Canadian Environmental Policy: Context and Cases. 2nd ed.


372 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-19-541590-6
DDC 333.7'0971




Edited by Debora L. VanNijnatten and Robert Boardman
Reviewed by Patrick Colgan

Dr. Patrick W. Colgan is Director of Research and Natural Lands at the
Royal Botanical Gardens.


Since Canadian Environmental Policy was first published in 1992, new
issues have joined older ones, while the environment itself has varied
in its salience as a public priority. The opening chapters of this
second edition (which features contributions from political scientists)
provide context, with discussions of legal foundations, the shared and
uncertain jurisdictions involving federal and provincial proprietary and
legislative powers, and policy instruments ranging from regulations to
voluntary compliance and multi-stakeholder approaches. Chapter 5 focuses
on Aboriginal peoples and their role in a variety of projects, from
Quebec Hydro to western logging. The three chapters that examine
Environment Canada, federal–provincial relations, and the issue of
provincial policies versus national standards provide little hope for a
greener Canada. Beyond Canadian borders, Canada–U.S. relations,
international law, and globalization are treated in three chapters.

The six cases continue an unhappy litany. First up is the plight of
rural and remote communities that often produce much economically but
politically are often ignored. Policy on smog is well reviewed for its
chemistry and political context. For agricultural non-point-source
pollution, there is an excellent examination of why science-based moral
suasion is a superior approach to “command and control” regulation.
The dilemmas of threatened wildlife are well considered in terms of land
use, transnational connections, and political framework. Biotechnology
is racing ahead of its policy, with consequent inadequate management of

The book is dense and detailed, with full referencing and explanations
of key concepts such as the precautionary principle, harmonization, and
the risk of “the race to the bottom” with respect to environmental
disregard. The analysis is both abstract (only rarely do the human
dimensions, such as PCBs in Inuit milk, intrude) and within the box,
even though the solutions, if anywhere, are outside.


“Canadian Environmental Policy: Context and Cases. 2nd ed.,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 17, 2024,