Evaluating collaborative approaches to governance for water allocation in Canada: Lessons from Ontario
De loe, Rob
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Collaborative approaches to environmental governance are becoming commonplace around the western world. In Canada, all jurisdictions are using various forms of collaboration to address water issues. With few exceptions, the collaborative processes address problems that exist in whole or in part in rural areas. Thus, the agriculture sector is a critical participant. This certainly is the case in Ontario, especially in the case of collaborative processes designed to address low water conditions and droughts. The purpose of this research was to evaluate the effectiveness and appropriateness of collaborative approaches to dealing with water scarcity and conflicting demands for water. The Province of Ontario provided the institutional setting for the study. We were particularly concerned with the extent to which collaboration provides an effective and appropriate basis for water sharing in cases where agriculture is a prominent user. This led us to a focus on the Ontario Low Water Response (LWR) program. Ontario's Low Water Response program is the primary vehicle through which water shortages and droughts are addressed in the province. The program's overall functioning and effectiveness have been studied previously, but little or no attention has been given to understanding the extent to which this collaborative has produced outcomes that have been protected by the provincial government. This is a particularly important concern because the Province of Ontario, through the Ontario Ministry of the Environment (and Climate Change) has ultimate authority for dealing with water shortages through its Permit to Take Water Program. Experiences from around the world demonstrate that a failure to respect the outcomes of collaborative processes undermines their effectiveness and leads to considerable dissatisfaction. At the same time, from the perspective of democratic legitimacy, the province remains accountable. All jurisdictions are struggling to resolve the tension between these two objectives.
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