Foundational Books

Some suggested non-Gulf of St. Lawrence readings for beginning to understand multilevel, transboundary environmental conflicts. The list is not exhaustive and if you have a suggestion, please contact us at either or

Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action
by Elinor Ostrom. Cambridge University Press, 1990.

A seminal work that explores the conditions under which common pool resources can be successfully managed without resort to state or market drive solutions.

Understanding Institutional Diversity by Elinor Ostrom.
Princeton University Press, 2005.

Examines how to use the Institutional Analysis and Design (IAD) Framework by concentrating on the interaction between diverse rules and participants’ incentive structures in changing rules for the design of effective, self-organized governance institutions.

Restoration of the Great Lakes: Promises, Practices, and Performances
by Mark Sproule-Jones. UBC Press, 2003.

An analysis of the successes and failures in institution building to address environmental contamination in the Canada-US Great Lakes.

Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems
edited by Lance H. Gunderson and C. S. Holling. Island Press, 2nd ed., 2001.

A collection of works examining how environmental and human systems go through periods of destruction and renewal in search of a steady state.

Freshwater Politics in Canada by Peter Clancy.
University of Toronto Press, 2014.

An examination of how power and group dynamics combine with socioeconomic and environmental factors to address freshwater issues in Canada. Includes a rich set of case studies to illustrate key concepts and ideas.

Economics for Collaborative Environmental Management: Renegotiating the Commons
by Graham Marshall. Earthscan, 2005.

Examines how the common property resource governance literature can help address problems facing orthodox economics and help build collaborative environmental management frameworks.

The Logic of Bureaucratic Conduct: An Economic Analysis of Competition, Exchange, and Efficiency in Private and Public Organizations
by Albert Breton and Ronald Wintrobe. Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Examines how competition and exchange relationships needed to enhance efficiencies in bureaucracies are undermined by authority frameworks.

Offshore Petroleum Politics: Regulation and Risk in the Scotian Basin Paperback
by Peter Clancy. UBC Press, 2012.

An analysis of Nova Scotia’s offshore petroleum politics that reveals complex governance relationships at the heart of environmental concerns, industry regulation and risk.

Negotiating a River: Canada, the US, and the Creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway
by Daniel Macfarlane. UBC Press, 2014.

An examination of the protracted negotiations and events that led to the construction of the St. Lawrence Seaway.

Reinventing the Common: Cross-Boundary Farming for a Sustainable Future
by David Brunckhorst, Sima Williamson and Gerard Kelly. Federation Press, 2003.

An interesting investigation for how to create common property resource systems supported by the tenets of private property systems to address environmental degradation and economic sustainability.

Institutions, Institutional Change and Economic Performance 
by Douglass C. North. Cambridge University Press, 1990.

A foundational investigation of how institutional arrangements can create incentives for rational actors to make decisions that lead to suboptimal outcomes for society.

Water Policy Reform in Southern Alberta: An Advocacy Coalition Approach
by B. Timothy Heinmiller. University of Toronto Press, 2016.

A thorough investigation of how competing interests have shaped water policy in southern Alberta.

Unnatural Law: Rethinking Canadian Environmental Law and Policy
by David R. Boyd. UBC Press, 2003.

A good primer on the state of the environment that challenges Canada’s green credentials.

Talk and Log: Wilderness Politics in British Columbia
by Jeremy Wilson. UBC Press, 1999.

A comprehensive historical account of forestry politics and policy in British Columbia that illuminates the challenges, frustrations and opportunities key actors pursued in the process.

The Struggle to Constitute and Sustain Productive Orders: Vincent Ostrom's Quest to Understand Human Affairs
edited by Mark Sproule-Jones, Barbara Allen, Filippo Sabetti. Lexington Books, 2008.

Essays that draw on Ostrom’s insights on polycentric governance arrangements to address intractable policy problems.

Against the Grain: Foresters and Politics in Nova Scotia
by Anders Sandberg and Peter Clancy. UBC Press, 2000.

Examines the diversity of perspectives and interests of Nova Scotia’s professional foresters and how it often challenges established institutional structures thus illuminating the politics inherent in their professions.

Ogallala Blue: Water and Life on The High Plains
by William Ashworth. Countryman Press, 2007.

An excellent account of the over exploitation of the world’s largest aquifer to satisfy the demands of irrigated agriculture raising questions of sustainability.

Salmon Wars: The Battle for the West Coast Salmon Fishery
by Dennis Brown. Harbour Publishing, 2005.

A gripping account of the challenges and opportunities in trying to manage wild salmon stocks on Canada’s West Coast.¬† Highlights many issues with Leviathan oriented approaches to management.

Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Houghton Mifflin, 1962.

The seminal work revealing the effects of pesticides on the natural environment, food chains and humans greatly contributing to the birth of the environmental movement.

The framework of water rights legislation in Canada
by David R Percy. Canadian Institute of Resources Law, 1988.

The authoritative succinct guide for understanding water rights legislation in Canada.

Well of Lies: The Walkerton Water Tragedy
by Colin Perkel. McClelland & Stewart, 2002.

An examination of the events leading to the Walkerton water tragedy illuminating how mismanagement, a lack of accountability and a neoconservative agenda led to the deaths of 7 people while over 2,000 others became ill from drinking E. Coli contaminated water.

A Civil Action by Jonathan Harr. Vintage Books, 1996.

A true account of the legal proceedings stemming from the discovery of a cancer cluster due to suspected contaminated groundwater in Woburn, MA. illustrating abuses of power and a legal system gone wrong.

Governing the Environment: Salient Institutional Issues
edited by Albert Breton, Giorgio Brosio, Silvana Dalmazzone and Giovanna Garrone. Edward Elgar Publishing, 2009.

Explores issues of scale, P3’s and other factors for effective environmental governance.

Studying Public Policy: Policy Cycles and Policy Subsystems
by Michael Howlett, M. Ramesh and Anthony Perl. Oxford University Press, 2009.

A thorough and insightful core text on the public policy process.


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

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