Exploring the Processes and Perceptions of Citizen Engagement: An Analysis of Public Input in the Development of a Municipal Environmental Sustainability Plan

Article by Lorelei Hanson, The International Journal of Sustainability Policy and Practice - 2012

There has been a shift towards increased public involvement in public policy development across many levels of government, both within Canada and internationally. Like many municipalities, the city of Edmonton is following the trend to increase citizen input into their planning and development processes. As a part of this, over the course of two years, the Office of the Environment sought out public input and feedback on their environmental strategic plan. 

In this paper, I will discuss the citizen engagement processes that were undertaken as a part of the development of the city of Edmonton’s environmental strategic plan. Using data collected through participant observations and semi-structured interviews with individuals central to the development of the plan, I will analyse the discourse about, perceptions of, and activities undertaken to engage citizens in creating an environmental plan that will lead to a more sustainable and resilient city. The plan is intended to be transformational in some respects, and hence, a number of local councillors and citizen groups questioned its objectives and how citizens would be convinced of the need for such dramatic changes. With these questions in mind, I will also explore what might be done to broaden public input and support.