STRUGGLES OVER URBAN SUSTAINABILITY IN SASKATOON & EDMONTON: THE USE OF POLICY NARRATIVES BY ADVOCACY COALITIONS
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The Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF) is one of the most well-established and widely-applied theories of the policy process. However, it is rarely applied to policy making at the municipal level. Here, a first step towards filling this research gap is made by applying the ACF to two Canadian cities, Saskatoon and Edmonton, and by looking for the role of stories in cementing sustainability coalitions together. Examining municipal sustainability coalitions provides an opportunity to address a second gap in the literature. The positive role this order of government can play in improving environmental sustainability is increasingly recognized, but the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of sustainability are as contested as ever. By codifying two poles on the spectrum of sustainability definitions and looking for these polar opposites in the beliefs and actions of policy makers, this study uncovers significant difference between academic and practitioner understandings of sustainability. The study finds evidence for the existence of nascent rather than mature coalitions in both cities. Nascent coalitions are groups whose members share common beliefs about sustainability, but only engage in soft coordination in pursuit of their policy objectives. In addition, the range of actors consistently involved in policy making is notably limited and the absence of mature coalitions in each city may be attributed both to the lack of umbrella organizations working to develop shared problem frames and to an aversion among municipal actors for conflict over policy options. In the absence of strong coordination by coalitions, stories play a critical role in municipal policy debates, specifically by identifying the victims, villains, and heroes of various policy options, thus biasing action or inaction as the ‘correct’ policy choice. Finally, we find that firm academic definitions of sustainability are not reflected in how policy actors in either city understand sustainability. Instead, individual policy makers express beliefs from each pole on the spectrum, possibly because of the necessity of pragmatism in municipal policy making.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
DepartmentJohnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy
CommitteeCoates, Ken; Hawkins, Bob; Schwartz, Elizabeth; Garcea, Joe
Copyright DateOctober 2018