Wetland loss in Alberta: Identifying successes, barriers, and unintended outcomes of public policy

  • Author / Creator
    Clare, Shari L
  • The province of Alberta adopted a wetland policy in 1993 to manage wetlands in the central and southern regions of the province. Despite a stated commitment to review the policy every five years, to date, no policy evaluation has been conducted. Consequently, little is known about whether wetland policy goals have been achieved and what factors influence government decision making.
    The aim of this research is to describe and explain the factors that have influenced wetland policy implementation and outcomes in Alberta since the inception of the wetland policy. Using a mixed-method approach, this research seeks to: 1) describe key historical events and factors that have influenced contemporary wetland management; 2) quantify compensation outcomes and evaluate outcomes relative to stated management guidelines; 3) examine existing power-relations and identify mechanisms of power that influence the development of contemporary wetland policy discourses and government decision making.
    Results reveal a resourcist paradigm that has dominated water policy and wetland management in Alberta since the late 1800s. This has created a legacy of federal and provincial laws and policies that consistently prioritize industrial development ahead of environmental protection. As a result, wetland impacts are rarely avoided and compensation has become a routine decision-making practice. When compensation outcomes were quantified, actual outcomes failed to achieve the standards outlined in provincial guidelines for compensation. This failure was attributed to agency capture, which appears to be driven in part by overhead governance and organizational goal ambiguity. Contemporary wetland decision making and policy development is also influenced by a privileged account that maintains wetland loss should be ‘balanced’ with economic development. This privileged account has been maintained through privileged access to key decision makers, and has created structures of knowledge that influence decisions of street-level bureaucrats.
    This research provides evidence for the need to give greater attention to the decision-making environment and to consider how power operates to create structures of knowledge that constrain agency decisions. Without giving greater attention to factors that influence how, why, and in whose interest policy decisions are being made, little progress can be made in producing effective, rather than symbolic, policy action.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Spring 2013
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Doctor of Philosophy
  • DOI
  • License
    This thesis is made available by the University of Alberta Libraries with permission of the copyright owner solely for non-commercial purposes. This thesis, or any portion thereof, may not otherwise be copied or reproduced without the written consent of the copyright owner, except to the extent permitted by Canadian copyright law.