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Summer 2014 (Vol.11, Issue 1)

The Ottawa Light Rail: Reflections on a Conflicted Sustainable Project

Kenza Benali and Ella Bernier

Many geographers agree that what followed the period known as “consensus-based land development” was a new era of “contentious land development”. Indeed, for a decade, several large management and infrastructure projects around the world experienced conflicts and tensions, which at times led to delays or even cancellations. The light rail project in Ottawa is no exception. Proposed in 2001 by the City of Ottawa, this mega-project for sustainable transportation was planned for years but eventually blocked in 2006, leaving taxpayers footing the high cancellation fee. Nonetheless, the project was relaunched two years later and is now back on track. This article reviews the famous saga of this light rail project that has been unleashing passions for more than a decade. Through a study of media coverage, this article attempts to capture the origins, the issues and the role of the various players involved in this development project, as well as the factors that have contributed to the outcome of one of the largest urban projects in the history of Canada’s capital.

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The Distant Origin of African Governance: The Palaver Tree

Fweley Diangitukwa

This article focuses on a little-known source of governance, African palaver, that complements the other two sources often cited, namely corporate governance and multi-level governance. The palaver, as a meeting place for endless public discussions, meets all the conditions to be regarded as the best public policy tool used in traditional African societies. This practice brings together actors from different backgrounds and covers almost all areas of life; all topics are publicly discussed. The general will, which emerges from the discussions, is imposed on the parties. In Africa, the palaver is the equivalent of “public space” in the West (see Jürgen Habermas) or the “participatory space”. In this place, the truth does not come from the authority, but is the result of the palaver which defines the power and gives meaning to language. Without arrogance or contempt, one goes to meet each other to (re)establish the truth in order to consolidate social ties and unity. This text is limited to presenting examples of palaver in sub-Saharan Africa as a form of modern governance.

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Understanding Donor Behaviour: Actors and Processes in Disaster-Relief Decision-Making

Aaida Mamuji

Two of the largest natural disasters that hit in 2010 were the January earthquake in Haiti and the flooding in Pakistan which followed seven months later. Unlike Canada’s disaster-relief intervention to the earthquake, the response to the Pakistan floods has been argued to be comparatively minimal relative to the extent of damage sustained. Through a series of interviews with bureaucrats affecting Canada’s disaster-relief responses in both 2010 disasters, this paper asks, who (and what) really determines the scope and magnitude of international disaster-relief interventions? Through the development and application of a multi-level conceptual framework, donor behaviour is said to be affected by each of macro-institutional, meso-contextual and micro-foundational factors. The findings highlight the determinative role of political actors in shaping humanitarian assistance decisions.

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Letter from the Editors

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