Exploring the Role of the Canadian Government in Integrated Land Management

Authors: Teresa Bellefontaine, Jean Haley, Bernard Cantin
Document Type: Archives
Published Date: Wednesday, September 1, 2010 - 4:00am
ISBN number: PH4-66/2010E-PDF , 978-1-100-16501-1

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Land use policy has been called the most “widespread, but little known example” of policy integration in Canada (Rayner and Howlett, 2009a: 166). This is often discussed in terms of Integrated Land Management (ILM), a systems approach to land and resource management, based on biophysical boundaries rather than land use activity. It employs a multistakeholder, trans-disciplinary and cross-jurisdictional approach to policy and decision making. As with most place-based1 initiatives, ILM is a multi-faceted process that is highly context specific, can be institutionalized or informal, top down or bottom up. As such, ILM is a land use policy integration tool has many commonalities with more recent – and perhaps more well-known – place-based approaches such as Vibrant Communities or Action for Neighborhood Change. These are projects that seek to improve social outcomes by addressing complex neighbourhood effects through collaborative multi-stakeholder processes.

In addition to the complexities associated with its variety of form, ILM as a management concept is further challenged by issues of scale, resource competition, and multiple governmental jurisdictions. In Canada, many ILM projects touch on areas of federal jurisdiction; however, contextual factors can dramatically affect how the federal government is involved. As integrated land management is context specific, its objectives, governance, and participant engagement are highly variable, making a coherent understanding of roles and responsibilities an ongoing challenge. In particular, there appears to be a lack of recent analysis on the role of the Canadian federal government within ILM processes. This paper explores the role of the federal government to better understand the possibilities for ILM and place-based processes in Canada and to contribute toward their effective implementation. In doing so, it can also provide insight into the federal role in place-based initiatives across a range of national policy areas.

To help respond to the perceived gap in the literature, the Government of Canada’s Policy Research Initiative (PRI)2 conducted a series of exploratory focus groups with participants in ILM pilot projects to determine their expectations and experiences. The focus group process revealed that participants felt the federal government should provide strategic support for ILM. This was described as a partnership role that recognizes the value of locally developed policy and that uses the federal government’s capacities to enable a longterm approach for ILM projects. These capacities included leadership, networking, funding, enabling the use of research, and setting the stage for longer-term time frames. The participants hoped federal leadership in these areas would advance more effective integration between federal departments and with other levels of government, as well as the ability to integrate ILM frameworks and processes into decision making. The findings are more ambiguous on the question of how the federal government should be involved. Some participants held the opinion that the federal government should maintain a constant presence within ILM processes to respect its holistic multi-stakeholder nature, while others felt its presence should be triggered by specific mandate considerations. Notably, based on their experience, participant perceptions of the federal government’s ideal role differed from the federal government’s current role, which was articulated as that of a knowledge broker, focused more on the creation and dissemination of research and tools. The call for this expanded role for the federal government suggests a perceived gap in the strategic capacity in a number of ILM initiatives and the potential need to assess the federal government’s role, objectives, and institutions.

While these exploratory findings are not generalizable due to the sample size of the focus groups, they nonetheless point to the need for further research and discussion about the possible roles of the Canadian federal government within ILM processes. To situate the PRI’s findings within a broader context, this paper considers the nature of ILM and outlines available information on the role of the Canadian government, before proceeding with an analysis of the focus group results.

Integrated Land Management in Canada

Integrated land management has become institutionalized in Canada (Waldick, 2010: 74) and is increasingly considered an important approach for land use and natural resources management throughout the world. The coming into force of Canada’s Oceans Act in 1997 contributed to Canada’s reputation as a world leader in ILM (Elliot and Spek, 2004), as has the prevalence of its adoption. Each province and territory, as well as the federal government, has multiple ILM initiatives3. These include water, forest, land use, prairie, and Aboriginal land management projects. However, quantifying these initiatives is difficult due to the variety of ways that ILM can be defined. For instance Neave has identified thousands of stewardship projects in Canada (Neave cited in Cantin, 2010, p. 9). While the quantification of these initiatives are still incomplete, their increasing use has been observed (Waldick, 2010: 75),

As a stewardship process, ILM takes an integrated and holistic approach to managing land issues with a long-term, sustainable vision in mind. In ILM, decisions regarding the protection, development, and use of natural resources are made (Eddy et al., 2002: 291) with the goal “to optimize the land’s economic and environmental benefits for today’s society while preserving or increasing its capacity to provide these and other benefits for future generations” (IDRC, 2007: 15). ILM has been put forward in large part as a response to “a long legacy of single industry regulatory regimes” that resulted in incoherent policy instruments (Rayner and Howlett, 2009b: 323). These processes attempt to incorporate policy, science, the environment, and socio-economic information while optimizing collaborative management and planning and minimizing conflict among stakeholders by focusing on net gains through an analysis of trade-offs (Clausen and McAllister, 2001; Fast et al., 2005; PRI, 2009). Although ILM is a type of place-based approach, this specific focus on achieving integration of the three pillars gives ILM a distinct focus on sustainable development. Other features of ILM are the inclusion of uncertainty and missing information in the planning process (Waldick, 2010: 75).

One common element between ILM and other place-based processes is stakeholder engagement, with an emphasis on multiple societal players involved in developing and implementing solutions. Reviewing the literature on governance for sustainability, Pollack (2009) highlighted the normative framework that supports the shift to collaborative governance, and noted that the transition from government to governance may refer more to the changing perceptions of the traditional top-down model of government, than a fundamental change in existing governance practices. However, Plummer and Fennell (2009, 156) argued that the “the conceptual basis for natural resource management has fundamentally changed.” Clausen and McAllister (2001) also noted that this shift is reflected in industry approaches, pointing to Placer Dome Inc, and Falconbridge, as examples of industry-led policies that include commitments to the three pillars of sustainable development, and a tacit recognition that more conventional approaches to mining are no longer viable from a business perspective due to public expectations, delays in approvals, and court challenges. Increasingly, this changing expectation for stakeholder involvement, partnerships, and collaborative decision making is being adopted across policy and political fields.

While Canada has been credited as a world leader in ILM, ongoing challenges do exist for governments in implementing ILM at the local, regional, and national levels. These include issues of jurisdiction and scale, stakeholder engagement and co-ordination, conflicting interests, and government culture and institutions. These challenges do not have easy solutions, and the responsibility and role of the federal government in addressing them remain uncertain.

Jurisdiction and Scales

Natural resource management in Canada is jurisdictionally complex. While often regional in scope, ILM projects in Canada are frequently “nested” within provincial, federal and, sometimes, Aboriginal jurisdictions. Also, provincial, territorial, and federal responsibilities frequently overlap. In the British North America Act, provincial governments were assigned exclusive rights over public lands and most natural resources, yet the federal government retained responsibility for interprovincial matters, “setting the stage for historical conflict over resource and environmental management” (Hessing and Howlett, 1997 as cited in Clausen and McAllister: 240, 2001). In the Constitution Act, 1867, section 92(A), jurisdictions were clarified, with the federal government responsible for air pollution, oceans and waterways, toxic substances, fish habitats, migratory birds, and shipping (Hessing et al, 2005: 61). The provinces have responsibility for provincial parks, land use planning, and resource management (regulation, conservation, and protection) (NRCan, 2009), as well as provincial Crown land, which make up just under 50 percent of Crown lands.4 The provinces and territories manage wildlife protection and habitats, pollution control, and environmental quality (soil, water, air). Both the federal and provincial governments are responsible for agriculture, interprovincial issues, and Aboriginal land claims to name a few. In practice these categories are not so simply defined. This, combined with the federal government’s mandated obligations, mean the federal government is frequently involved alongside the provinces and territories in ILM activities.

Determining scale is an important factor in ILM’s potential success and is a key determinant of the relevant actors. From an ecological perspective, setting boundaries is based on variables rooted in the natural environment; from a policy perspective, it can be defined by the area that is or will be affected by a decision and can encompass both temporal and spatial aspects of a system (PRI, 2005). Ellsworth (1995, cited in Clausen and McAllister, 2001: 241) described an ideal scale to achieve good governance as having “boundaries that are small enough to enable stakeholders to conceptualize the ecosystem; identify the interrelationships between social, economic and environmental factors; identify relationships between past decisions and the current state of the ecosystem; and take ownership of ecosystem issues and their solution.” This understanding of scale is necessarily context specific and, as a result, it is difficult for policy makers to encapsulate.

Despite these delineations, overlapping federal departmental mandates, intergovernmental agendas, and privately owned resources make jurisdictional responsibility sometimes difficult to pinpoint. As a result, the management of natural resources in Canada requires partnerships, diverse stakeholder engagement, and high levels of communication – practices that ILM may be strongly positioned to facilitate.

Stakeholder Engagement and Co-ordination

The complexity of sustainable development requires sophisticated planning and management approaches. The stakeholders in ILM processes can include federal departments, provincial legislators, independent research bodies, special interest groups, business, the scientific community, stewardship groups and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and residents. Involving stakeholders that may possess different values, competing interests and uneven resources requires comprehensive and skilled engagement techniques. Also, the federal government role in stakeholder engagement is vague, leaving gaps and overlaps in perceived responsibilities. Partnerships are complex due to environmental, economic, social and cultural challenges as well as the diversity of players, unclear performance measures, goal measurement, regulatory compliance, and fragmented funding (Babiak, 2009: 121). Co-ordination challenges include jurisdictional complexity, uncertainty, and ambiguity as well as the lack of scale appropriate knowledge and scientific data (Plummer and Fennell, 2009; Rayner and Howlett, 2009).

Rayner and Howlett (2009a: 167) noted that ILM policy processes are often introduced in a climate of dissatisfaction, as a solution to a problem. This means that while ILM can create opportunities for innovation, it is often beset by disorganized implementation, the layering of policies with incompatible aims, or policies that drift from intended purposes. While efficiency, equity, and co-ordination may seem elusive in ILM (Plummer and Fennell, 2009: 159), these mirror challenges in place-based, multi-sector partnerships that can include environmental constraints, diversity in organizational aims, barriers in communications, and difficulties in developing joint modes of operation, managing perceived power imbalances, building trust, and managing the logistics of working with geographically dispersed partners (Babiak, 2009: 117).

Observers point out that these challenges do not have simple solutions and require cooperation, open communication, extensive participation, and a sustained long-term vision. It should be noted, that the proliferation of ILM practices indicates these approaches are seen to be more effective than alternative siloed approaches, offering the opportunity to address layering and drift through a holistic analysis of policy interaction through the lens of place, where the impact of these interactions can be observed (Edge & McAllister, 2009). In addition, as stakeholders at all levels become more familiar with collaborative processes across policy fields, the systems-wide learning may occur, favourably affecting the implementation of ILM projects.

Conflicting Interests

Land and natural resources are finite and, as such, are grounds for competition and conflict, which often increases as the number of competing interests increases (Clausen and McAllister, 2001). In the face of polarized interests, ILM seeks to proactively create holistic policy goals and coherent policy instruments that relate to and support one another (Rayner and Howlett, 2009b). ILM processes aim to mediate conflicting interests by creating a formal mediation process and establishing broad planning goals as a framework for decision making, instead of reacting to individual permit requests. In the absence of an existing framework, permit requests are seen to steer planning regimes (Rutherford and Curran, 2008). This is considered a promising way to address institutional, jurisdictional, and economic constraints facing long-term sustainability, as well as a way to address the reactive and fragmented policy perceived to result from the traditional “siloed” approach (Edge and McAllister, 2009).

Government Culture and Institutions

Government culture, in particular the Canadian federal government, is often described as risk adverse and tied to accountability regimes that stifle innovation and discourage shared decision making. Some have argued that collaboration is the opposite end of the spectrum from the traditional management role of the federal government, which is characterized as “top down.” This has been partially attributed to the vertical accountabilities of the Canadian version of the Westminster tradition, which does not naturally lend itself to horizontal partnerships. However, it was observed that the Canadian environment is changing, and collaboration is “a way to respond to change so that the federal government stays active and effective in a complicated public management environment” (PPF and PRI, 2008: 9).

While any list of barriers can appear daunting, Ellsworth and Jones-Walters (2005: 4) challenged the public service to see the complications inherent in horizontal initiatives in a positive light, as a mechanism for the continuous evolution and development of the public sector.

Types of Integrated Landscape Management Projects in Canada

Integrated land management projects have highly variable governance and jurisdictional contexts across Canada and, as a result, the role of the federal government can be quite different. Some factors include differences in provincial and territorial responsibilities, the existence of First Nations treaties or memorandums of agreement, the involvement of international interests, the presence of federal jurisdictional considerations, and the nature and scope of the ILM process as outlined by ILM participants. Projects can be either formal or informal in organizational structure and can also be initiated by a variety of actors: the community (Two Countries One Forest, Appalachian Acadian Forest), provincial governments (Saskatchewan’s Great Sand Hills Planning Area), or the federal government (Model Forest Network). Due to this range of form, ILM can perhaps be best understood by exploring examples of its implementation. The Beaufort Seas Integrated Management Planning Initiative and the Alberta-Pacific Integrated Landscape Management Program/Land-Use Framework are briefly described here for this purpose.

The Beaufort Sea Integrated Management Planning Initiative (BSIMPI)

The BSIMPI followed on the heels of the Oceans Act (Elliot and, 2004: 5). The Oceans Act gives the federal government a legislated role to develop a national oceans management strategy using the principles of sustainable development, integrated management and precautionary approaches. Although BSIMPI is not a co-management group under the Inuvialuit Final Agreement, it strives to work in accordance with co-management principles (BSIMPI Secretariat, undated). Collaboration began in 1999 with Inuvialuit management, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, and industry coming together to develop the BSIMPI agreement. This agreement built on previous work undertaken by the Inuvialuit communities and set the stage for the establishment of a foundation for oceans management, the formation of a working group on collaborative action on ocean management of the Beaufort Sea (Fast et al., 2005: 102), and the subsequent communitybased management plan (BSBMP). The BSBMP outlines long-term strategies to manage the beluga resource, and contains by-laws and regulations to guide development and other activities, demonstrating the inter-jurisdictional and inter-departmental co-ordination that ILM processes can achieve. Compliance however, is voluntary because the plan is not formally legislated.

Although the process has received criticism (Charles, 2010: 28), the BSIMPI exemplifies some of the benefits of the participatory decision making typical of ILM. BSIMPI’s participatory consultation strategies reportedly strengthened partnerships, created access to information and resulted in better issue definition, and direct contribution to the decision-making process (Elliott and Spek, 2004: 5). It also promoted “learning and resilience among communities, industry, and government departments” as well as an understanding of the complexity of off-shore development and conservation. (Fast et al, 2005: 115). It has also been observed that the consultation process allowed for the reduction of future conflicts, led to a greater acceptance of the results by the community, and built a base of understanding and acceptance for the possible launch of new initiatives (Fast et al., 2005: 115).

Alberta-Pacific Integrated Landscape Management Program and the Land-Use Framework

The Alberta-Pacific Integrated Landscape Management program was developed in 1999 to reduce overlapping land-use issue management (Burton et al., 2003: 920). This ILM program was developed due to the impact of exploration, production, and transportation activities of the dominant oil and gas sector on Alberta forests. It aimed to reduce the industrial footprint of the forestry and energy sectors through co-ordinated planning and innovative exploratory and extraction processes (McCloy, 2001). It was adopted by the Alberta Chamber of Resources and prompted the establishment of a chair for ILM research at the University of Alberta (McCloy, 2001). This program reported successes as well as challenges. According to McCloy, it has not ensured integrated industrial activities across sectors. He observed that the lack of regional management from government, the public, and industry remains the greatest hurdle for accomplishing sustainable forest management in Alberta (2001: 920).

Noting that “sticking with the old rules will not produce the quality of life we have come to expect” (GOA, 2008: 2), the Government of Alberta subsequently drafted a regional approach through the Land Use Framework (LUF). Initiated in 2008, and currently being implemented, the LUF would see the geography of Alberta divided into seven regions which will use a cumulative effects approach to land use planning, integrating land, air and water, taking into account multiple uses and developments over time on both pubic and private land (GOA, 2008). The federal government’s participation is being facilitated through the Alberta Federal Council, a regional council of senior representatives of federal departments. The Government of Alberta has indicated the intention to include representation from the federal government on the LUF’s Regional Advisory Councils in each of the seven regions (personal communication, 2009). Observing that “an effective land management system recognizes that planning and decision-making must take place at different levels and be integrated between levels”, the LUF identifies a lack of available integrated information and notes the need for stronger connections between groups that have knowledge about the land, including other levels of government, industry and nongovernmental organizations (GOA, 2008).

Literature Review on Governance and Roles in Integrated Land Management

Integrated land management (ILM) is understood and discussed in the literature under a number of different terms. Ecosystem management, integrated landscape management, and integrated resource management can all be seen as synonyms for ILM. Furthermore, ILM is an umbrella term encompassing sector-specific practices, such as integrated watershed management, integrated forest management, and integrated ocean management, that place varying levels of emphasis on integration with other resource sectors, which ILM more explicitly attempts to achieve. Other terms can be seen as very closely associated. For example, Ellsworth and Jones-Walters (2005) combined social, economic, and environmental policy fields under the rubric of cumulative effects management (CEM).

Analysis of the role of the federal government in ILM literature is rare. In their discussion, Ellsworth and Jones-Walters discuss the role of the public sector as a whole, which is described as having a “catalytic leadership” role in achieving “purposeful governance.” Purposeful governance combines shared ownership and responsibility for policy issues with the shared development, implementation, and evaluation of solutions. Ellsworth and Jones-Walters (2005: 34) argued that the public sector is situated to overcome institutional barriers and catalyze leadership in others. Catalytic leadership entails generating a multivalue vision of success and how to achieve it (focusing on how and why); approaching conflict as an opportunity for learning and transition; and encouraging a group discussion and learning process that enables a deep collaborative analysis of the often overlooked elements of intent and governance, in addition to implementation and goals. Ellsworth and Jones-Walters (2005: 34) also called for a focus on outcomes, noting that this replaces the “hierarchy of players” with the “hierarchy of purpose.” This focus on purposeful governance echoes Lenihan’s (2009: 11) observation that recent and significant societal changes mean not only that issues are more complex, but that sectors of society are more interdependent and must work together as partners to solve them. This, he argued, shifts the policy development processes of deliberation and action from the realm of government alone to a shared process with the public.

Ellsworth and Jones-Walters (2005: 34) made several recommendations. These included public service departments developing statements of intent that would identify the areas of possible collaboration to potential partners, as well as adopting open architectures by making information available to the community on current conditions, environmental and socio-economic stressors, and capacity to respond, and further assisting the community in being able to use this information.

In 2008, the Public Policy Forum (PPF) and the PRI conducted a roundtable with leaders from the voluntary sector, academia, and the federal government on the federal government’s role within collaborative initiatives more generally. Those consultations concluded that the federal government can and should have a continued role in collaboration, and that this would mean “a greater appreciation for ad hoc, organic and informal arrangements, albeit under the guidance of some shared values and goals” (PPF and PRI, 2008: 5). The participants discussed the nodal network model versus the centralized hub-and-spoke model, noting that neither fully captures the federal role given the shifting reality of collaboration across multiple sectors. The participants felt the federal government was positioned to provide information, set goals or values for policy makers across sectors, and share resources, but cautioned that it should not see itself as the manager of this process, but instead reiterated the need for a focus on outcomes.

A previous PRI workshop addressed the role of the federal government in ILM more explicitly. The resulting 2005 report called for a national strategy for integrated land management models (ILMMs), which are technical models that aid in the ILM decisionmaking process. More specifically, the federal government’s role, in part, was seen as providing the predictive planning tools needed to standardize approaches and goals, and address cumulative effects across sectors and jurisdictions (PRI, 2005: 5), in effect, using knowledge and data management processes to guide the harmonization of policy approaches across the country. This was seen as eliminating regulatory duplication, reducing planning conflict, and enhancing intergovernmental relationships within the country. The federal government’s financial and leadership support was considered “imperative” to achieving a common community of practice, given the necessity for centralized co-ordination (PRI, 2005: 14).

This central co-ordination role was thought to fit the mandate of the federal government, because the “scope and magnitude of the necessary information exchange, knowledge coproduction, and capacity requirements is beyond the authority and ability of provincial governments, private sector, or non-governmental organizations to facilitate or manage” (Waldick, 2010: 76). The workshop resulted in the establishment of IMAGINE Canada. This network of ILM practitioners is facilitated by federal government actors – GeoConnections at Natural Resources Canada and the ILM secretariat at Environment Canada – with support provided by an external advisory committee and the International Institute for Sustainable Development. The PRI report emphasized that the national scale can enable centralized co-ordination of knowledge and data, and provide leadership in developing a national vision.

Clausen and McAllister (2001) also envisioned government playing a key role in coordination and communication, particularly when conflict arises. In their discussion of mineral development, Natural Resources Canada was identified as the body that developed indicators to help managers and policy makers assess the impact and sustainability of mining operations. This included convening stakeholders and enabling consensus in the determination of the indicators. The role for government is to incorporate these diverse societal values through a supportive policy and regulatory environment. Clausen and McAllister (2001: 238) argued that while mineral policy in Canada is primarily a regional planning issue, it must be considered on a variety of scales “from the broad, supportive, planning philosophy of a national mineral policy to applied practices at a local mine site.” They also noted that while regulatory frameworks should work to eliminate overlaps, they should also avoid gaps, fragmentation, and deregulation, which work against integration and co-ordination. The ILM process requires effective communication between government departments and tools, such as policy statements and plain language interpretations of technical factors including legal regime and scientific terminology to educate stakeholders about the exogenous forces that affect their project and region. Multi-stakeholder processes are considered one way to address government silos by engaging departments thematically with other stakeholders. Within the mineral field, Clausen and McAllister identified a role for the federal government in ecosystem health across Canada.

Recent additions to the literature include new case studies of ILM initiatives. While most such studies limit themselves to describing the federal role within the context of the process, some have also contributed more general observations. Rayner and Howlett’s (2009a) discussion of three western Canada case studies yielded recommendations for future actions for ILM initiatives including limiting the number of overall stakeholders at the project level, because collaborative groups that are too large can inhibit successful partnerships. This, they argued, would enable “clarity of policy goals and the normative expectations around the choice of appropriate policy instruments” (Rayner and Howlett, 2009a: 167). They suggested that a multiplicity of interests could be more effectively incorporated at the regional strategic planning level. They also observed that the role of government depends on the relative strength of private actors which affects “the ability of a government to de-centralize or de-concentrate authority to non-state actors, ultimately affecting the choice of policy instruments or regulatory techniques” (Rayner and Howlett, 2009a: 170). This line of argument implies that where the federal government is involved in ILM, it should be at the strategic planning level, where a multiplicity of actors can, arguably, be most effectively integrated.

In her recently published thesis, Pollack (2009: 102) described biosphere reserves in Canada as relatively undocumented, but having “developed highly collaborative, multistakeholder approaches to governance.” As part of the UN’s Man and the Biosphere (MAB) program, the federal government was looked to as a possible funder and co-ordinator, and was approached with several funding models that included core funding for a national office or network, endowment funding, or creating an application-based fund for biosphere reserves nationally. A Canada-MAB committee was initiated in 1974 but dissolved in 1992. The federal government’s role was described as shifting over time and unreliable due to the jurisdictional, administrative, and disciplinary boundaries and scope, which was so encompassing that “MAB in Canada looked as if it belonged to everybody and nobody” (Francis, 2004 cited in Pollack, 2009: 95). Leadership was described as coming from the dedication of individual civil servants or, in approximately half the cases where biosphere reserves are associated with national parks or national wildlife areas, Parks Canada staff. When the working group formed itself into a non-profit organization in 1998, Parks Canada contributed a half-time executive secretary and some funding (Francis 2004, cited in Pollack, 2009). Notably, the Clayoquot Sound biosphere reserve successfully secured a $12 million federal endowment fund, with a more recent federal commitment to provide $2 million over two years to support co-ordination efforts and establish a national office with two staff. This case study focuses primarily on the federal government’s role as a funder and co-ordinator, and highlights the complications that can result from inconsistency in fulfilling these roles.

Research on the Canadian federal role in ILM initiatives is in its early stages and, as a result, much of the literature that informs this discussion is from related fields. The literature indicates a strategic role for the federal government including communication, collaboration, co-ordination, and leadership with a focus on outcomes. This is seen to entail convening stakeholders, proactively identifying areas for collaboration, making data and knowledge available, and ensuring it can be used. the literature suggests achieving collaboration by holding initiatives accountable to their objectives rather than hierarchical relationships. The federal government is also seen as uniquely positioned to co-ordinate goals, values, and regulations across resource sectors and jurisdictions to avoid gaps and fragmentation. These findings are intriguing, and given such observations as “collaborative governance has become the new norm” (Pollack, 2009: 141) and the “new benchmark of public sector relevance” (Ellsworth and Jones-Walters, 2005: 3), it is fair to suggest that ILM is a relevant planning mechanism that warrants further attention from a federal government perspective. As a result, the PRI and its partners (Environment Canada and GeoConnections) embarked on a series of focus groups to gather practicioner knowledge.

Methodology - Structured Focus Groups

Given the promise of ILM and the concerns expressed regarding the lack of clarity with regards to roles, this series of focus groups aimed to gain a better understanding of perspectives on the federal government’s role from participants working on the ground. This project chose Environment Canada and GeoConnections pilot projects as the basis for focus group participation. These projects address local environmental issues, each with their own geographies, ecosystems, and governing regimes. Summaries of these projects are provided in Appendix 7, including a description of the region, the nature of the project, and any historical elements that shaped the need for an ILM-type project.

The focus group methodology was chosen to elicit perceptions and lessons learned by users, knowledge holders, community members, government employees, and industry members regarding ILM and the federal government’s role. The methodology is further outlined in Appendix 1. A total of 35 people participated in the focus groups. Due to the sample size the findings of this report are not generalizable. Questions were structured to ascertain perceptions of the federal government’s current role in ILM as well as expectations, and the perceived effectiveness of federal roles in ILM.


Introduction: Can you tell me about your experience working with representatives of federal organizations on ILM-type initiatives?

Question 1: Based on your experience or knowledge, what are some of the specific roles the federal government plays that are relevant to ILM?

Question 2: How could the federal government best play this role? (Based on Q1)

Prompts: What are its responsibilities? To what extent is it necessary for that specific federal role to be tailored to the landscape level needs? To what extent does this federal role complement or help provide checks and balances to the roles of other levels of government, other actors?

Question 3: Of all the roles identified what ones should the federal government prioritize?

Findings and Analysis

The questions led participants to state their history with ILM projects and then discuss three main question areas focused on what is, what could be, and what should be the role of the federal government in supporting ILM-type practices.

Findings: The Current Role of the Federal Government

When asked to describe their experience of the federal government’s current role in ILMtype processes, the most commonly identified themes involved knowledge mobilization achieved through research, information transfer, facilitation, dissemination, enabling discussion, and the development of tools. The most commonly coded themes included:

  • science/research
  • encouraging information transfer
  • project/programs

These responses identify the federal government as an active provider of ILM-type programs and projects. While not exclusively a federal domain, it was felt that the federal government imparts new research developments or lessons learned and shares this knowledge with stakeholders and participants. Participants saw the federal government as generating research that was considered an important aspect to ILM success. Participants also observed the federal government as a facilitator and mentor, fostering community leadership and developing strategic frameworks that innovate in the field of ILM.

This question also elicited several observations about the current role of the federal government and challenges being experienced. For example, participants noted that communication is an issue, between federal departments, between the federal and provincial governments, and with implementing bodies. It was also noted that while data are generated by the federal government, they are not always shared, and the capacity does not necessarily exist at the implementation level to find, use, or sometimes even understand the data, indicating a lack of time, resources, and expertise on the ground. Some participants observed that while this expertise does exist at the federal level, these experts are often not available to participate in processes, and federal “champions” for ILM are not easily replaced when they change positions.

Participants also noted that federal and provincial cutbacks mean fewer resources are available for monitoring, and there is an increased expectation for research to recover costs. Processes relying on web sites were identified as not conducive to Aboriginal input, as were processes that approach the natural environment from resource “silos” (e.g. forestry).

Overall, the responses indicate that the federal government is acting in the role of a knowledge broker: creating and disseminating research and tools through discussion, guidance, and community leadership. Responses also indicated several ways in which this role could be made more effective.

Findings: The Federal Government’s Possible Roles

Participants were then asked to discuss the possible roles the federal government could assume in ILM processes and explore the need for a federal ILM approach. While knowledge mobilization continued to be identified, themes of support and strategic leadership were more evident. The themes most often coded included:

  • model itself around other areas/experiences
  • foster links
  • programs/education
  • transfer knowledge

During this discussion, participants conveyed that the federal government could provide more support for ILM collaboration. This included financial support for programs and infrastructure, with some expressing a need for increased funding of research and monitoring, but also support for facilitation and linking partners.

Participants indicated that the federal government is not fully engaged, with increased co-ordination, funding, and research cited as areas for federal involvement. With regard to co-ordination, the hope was expressed that the federal government could facilitate jurisdictional co-ordination across federal, provincial, and First Nation jurisdictions to enable regulatory consistency and encourage inter-disciplinary teams to co-ordinate across resource sectors. This included the need for increased funding, transmission of lessons learned, providing clarity on research mandates, and enabling ILM projects to situate their programs in a comparative national context. The federal government’s current level of participation was seen to limit the possible successes of ILM projects.

Participants also noted the need for consistency in federal government involvement. This meant predictability in funding and policy to enable the establishment and implementation of long-range plans, as well as continuity in staff. Participants commented on difficulties in accessing the federal government, with observations that the community needs the “right in” to be able to access the right people and knowledge to maintain contacts and support. One participant suggested a one-stop shop as a potential approach. Others recommended a network, like IMAGINE Canada, or a regional co-ordination unit, to work on ILM projects which would enable flexibility for smaller projects where limited capacity would preclude the creation of a full ILM process. Participants also mentioned the federal government’s regulatory role, indicating that standards are needed to ensure consistency from all levels of government.

Participants also noted the need for capacity building including guidance and support. In particular, the need for the federal government to build empirical data based on previous ILM project findings and to communicate this information to guide communities and provinces. As noted by one participant in the Model Forest/National Park focus group, the federal government has the capacity to draft a framework which could then be “made realistic by provinces/municipalities, which then feed back into federal (officials) to help refine and create nationally relevant frameworks, while helping better inform provinces, individuals and tools.” Capacity to participate in ILM processes was a particular concern for the Aboriginal community, with the belief that non-Aboriginal stakeholders had more effective input. Participants expressed a need to strengthen the capacity of the regions to undertake ILM initiatives through an iterative process.

Together these responses indicated a perceived need for more support for ILM processes from the federal government through increased resources and co-ordination. Participants felt the federal government can support ILM projects by sharing research, gained knowledge, networks, and educational information on ILM processes with all stakeholders. They wanted a more flexible yet consistent role, with the federal government adapting its approach according to lessons learned from previous ILM processes.

Findings: Identifying Priorities for the Federal Government

Following this, participants were asked to identify the federal government’s priorities within ILM processes. In this discussion, responses reinforced the need for a knowledge and supportive role, but focused increasingly on strategic support including long-term thinking, an enabling role, leadership, and a multi-stakeholder approach. The most frequently coded themes included:

  • enabling/engaging role
  • long-term initiatives/funding
  • leader/facilitator
  • multi-stakeholder approach
  • support local initiatives
  • transfer of knowledge
  • consistency

In isolating the common themes across the three focus groups, strategic planning as a priority for the federal government becomes more evident. Notably, within the Aboriginal focus group, prioritizing community-level programs was emphasized. This entailed allowing program management and delivery within the community and shared federal-provincial- First Nations legislation.

Participants across the focus groups highlighted long-term thinking and a multi-stakeholder approach to ensure multiple viewpoints and actors are integrated into the process to promote both legitimacy and continuity of planning. They also focused on a leadership and facilitation role for the federal government, whereby it would lead by example, link ILM actors through communication and network building, and ensure ILM projects are informed and enhanced by successful practices, resources, and research dissemination.

Participants perceived some shortcomings in ILM projects and envisioned a more comprehensive role for the federal government, building on its mandates, capacities, and strengths. Some participants indicated that their experience was not living up to the expectation created by the term “integrated” – either in terms of inputs being integrated into decision making or the integration of federal and provincial processes. Participants identified strategic approaches for the federal government to help address this, including an enabling role, providing leadership, and encouraging strategically oriented time frames with a “bigger picture” and stewardship focus.

Tensions naturally exist within this discussion, and one significant theme to emerge centered on the level of federal government involvement and issues of power. One participant’s concept of federal leadership was to “help groups know about each other, come together, and learn about resources.” In essence, the federal government should use its networking capabilities to bring all the stakeholders to the table and provide funding and opportunities based on long-term thinking. Yet another participant suggested the federal government should participate in ILM, but only when its mandate was touched. Others felt the federal government should always be involved at the ILM table, ready to support the process when necessary. This approach reflected a belief in the value of “being present” throughout the process, cultivating a deeper understanding of the project dynamic, enabling the identification of federal resources and opportunities, and promoting the transmission of knowledge and expertise.

While participants envisioned an increased level of strategic participation on the part of the federal government, they also pointed out that increased participation and investment of resources should not mean increased federal direction. Participants felt that municipalities and provinces were best suited for project operation since the federal government faces exceptional barriers related to jurisdictional limitations of natural resource management. Rather, they urged that the federal government should recognize the value of locally developed policy and “help us help ourselves” and enable the development of stronger local accountability structures that are consistent with national policies. Observing that topdown program delivery is a “poor fit,” one participant urged the federal government to “reduce common look and feel policies and let communities lead.” Another participant suggested that ILM be viewed as a leveraging opportunity rather than a government intervention. The participants believed the federal government could use its knowledge capacity to help communities and provinces learn from its experiences, utilize research results, and provide guidance with a high-level, hands-off approach. Participants implied that the federal government has a responsibility to aid communities with ILM practices through research, funding, facilitation, and leadership.


Integrated land management is increasingly considered to have potential as a mechanism to address complex jurisdictional issues and remains important for Canada given our geography, interrelated mandates, and the challenges experienced in our unique ecosystems. As with most place-based models, the complexity of ILM results in a lack of clarity with regards to structures, and governance. Overall, the goal of the PRI research was to explore the current understanding of the federal government’s role within ILM projects to inform future directions and discussions. The focus group sessions served to reveal the participants’ perceptions and expectations on what is, what could be, and what should be the role of the federal government in sustaining ILM-type practices.

There was a clear message that participants believed this type of planning practice was and could be effective, and that ILM approaches should continue to be a model for all levels of government. Both the literature and the results of the focus group research indicate there is a role for the federal government within these initiatives. This is, in part, a function of the federal government’s jurisdictional requirements, but also the holistic nature of ILM and the expectations of ILM partners.

However, there was recognition that the federal government’s role is not easy to define. Participants reiterated the importance of the federal government’s role as a knowledge broker using the tools at hand: research, funds, and networks, and sharing this information with communities. Participants identified the existence of knowledge gaps and felt the federal government should work to improve the facilitation of information transfer and enable its ultimate use.

In general, participants think the federal government’s best contribution would be to provide strategic support for ILM-practices. This positioning entails long-term thinking, engagement, and enabling the community level, as well as communicating information and creating partnerships across all stakeholder groups. Participants noted the government has various tools and resources at its disposal that are vital for the successful operation of ILM activities and should direct its strategies on a long-term basis with regards to funding and facilitation. Communications and horizontal co-ordination are seen to be considerable issues for the federal government in contributing toward successful ILM projects. As a type of place-based initiative, ILM projects were seen as a community-level process, as local representatives best understand the land, the community, the resources, and what is most needed for the future. This places the onus on the local and provincial levels, yet invites the federal government to focus on capacity building from the bottom up. Some argued that this entailed “being present” within ILM projects and enabling community processes, while recognizing the limits of local capacity. Participants sought capacity building support from the federal government including research, funding, facilitation, and leadership.

Notably, the focus group results echo findings from the literature review. There is convergence both on the appropriateness of the federal government’s involvement in ILM and on the possible roles for the federal government, including communication, collaboration, co-ordination, and strategic leadership. Primary and secondary research point to a lack of consistency in the federal government’s current approach and to the need for the federal government to assist communities in using the data and knowledge it disseminates.

Based on these initial findings, it would be worth exploring the federal government’s role within ILM by focusing on:

  • an integrated ecosystem approach
  • consistency of funding and presence
  • improved data, knowledge, and co-ordination
  • a multi-stakeholder approach
  • non-directive strategic support and partnership.

While some specific examples and interpretations have been provided through this process, future research could clarify how the federal government can best fulfill the role of strategic support, and how the federal government can fit into existing provincial and territorial ILM frameworks. This would also aid in taking stock of the federal government’s role in place-based initiatives across a number of policy fields.

This research has established an updated baseline of discussion regarding the role of the federal government in ILM processes by focusing on several ILM pilot projects. Anticipated next steps include focus groups with established ILM processes and a survey of place-based evaluations during 2010. We invite input and collaboration in this research. For more information contact: <questions@pri-prp.gc.ca>.