Summary of the Research Project

This research program explores the historical and contemporary forces that have structured the politics of the Gulf of St. Lawrence region. It identifies key moments of changes in governance, as well as the associated political outcomes that have shaped the contemporary Gulf polity.

The Gulf of St. Lawrence has traditionally been studied as a bio-physical, as distinct from a geo-political, region. This needs to change, however, given the mounting societal and governmental pressures (as yet poorly understood) that are transforming this aquatic region. Governance in the Gulf is a cumulative product, with a succession of layers imposed, to date, with little coordinated deliberation. Exactly how successive governance layers interact remains unclear, a central theme of the study.


This research program explores the origin and development of the current intricate web of governance layers and regions. In addition to identifying key moments of governance change, we seek to:

  1. produce the first comprehensive study of modern Gulf of St. Lawrence politics;
  2. provide an interpretation of the state-society linkage patterns that have evolved through political challenge;
  3. compare the determinants, processes and outcomes associated with six significant resource and environmental management cases in the Gulf;
  4. demonstrate the lessons learned from these pivotal experiments in ecological intervention; and,
  5. explore the prospective roles and configurations for an emergent Gulf governance entity.


To achieve our objectives and to answer the analytical questions that have been posed, the research plan combines a number of elements. The first is a baseline reading of the foundational levels of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The second is a comparative analysis of six resource - environmental policy cases in which natural and political hierarchies intersect. The third is an exploration of the multiple pathways and structures that constitute the contemporary Gulf polity. Each of these elements provides the logical and empirical basis for the ones to follow.


Anticipated Significance and Impacts of the Research Project

The political profile of Gulf of St. Lawrence resources and environments has grown since the 1950s when Canada first sought to legally enclose the basin as an inland sea. Complicating the picture is the plethora of jurisdictional authorities brought to bear by Canadian federalism. Accordingly, governance relations in the Gulf are cumulative and also unstable due to the tensions that have been embedded through successive episodes of state policy intervention.

Not surprisingly, these multiple policy agendas and jurisdictional arrangements are increasingly challenged today. Out of such conflicts, policy adaptations have occurred in the forms of new intellectual paradigms and knowledge domains, administrative field structures, mechanisms of inter-jurisdictional coordination, and joint state-society management structures. The study will be of interest to all participants in the Gulf polity but particularly to government and civil society actors seeking to shape new governing relations for this complex and sensitive region.

This research was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.