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Participatory Politics: Constructing Citizen Engagement in a New Alberta

WHEN

November 21, 2015 at 10:45am - 12pm

WHERE

Centennial Centre for Interdisciplinary Science, University of Alberta
Google map and directions
with David Kahane

Alberta’s governments have for decades talked about 'listening to Albertans' but public consultation processes have been tightly stage managed. Join a participatory conversation on how we can generate new processes of citizen engagement so that Albertans have a say in the decisions that affect their lives.

Government consultation in Alberta under the Tories mainly used shallow forms like telephone town halls, open houses where you got to write a sticky note, online polls and workbooks, and the closed-door sessions where invited groups got to have a quick say. All of these forms of public consultation draw from a narrow segment of the population. None of them bring citizens and civil society organizations into real deliberation. And none of them do much to build an engaged or mobilized civic culture.

Those of us who hoped that the NDP government would bring in dynamic new approaches to public involvement in policy development have so far had a telephone town hall on the budget, a few perfunctory opportunities to offer opinions online, and the chance to put up stickies at open houses for the climate panel and the royalties panel.

What would it look like for the NDP to break the Tory mould for public engagement? To turn a familiar rhetoric of "listening to Albertans" into meaningful, transformative action with citizens?

The session will start with a brief presentation by Professor Kahane, followed by a facilitated discussion about your best experiences of public involvement and your recommendations for public involvement in a new Alberta.

David Kahane is a Professor of Political Science at the University of Alberta. He is Project Director of Alberta Climate Dialogue (ABCD), a SSHRC-funded community-university research partnership convening citizens in Alberta to deliberate on climate change policy, and learning from careful evaluation of these processes and their outcomes. His broader research deals with theories and practices of democratic dialogue and deliberation, with particular focus on features of process design that make public dialogues more inclusive and transformative. Publications in this vein include two edited volumes, Deliberative Democracy in Theory and Practice and Dispute Resolution in Aboriginal Contexts: Land Claims, Treaties, and Self-Government Agreements.