A pan-Canadian conversation
The Citizen Dialogues on Canada’s Energy Future were an attempt to approach the energy conversation differently. In the fall of 2017 this rare opportunity allowed for citizen views to be delivered to decision-makers in government and other sectors. The results of these dialogues inform pathways on Canada’s energy future.
Simon Fraser University’s Centre for Dialogue was selected by Natural Resources Canada to independently design and implement five regional citizen dialogues as part of the Generation Energy public consultation.
During September and October 2017, these dialogues engaged 150 Canadians in a deep conversation on energy. Coming from different hometowns, perspectives and backgrounds, these randomly selected participants sat down at the same table to learn about each other’s lives, ideas and aspirations.
The aim of these regional citizen dialogues was to reflect Canada’s diversity and promote dialogue around difficult conversations on energy. These events intended to produce high-quality citizen input into how Canada can balance energy issues such as greenhouse gas emissions, jobs and international competitiveness.
Together, participants explored a shared path forward in shaping Canada’s energy future, informed by the best evidence-based information available and the spirit of curiosity.
Recruitment and preparation
Participants were selected using randomized recruitment methods that reach beyond “the usual suspects” to identify individuals who reflect the geographic, attitudinal and demographic diversity of all Canadians. Forum Research conducted a national opinion poll to provide a baseline on the diversity of opinions on energy issues for this project and managed initial citizen recruitment.
Prior to attending their regional citizen dialogue, participants received an informative and easy-to-understand discussion guide for their review, which provides an evidence-based resource. The discussion guide included context about energy issues in Canada and posed questions for participants to consider.
Importantly, the discussion guide outlined different approaches to shaping Canada’s energy future. These approaches reflected both expert solutions and a range of common positions identified in consultation with a diverse cross-section of stakeholder groups.
These approaches were presented without censorship so that Canadians can consider them in relation to their own perspectives and compare the trade-offs associated with each approach.
The discussion guide was reviewed by stakeholders from different sectors including in academia, civil society, and industry.
The five regional citizen dialogues were sequenced to take place between September 8 and September 27, 2017. Each two-day dialogue included between 30 and 40 participants who together reflected the diversity of their region.
The Institut du Nouveau Monde, a Québec-based non-partisan organization whose mission is to increase citizen participation in democratic life, was a project partner and convened the French regional dialogue in Montreal.
The regions and workshop locations were:
- British Columbia and Yukon: Vancouver, September 10-11
- Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Northwest Territories: Calgary, September 15-16
- Québec: Montreal, September 17-18
- Ontario and Nunavut: Toronto, September 22-23
- New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador: Halifax, September 24-25
Each Regional Citizen Dialogue included both plenary and small-group discussion formats where participants discussed evidence-based information about the issues, heard each other’s stories and built understanding for each other’s needs.
Together, participants reviewed a range of known approaches and trade-offs in deciding Canada’s energy future. Each regional citizen dialogue ended with participants generating recommendations for Canada’s energy future.
Citizens’ top 5 criteria to shape decisions on Canada’s energy future:
1. Sustainable & clean environment
2. Effective & transparent government