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Strengthening sustainability assessment in town planning in rural Saskatchewan



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The application of Sustainability Assessment (SA) within Canadian municipalities is a recent notion, but is quickly becoming widespread. The Government of Saskatchewan alone has already released two SA checklists. However, such tools are normally aimed at communities of all sizes, ranging from rural municipalities to big cities, without considering differences in the capacity base, needs, and conditions among those types of communities. Additionally, practical implementation of SA often does not reflect the scope of scientifically established criteria for SA tools. This paper will present the analysis of the 2009 Saskatchewan Sustainability Checklist for Municipalities (comparing it to one of the most prominent frameworks for SA and other similar checklists developed in Canada and internationally) in order to identify possible areas for improvement so that the Checklist reflects established SA principles and is sensitive to a small town context. Based on the results of interviews with 16 small town administrators in Saskatchewan, this thesis demonstrates that, from a theoretical perspective, both of the existing SA tools are deficient in a number of important ways. The tools mainly focus on evaluating the municipal and service provision, rather than evaluating the sustainability of a community as a whole, including such areas as environmental conditions; social equity; livelihood sufficiency; resource maintenance; and intragenerational and intergenerational equity. However, the research reveals even if all of the above-mentioned criteria are integrated within the existing tools, it will be challenging for municipalities to perform a full sustainability assessment, since small towns’ administrations often have limited financial and human capacity to perform such exercises. Additionally, there is a lack of understanding on how to integrate the results of an assessment into decision-making, and a perceived inability to change some of the existing economic or social conditions in a town, due to the limited scope of influence that local municipalities have. There is a need for an alternative approach to sustainability assessment in the case of small towns; one that is sensitive to their unique pressures, circumstances, and capacities to enact change.



sustainability assessment, town planning, impact assessment tools, Saskatchewan sustainability assessment checklist, rural community development



Master of Environment and Sustainability (M.E.S.)


School of Environment and Sustainability


Environment and Sustainability


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