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Deliberative Democratic Practices in Canada: An Analysis of Institutional Empowerment in Three Cases

  • Genevieve Fuji Johnson (a1)

Abstract

Abstract. Analyzing three timely Canadian cases, this article develops an important relationship between the theory and practice of deliberative democracy. The Canadian Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO), Nova Scotia Power Incorporated (NSP), and Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) recently held consultative initiatives appearing to seek the democratic empowerment of citizens. In each case, we see institutional features of deliberative democracy. But only the TCHC's participatory budgeting process begins to fulfill the promise of deliberative empowerment, that is, inclusive, informed, and equal public deliberation focused on a common good at the policy formulation, implementation, and evaluation stages. Why is the case of the TCHC characterized by greater deliberative empowerment than the cases of NSP and the NWMO? I explore possible explanations, all of which focus on the political context in which deliberation takes place. My overarching finding is that the motivation of policy elites within these organizations is key in the deliberative empowerment of citizens at the institutional level. I conclude by identifying factors that might account for the presence or absence of this motivation.

Résumé. En analysant trois cas canadiens opportuns, cet article développe une relation importante entre la théorie et la pratique de la démocratie délibérative. La Société de gestion des déchets nucléaires (SGDN) du Canada, Nova Scotia Power Incorporated (NSPI) et la Toronto Community Housing Corporation (TCHC) ont récemment mis en oeuvre des initiatives consultatives qui semblent vouloir donner le pouvoir démocratique délibératif aux citoyens. Dans chaque cas, on observe des caractéristiques institutionnelles représentant les valeurs d'une démocratie délibérative. Mais le processus budgétaire participatif de la TCHC est le seul qui commence à tenir les promesses d'une prise de pouvoir délibérative, caractérisée par une délibération inclusive, informée et égalitaire, axée sur un bien commun, aux étapes de la formulation, de la mise en oeuvre et de l'évaluation d'une politique. Pourquoi le cas de la TCHC atteste-t-il d'une plus grande prise de pouvoir délibérative que ceux de NSPI et de la SGDN? J'explore des explications possibles, qui sont toutes centrées sur le contexte politique dans lequel survient la délibération. En général, je constate que la motivation des élites politiques à l'intérieur de ces organisations est primordiale pour la prise de pouvoir délibérative des citoyens au niveau institutionnel. En conclusion, j'identifie les facteurs pouvant justifier la présence ou l'absence de cette motivation.

Copyright

Corresponding author

Genevieve Fuji Johnson, Department of Political Science, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Dr., Burnaby, BC, CanadaV5A 16S, Genevieve_Johnson@sfu.ca.

References

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Deliberative Democratic Practices in Canada: An Analysis of Institutional Empowerment in Three Cases

  • Genevieve Fuji Johnson (a1)

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