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Democracy, Governance, and Metro Vancouver: Decision-Making and the Regional Growth Strategy

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Democracy at the scale of the city-region is obfuscated by multiple levels of government, lateral relationships between private and public actors, and decision-making that combines governance together with government. At this scale lines of accountability and decision-making are blurred. However, “new regionalism” combines government together with governance as a possible approach for cooperation and decision-making at the scale of the metropolitan region. This study reviews the extent to which the City of Burnaby and civil society organizations (CSOs) across Metro Vancouver influenced and shaped the Regional Growth Strategy (RGS) ratified in 2011. The literature regarding “new regionalism” highlights two important features: 1) the possibility of including non-government organizations and/or private actors in decision-making and 2) consensus-based, collaborative, decision-making. An interpretive analysis reveals that both the City of Burnaby and civil society organizations were consulted and able to influence the Regional Growth Strategy. The multiple avenues available to local authorities to review the plan, including written submissions and participation on Metro Vancouver’s Technical Advisory Committee, enabled them to collaborate and deliberate with one another. Although they were consulted, CSOs were not empowered to collaborate with one another, or with local authorities as part of the process. Factors which limited the involvement of CSOs, and inhibited the exploration of alternative normative goals for the RGS, include Metro Vancouver’s institutional focus on consensus between member local authorities, the historical focus on sustainability in regional planning, and the more regulatory approach that was applied in the case of the RGS.
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