Public Participation in Policy Making: The State-of-the-Art in Canada
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This paper critically reviews the current status of public participation in Canada. Postulating that public participation implies an open, democratic form of planning and policy making, the paper examines factors which have influenced the attainment of meaningful public input in practice. Public participation in Canada has evolved greatly in the past 15 years but several key issues remain unresolved: provisions for participation remain, in large part, discretionary; procedures for the funding of intervenors require further development; and the emphasis in many jurisdictions remains upon the operational level involvement of the lay public, with a public hearing as the final arbiter of public opinion. More attention to the formal evaluation of participatory exercises is essential to the resolution of these concerns. In particular, more attention should be given to the context within which participation occurs. Moreover, greater consideration should be given to public involvement at the normative and strategic levels of planning. The paper concludes by briefly exploring the implications for practice that the concept of ‘normative participation’ might have in Canada.