Progress Through Process

02/25/2010

This publication presents an optimistic vision, and achieving that vision requires not just different policies but also different policy processes. We—the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy (NRTEE) and the Public Policy Forum (PPF)—began this project because we believe that achieving sustainable development requires a governance agenda that is more collaborative; engages governments, stakeholders, and citizens at the same table; and helps governments solve problems jointly.

Governments in Canada often struggle with sustainable development issues. They are uniquely complex: they straddle departments, involve long time frames, and comprise many urgent interconnected issues. On many fronts — climate change, energy, land-use, water, urban development, and others — progress gets bogged down by entrenched interests and adversarial posturing. Governments, which need to take decisions, must navigate between competing claims and deliver on their electoral commitments while upholding the public interest. Yet we also see instances where stakeholders have overcome their differences to collaborate with government and each other on solutions. These positive examples helped inspire this joint PPF-NRTEE project.

Driven by a desire to step back from the day-to-day tangle of disagreement and debate on sustainability issues in Canada, we sought to consider how we might forge a more effective path forward for sustainable development through collaborative governance and engagement. We put forward the view that sustainability requires specially crafted governance mechanisms to navigate through difficult issues and to create a more integrated perspective within our governments and society on how to achieve sustainability. Our discussions began with the premise that different views must be brought together and integrated within a process if we are to make progress on sustainable development.