The Role of Climate Change Policy Work in Canada

Adam M. Wellstead, Richard C. Stedman


An ongoing concern with many Canada’s governments
is avoiding climate change related policy failure,
including that associated with climate change. In response,
there has been a spate of government-led climate change
vulnerability and risk assessments, studies, and strategies.
With a growing attention on developing the ‘right’ policies
and program to address climate change needs to be examined
as an important factor in ‘adaptive capacity’. As governments
turn their attention from broad strategizing to
policy-making, we argue that a consideration of the often
overlooked micro-level and seemingly routine government
based capacity—especially the advice needed to formulate
and implement policy changes—is required. A high level of
policy capacity is an important factor in avoiding policy
failures. The questionnaire was delivered through a webbased
survey of 1469 Canadian provincial and territorial
government policy analysts working in nine provinces and
three territorial jurisdictions in the climate change, environmental,
financial, forestry, natural resource, infrastructure,
transportation, and water sectors. A comparison of
mean scores across key indicators of policy work was conducted.
A number of policy implications were raised. First,
those in financial sector do very little climate change policy
work. Second, the fracturing of roles in those departments
responsible for forestry reflects the complexity of the climate
change issue and a developed division of labour. Those who
identified with forestry sector, under performed despite their
concern about climate change, in terms of key policy tasks,
the level of complexity that the issues were addressed and a
low level engagement with stakeholders with those outside
of government. Policy capacity was also undermined with a
view that departments were committed vis a vis their mission
statements but that this commitment was not reflected
in their daily operations.

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@Canadian Political Science Review (CPSR). ISSN 1911-4125