Substitution (Participation)

Food Policy Councils at the P/T level (with food strategies and charters)

Federal/provincial governments should:

  1. Create ladders of advisory bodies: municipal – provincial – federal. Clearly, in many regions of the country, there is a need for mechanisms that aggregate municipal food policy work, particularly in BC and Ontario. Provincial FPC- like bodies without formal government attachments have also been created in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.  These bodies provide some guidance on how to structure this laddered approach.  As recommended by MacRae and the TFPC (1999), there would subsequently be a need for a federal advisory body with linkages to the provincial ones.  It does not appear that the current National Food Policy Advisory Council proposal will fulfill this need. Ultimately, senior levels of government can use these bodies to help fulfill multi-stakeholder participation / regulatory pluralism mandates – they provide expertise and access that these levels don’t necessarily have.  In some provinces, the structures of public health and land use coordination that facilitate municipal / provincial collaboration on health and agricultural land protection can be used to facilitate this laddering process. A nested networking model is elaborated by Giest and Howlett (2013), using a case study of Australian institutions involved in climate change interventions.  This type of model will ultimately be more useful to food policy development.
  2. An FPC start up support fund – most groups identified start up challenges that slowed progress which could be moderated with start up funding. In BC, the provincial CFAI fund provided such start up support with positive evaluations so it could serve as a model for other provinces.
  3. Training and capacity building for nascent FPCs and their members – these complex agendas and working environments require particular skill sets to optimize value. Of particular importance is helping CSOs understand institutional environments and how to work with the realities of municipal governance. Equally important from MacRae and Donahue (2013) data is the need to strengthen the food systems orientation of the work undertaken as the organization matures. There may be a role for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to play in this regard, as well as some existing university training programmes such as the on-line Food Security Certificate offered by Ryerson University.

National Food Policy Council

The June 2019 proposal to create a National Food Policy Advisory Council  (see News posts right hand column) suggests that this dimension of the suite of participation proposals on this site will soon be implemented.  However, it appears that the federal government will take a limited approach to the structure, processes, mandates and influences of this proposed Council when compared to the more robust proposals of Sasha McNicoll who extensively researched the most viable model for a national FPC.  Certainly the proposed version will not be well linked to  P/T and municipal networks as proposed here, since the federal government has yet to engage these jurisdictions in food policy discussions.  The other significant limitation at this stage would be its advisory function (see News posts right hand column for more).

National system of Food Sector Labour Force Development Boards

Mirroring the FPC proposals, a laddered network of boards that focus on labour is also important, hopefully with linkages to the laddered FPC network.  For more on this, see Goal 8 Work, Labour Force Development, Subsitution.

Cabinet committee on food (federal)

Cabinet committee reconfiguration has historically been used to highlight complicated files and political priorities.The presumption here is that all the work being implemented on food system change will require a Cabinet Committee on Food to oversee execution of this agenda. Such committees are typically established at the behest of the Prime Minister in consultation with key Cabinet members and caucus, to reflect government priorities.  At this stage, the hope is that the food system has emerged as a critical priority, setting the stage for a Cabinet Committee.

Canada signs the Aarhus Convention and reconfigures public participation to be consistent with it (adapted from Pham, 2019)

The Aarhus Convention of 1998 is a treaty  on public participation developed by the United Nations (UN) Economic Commission for Europe. It provides participation standards for decision-making by public authorities in relation to administrative decisions, freedom of information, and justice. The treaty is open to any UN-affiliated country and includes three guiding pillars:

  • Access to Knowledge requires the government to provide relevant information on environmental issues when requested. There are two sections in this pillar, a) the public’s right to seek information from the government and the government’s obligation to provide that information on request; b) the public’s right to receive information and the government’s obligation to collect and analyze information from the public even without a special request.
  • Administrative Decision-Making requires governments to give public notice of the intent for environmental decision-making. This  provides opportunities for public participation in the policy process and holds governments accountable for incorporating the feedback into the final decisions. There are three sections in this pillar: a) public participation on a specific activity; b) public participation in the development of plans, programs, and policies related to the environment; public participation in the preparation of laws, rules, and legally binding norms.
  • Access to Justice provides regulations for the implementation of the Aarhus Convention such as what to do when a request for information is refused, access to administrative or judicial procedures to challenge acts and omissions, and “fair, equitable, and reasonably expensive” regulations for proceedings (see Stec and Casey-Leftkowic, 2000)

Canada is currently not a signatory of the Aarhus Convention, but would benefit from signing the Convention given the emphasis on better strategies and increased accountability for meaningful public participation.  Adaptations to the Cabinet Directive on Regulation would be required to ensure compliance with the Convention.