Sustainable Infrastructure


Governance underlies all other issues, whether in corporate, government or civil society (Bell 2002; Dale 2001; Sabel 2001; Young & Maltke 1993), and especially in the implementation of sustainable infrastructure. All three levels of government—municipal, provincial and federal are involved in varying degrees. Mainly, it is the municipal government that is on the front line of developing and maintaining built infrastructure that remains largely hidden and taken for granted until it breaks down or there is an accident, such as the recent overpass collapse in Quebec.

It is not just a question of money, but reflects deeper challenges of full cost accounting, divisive accountability, overlapping jurisdictions, lack of coherent and coordinated policies and incentives that continue a persistently deteriorating built infrastructure. In Canada, there are billions of dollars in deferred maintenance in buildings alone. Besides affecting health, productivity and bottom line costs, this lack of attention to basic maintenance costs the environment in terms energy waste and increased greenhouse gas emissions: it is economically inefficient, environmentally damaging and socially regressive.

Modern day governments are organized around problems that existed in 1867, and do not reflect the dynamically interconnected and evolving issues of the 21st century. It requires leaders of vision who recognize that our modern society needs both local and national governments, as modern day problems are beyond the capacity of any one sector, any one jurisdiction, or any one industry to solve. Problems of gridlock, implementation gaps, and pervasive solitudes, silos and stovepipes (, a lack of coherent and informed dialogue (e-Dialogues) and a lack of congruence between political levels are pervasive.

We need a revitalization of government, not based on old arguments of power and control, but a structure designed to respond to modern day realities. This restructuring must take into account the critical necessity for integrated decision-making, reconciliation of ecological, social and economic imperatives with regulatory incentives that facilitate widespread knowledge diffusion and implementation of integrated community sustainability plans in every community in this country, including First Nations communities.

Bell, D. 2002. The role of Government in Advancing Corporate Sustainability. Background paper prepared under contract to Environment Canada for the G8 Environmental Futures Forum in Vancouver, March

Dale, A. 2001. At the Edge: Sustainable Development in the 21st Century. Vancouver: UBC Press

Young, O. and K. von Moltke. 1993. To Avoid Gridlock. Governance Without Government. In Working Progress 14(2): 4

Sabel, C. 2001. A Quiet Revolution of Democratic Governance: Towards Democratic Experimentalism. In Governance in the 21st Century, OECD, Paris.

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