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The Resilience of Governance Networks: Wildlife Health Management in Canada



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Emerging diseases in Canada threaten the wellbeing of humans, domestic and farmed animals, as well as wildlife. Canada, like many nations, struggles to manage diseases that cross boundaries, both geographically and in species. This has led to a heavy reliance on governance networks to coordinate the knowledge and resources needed to develop management approaches. As governance networks often exist in an informal or ad hoc capacity and at the same time attempt to solve complex or expansive policy problems beyond the ability of any one agency, the issue of network resilience is examined to explore how networks and their membership can mitigate network failure. Through two case studies of wildlife disease incidents in Canada (Chronic wasting disease and White nose syndrome), I examine how the wildlife health network in Canada developed its disease management approaches as well as recommendations to provincial and federal governments. Using primary sources, I evaluate the network’s activities, attitudes and behaviours to assess if characteristics associated with resilience (slack in resources, adaptive capacity and situation awareness) are present and if they contribute to positive outcomes. Greater presence of resilient characteristics- slack in resources, adaptive capacity and situation awareness-were present in the case with better policy outcomes, however, the analysis reveals that the concept of resilience is limited as a useful tool when examined in the broader context. Governance networks are often limited by the structural constraints of their environment, including scarce resources and a lack of self-determination. In this network, an additional factors exists to complicate analysis: disease type and severity. The relative ease with which an emerging disease can be understood and management appears to contribute significantly to the network’s success.



governance networks, resilience, emerging infectious diseases, wildlife health management



Master of Public Policy (M.P.P.)


Johnson-Shoyama Graduate School of Public Policy


Public Policy


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