases have, however, been recorded where behaviour change initiated by people using a bottom-up approach through non-legal means is more long lasting and more widespread than when it is imposed by law.6 One example is smoking restrictions. Public support for voluntarily adopted restrictions on smoking areas, without regulatory prohibition or enforcement, have contributed to decreased smoking and a wider social acceptance of the need to have smoke-free places.7

Drawing on experience from public health, where citizen internalization of norms (rather than the imposition of rules on citizens from above) has proved to be a powerful driver of effective change, citizen support for the objectives set out in EGSPA is also critical if the legislative objectives are to be fully achieved. …

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