The Second Annual Conference on Gross National Happiness The Second International Conference on Gross National Happiness
Outcomes & Follow-Up
The Oak Island Mini-Conference
Nov. 18-19, 2005 Oak Island, Nova Scotia
Building Sustainable Development
Moving Atlantic Canada forward as a model of socially and environmentally responsible development.
April 21, 2006 Workshop Report WORD | PDF
The Building Sustainable Development gathering at Oak Island, Nova Scotia
Environment Canada PowerPoint
“Show Me The Money”
Detailed (2.1MB)

“Show Me The Money”
Summary (1.7MB)

ACOA PowerPoint
Sustainable Development in Atlantic Canada

Natural Resources Canada PowerPoint
Improving Energy Efficiency in Atlantic Canada

Lynn Langille PowerPoint
How to Write a Successful Proposal

April 21, 2006
Workshop Report
An enthusiastic core group of participants at Oak Island Inn on Nova Scotia's south shore, after a second day of tackling issues of sustainability in Atlantic Canada.

On Friday, November 18 and Saturday, November 19, 2005, GPI Atlantic hosted a two-day workshop, BUILDING SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT: Moving Atlantic Canada forward as a model of socially and environmentally responsible development. This workshop was a follow up to our recent Rethinking Development conference held in Antigonish in June 2005. We never intended the Antigonish conference to be just a one-time, feel-good event. The point of inviting 450 delegates from 33 countries and six continents here for that conference, including some of the world’s most brilliant practitioners of socially and environmentally responsible development, was always to turn our inspiration into action here in Atlantic Canada.

Building on the partnerships and initiatives developed at the conference, the goal of this workshop was to begin to develop concrete and meaningful actions that will make genuinely sustainable development practices the norm rather than the exception in this region, and ultimately in the world. There is no reason that Atlantic Canada cannot become a laboratory from which others, both in Canada and abroad, can learn. We have all it takes to enhance prosperity in this region, strengthen community, and meet human and social needs while respecting our magnificent natural heritage.

A wide range of participants from all four Atlantic provinces attended the workshop. Participants included government officials from federal, provincial, and municipal levels, representatives from a variety of non-governmental organizations, business people, academics, community leaders, and a strong contingent of young people. The workshop was a hands-on and very practical working session, rather than a formal event, and focused on developing tangible actions that will have a lasting effect.

Presentations by ACOA, Environment Canada, and Natural Resources Canada highlighted some of the programs and initiatives that are available to help support and provide funding for projects with a focus on environmentally and socially responsible development. A presentation by Lynn Langille of the Atlantic Health Promotion Research Centre gave excellent guidelines and tips for writing a winning funding proposal.

The rest of the workshop time was spent focusing on specific issues. Issues were raised in a brainstorming session with the whole group. All of the topics that were brought up were then organized into several central themes. The themes were discussed in smaller break out groups and included topics such as education, the political dimension, strengthening communities, engaging industry, and energy.

The following are summary notes from these sessions made on-the-fly for Saturday afternoon’s concluding report back from groups.
  • Idea
    • Support youth education initiatives in the province (provinces) for sustainability and core ecological values.
  • Action
    • Determine the programs that are currently underway in the school systems and outside the school systems.
    • Support these efforts through lobbying
  • Examples would be
  Political Dimension
Where are we now? What is the current state of politics?
  • Lack of enlightened leadership
  • Who would want to go into politics?
  • A lot of cynicism, frustration, hopeless
  • Lack of resources
  • Lack of incentives and infrastructure to do the right thing
  • Lack of accountability and transparency
  • Lack of proportional representation
  • Lack of rural voice and representation
  • Lack of female representation
  • Poor public engagement
  • Short attention spans
  • Corporate control of political agenda and media
  • Lack of immigration
  • Too much adverse influence by US
Where do we want to go? Where to be in 10 years?
  • Democratic, electoral and tax reform – change ethics/education
  • Proportional representation (advice by New Zealand) – new governance structure – look to other models for inspiration i.e. Aboriginal communities, Norway, Sweden, and Quebec (share knowledge, consensus, not adversarial)
  • Demand transparency, honesty and integrity in government
  • Need civic political engagement to keep government accountable
  • Need for greater public input in government policy and process, more stakeholder partnerships, more local action/involvement “grassroots”
  • Look to major successes from activist campaigns
  • Need to find creative ways to work together – World Assembly (G. Monbiot)
  • Need proper checks and balances, require timelines in legislation
  • Cap salaries of CEOs, invest in health promotion & prevention
  • Pay attention to upcoming federal election, demand inclusiveness in federal debates i.e. Green Party should be included in TV debate
  • For Nova Scotia/Atlantic Canada to go through the Natural Step process
    See: Toward Sustainable Communities: An Introduction to The Natural Step
  • Atlantic Canada to stand on its own two feet, create its own identity, to be a laboratory and leader for sustainability
  Community Strengthening

What is the process that brings community together?
  • Learning
    • education
    • links among issues
    • Skills for creating change
    • Understanding of changing determinants of economic growth
  • Adapting
    • eg, truckers’ strike in Halifax increased awareness of Farmers’ Market, sustained change resulted

  • Projects that symbolize community cohesion, like a building for community purpose
  • Common, neutral space for discussion and planning
  • Common purpose
  • Connecting separate energies and initiatives
  • Service: eg, one community helping another

  • Capacity Building
    • Community control of community assets
    • People need to understand the benefits to them of developing community capacity
    • Bring youth and seniors together
    • Find common goals for community
    • Start where people’s needs are
    • Give people the possibility of implementing the plans they develop
    • Find ways to keep and build rural population
  Engaging Industry
“a good carrot and a good stick”
Participants representing:
  • Government interests
  • Public concerns
  • Environmental movements
  • brainstorm
  • expand
  • condense
Three “themes” emerged:
  • Facilitating access to government programs and services for industry
  • Incorporating a ecological view of industrial production and design
  • A long term vision for industrial and community planning
Programs and Services
  • “Greening” loans and grants by streamlining the application process and earmarking additional monies for eco-audits
  • Developing SMART regulations, extended LEED certification
  • Crafting a quick “thumbnail” index for SMEs (Small Medium Enterprise)
Biological industrial production
  • Supporting research and development for biological processes
  • Solar aquatics for sewage treatment
  • Enzymatic processes
  • Methane capture and utilization
A long term vision
  • Plan industrial support systems for next generations (+ 30 years)
  • Develop a sustainable boutique “brand” for local industry
  • Attract investment
  • Entice top executives
  • Foster small and medium sized enterprise development

  • Focus Coady Institute back locally
  • Tidal Power
  • Community empowerment
  • Business attraction strategies
  • Systems benefit charge – independent body that invests in demand side management
  • Fair price for electricity that’s produced – how do you influence this?
    • Rate structure delays
    • Utility has to buy excess
    • Utility Board only focused on price
    • Set target and timelines
    • Electricity is 80% by coal – worst polluter per megawatt (in Canada)
  • We have tremendous potential renewable resources – wind, hydro, and solar
  • 35% of energy could be saved through efficiency – dollar matching
  • Better building code standards
  • Energy efficiency is jobs in your community
  • Regional issues – multi-dwelling housing
  • Atlantic Canada Sustainable Energy Coalition

  • Need community involvement in wind/alternative energy projects
  • Standard offer contracts – advanced
  • Utility obliged to buy power
  • Cooperative development – local investment – community empowerment
  Participants are continuing to communicate with each other about ways of moving forwards. A follow up report is in the process of being written, and will be posted here when it is complete.

We extend our thanks to ACOA and Environment Canada for their generous support, which enabled us to offer subsidies to individuals, non-profit organizations, students, and youth.

For more information about the workshop, to get involved, or to join the mailing list, please contact Clare Levin at GPI Atlantic by phone, 902-489-2524 or by email,

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Photo courtesy Stella McNeil