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Participatory Democracy and Land Development: A Case Study of the South Downtown Waterfront Redevelopment in Saskatoon



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There is growing expectation by the public for a greater degree of participatory democracy in planning and development. Governments have responded to this expectation by increasing the amount of public consultation. Still, public discontent with the efficacy of public consultations including the level of participation, accessibility, transparency and accountability remains. This thesis focuses on the importance of the quality over the quantity of public consultations to improve satisfaction with government decision making related to land use planning and development. More specifically, it focuses on the following elements: the types and levels of public consultation, accessibility of the consultations for different stakeholders, the influence of stakeholders in decision-making, and the meaning attached by stakeholders to the consultation experience in various planning and development processes. This thesis examines the degree of participatory democracy within the context of a case study of public consultation undertaken by the City of Saskatoon between 2000 and 2010 to plan and develop the South Downtown Waterfront Redevelopment. The analysis is rooted in theoretical and conceptual frameworks contained within the relevant literature on public consultation drawn from different disciplines. The case study produced several key findings; the most notable is that the stakeholder assessment of the value or efficacy of public consultations used by the City is affected by the mechanisms in which they participate. Public sector and business sector stakeholders invited by the City to participate in central participative mechanisms, such as steering committees, expressed a higher degree of confidence that the consultations had significant positive influence in shaping the project. By contrast, community stakeholders invited by the City to participate in less participative mechanisms, such as open houses, expressed a lower degree of confidence that the public consultations had significant positive influence in shaping the project. This thesis concludes by recommending that the City of Saskatoon enhance participatory democracy in land use planning and development by: expanding the 'Community Engagement Model' to encompass the full 'Public Participation Spectrum' for all stakeholders; establish a complementary evaluation framework based on normative participation principles; expand the types and levels of public consultation available; and, adopt more inclusionary, accountable and transparent public consultation practices.



land development, land use planning, planning, democracy, public consultation



Master of Arts (M.A.)


Interdisciplinary Studies


Interdisciplinary Studies


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