Airshed Improvement: Stakeholder perspectives

Anna Rankin and Chris Ling
Published February 5, 2007

Case Summary

Quesnel is a forestry-dependent community facing tremendous challenges due to the devastating Mountain Pine Beetle infestation caused by climate change. Public participation in determining a vision for Quesnel’s future is important in order to determine workable and appropriate solutions for the community as local action has the potential to be more effective than a top-down government approach to problem solving.

The Quesnel Air Quality Roundtable (QAQR) is implementing a consensus-based airshed management plan based on results of a comprehensive air quality assessment completed by the BC Ministry of Environment (MoE). The roundtable shares a concern with the MoE that poor air quality is affecting the health of the population within the community.

This case study examines the QAQR process for its capacity to create social capital and community agency considered key components for meaningful, tangible change. The study reveals strong social bonds, trust and other elements of social capital within the stakeholder group that contributed to the development of consensus around a detailed action plan. Despite these strengths, the study revealed barriers to community-wide collective action that may impede air quality improvement.

Sustainable Development Characteristics

Resource-based communities are confronting increasingly complex, uncertain and controversial issues related to community sustainability. In these communities, stakeholder consensus building is becoming an increasingly popular approach in the development of feasible strategies to assess environmental impacts (Dale, 2001; Innes & Booher, 1999).  

How and whether public participation processes such as stakeholder roundtables facilitate the capacity to develop and implement sound environmental policy is not well understood (Fiorino, 1990; Innes & Booher, 1993; Rydin & Pennington, 2000). Some have argued that the inherent complexities of environmental issues require a technocratic approach to policy development, and that professional expertise is required to uncover societal values and preferences. Others argue that the development of public policy is a democratic right and that it should reflect societal values and preferences (Rydin & Pennington, 2000).

Public participation has become the norm for many environmental issues (Rydin & Pennington, 2000; Wall, 1995). Many jurisdictions worldwide are implementing various degrees of public consultation or participation related to public policy development and increasingly the public is demanding it (Dale, 2001; Innes & Booher, 1999; Rowe & Frewer, 2000). Decisions that integrate economic, social and environmental issues are becoming an imperative in public policy. The perceived inability of public institutions to respond to emerging environmental issues and the growing support for sustainable development as a governance approach has caused a shift toward collaborative processes involving diverse stakeholder groups such as the Quesnel Air Quality Roundtable (QAQR).

Holistic and democratic approaches to sustainable development issues such as air quality cut across government sectors. The vertical and isolated nature of institutional bodies and their separateness from each other provides little opportunity or incentive for applying a holistic systems-analysis approach to sustainability issues. On the contrary, they serve to reinforce the isolated, narrow, and specialized approach to policy making, with the current structure of our socio-political institutions serving to preserve the status quo (Dale, 2001). As governments find new ways to define the public interest, initiatives such as the QAQR have emerged which attempt to engage the public and to address some of the structural barriers inherent in the government bureaucracy.

It is not always clear how including the public in local environmental issues might actually lead to improvements in public policy, and more importantly, environmental and human health: “Despite high levels of ‘green’ attitudes, environmental concern has failed to translate into widespread environmental action” (Dunlap, 1991 cited in Wall, 1995, p.466). Research in the U.S. and Australia has revealed that stakeholders are reaching consensus on problems and objectives, but are having difficulty implementing this consensus due to a “lack of strategic direction, limited public participation, and lack of stakeholder commitment to implementation” (Margerum, 1999, p. 181). Given the significant challenges and resources that air quality improvements require, what effect can a stakeholder process like the QAQR really have? What elements are necessarily present to achieve community agency?

Rich social networks develop despite diverse values held by members of stakeholder groups. Value judgments are a fundamental part of consensus-based decision-making. Values, judgments, and their impact on working relationships are important considerations when diverse stakeholders participate in processes like the QAQR. “Human relationships are pivotal in public policy decision making and in working related conflicts” (Wade, 2004). Value judgments happen at all stages of environmental risk management processes including during the process of deciding which risks to evaluate (Rowe & Frewer, 2000).

Expending the time and resources necessary to collect and process information, and attend meetings has a personal cost. Individuals assess this cost compared to the benefits of participating. Where the impact of participation is uncertain, or small, it is unlikely that becoming informed would be worthwhile (Rydin & Pennington, 2000). The incentive to participate in time-consuming and technical processes is likely to vary among groups. If time is available and ideological commitment is present, members of Environmental Non-Governmental Organisations (ENGOs) will participate in stakeholder processes (Rydin & Pennington, 2000). Commitment to participate and the incentive to collaborate may not make sense, however, if there is a perception that one party is dominating the process and the outcomes. In that case, it is likely stakeholders will be reluctant to participate in the first place, or may become alienated from the process. If multi-stakeholder bodies do not reflect the values of all stakeholders and instead “serve only to legitimize existing hierarchical structures”, they will ultimately fail to implement concrete actions or change the existing system.

Examining the structure of incentives facing the public at large provides some insight into the problem. For example, in the case of air quality where the source of pollution is diffuse no individual car user for example, has the incentive to reduce car use because the cost far outweighs the perceived benefit. The inconvenience of not having a car will probably not be compensated by any significant improvement in air quality for an individual. The incentive to “free-ride” is high because avoiding participation is anonymous (Rydin, 1998). Likewise, just as policy failure can be spread across a non-mobilized community, improving air quality benefits all residents whether they participate in planning and implementing solutions or not.

Critical Success Factors

  1. It is important to identify the criteria for acceptable information at the beginning of stakeholder processes such as the QAQR based on the recognition that there is no such thing as perfect information or value-free information and that more information does not necessarily imply better information. Agreeing to the ‘right’ type, amount, and source of information is critical for subsequent acceptance of decisions and action plans.
  2. There was recognition by stakeholders in the QAQR process that absorbing the technical information often controlled the pace of progress during deliberations. Participants needed to be well informed in order to base decisions on scientific reasoning and technological information as well as emotive and socio-economic factors; providing the appropriate time, resources and expertise to educate stakeholders is an important part of a successful process.
  3. In Quesnel, there is a dense network of social relationships that are enabled by the relatively small size of the community. Civic-minded individuals encounter each other repeatedly at social functions and around town providing ongoing opportunities to dialogue and network.
  4. The existence of a champion that has pre-existing bonds with the community, the municipality and industrial stakeholders (in this case a champion organisation in the form of the Quesnel Environmental Society) to drive the process forward.

What Worked?

  1. Stakeholders were fully committed to the roundtable process, with high levels of goodwill and trust between members.
  2. The skill of, and respect given to the Chair of the roundtable ensured the process was successful.
  3. Deep connections existed between the roundtable and other organisations and committees involved in Quesnel’s environment.
  4. In the case of the QAQR both a deep ideological commitment and the willingness to devote adequate time led to the participation of ENGO’s and subsequently to development of an action plan.
  5. Starting the process without the presence of the government (provincial or municipal) led to a feeling of pride between the members that the process was being led by the community and industry stakeholders, rather than imposed by the government.
  6. The adoption of an adaptive process during the life of the roundtable, with stakeholders developing a deeper understanding of the data, technical issues and the positions of the other stakeholders led to the development of consensus.
  7. The absence of an external facilitator did not provide any problems due to the quality of the chair.

What Didn’t Work?

  1. The desire to preserve relationships has the potential to present barriers to formulating a more adaptive approach to implementing action.
  2. The influence of the technical experts may subordinate the values of less technical stakeholders because some less technical stakeholders feel they do not have the depth of understanding required to challenge results.
  3. Some industrial stakeholders do not believe that reductions in permitted emissions will significantly improve air quality. This diverges from the public perception and may negatively influence efforts to build relationships with the public, which has the potential to affect public agency. The public may not engage in individual behaviours required to improve air quality because they may perceive their actions to be inconsequential compared to industry action.
  4. There are divergent opinions about the health impacts and safe levels of PM 2.5 that may divert the focus from actions to discussions about the ‘right’ targets.
  5. The free-rider issue is a significant challenge and one that requires some attention by the QAQR to improve collective action.
  6. Stakeholders are not convinced the plan adopted is sufficiently adaptive, and therefore may be difficult to implement successfully.
  7. Using no net reduction in employment as a frame of reference for the process is seen by some involved as a possible barrier to change.
  8. Some stakeholders were concerned about the quality of the data upon which decisions were based. This concern was with both air quality data for Quesnel, and also health data that informed the Federal and Provincial Air Quality standards.

Detailed Background of Case Study

In 1999, after a preliminary meeting between the Quesnel Environmental Society (QES) and industry representatives, members of the QES and representatives of the BC Ministry of Environment (MoE) convened the QAQR with a view to fully understanding air quality in the area through a thorough air quality assessment. There was a concern that frequent inversions in the valley exacerbated industrial and other sources of air pollution, combining to produce inferior air quality. The MoE received complaints from the public on a regular basis and possessed historical data on fine particulate concentrations that demonstrated that Quesnel experienced some of the highest levels in the province.

 “In 1998, Quesnel was ranked the poorest for PM10 levels in BC out of 28 communities that had continuous monitoring stations. This trend continues to date, with Quesnel ranking among the three worst communities in the province for PM10 from 1999 to 2002” (Quesnel Air Quality Roundtable, 2004, p 26).

The Quesnel Environmental Society (QES) was concerned about air quality based on visual observation in the downtown area. The MoE approached the QES to ask them to assess the level of community concern and gauge the degree of community interest in making improvements. The QES subsequently began a dialogue in the community to present information about air quality and to ask stakeholders if they would be interested in participating in improving air quality. Industrial stakeholders acknowledged the air quality challenges and accepted an opportunity to become involved in a holistic approach for improvement. Concern among industrial stakeholders regarding the MoE’s intention to shut down the remaining beehive burner in the Airshed motivated them to join the group to explore acceptable alternatives.

Stakeholders included: Quesnel Environmental Society; Baker Creek Enhancement Society; Quesnel Waste Disposal Ltd.; West Fraser Mills Ltd.; Argo Road Maintenance; BC Ministry of Forests; C & C Wood Products Ltd.; Weldwood of Canada Ltd. (later acquired by West Fraser Timber Ltd.); Cariboo Pulp and Paper Co. (jointly owned by Weldwood of Canada Ltd (later West Fraser Timber Ltd) and Daishowa Marubeni); Cariboo Regional District; Tolko Industries Ltd.; City of Quesnel; Quesnel River Pulp Co. (a division of West Fraser Timber Ltd); BC Ministry of Environment; HMC Services Inc.; Slocan Forest Products Ltd. (CANFOR); BC Ministry of Transportation; North Cariboo Share Our Resources Society; West Pine MDF (a division of West Fraser Timber Ltd.); and Northern Health Authority

Frames of reference were established, specifically that air quality improvements should result in no net job loss. A unique feature of this process was the absence of a formal external facilitator. The roundtable agreed that the Chair should be a representative of community interests and so they appointed a QES representative.

The Ministry of Environment began a detailed study to model emission sources and levels of PM10and PM 2.5 using data from air quality stations located around the region, combined with an emissions inventory and modeling data using CALPUFF software.

The group met at intervals over a five-year period to share information from the study and to educate itself on the implications of the data. A technical expert from the BC Ministry of Environment was responsible for collecting, analyzing and presenting the data and the results. A health professional from the Northern Health Authority attended one meeting to share the health impacts associated with particulate matter. Results of the air dispersion modeling study were prepared for the QAQR by the MoE in a report entitled ‘Fine Particulate Source Apportionment for the Quesnel Airshed Using Results from a CALPUFF Modeling Exercise’ (Plain, 2004). The report indicated the relative contribution of each pollutant based on source and the impact of particulate matter on fifteen separate receptor locations. The QAQR drafted a consensus based action plan with recommendations in a document entitled ‘Quesnel Airshed Management Plan 2004-2014’ (QAQR, 2004) based on the comprehensive air quality assessment. This study commenced at the point where stakeholders were beginning to implement the Airshed management plan.

In the executive summary of the Airshed Management Plan signed by the Chair on behalf of all stakeholders, it states that “air quality in Quesnel needs improvement” (QAQR, 2004). The summary concludes that poor air quality is the result of local topography and the combined impact of a large number of sources of particulate matter. Specifically, the summary states that air pollution is not just an industry problem and therefore “we are all part of the air quality solution”.

Air Quality Assessment

The air quality assessment that formed the foundation for development of the Quesnel Airshed Management Plan 2004-2014 included four components: air quality monitoring, an emissions inventory, computer dispersion modeling, and source apportionment. The air quality assessment examined “ambient measurements (from all different angles), pollution rose (combining ambient measurements with its corresponding wind direction), photographic evidence, dispersion modeling, past particle speciation analysis (1995), and source apportionment based on modeling results”. Air quality stations located around the region provided data on actual particulate levels measured. An inventory of emissions from all sources within the Quesnel Airshed boundary produced for 2000 is illustrated in Table 1.

Table 1: Summary of Air Emissions by Category - 2000 (Tonnes per year) 


Permitted Sources 4488.39  1882.00   518.01 22.42  1039.43 3362.97 2027.76  1362.31
Commercial Sources  469.52  21.90  2.38 0.00   249.49 192.78  44.05  31.61
Residential Sources  1401.42  34.34  6.18 0.00   555.62 187.75  187.49  177.87
Natural Sources  0.00  1.31  0.00 0.00   495.25 0.00  0.00  0.00
Mobile Sources  4223.62  661.94  24.29 0.00   456.00 28.16  27.86 23.21
Paved Road Dust            3847.05  928.59  230.80
Unpaved Road Dust            1853.86  834.17  220.06
TOTAL (tonnes/year)  10582.95  2601.50  550.85 22.42  2795.80  4049.93  4049.93  2045.86


(QAQR, 2004, p. 14)

Emissions Inventory

The data show that industry is the main source of particulate matter. Since the purchase of Weldwood of Canada by West Fraser Timber Ltd in 2004, emissions from all sources owned by West Fraser in the Quesnel Airshed account for over 80% of the permitted emissions of PM 2.5 in the community (QAQR, 2004).

Modeling results and source apportionment data compiled by the MoE showed that meteorology and topography contribute directly to impacts. Conclusions from the plan state:

The air quality problem in Quesnel is the result of the combined impact of a large number of sources. Analysis indicates that there is no one source that can be targeted to completely solve the air quality problem. To improve fine particulate levels in the community, reductions are required from permitted sources as well as fugitive and road dust sources, residential sources, commercial sources and the transportation sector.” (QAQR, 2004, p. 29)

Airshed Management Plan Objectives

Between 2004 and 2007, the committee focused on achieving short-term Airshed plan recommendations. Scenarios for improvement were modeled and used to set the long-term goals in the plan. Long-term goals were established based on PM10 reductions of 30-58% and PM2.5 reductions of 20-35%. The scenarios included road dust control, beehive burner closure, burning restrictions and permitted point source reductions. The goals were to be “incorporated into community and industry planning as opportunities arise.” (Plain, 2006)

Environment and Health Imperatives

The Quesnel Airshed Management Plan 2004-2014 states “there is no risk free level of exposure for particulate matter” (p. 32). It also states that “the Federal Health Reference Level is set based on an estimate of the lowest ambient PM level at which statistically significant increases in health responses can be detected and not a level where impacts will not occur” (CEPA/FPAC, 1999 as reported in the QAQR, 2004, p. 32).

Air pollution affects both the respiratory and cardiac systems, and although no costs were attached to the impacts of poor air quality, the report acknowledges, “society pays for the health effects of pollution in many ways” (QAQR, 2004, p. 32). The Airshed plan references studies that have shown that soil-related matter (e.g. road dust) is less potent than combustion-related particles (e.g. vehicle exhaust, diesel emissions, smoke, industrial emissions, etc.).

The plan states that Quesnel monitoring and mortality data resulted in estimates of two premature deaths per year can be attributed to fine particulate air pollution. The report also discussed the possibility that these visible outcomes likely indicate a much greater burden of illness in the general population and may potentially impair the quality of life for citizens in Quesnel (QAQR, 2004, p. 31).

Social Imperatives

In 2005, the population of the Quesnel area was 25,164. Within city boundaries, the population is closer to 10,000 (Quesnel and Community Economic Development Corporation, 2005). Poverty and unemployment are significant social issues in Quesnel. In most age categories, Quesnel has at least twice the rate of citizens depending on government benefits than British Columbia on average. Quesnel's population aged between 19 and 24 is over 4 times more likely to be receiving government benefits than other British Columbians. 4.9% of the population aged between 25 and 54 depend on the social safety net compared to 2.1 % in B.C. as a whole.  

In Quesnel, there is a strong commitment to citizen participation. In addition, the Cariboo-Chilcotin Beetle Action Coalition (CCBAC) formed “by drawing on proven community cooperation and spirit to work with government in addressing the significant threat posed by the pine beetle” (QCEDC, 2006). There is a dense network of social relationships that is enabled by the relatively small size of the community. Civic-minded individuals encounter each other repeatedly at social functions and around town providing ongoing opportunities to dialogue and network.

Economic Imperatives

Almost one third of jobs in Quesnel depends on forests i.e. (logging, forest services or wood processing) (QCEDC, 2005, p. 15). Forestry firms and the public sector account for the largest portion of employment in Quesnel.  One job is created per 1,000 m3 of timber processed in Quesnel (QCEDC, 2006). Wood processing facilities include several saw mills, one kraft pulp mill, one mechanical pulp mill, a medium density fibre board plant, a plywood plant and other value added industries.  In 2004, West Fraser Timber became the largest private employer in Quesnel when it purchased Weldwood of Canada. West Fraser Timber now employs over 1700 Quesnel residents (QCEDC, 2005). Local forest company sales in 2004 exceeded $500 million. Forestry drives the Quesnel economy and contributes significantly to the health of the provincial economy. Quesnel is one of the least economically diversified communities in B.C. (QCEDC, 2006).

Public Perceptions

Results published by Michalos & Zumbo (2002) in a ‘Quality of Life’ survey conducted for the City of Quesnel indicated that the public has a significant concern about air quality. The most frequently mentioned “worst thing about living in Quesnel” was the air quality, cited by 30% of respondents. Traffic congestion and retail issues followed a distant second (9% each). The most frequently mentioned thing that would “improve quality of life in Quesnel” was air quality (17%).

A public survey carried out for this case study revealed that residents of Quesnel and area have a good grasp of what is required individually to improve air quality. The majority of respondents felt that they could personally make a difference to improving air quality. Individuals responded with the following:

  1. Cut down on driving: car pool, walk more, ride bike more, use buses more
  2. Drive small engine car
  3. Run propane powered vehicle
  4. Make sure vehicle has good emission controls
  5. Burn clean fuel in vehicles
  6. Reduce or stop burning wood

Despite the concern revealed by these two surveys, attendance at two public forums hosted by the QAQR in 2006 was poor. “We had an open house, people say they are concerned, but it wasn’t well attended”. Given the stated level of concern with air quality, is the public interested in participating in solutions? ‘Free-riding’ behaviour may interfere with a commitment to individual action. The free-rider issue is a significant challenge and one that requires some attention by the QAQR to improve collective action.

The public survey conducted for this case study revealed that most respondents knew nothing about the Quesnel Air Quality Roundtable. There is also a good deal of confusion about the health impacts surrounding PM2.5 and PM10. Many respondents felt that Total Reduced Sulphide (TRS) is the largest health concern.

When asked how others in the community could contribute to improving air quality, the majority of respondents stated pulp mills and/or industry in general should reduce emissions. The next highest rate of response was for “others to reduce driving”. Asked what would make the most difference in improving air quality in Quesnel, members of the public responded with the following comments revealing the perceived trade-off between jobs and health.

  1. Pulp mills and saw mills… but we need those so…..
  2. I suppose not to have the pulp mills but we have to have them for the economy.

Comments such as these indicate that people are well aware of the community’s dependence on the forest economy. Most people however implicated industry unequivocally. An indicative comment being:

  1.  “Industry has got to do a better job. The pond at the bottom of the hill stinks. At 02:30 it’s prime time to let ‘er rip. Pulp mills are the primary cause. Limits should be better. The little guy has to get rid of woodstoves but the big guys get away with it. We have a catalytic combustion device on our wood stove.”

Although individuals believe they can make a difference to improving air quality, and they know what actions are required individually, they feel industry could improve air quality the most.

Roundtable stakeholders are aware that the public believes that industry is largely responsible for poor air quality. “People point to industry. They say if emissions improved that air quality would improve”. Some industrial stakeholders, however, disagree with the public perception that industrial upgrades would make any difference to air quality: “We aren’t after the right things, they are expecting all of the permitted sources to make a difference, but they all have controls now, if you reduced it by half the difference would be miniscule”.

Issues of public trust of the QAQR conclusions emerged as a concern. One stakeholder noted that frequently during educational discussions with public service groups, members of the audience were not open to the idea that air quality is everyone’s responsibility. The stakeholder expressed frustration that members of the public often challenge solutions to air quality as stated in the management plan. The stakeholder stated that at times people have become quite aggressive and simply do not accept that the solution to poor air quality could be anything other than reducing industrial emissions.

The source apportionment work using the CALPUFF output also supports the public impression that industry contributes significantly to poor air quality in the region. Despite the weight of evidence approach taken by the QAQR based on the complete air quality assessment, this kind of data may support public doubts about the conclusions of the QAQR “that air pollution comes from many sources, not just major industrial sources” (QAQR, 2004, p. 2)

Public opinion, whether justified or not, demonstrates a significant challenge for the roundtable in achieving its objectives. There is a significant disconnect between the roundtable conclusions and the public perception of the solutions to air quality. Results of the survey suggest that at least a portion of the community may perceive that their personal sacrifice will be futile given the relative magnitude of industrial emissions. In addition, important elements that combine to produce social capital are absent in the relationship between the QAQR and the public. In particular, relations of trust, reciprocity, and the networks required to achieve public agency (Putnam, 1999, as cited in Rydin & Pennington, 2000) do not appear to be present between the QAQR and the public. If the QAQR is unable to get the public to buy in to personal change, then many of the actions developed in the plan will not succeed. The roundtable appears to have an understanding of this challenge and has attempted to address the issue through education and media articles, however, as one stakeholder observed, “It’s a hard thing to educate because it’s very technical”.

Stakeholder Perspectives

The QAQR stakeholders share a common commitment to the objective of improving air quality. Unanimously, the stakeholders that were interviewed agreed that air quality in Quesnel needs improvement. Respondents reported that this commitment was evident in the early meetings and sustained throughout the roundtable process. Similarly, individuals all cited personal commitment to the process and a desire to seek a consensus-based action plan.

All members shared the positive feelings towards the process. The interviews revealed a high level of trust amongst stakeholders and the data revealed that most stakeholders experienced respectful dialogue as evidence of the cooperative nature of the process. “Goodwill and a lot of sincerity” characterized the relationship between stakeholders according to one interviewee.

Developing these relationships of trust within the stakeholder group was important, but there were also connections between this group and other groups that reinforced the social networks. Another stakeholder remarked on the reasons the QAQR distinguished itself from the many other committees she was involved with - linking its success with the deep connections the group had with other committees like the City Environmental committee. At least three members of the QAQR also sit on the City Environmental committee and each member represents very different interests.

The Quesnel Environmental Society has developed sub-committees reaching out into the community focusing on specific issues. The QAQR is only one example of the work that the QES has initiated. The Baker Creek Enhancement Society and the regional recycling program are two other examples cited by one member. “Our way of acting for change is to see a need, educate the public and increase awareness and then hand it off to someone who will do something”. In this way, the QES has developed strong bonds within the community, with the municipality, and with industry. There are clearly strong networks between individuals and groups and a density of relationships within networks demonstrating the existence of strong social capital (Rydin & Pennington, 2000).

Several stakeholders discussed the importance of having consistent attendees from representative groups. The main problem identified was when attendees rotated and the time and effort required educating those new to the process. As well, some questioned the level of commitment when representatives from a stakeholder group rotated often. “Some participants rotated members and they were less committed. What can we carve out of it? …rather than the group perspective”. An additional problem was identified by one stakeholder when “Some companies just sent a rep, they weren’t able to make decisions”. These comments indicate that there may have been a weaker network connection among the wider group than the tight social networks established between core members. Sanctioning this free-riding behaviour did not seem to be important to the core members. The comments appeared to be observations rather than serious concerns causing barriers to planning for action.

A distinguishing feature of this roundtable was the way it developed. Initially, members of the QES approached industry about air quality.  Specifically, the QES asked members of Quesnel Waste Disposal, a consortium of forest companies responsible for the beehive burner operation, to meet with them. There was a degree of surprise and pride involved in achieving this first meeting without the involvement of the state, “At the first meeting there was just industry and the environmental society, it was a very unique situation”. Government became involved later when they approached the QES to convene a wider stakeholder body. From the beginning, the process was democratic, not top down and certainly not dictated by government. Government in this roundtable process acted as a ‘facilitator’ rather than a ‘controller’ having not been involved at the start of the project:

  1. …engaged all the stakeholders, not the MoE dictating. Engaging everyone in the community and they were all basically brought up to speed on the problem and put their heads together to mitigate the problem. The information is now out there in the community. The plan came from the community not the Ministry.”
  2. Having a multi stakeholder committee you get a better idea of what the community as a whole needs rather than if industry and Ministry are sorting it out on their own; you’re missing a lot of aspects.”

There was a perception among less technical stakeholders that they were vulnerable to the influence of the judgments of the technical experts throughout the process because they did not have the depth of understanding required to challenge the results. “I wonder if influence is limited due to our lack of technical expertise”. This stakeholder also expressed the problem associated with knowledge contributing to influence, “Those that put in more effort learning and understanding have more influence. It is very complicated to understand”.

Stakeholders grappled with reconciling the technical issues with their own values. The process was adaptive as stakeholders developed deeper understandings of each other’s viewpoints. The adjustment of perceptions over the course of time characterizes a critical factor in successful consensus based processes. Feedback loops and iterative approaches served to strengthen the result. These processes emerged within the QAQR once trust had developed and stakeholders began to feel comfortable freely expressing their values. Stakeholders made the following comments:

  1. One of the things that something like this does is it gets a lot more people knowledgeable about the issues. Interest and knowledge breed results.”
  2. It brought the community together and gave everybody the opportunity to learn what the other side is thinking and doing.”

Although the planning process was adaptive, there were a few stakeholders interviewed who expressed concern about the lack of the adaptive nature of the action plans. Almost half of stakeholders expressed doubt that they would achieve air quality targets over the planned timeframe. “As for reaching the goals I think there are some real roadblocks”. Another stakeholder was sceptical that targets would be met, but was positive about the groups’ commitment to modifying their approach if results were not satisfactory. “We are all grappling with how to make a difference, I’m somewhat optimistic, but I am concerned about the logistics of implementation”. The QAQR agreed that stakeholders would submit annual written updates on their activities and plans for air quality improvements. After two annual updates, some stakeholders expressed concern that there is no mechanism to assess critically the action plans and discuss changes that may be required if a change of course is necessary to achieve the objectives in the plan. “Annual meetings may not be enough, we may need to revise the process of reporting out and include more critiquing and more discussion about how to meet goals”.

Free-riding is an issue of concern within the stakeholder community as well as the public:

I don’t think it will happen 100% voluntarily. There could be a problem if 3/5 of the contributors are spending money for example on washed aggregate, and the others are doing nothing. If there is a dust episode, no one knows who is doing what to prevent it. Then someone has to step in and say how can we level the playing field?”

The frame of reference for decision-making emerged as concern for some stakeholders. Despite having agreed that no net job loss would result due to air quality improvements, there was concern that this presents a significant barrier to improvements. Of course, this kind of compromise is part of consensus-based decision-making. Others felt that including a cost-benefit analysis to determine meaningful targets was a critical part of achieving success, and expressed disappointment that this was not a requirement in the frame of reference.

Divergent opinions emerged around the quality of data. Agreeing on the data was important: “Having a good scientific basis eliminates a lot of potential for disagreement, if everyone agrees on the scientific assessment they are more likely to agree with the recommendations”. While some stakeholders believe the scientific data formed a strong foundation for proceeding with conclusions and recommendations, others, however, were less convinced: “There are places where numbers weren’t available and only the model is used and that bothers me because you plop this into the model and say this is what would happen”.

There is also some evidence to suggest that development of social capital may have been both an opportunity for consensus and a possible constraint for action. The desire of an individual or group to maintain their reputation in a close-knit social context can lead to co-operative behaviour which might also lead to inaction as stakeholders put the cohesion of the group ahead of meaningful action.

Research Analysis

There is a deep level of respect between the roundtable members and a sense of justifiable pride about their achievements to date. Although diverse stakeholder backgrounds and values guided their perspectives on the roundtable, there was clearly evidence of an iterative process leading to development of shared social capital. Most members interviewed stated that agreeing to an action plan was the group's greatest success. Other notable successes were respectful dialogue throughout and the absence of an external facilitator. Government administrative and technical support facilitated development of an action plan that considered local values. The plan has tremendous potential to succeed, however, there are barriers to action.

Values and Relationships – Social Capital: The next few years will be a critical time for the QAQR to evaluate progress. If the air quality targets are not being achieved the group may have to evaluate critically the action plans of individual stakeholders in the context of progress. The risk to all stakeholders of this critical evaluation is the potential to damage relationships. This group possesses a depth of maturity and strong bonds that will facilitate taking these kinds of critical risks. Due to the ability of experts to control assumptions from the information, the values of more technical stakeholders may subordinate the values held by less technical stakeholders. The group should be aware of the influence of technical judgments if revisions of action plans are required.

Action plans and public agency: Community perceptions of the causes of poor air quality diverge from the QAQR conclusions and this may affect public agency. The QAQR recognizes that individual actions would cumulatively amount to significant air quality improvement, however, if residents are not convinced that industrial stakeholders are committed to improvements, there may be little incentive for them to make personal changes. This may force the state to take a more controlling role essentially applying an environmental management approach to ensure full participation by all members, including the public. To avoid that situation, leadership on the part of industry is required.

Information and targets: There are divergent opinions about the quality and meaning of air quality and health impact data. Despite having set targets in the plan, some stakeholders believe that they are arbitrary. The risk presents itself, therefore, that re-evaluation of targets, rather than re-evaluation of actions may become the focus of discussions if the QAQR fails to meet ambient particulate targets.


If the roundtable stakeholder approach in Quesnel is going to work the following points need to be addressed:

  1. Leadership is required from industrial stakeholders. The community is unlikely to participate in individual behavior to improve air quality unless industry provides united, clear, public, accountable leadership in improving air quality.
  2. West Fraser Timber Ltd. accounts for over 50% of the total community emissions and over 80% of the permitted emissions of PM 2.5. It is reasonable to suggest that they carry out a cost benefit analysis of air quality improvements across all divisions of the company to determine the most efficient plan for capital expenditures. Commit publicly to specific capital expenditures to improve air quality over the proposed QAQR timeline.
  3. Move forward based on the consensus that air quality needs improvement by re-committing to air quality targets in 2007.
  4. Continue to provide clear and public recognition that all stakeholders are accountable for air quality improvements. 
  5. Develop partnerships with an objective (academic or private technical consultant) third party who is not a stakeholder at the table. They should review the technical data compiled to date and provide a short, readable summary for the public. This may serve to build trust and transparency with the community.
  6. Use an adaptive management approach for implementation of actions plans. Require a consistent format for reporting emission reductions to the stakeholder group. Meet more than once a year and provide a mechanism for the group to question reporters and provide feedback. Brainstorm alternative actions.
  7. Summarize the air quality priorities for the public in a short, readable pamphlet. Consider including current industrial permitted emissions (T/yr) and targets for improvement.
  8. Establish a website for an individual air emissions calculator based on lifestyle choices. Express emissions as kg or T/yr and include a hypothetical ‘cumulative emissions’ summary for all individual households based on the Airshed population.
  9. Provide an educational component on the website.
  10. Establish a weekly emissions challenge in local newspapers offering suggestions for individual emission improvements. Advertise the website in the newspaper and on local radio. Challenge the public to improve their emissions results. (Include a component for greenhouse gas emissions).
  11. Publish regular updates in the local newspaper for industrial emissions expressed as T/yr. Include estimated dust emissions and the emissions from other sources i.e. transportation sector.
  12. Develop a plan to share progress on air quality improvements province wide.
  13. Develop strong electronic or face-to-face networks with communities near and far that have developed sustainable alternatives in their communities.

Resources and References

Dale, A. (2001). At the edge: sustainable development in the 21st century. Vancouver: UBC Press.

Fiorino, D.J. (1990). Citizen participation and environmental risk: A survey of institutional mechanisms. Science, Technology and Human Values, Vol.15, 226-243.

Innes, I.E. and D. E. Booher. (1999). Consensus building and complex adaptive systems. Journal of American Planning Association, Vol. 65, 412-423.

Margerum, R.D. (1999). Getting past yes from capital creation to action. Journal of the American Planning Association, Vol. 65, 2, 181-192.

Michalos, A. C. and B. D. Zumbo. (2002).Quality of Life in Quesnel, British Columbia. (Paper No.ESQBS-2002-1). Prince George, BC: University of British Columbia. Edgeworth Laboratory for Quantitative Behavioral Science.

Plain, E. (2004). Fine Particulate Source Apportionment for the Quesnel Airshed Using Results from a CALPUFF Modeling Exercise. Williams Lake: BC Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection.

Plain, E. Powerpoint presentation: Quesnel air quality roundtable meeting stakeholder reports, 2006.

Quesnel Air Quality Roundtable, 2004. Quesnel Airshed Management Plan 2004-2014, Quesnel: City of Quesnel.

Quesnel Community Economic Development Corporation, (2005). Quesnel and Area Community and Economic Profile, June 2005, Quesnel: QCEDC

Quesnel Community Economic Development Corporation, (2006). Prosperity and Sustainability: Taking action now for Quesnel’s future, Quesnel: QCEDC

Rowe, G. and L. Frewer. (2000). Public participation methods: A framework for evaluation. Science, Technology and Human Values, Vol. 25, No. 1, 2-29.

Rydin, Y. and M. Pennington. (2000). Public participation and local environmental planning: the collective action problem and the potential of social capital. Local Environment, Vol 5, No. 2, 153-169.

Wade, S.O. (2004). Using intentional, values based dialogue to engage complex public policy conflicts. Conflict Resolution Quarterly, Vol 21, Issue 3.

Wall, G. (1995). Barriers to individual environmental action. Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, 32.4, 465-489.



I read the case study with interest. The physical goal of this project was air quality improvements. The stakeholder dialogue was intended to increase social capital and one of the steps along the way is building trust between stakeholders.

My own experience in a similar situation is that within a group of stakeholders, the potential social capital has a limit or threshold if other factors such as vested interests are involved. In the case of Quesnel, the frame of reference included "no net job loss." If there is a strongly held opinion by the main employer and its employees that reducing emissions will result in job losses, this opinion may determine the social capital threshold. Any effort to aggressively go beyond the threshold (i.e. pressure West Fraser Timber to cut emissions) may have the reverse effect and begin to destroy social capital.

These are just a few initial thoughts to begin this dialogue and test this software.




I also noted the condition of “no net job loss” and felt that this statement limited the potential of the group to properly evaluate the options before them. Although the issue of job loss is an important consideration in any community, particularly one with little economic diversity such as Quesnel, this issue may have been better tackled later in the process once all the issues had been properly explored. I think that having “no net job loss” an explicit requirement in the terms of reference hampers the groups potential to think creatively.

Once the social capital of the group and community was increased, the issue of job loss may have been tackled in a way the broadened the opportunities. On the other hand, this issue may have been a critical requirement needed to bring the various stakeholders together and was necessary regardless of how it impacted the groups options later in the process.

This leads me to wonder what the role of the terms of reference can play in the process. Having some boundaries may be necessary but is there a way to balance boundaries and an unbounded openess to possiblity.

Just some thoughts.


Orlando, Kevin and Team:

It is quite interesting that we all noticed that economic component of the terms of reference “no net job loss”! I was trying to think about possible implications of this commitment on social capital. I am wondering if different structural reorganization within industry (companies) based on plans to improve air quality could actually increase social capital over time. Further reduction in air emissions would require engagement of employees to plan and implement different strategies – pollution prevention where possible or enhanced engineered pollution controls. Furthermore, training and education needed for such changes may lead to stronger co-operation with different organizations, NGOs, community members and may result in creation of new job positions. Some actions that West Fraser is carrying out like planting trees (which to some extent could also be considered to offset emissions) could possibly be organized like a community event – that would strengthen community involvement.

Kevin raised a good question on the role of the terms of reference and stakeholders involvement. It seems to me that we should have coupled economic and social components. Once people are assured that different actions would not affect their existence they develop trust and openness to changes. What do you think?


Kevin (and team),
I agree with Kevin that the listing of the “no net job loss” in the terms of reference was perhaps not in the best interest of all stakeholders, for the sake of progress in the negotiations, and I echo the thoughts on the whole boundary issues within the terms of reference. However, I felt that by making the job loss issue as a top priority, the ingenuity of the group would be challenged from the outset. This in turn may require increased social capital to collectively explore all potential options but by making job loss an issue from the outset, will potentially advert a failure near the end of the process.

The statement “no net job loss” did not translate as a limitation in my interpretation. The term “net” implies the final tally (after all costs/job losses have been removed from the total gains). As Orlando mentioned, there may be some ‘gross’ job loss within the community caused by the mitigation of air pollutants, however, I’m a firm believer of Fritjof Capra’s concept of chaos induces creativity. I was optimistic in the reading of this case study due to the social capital that was already built within the community, which would potentially result in increased opportunity for alternative forms of employment, thus mitigating the overall loss of jobs. Because of the building of social capital within the community and between the public and industry (due to transparency), the industrial sector may be more receptive to promoting (funding or sponsorship) such alternatives with an emphasis on local employment.


Great start team!

One of the things I found interesting regarding reading the case study and the previous team discussion was the variety of critical points identifed by the team. When I read the case study the first time, the idea of "No Net job Loss" was not one of the key points that registered with me.

The idea of "No Net Job Loss" as a required result of the process was a risky promise in my opinion. It is a result that is not easily guaranteed due to the volatility of the situation and the external and unknown factors. If "No Net Job loss" was not achieved, the unrealistic promise would not have been kept and the trust they were working hard to foster would be eroded. Therefore it is important to set realistic and achievable goals and objectives.

However, after reading Kevin and Jeff's comments I agree that as long the community is aware that the jobs might not all be from the forestry sector the idea of no net job loss is achievable. Therefore, one of the concepts to be addressed, should include a discussion pertaining to Quesnel being one of the least economically diversified communities in BC (QCEDC, 2006). The identification of potential applicable areas and industries for economic diversification should be conducted.


Hello Team,
My take on the "no net job loss" clause is that it almost appears that the wood product industry succeeded in the intimidation of the participating citizens, while staking its ground of not reducing their emissions below permitted values.
This is not a good position for further negotiations to engage the main polluter.
But really, the point might be mute, because industry can always find reasons to lay off workers - and it has done so especially through the mechanisation in the forest industry in the recent past. And by looking into a more sustainable future, resource based industry towns like Quesnel must find ways to diversify if they want to have a viable future. Those forest gobbling mega plants will probably disappear sooner or later anyhow.



Another area to explore...

I see a gap between stakeholder agreements an the application of action plans formed through the participatory stakeholder process . The stakeholder groups build social capital however as shown from the case study this capital does not necessarily transfer to acceptance by the general public.

The stakeholders in the group are exposed to technical information and learning that is not necessarily available to the general public. I get the sense that the non-technical people in the group struggled with the technical nature of the issue and this lack of technical literacy is an impediment “I wonder if influence is limited to our lack of technical expertise”.

Technical issues notwithstanding, the group eventually agrees to an action plan. The action plan involves somehow convincing the general public to change some behaviour. My question is: How do we convince the general public to accept an idea that took the stakeholder group a significant amount of social capital to achieve? The general public does not necessarily participate in the SC generated by the stakeholder group. This is what I mean by the title “implementation gap” the difference between the intention of a policy or action plan and the results of the policy/action plan at the level of implementation. A whole lot of OOD without the A.


Hey Kevin,

Very good points about the knowledge gap and understanding of the science. I agree in that the general public won’t partake in the plan accordingly because they will act as individuals. What I mean is although they came to a collective agreement in the meetings, they will go home as individuals and (this is my interpretation of course) say to themselves “what could one vehicle removed from the road possibly gain in the way of improved air quality? That scientific number must not mean my vehicle?” I think this translates into a disconnect between the individual and the group because “if everyone else still drives to work, why should I take the bus?” The case study indicated that the public challenged the plan because they don’t see themselves as a component of the problem. The pointing of the finger to the industrial group seems like the easiest/logical thing to do because that is one entity and a very visual entity within the community therefore the easiest to change. Nobody sees the dust or emissions caused from their personal vehicle but they see the dust and emissions generated from the industrial sector and services of that sector.



Two interesting strands developing here. The issue of jobs is a good one, is it realistic to instigate sustainable community development at this scale with that restriction? Do we as a society have to accept that change in the way we work, change in the economy that will result will inevitably result in places that gain jobs, and places that loose jobs. Has this not always been the case?

Also with regard to the technical issue - are there somethings that just aren't suitable for engagement with non-experts, or is the does the onus lie on the experts to explain properly the technical issues? In which case what would this mean for the costs and timescales for the engagement process?


Quoting Chris Ling "are there somethings that just aren't suitable for engagement with non-experts". My view on this question is that despite it being a quicker and less intricate process if we select to not engage the non-experts on technical issues, the only possible answer to facilitate an acceptable recommendation is to find a way to educate the public. If we choose to not engage the non-experts we undermine the very definitions of engagement and community development; therefore if we are not going to utilize the time and resources to adequately educate; we should not engage in community development for that topic.

The quote posted in our lecture from Thomas Jefferson, 1820 states
"I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of society, but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not take it from them, but to inform their discretion"

Despite the additional resources required and the potential impacts to the schedule and deadlines; the time required to educate at the beginning of the process will be added value through the process implementation and will facilitate well rounded, fair and applicable recommendations.

Hi all:

The question of technical information shared with and understood by public and non-technical persons is an intriguing one. There is an increased general notion on the need to educate general public but also a rising question what is the level of knowledge that we are hoping for general public to achieve on different environmental issues?

I was present at the public meeting in Vancouver related to another air quality issue – odours, where the theory of odours, odour measurement and odour dispersion modeling was presented to participants. Such way of presentation was in my opinion non-productive, rather more confusing to people to understand the whole science behind it no matter how simplified the presentation was. I am questioning the idea of getting too technical as I believe that it is impossible to go in depth with each topic (in order to really understand it), with so many issues at hand. -There are also other issues that public may need to be educated on like: health care, nutrition, economics etc. However, pamphlets, appealing TV programs or popular science-type community programs could be fun, could get people together increasing social capital. These themes should be constantly covered and be embedded in people’s minds regardless the current projects.

“It is very complicated to understand “ said one of the Quesnel case stakeholders and expressed concern on the connection between knowledge and influence on decisions. I hear this as lack of TRUST in the process and other stakeholders rather than need for further education. Building trust among stakeholders is crucial for decision making process.



I agree that it is important to educate the stakeholder group however, I still think that it becomes problematic when the issues are very technical. A significant amount of time and resources would be involved in educating the members of the group itself. The problem arises, as in the case of the general public in Quesnel (who have not participated in the roundtable or the education) that they do not have the "whole picture". The public may not be "convincable" unless they have been exposed to the same education level as the stakeholder and hence may be resistance to change of behaviour. It may not be always possible to provide sufficient education.



Hi Team,
Here is a bit of a new thread: The traffic through town.
I did not notice any reference to the burden on air quality in the Action Plan due to transit traffic skirting downtown Quesnel.
Highway BC 97 is a major highway artery through the interior, connecting (in a bigger picture) the state of Washington, US and the lower mainland with Prince George - points west to Prince Rupert with access to the Steward Cassiar Highway; points north to the Peace River Area and access to the NWT and the Alaska Highway, which includes access to Yukon, the western Arctic (Inuvik & Mackenzie Delta) and Alaska, US.
The RV traffic in the summer and truck traffic year round is significant (and so is regional forest industry traffic, such as chip trucks, logging trucks and B-trains carrying lumber). A transit by-pass route could probably improve air quality in the down town area in a significant way.
Yes, there are services downtown, but there are no pull-outs and parking lots for large vehicles. New development of highway services and restaurants has taken place over the last years on top of the hill at the south end of Quesnel (obviously to also provide access for large vehicles).
A by-pass route, including separate access to the wood processing plants would appear to be a reasonable thing to consider. Any thoughts?

To touch upon Werner’s comments,

As the City is on the verge of losing their main industry due to the devastation of the pine beetle, I think there should be an increased emphasis on tourism. Given the location of the city and the important highways traveling through town, there is an opportunity to capture the capital coming through, thus creating other sources of income. This will obviously increase the traffic, translating into increased PM. However, why not reduce the speed limits within the city limits (some towns in AB have a max limit of 30km/h throughout…not just schools or playgrounds), increased street cleaning, or create separate traffic routes for the industrial vehicles, as Werner suggested, so as to not track dirt and debris onto the city streets.

Basically, there are a number of communities throughout BC that also have heavy industrial activities. Yet, only in the recommendations of the case study (one bullet) was there mention of incorporating plans from other communities. Why reinvent the wheel?



I'm not sure how much tourist opportunities will be available around Quesnel once the beetle attack is complete, especially if they practice accelerated logging to salvage as much of the wood as possible.

Your comment on looking at other communities is highly relevent. I am sure that there are site specific issues to be considered however your mention of the one bullet appears to be related to the outside analyses of the process (perhaps Chris?). Not only are there other industrial communities, there are other communities in the BC interior that have similar air quality issues related to topography (i.e. Golden). I wonder why the experience of other communities was not brought into the process, especially once the Regulators became involved. A case of silos and stovepipes?


I thought I would start a new topic to chew on!

The indication of leadership appears throughout the document in one form or another, however, no one single champion has emerged to take the lead within all of the stakeholders. The plans and targets that were developed showed great progress in the “OOD” (observe, orient, and decide) phases of the process. However, the discussions surrounding the actual implementation and action (A) phase were essentially left to the industry. The individual within the general public had no interest in reducing their emissions if the industry did not take charge and that is where I observe a major disconnect. As the pulp and paper/lumber industry is the main source of employment, I think the people and the QAQR forgot that the people are the industry. I would think that the people have to take their values from their homes and collectively bring them to the work place to make the necessary changes. Why would the industry want to spend X number of dollars on air quality improvements when the industry itself is going to shut down in the immediate future as Kevin had suggested? Why would you want to establish the industry as a leader if they are not going to be there once the last of the salvageable trees are removed?


As all stakeholders look to the industrial sector to take a leadership role in reducing the air emissions, who or what body will take on a regulatory role in monitoring the actions and enforcing the necessary changes? Perhaps I just overlooked that component in the case study but I did not see how the actions would be enforced. The MOE was brought into the consultations as a facilitator but does that mean they will monitor the actions? The QAQR indicated continual reporting of the findings but there was no mention of any penalty for not complying with the QAQP.

Any thoughts?….


Jeff and Team:

Good point made with “the people are the industry” I am wondering if the people’s system of values could be different privately and then different when associated with their work place? If they are aware of health effects of poor air quality and the fact that the industry is the major polluter we should expect the action for change from employees. What could be barriers within organizations/industry for this to happen? Maybe the governance system? Maybe economic dependence of a particular employer?



Your idea of leadership is intriguing and one that I have wondered about. I agree that providing a sense of team unity is instrumental is achieving team unity, however I also think at some point there needs to be a leader that will facilitate the implementation of the decisions.

A portion of the case study that was successful was that the Chair (appointed by the committee) of the roundtable was respected and he/she had deep connections with other organizations within the community. This unfortunately could also be a "double edged sword" as the desire to maintain those relationships could present barriers and limit the inclusion of external ideas. Perhaps an external facilitator could of provided external insight and new ideas?


Keree raises an important point about the possible tension between "relationship" and "action".

I have chairing a multi-stakeholder working group dealing with agriculture and the environment for a few years. The stakeholders include various industry sectors and multiple levels of government. When I step out of the scene and try to observe from the outside, my observation is that emphasis on trust and relationship has been so strong that no one has the guts to push for action. As a result, the group is starting to spin its wheels. This can only be tolerated for so long before frustration begins to set in and participants either become more agitated and insist on action or they withdraw.

In the Quesnel example, the formal recommendations were for industry to step up to the plate with "clear, public, accountable" leadership. My gut sense is that this is unlikely to occur unless they perceive that such leadership is required as part of their "license to operate." I tend to agree with Keree that an external facilitator would be beneficial.


Reading the comments about lack of leadership to take action and the tight relationships within a relatively small and close stakeholder group posing a hurdle to action, seem to call for a different way to approach the problem.
The air quality and the population of Quesnel obviously suffer from the cumulative effects of all emission sources. I would think that a health risk assessment from the existing data would come up with more than the estimate of two premature deaths per year due to fine particulate air pollution, as stated in the Environment and Health Imperatives of the Airshed Management Plan. What about the health of children, for example? Some health agency, provincial or federal should be able to have some influence here. And if that does not work, the City of Quesnel could pass a bylaw to reduce emissions to a certain level in order to protect the health and quality of life for its citizens.


Werner and Team:

I agree that the more thorough health studies are needed for comprehensive assessment of air quality impacts. It is hard however to evaluate the additive or synergetic effects of present airborne pollutants which is I believe so important for the health studies; furthermore, any assessment of impacts on immuno-compromised persons and sensitive groups like children you mentioned, brings new challenges.

No doubt that fine particulates are of the greatest concern and as you mentioned emissions should be lowered by any means. Metro Vancouver for example started limiting emission sources (instead going by ambient air standards which are a “command-and-control” old type approach) and that criteria is based on the dispersion modeling results. There are also human health risk assessment models available and I am wondering if that would provide a little bit better assessment than a method used at present for Quesnel?



I agree with the enforcement concerns pertaining to industry and I think the same can be identified for the private sector.

Since air quality is unmeasurable on an individual level, the tradegy of the commons analogy is applicable. There is very little incentive for an individual to not have a vehicle as their impact individually will not be measured and will have the same minor impact to the individual conserving as the neighbour whom does not conserve. Therefore there is an incentive to "free-ride" if participation is anonymous as inproving air quality benefits each individual the same whether they participate in the program or not. Unfortunately, I can only think of a tax on use of vehicle as an incentive to reduce vehicle use. Are there any other options?


Some new, fresh perspectives,,,,,

I think we as a society, have already tried a variety of ideas and incentives in order to minimize the impact of vehicles on air quality, like – carpooling and bicycling ......I am not sure if taxes, as suggested in one of the postings, would provide a long-term and substantial solution to the pollution from transportation problem.

How about a different approach to the problem? It seems that more proactive and systemic approach is needed. As covered in the most recent Chris’s lecture, integrated community sustainability planning is needed to address not only the air quality issue but to transform “our communities to work with rather than against nature” Leadership in planning would likely be crucial at this moment in many communities and Quesnel as well. One of the strategic areas is certainly diversifying Quesnel’s economy – opening this community to businesses and industries but those that are less air-emissions intensive – either by the nature of their processes or by P2 implemented. In addition, more compact neighbourhoods with less need for driving would certainly improve air quality. The fact that topographic features influence the ambient air quality is one that should be considered in future community planning process if they seek for integration of socio-economic life and the natural system of the community.

Any thoughts on this notion?



Thank-you for raising the concept of ICSP. One of my observations is that while the QAQR process was relatively productive, it served a limited purpose in that it focused on one issue - air quality.

In the paper by Stuart Hill (posted by Ann Dale) on 10 common mistakes when seeking to create a better world, the 2nd mistake is taking a problem-solving approach. Hill proposes redesigning the system or creating a new system that is problem-proof. This all sounds nice but is not so easy in an industrial town that is heavily dependent on the technology and infrastructure that already exists. Redesigning the system is an option but implementation can be challenging.

I spent a little time on the City of Quesnel's website and noticed that "air quality" is not mentioned on the list of strategic priorities for 2008 and is not highlighted in the city's most recent annual report (2006). I am left with the impression that air quality was a big issue for a few years and that the city has moved on.

I guess my point is that an ICSP approach may be better for a town like Quesnel as it can have the flexibility to deal with the complete range of sustainability issues within the community. I find it interesting that Ling et al.'s ICSP tool states the opposite of integration is fragmentation. Was the work of the QAQR an example of fragmentation?


Orlando and Olga,
You're right, ICSP would be the way to go in order to engage the people in a more comprehensive way, offering a variety of sustainable living options and visions, rather than focussing on one problem (air quality) only. And, as Orlando suspects, fragmentation of the community over the air quality problem has probably taken place due to a lack of agency; where people simply give up because there are no choices.


Orlando said: "Was the work of the QAQR an example of fragmentation?"

I probably agree with this assertion. However, given the complexity and challenges associated with simple discussion of this one issue (Air Quality), how do you think an integrative stakeholder process would work and how would it differ to the example in this case study?


Chris asked the question: "how do you think an integrative stakeholder process would work and how would it differ to the example in this case study?

My opinion is that a lot depends on who within the community initiates the process. I don't know if we discussed this in class but the government of Canada has tied funding to communities from gas taxes to having an ICSP. See the website below for more information.…

I was invited to a workshop on ICSP in Abbotsford about a year ago. The workshop was coordinated by staff from local government in partnership with a consulting group that put on the workshop.

While the workshop was interesting and explored the potential scope of an ICSP, my sense was that there was more interest in how much money was available and how to apply for the funding than going through the full ICSP process. I'm not sure how to get around this. Any ideas?



To try to answer Chris’s question:

There are some new perspectives and characteristics of the ICSP which may actually work better with integrative stakeholder process than with a traditional/isolated/fragmented one regardless the complexity of an issue. Here are just some of these:

ICSP is an ecosystem based and much more complex planning approach than a traditional one – I would say it would, by its nature, include a variety of stakeholders, not only from different organizations (NGOs, government, etc) but will also provide much larger diversity of expertise which will I believe lead to diversity in perspectives and better knowledge diffusion through networks. Systemic approach reveals connectedness among different ecospheres and may bring to the table solutions even easier than when people are stuck with one issue and its limits (i.e., just air pollution).

It is obvious that in our case study the air quality issue came to the dead end where current constellation of circumstances (people – stakeholders, data, and methodology) cannot move forward to solutions. That is the point where different perspectives presented through an integrative stakeholder process may offer solutions in the long-term.


The ICSP would definitely bring a wider scope to the community and all interest groups to the table. People who would not necessarily be concerned about one particular aspect, such as air quality, may become involved and even if they have other aspirations they might eventually join in to talk about air quality. The key is to get a great variety of people engaged in future planning rather than trying to solve one particular problem only with a smaller stakeholder group.

The industry has meanwhile moved ahead with rebuilding components of the precipitator at the Cariboo Pulp and Paper mill in Quesnel and effectively reduced the particulate discharge over 2004 to 2006 by 42%. Also, an electrostatic precipitator is used for two hog burning units that handle all the wood waste of the Quesnel operations, displacing gas to heat dry kilns and buildings and thereby reducing GHG emissions (West Fraser Timber Co. Ltd. Special Environment Section, Summer 2007). I wonder if that was done following the Quesnel airshed discussions, or simply to improve operations and save money?



Here are a few concerns I identified during the review of the case study:
1) Are the industry stakeholders acting in good faith, if they indicated the reason they joined the group was because the MOE indicated they were going to shut down the remaining behive burner (concerns that they are not acting for the best interest of the group but are acting to explore alternative options).
2) Would the process of identified other alternatives had there been an external facilitator?
3) There was a lack of trust in the timeline of the action plan "almost half of the stakeholders expressed doubt that they would achieve air quality targets over the planned time frame"

A few identified positives of the case study were indicated as:
1) Air pollution was not identified as just an industry problem and an outcome of the process was "we are all part of the air quality solution
2) The goals of the plan included incorporation into planning "the goals were to incorporate into community and industrial planning as opportunities arise"
From the beginning the process was "not top down and certaintly not dictated by government"