Governing the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River: the rise of municipal governance

Author(s): Lauren Touchant
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Institution or organization of origin: University of Ottawa
Country: Canada


Municipalities play a growing role in water governance in Canada, despite the fact they are entities of the provinces/territories, and do not hold any status in the Constitution. Municipalities joined a variety of networks, which enabled them to work with one another to design and adopt solutions to water related issues such as floods. The Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River surged to record heights in the past few years, causing unprecedented damage in both Canada and the United States. Interestingly, municipalities have been engaged for over a decade in several initiatives to improve their flood resiliency and better manage shorelines. As a result, my research asks: How and what effects networks have on municipal policy instrument design in water governance? Is it changing the current governance of water issues in Canada and the United States? Our research is a qualitative empirical-based analysis exploring the case of the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Cities Initiative (network) and the Climate Ready Infrastructure and Strategic Sites Protocol, an adaptation instrument aimed to help municipalities build their resilience to floods. We approached this research with an interpretative methodology: documentary analysis, 64 semi-directed interviews, and 9 direct observations and a multi-level theoretical framework: policy instruments (micro), policy networks (meso), and governance (macro). We concluded that the network plays a significant role when selecting policy instruments, but more importantly, it plays a significant political role as an intermediary between governments. It is contributing to the rise of municipalities, slowly changing the governance of the ecosystem.

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