Federalism and the Institutional Dynamics of Intergovernmental Spatial Policy Coordination in Canada

  • Brian Allen-Webb

Student thesis: Phd


This thesis discusses the governmental institutional dynamics that structure the formulation and coordination of spatial policy within the federal Canadian intergovernmental system and presents methods to improve it. The research utilises the three traditions of new institutionalism - historical, rational choice and sociological - to develop a crosscutting assessment of intergovernmental spatial policy coordination. An embedded case study approach is then used to discuss intergovernmental spatial policy coordination between the governments of Canada, British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.Research findings highlight the uniqueness of the institutional environments that exist within each government, and to a lesser extent each department, which structure policymakers' understandings of intergovernmental spatial policy coordination. Policymakers demonstrate a distinct awareness of spatial issues, but they are often constrained in their ability formally to articulate this in the development of public policy, particularly in relation to intergovernmental interactions. The decentralised federal nature of Canada is shown to be a highly influential reason for this, with issues of history, equity, politics and strong regional government cultures playing important roles in impeding intergovernmental spatial policy coordination.The thesis explores these constraints, discussing how both formal and informal institutional structures interact to discourage the use of spatial policy, and discusses the ways in which intergovernmental spatial policy coordination could be enhanced in the specific context of Canada. The institutional framework developed in this research is shown to be a useful method for conceptualising the competing federal principles of unity and diversity in the study of intergovernmental spatial policy coordination. Ultimately this thesis argues that while intergovernmental spatial policy coordination is poorly developed in Canada, policymaker awareness of spatial issues influences the decision-making processes employed to develop and coordinate public policy.
Date of Award31 Dec 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorCecilia Wong (Supervisor) & Iain Deas (Supervisor)


  • Canada
  • Policy coordination
  • Spatial planning
  • Federalism

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