The division of the world into “distinct, disjoint and mutually
exclusive territorial formations” (Ruggie, 1998: 173), and the view
that territorial borders delimit and structure state sovereignty, have
been central to the study of international relations (IR). There are
claims, however, concerning the contingent nature of state forms
(Jessop, 1999) and the emergence of a “borderless world” (Ohmae, 1993),
as forces from ‘above’ and ‘below’ are said to be diluting the
essentialized view of territorial borders and challenging the hegemony,
legitimacy and institutional capacities of states (Rosenau, 1997). The
widening and deepening of global interconnectedness through processes
of globalization, advancements in information communications
technologies (ICT), emerging transnational regimes and NSAs, and
pervasive neo-liberal trends toward privatization, decentralization and
devolution of power have contributed to the transformation and
diffusion of state authority and the rescaling of governance spaces.
Indeed, regionalist discourses assert that the complex dialectic
between integration and decentralization has opened new opportunities
for sub-national governments and non-state actors (NSA) to engage
transnationally (Warner and Gerbasi, 2004), contributing to visions of
the “rise of the region state” (Ohmae, 1993), uncovering “new regional
spaces” (MacLeod, 2001) and emerging polities “beyond Westphalia”
(Blatter, 2001: 180).
Existing literature on regional integration focuses predominantly on
supranational levels of integration – be it continental (e.g. European
Union (EU) and North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA)) or regional
(e.g. Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and South American
Common Market) – in terms of interstate functional, material and formal
‘top-down’ institutional linkages and interdependencies (Alper, 2004:
79), often to the exclusion of sub-national regions in the borderlands
of nation states and identity formation.1 In contrast, the region known
as “Cascadia” – which straddles the Pacific Northwest border between
Canada and the United States – is constituted by transgovernmental and
non-state networks at the sub-national level that share a history,
environment, economy and culture, which contributes to their
functional, material and ideational integration based on a sense of
shared identity and sense of ‘regionness’ (Policy Research Institute
Informed by the cross-paradigm global governance perspective
(Rosenau, 1992: Dingwerth and Pattberg, 2006; Scott, 1999), this essay
explores the internal, interrelational and ideational dimensions and
forces shaping the Cascadia cross border region (CBR) in order to
provide useful insights into the nature, implications and future
prospects of Canada-US CBRs.
In doing so, the first section of this essay establishes the
governance perspective as the most appropriate lens through which to
undertake an analysis of Canada-US CBRs. The second section situates
the study within global transformations and literature on borders and
networks; it conceptually defines CBRs; and, introduces the analytical
framework for the case study analysis. On the basis of these conceptual
clarifications, the third section provides an overview of Canada-US
CBRs in terms of their economic, socio-cultural and organizational
dimensions as a starting point for the comprehensive case study
analysis of the Cascadia CBR in terms of its internal, interrelational
and ideational dimensions, with a focus on regional transportation
issues. The final section discusses the insights rendered through the
analysis of Canada-US CBRs, and, the Cascadia CBR in particular,
pertaining to the nature and implications of Canada-US CBRs; postulates
a potential impasse of ‘bottom-up’ cross-border regional integration in
Cascadia; and, proposes recommendations on how Canadian and American
national governments may surmount the challenges and harness the
opportunities rendered by CBRs.
Global governance and cross-border regions
As CBRs neither lend themselves to elegant theorizing within
traditional, state-centered IR paradigms, nor do they fit within neat
conceptual categories (Scott, 1999; Berg and Ehin, 2006), a
multi-disciplinary, global governance perspective enables a more
sophisticated research program that transcends stringent theoretical
and disciplinary boundaries (Biermann et al., 2002; Berg and
Ehin, 2006; Dingwerth and Pattberg, 2006). This section provides an
overview of the global governance perspective and its associated
concepts and propositions as the foundation for the research and
analysis of Canada-US CBRs.
Global governance perspective
Governance is a system of rules backed by shared goals and
intersubjective meanings, which embraces “governmental institutions and
informal, non-governmental mechanisms whereby needs and wants are
fulfilled” (Rosenau, 1992: 4). The linking of governance to the global
realm indicates a shift from statism to integration by transcending the
domestic-foreign frontier and reflects the expanded scope of actors, authorities and levels of social relation
‘beyond’ and ‘below’ the state (Rosenau, 1997: 44; Dingwerth and
Pattberg, 2006).2 Global governance constitutes the global order as a
layered, complex and constantly evolving system of independent and
interdependent ideas, interests, authorities, institutions, actors,
movements and relations that perform governance functions, “embracing
every region, country, international relationship, social movement, and
private organization” that engages internationally (Ibid,
12-13). It emphasizes that states, although central, are only part of
the picture – as a multiplicity of actors not derived from governments
possess varying degrees of legitimate authority to command mechanisms,
make demands, frame goals and pursue policies (Rosenau, 1992, 1997;
Dingwerth and Pattberg, 2006). Indeed, ideas and identities of actors
are considered to be critical in shaping and steering the global order.
Moreover, the global governance perspective encompasses social
relations in which local, national, regional and global processes are
linked through a variety of horizontal, vertical and supraterritorial
forms of governance, enabling spheres of authority to exist, in part,
independently from states (Rosenau, 1997; Dingwerth and Pattberg, 2006:
Cross-border regions as a level of governance in the global order
Although the global governance perspective is not without its
drawbacks, namely its lack of conceptual clarity, it enables the
development of an integrated and encompassing image of CBRs as
governance arrangements, carving out new spatial contexts (Scott,
1999), accounts for the transnational engagement of NSAs and
sub-national governments (Hocking, 1993: 34-36), and provides for the
identification of the interaction between material flows, e.g. socio-economic exchanges and ecological interdependencies, and ideational flows,
e.g. shared visions, beliefs and identities, based upon ‘networks of
interaction’ in fluid governance spaces (Blatter, 2001; Jessop, 1995).
From this perspective, CBRs are considered to be intersubjectively constructed
levels of governance that shape, and are shaped by, cross-border
regional awareness in relation to shared problems, material incentives
and overlying discourses of interdependence and integration (Clarke,
2002; Scott, 1999; Storper, 1997). The ensuing analysis of Canada-US
CBRs utilizes the insights, concepts and propositions afforded by the
global governance perspective.
Cross-border regions: Discourse, definition and analytical framework
This section situates the study of CBRs within global
transformations and the literature on borders and networks,
conceptually defines CBRs, and introduces the analytic framework for
the ensuing case study analysis.
Globalization, the expansion, intensification and acceleration of
global interconnectedness, has significant political, socio-economic
and ideational dimensions that have functioned to reorder the global
system, in part through fostering the emergence of new political spaces
incongruous with existing political boundaries (Clarke, 2000; Brenner,
1999; Scott, 1999). These developments – which have been facilitated
and accelerated by ICT advancements, and are manifest in global
economic restructuring3 – have fractured hierarchies; diffused authority
to decentralized networks; reduced the importance of boundaries;
facilitated changing perceptions of community; and, have generated a
‘disjuncture’ of scale between political and economic activities, as
economic activities are increasingly conducted at the transnational
level, while political decision-making authority remains at the
national or sub-national levels (Clarke, 2002: 4; Mathews, 1997;
MacLeod, 2001; Clement, 2005). As transnational economic activities
require intensified economic and regulatory integration, and as states increasingly employ new public management mechanisms of decentralization,
a complex and iterated dialectic between dynamics of integration and
decentralization has “blurred distinctions between domestic and
international policies” (Scott, 1999: 606) and has facilitated the
development of new sites of governance that challenge established
divisions (MacLeod, 2001; Kahler and Lake, 2003).
Impelled by global transformations and the imperatives of the global
economy to remain competitive, multi-sector coalitions of private,
public, non-profit and academic actors and institutions are gaining
prominence as agents for regional agendas, policies and outcomes
(Foster, 1997: 375). Sub-national government international engagement,
based on material, functional and bureaucratic interests, blurs the
lines between policy jurisdictions and international affairs and
reflects the intensification of ‘intermestic politics’ (Conlan et al.,
2004; Courchene, 1995; Nossal, 1997).4 Moreover, the number, scope and
impact of NSAs have grown exponentially with the expansion of political
and economic opportunities for resource mobilization as states
increasingly engage with NSAs to address emerging problems that
transcend political boundaries (Mathews, 1997; Arts, 2006; Riemann,
2005). This has far reaching implications for states, as the capacity
to affect actor’s perceptions, intentions and actions is less specific
to states and is increasingly diffused throughout the global system
(Riemann, 2006; Scott, 1999; Mathews, 1997; Kaldor, 2003).
Thus, the complex dialectic between integration and decentralization
inherent in global transformations has widened the scope for
sub-national governments and NSAs to engage internationally (Perkmann,
2003) and have facilitated the emergence of new governance spaces
around mutual interests, goals, functional capabilities and
interdependencies to address mutual issues and promote collective
growth (Clarke, 2002).
Borders and networks
Recent literature on the meaning and role of borders in the context
of global transformations and the new spatiality of politics is diverse
(Blatter, 2001: 179), e.g. the emergence of a “borderless world” and
the “end of the nation state” (Ohmae, 1993 and 1999); multi-centric
definitions (Blatter, 2001); the weakening of national boundaries by
globalization (Anderson, 2002); “borders under stress” (Newman, 2000);
“spaces of flows” (Castells, 2000); and, “frontiers” of “fragmegration”
(Rosenau, 1997). Territorially, borders are legal lines that separate
jurisdictions and border regions encompass the areas immediately beside
a state’s external border (Anderson and O’Dowd, 1999: 594). The
significance of borders is derived from the importance of
territoriality as a ‘naturalized’ principle of political and social
life (Ibid, 554). Moreover, borders are increasingly
contextualized by the idea of networks in a “world of motion” (Rumford,
2006), e.g. Sassen’s (2002) “networked cities,” Wellman’s (2001)
“networked individualism” and Castells’ (2000) “network society,”
wherein task-specific, network-based and flexible non-territorial
polities operate alongside conventional, general-purpose, multi-level
authority structures (Blatter, 2001: 201). As cross-border networks of
interaction between sub-national governments and NSAs contributes to
the formation of intersubjectively shared norms, ideas, beliefs and
regional identity formation (Hasenclever et al., 1997) and the
establishment of formal and informal governance arrangements (Storper,
1997), formal borders have been opened both physically and symbolically
as “bridges of contact” and sites of communication, interaction and
exchange (Newman, 2007: 150; Perkmann, 2003).
Cross border regions
CBRs involve more or less institutionalized collaboration between
contiguous sub-national authorities across national borders and are
characterized by varying degrees of homogenous features and functional
interdependencies (Perkmann, 2003: 156). They are located in the realm
of agency; refer to collaboration and ‘low politics’ between
sub-national authorities in different countries that are not legal
entities under international law; concern practical problem-solving in
a range of sectors; and, involve a degree of stabilization of
cross-border contact. Implicit in the assertion that the potential
‘regionness’ of CBRs is fragmented by state sovereignty on each side of
the border, is the assumption of the existence of intermediate units of
‘natural’ developments, e.g. economic and environmental, across borders
(Ohmae, 1995). However, according to Perkmann (2003), there is no
necessary or ‘natural’ foundation for CBRs, as commonalities and
differences are contextually specific to a particular process of social
As “borders and their regions require localized study” (Anderson and
O’Dowd, 1999: 554), this paper does not endeavor to employ a ‘general
theory’ of CBRs based on definite determinatives; rather, it employs a
comprehensive three-pronged analytic framework to explore the internal,
interrelational and ideational dimensions and dynamics shaping the
Cascadia CBR. The tenets of this analytical framework are
interdependent, overlapping and mutually informative.
Internal characteristics – Internal characteristics
may enable or constrict the development of a CBR, as the willingness of
actors to work together to solve regional problems is shaped by
specific interests, problem perceptions, and capacities to solve
problems (Blatter, 1996). The initial analytic component extends the
Policy Research I’s (2006) analytic framework and adapts Foster’s
(1997) ‘regional impulses’ framework to explore the internal characteristics
of Cascadia in terms of national resource, macroeconomic,
socio-cultural, redistribution, political, legal, agency and
Interrelations in the multi-level arena – As CBRs are
embedded at the intersections of multiple scales of governance
(Brenner, 2000) in a political arena that is “far more complex than a
two-level game” (Blatter, 1996: 8), their development may be affected
by strategic developments and transformations at other levels
(Perkmann, 2003). Consequently, the second pillar employs Blatter’s
(1996) rubric of “cross-border interaction” to gain insights into the
interrelations between the Cascadia CBR and other political arenas,
including, the international/continental, vertical intergovernmental,
intra-national horizontal, intra-local and inter-sectoral arenas, as
well as the influences of relationships between executive and
legislative branches, and public-private partnerships (6).
Social construction and layers of empirical order –
While exploring internal characteristics and multi-level interrelations
is important, the ‘regionness’ of a CBR cannot be taken for granted as
it is an outcome of a process of social construction (Perkmann, 2003;
Clarke, 2000). The third analytic pillar explores the Cascadia CBR as a
social construct situated in mutually informative “layers of empirical
order,” including, the ideational/intersubjective (i.e. values, beliefs and identities); behavioral/objective (i.e. type and character of relations); and, aggregate/political
(i.e. institutions and regimes to pursue ideational and behavioral
inclinations) layers of empirical order (Rosenau, 1992: 13). CBRs are
considered to be shaped by the intersection of all three levels,
wherein ideas and identities inform behaviors and objectives, which
persist to the establishment of institutions that constitute and are
constituted by CBRs (Ibid, 19; Helco, 1994).
Together, these three pillars constitute the analytic framework for
the analysis of the Cascadia CBR (see figure 1). Of central importance
is the particular ‘constellation’ (Blatter, 1996) with respect to the
characteristics, interrelations and layers of empirical order, as they
may serve as incentives/enablers or hurdles/constraints to the
development of CBR governance capacity in different spatial and
temporal contexts (Foster, 1997; Blatter, 1996). This three-pronged
analytical framework, combined with the concepts and propositions
afforded by the global governance perspective, enables the local
particularities of the Cascadia CBR to be understood in terms of the
wider context of interaction and interdependent global order.
The nature and significance of Canada-US CBRs
Utilizing findings from the 2006 Policy Research Institute (PRI)
study entitled “The Emergence of Cross-Border Regions between Canada
and the US,”5 this section concisely contextualizes Canada-US CBRs
within North American integration and provides an overview of their
economic, socio-cultural and organizational dimensions to support the
assertion that their increasing empirical significance as governance
spaces and as engines of integration warrants attention; and to provide
a foundation from which to undertake an extended analysis of the
Regional integration and Canada-US CBRs
Despite increasing recognition of their significance, Canada-US CBRs
have not yet been the subject of considerable research, in part because
cross-border issues remain a low-profile item on government agendas in
the absence of strong political payoffs and incentives. Existing
research has focused on particular border disputes, the significance of
the 9/11 terrorist attacks on border security (Clarke, 2002), and
comparative studies between North American and European integration.
According to Welsh (2004), interaction and interdependence that make
community members aware of their common interests is the hallmark of a
community. Canada and the US can thus be conceived in communal terms
with relations that span more than two centuries and significant
cross-border cooperation predating the 1988 Canada-US Free Trade
Agreement (CUFTA), which evolved into NAFTA in 1993 to include Mexico.
NAFTA has gone a long way to reduce the “border effect” (Clarke, 2002)
such that the idea of the east-west relationship upon which Canada was
founded is increasingly replaced by the relative proximity to the
While CBRs in Europe date back to the 1950s, the number, size and
scope greatly expanded with the support of a range of EU spatial
policies and initiatives to support cross-border cooperation (CBC),
e.g. the Council of Europe has been active in improving the legal
situation and the European Commission provides substantial financial
support for CBC initiatives (Perkmann, 2003: 153).6 Unlike Europe, where
integration has been primarily a ‘top-down’ process undertaken by
governments to create a common market – which has had significant
‘spill-overs’ in other areas – North America lacks an overarching
hierarchical institution to promote spatial policies and cross-border
networks (Clarke, 2002: 4). Consequently, North American integration is
more of a quiet, ‘bottom-up’ process involving government collaboration
and a myriad of professional, political and personal relationships that
bring populations together in increasingly dense cross-border
interaction around common problems, interests and projects (Welsh,
2004; PRI, 2006; Scott, 1999; Clarke, 2002). Thus, according to the PRI
(2006), North American integration will first and foremost be felt in
CBRs where its benefits and challenges are much more intense.
Canada-US CBRs: An overview
Canada-US CBRs are groups of province(s)/states that straddle the 49th
parallel and possess economic and organizational linkages and
socio-cultural similarities to varying degrees (PRI, 2006: 7). This
section delineates the defining features of the five major Canada-US
CBRs: West/Cascadia; Prairies-Great Plains; Great Lakes-Heartland; and,
the East, which can be further divided into Quebec-North England and
Atlantica (see figure 2). Although they exhibit a high degree of
variance in size, scope and significance, there are common
characteristics that appear to signify the general nature of Canada-US
The West/Cascadia – The West/Cascadia CBR, which
includes British Columbia (BC), Alberta, Yukon, Alaska, Washington,
Idaho, Oregon and Montana, is characterized by a sense of remoteness
from Canadian and American national governments, relatively strong
private sector cross-border institutions, the importance of
environmental issues, dominant high tech and natural resource
industries, and a relatively strong sense of cross-border regional
identity (PRI, 2006). This region is known for its innovative
cross-border institutions and approaches.7
Great Prairie Plains – The Great Prairie Plains CBR,
which includes Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Montana, Wyoming, North
Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota, covers a vast geographical space
that is remote from the major North American markets. The main focus of
this region has been on trade corridors and transportation. This CBR is
characterized by ‘pragmatic networks’ between states, provinces,
private actors and is sustained by “a growing consciousness of shared
interests” and the view that cooperative cross-border relations can
provide for a positive and mutually-beneficial future (PRI, 2006:
Great Lakes/Heartland – As the Great Lakes/Heartland
CBR, which includes Ontario, Michigan, Indiana and Ohio, has no
transnational cross-border organization to provide regional leadership,
there are many overlapping, single-issue organizations, e.g. the Great
Lakes Commission. Economic linkages in this region are mature and this
region is characterized by severe interregional market competition,
particularly in manufacturing (PRI, 2006). Despite common
environmental, crime and health challenges that have required closer
cooperation, there is not so much a regional identity as much as there
is a “sense of belonging to a North American community” (Ibid, 51).
Quebec/New England – The Quebec/New England CBR, which
includes Quebec, Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire and New York, has grown
in part because of the importance of the Quebec-New York corridor.
Despite growing recognition of maturing and emerging economic linkages,
as well as the development of multi-level and multi-agency networks and
bilateral linkages, there remains a limited sense of regional identity
Atlantica – The Atlantica CBR, which includes Atlantic
Canada, Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and
Connecticut, is built upon shared geography, a rich history and is
centered upon economic prosperity. This CBR has largely been driven by
public and private networks, strong stakeholder engagement and personal
relations, and possesses a strong sense of a regional identity (PRI,
2006). Nevertheless, this CBR is fragmented by infrastructure
deficiencies and weak cross-border institutions.
CBR characteristics – Although Canada-US CBRs are
distinct and, as aforementioned, it would be misleading to develop a
specific model, having delineated some of the defining features of the
five major CBRs, it is possible to identify several trends that speak
to the general nature of Canada-US CBRs. As they transcend national
political boundaries and are shaped in part by shifting Canada-US
relations and global transformations, Canada-US CBRs may be described
as “spaces of flows” (Castells, 1996) that change and respond to
multiple influences (Clarke, 2002). They tend to emerge organically
from the ‘bottom-up’ and are likely to be composed of informal,
pragmatic, functional, loosely-linked and sector-specific cross-border
networks and coalitions comprised of state and non-state actors that
come together to address mutual challenges and promote common interests
in low-cost engagements (PRI, 2006; Clarke, 2003; Blatter, 2001; Scott,
1999). As cross-border institutions are generally informal and do not
have the capacity to address a broad range of regional issues,
cross-border interdependencies and identities are central motivators
for the development, deepening and formalization of CBRs.
Dimensions of CBRs: Economic, socio-cultural and organizational
Economic dimensions – According to the PRI (2006),
“Canada-US economic activities are stronger and more involved” in
cross-border areas (12). Indeed, trade intensity, volume and growth,
and the breadth of exports are much more distinct, dynamic and
significant in “key clusters straddling the border” (see table 1).
These clusters combined with major North American highway corridors and
electricity grids underlie critical economic interdependencies (see
figure 2) (Ibid, 23). The PRI report asserts that provinces and
geographically congruous states are “moving away from being simply
trading partners to functioning more as integrated economies,” as the
economic performance between Canadian provinces and neighbouring
American states tends to be related (Ibid). The correlation in
the economic activities of provinces and states is, on the whole,
becoming tighter, with Ontario – which was more closely aligned with
their cross-border counterparts before NAFTA – as the only exception
(see table 2) (PRI Briefing, 2006: 2-3). Moreover, the PRI study
asserts that several important North American hubs have significant
economic cross-border influence, e.g. Boston, Montreal, Toronto,
Detroit, Minneapolis, Winnipeg, Calgary, Edmonton, Seattle and
Vancouver (Ibid, 3). Cross-border economic strategies have
largely been a response to challenges presented by global and national
economic restructuring (Scott, 1999: 612), as they are considered to be
integral “gateways for value-added activities” (PRI, 2006: 23) that
enhance competitive positions and prospects for capital accumulation
through cross-border utility maximization (Nossal, 1997; Harden, 1989;
Elster, 1989). Thus, CBRs function as engines of Canada-US economic
integration, as “North American economic relations are based on
regional economies that cross our borders” (PRI interview with Premier
of Quebec Jean Charest in March 2005, PRI, 2006: 35).
Socio-cultural dimensions – Common ideas, norms,
beliefs, socially constructed identities and a sense of ‘regionness’ on
both sides of the border facilitates the emergence and development of
cross-border linkages and CBRs, in part because it makes cooperation,
collaboration and joint decision making easier (PRI Briefing, 2006).
The PRI analysis of a socio-cultural index based on 32 values indicates
exceptional diversity in the degree of socio-cultural cohesion between
the five major CBRs (see table 3). The descriptive statistics indicate
that the socio-cultural values in Atlantic Canada are closer to the
American East Coast than they are to the socio-cultural values in
British Columbia, which are closer to those of the Western part of the
United States (Ibid). The Great Lakes and Prairie Plains share
significant socio-cultural commonalties in terms of values, but do not
identify regionally. Quebec and New England neither share significant
socio-cultural values nor do they possess a sense of a regional
identity. Of significance is the fact that the CBRs that exhibit the
greatest degree of regional socio-cultural cohesion are located at the
extremities of the continent, far from Canadian and American political
centers. Arguably, this geographic remoteness has contributed to the
generation of a sense of ‘regionness’ (Gibbons, 1998; Johnston et al., 2006).
Organizational dimensions – Cross-border
organizations, which vary significantly in their size, issue area,
scope and membership, are institutional mechanisms for cross-border
collaboration and interaction that foster permanence in cross-border
linkages. The PRI report asserts that given the minimal level of
organization associated with NAFTA, cross-border regional institutions,
which have mostly been created by private initiatives, have filled the
institutional void, thus “confirming the general belief that North
American integration is a bottom-up phenomenon” (PRI Briefing, 2006:
4). Cross-border regional institutions that focus on local issues often
do not have the institutional capacity and momentum to attract national
attention and resources (Ibid). They are, however, significant
means of association for bi-national business and community groups to
come together for practical problem solving and collaboration, e.g. the
PNWER. The PRI study finds that cross-border organizations tend to be
more numerous in CBRs with similar socio-cultural values, strong
trading relationships and in fields of sub-national government
jurisdiction (2006: 40).
Conclusion – Overall, the “thickness of intensity” of
CBR linkages appears to be most mature in the West/Cascadia, as
economic ties are significant, socio-cultural values are similar and
organizational linkages are most developed (PRI Briefing, 2006: 5).
Although organizational linkages in the Prairies-Great Plains are
weakest, they have strong economic and trade cross-border linkages.
Moreover, the Great Lakes-Heartland region and Atlantica have important
linkages in all of the dimensions and the Quebec-New England CBR has
significant economic and organizational linkages and the weakest sense
of ‘regionness.’ Table 4 summarizes the economic, socio-cultural and
organizational dimensions for each of the main CBRs. Having explored
the general nature of Canada-US CBRs and uncovered their economic,
socio-cultural and organizational significance as governance spaces,
the following expands the analysis of the most vibrant of Canada-US
Analysis of the Cascadia cross-border region
The ‘Cascadia’ CBR, which includes BC, Alberta, Yukon, Alaska,
Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana, is the most vibrant and
developed Canada-US CBR, with evidence of ongoing cross-border efforts
to enhance regional governance capacities amidst growing regional
self-consciousness (PRI, 2006)
What insights can the Cascadia CBR provide pertaining to the nature, implications and future prospects of Canada-US CBRs?
This section undertakes a comprehensive case analysis of the Cascadia
CBR, with particular focus on transportation infrastructure, utilizing
the previously delineated three-pronged analytic framework, which
involves exploring Cascadia’s internal characteristics, its
interrelations in a multilevel arena, and the social construction of
its regional identity and layers of empirical order. Combining the
concepts and propositions of the global governance perspective with
this extended analytic framework, enables the particularities of the
Cascadia CBR to be explored within the wider context of social
interaction and interdependence in the global order.
Internal characteristics of Cascadia
The first analytical pillar seeks to explore the particular ‘constellation’ of interests (Blatter, 1996) with respect to internal characteristics,
based on an extension of the PRI’s (2006) analytical framework and an
adaptation of Foster’s (1997) ‘regional impulses framework,’ wherein
natural resource, macroeconomic, socio-cultural, redistributive,
political, legal, agency and organizational characteristics serve as
either pro-regionalist or anti-regionalist factors.
Natural resource characteristics – Shared natural
resources are strong pro-regional characteristics of the Cascadia CBR.
The ecologically diverse ecosystem of the Georgia Basin-Puget Sound
bioregion located between BC and Washington; the Pacific temperate
rainforest that stretches along the coast from Alaska to California;
and, the dry land area inland from the Cascade range to the Pacific
coast amount to significant north-south natural resource linkages that
generate environmental cross-border interdependence – “one forest, one
waterway, one air shed, one region” (EPA Website, 2008). Commonalities
in natural resource characteristics have led to the development of new
institutional structures, – e.g. the Puget Sound Partnership and the
Sightline Institute, to protect the quality of life, the environment
and the competitiveness of Cascadia’s economy, as salmon fisheries,
sport fishing, sustainable natural resource production (e.g. oil and
gas) and other economic endeavours that require a healthy environment
are vital to economies on both sides of the border (Artibise, 1995;
Clarke, 2002; EPA Website, 2008). Thus, common interests in shared
natural resources have facilitated regional ties and economic and
environmental rationales to manage resources on a regional basis
Macroeconomic characteristics – The strong
macroeconomic similarities and linkages between the states and
provinces of the Cascadia CBR have facilitated the development of
regional ties, which is not surprising given that the process of North
American integration has largely been economic in nature (Hansen,
2002). With a regional economic base that includes high-tech firms,
e.g. Microsoft and Boeing, alongside tourism, transportation, logging,
fishing and farming (Clarke, 2002; PRI, 2006); with the cities of
Vancouver, Seattle and Portland functioning as regional hubs for
economic interdependence and growth (PRI, 2006); and, with a
significant influx of cross-border shoppers motivated by higher taxes
and costs of living in Canada (Harden, 2002),8 Cascadia is promoted as
the tenth largest global economic center, with aspirations to develop
into a high-tech regional bloc (Clarke, 2004: 6). This speaks to Gold’s
(1994) predictions that, “in the 21st century, economically
integrated and cooperative regions rather than nation states or
individual enterprises will be the greatest generators of wealth” (14).
Moreover, since the signing of NAFTA, Cascadia’s north-south trade has
exhibited strong intensity, volume, growth and breadth (PRI, 2006).
Indeed, the primary trading partner of BC and Alberta is the US,
exceeding 50 percent of BC’s exports, and the primary trading partners
of Oregon, Idaho and Montana is Canada (PNWER Website, 2007: Trade
Statistics; PRI, 2006). According to Chase (2005), this reflects the
“aggregate number and political strengths of businesses” that seek to
gain scale economies and harness potentials afforded by cross-border
price differentials (6). As the economic performance of neighbouring
provinces and states continue to grow in correlation, there is evidence
of a progressive, albeit incremental, shift from trading partners “to a
more integrated regional economy” (PRI, 2006: 23).
Socio-cultural characteristics – Despite the existence
of a weak nationalist sentiment from the Canadian members of Cascadia,
overall the socio-cultural values of members greatly align, as
evidenced by the PRI findings of relatively low value index gaps
between BC and the American west and Alberta and the American west –
6.3 and 4.5 respectively (see table 3) (PRI Briefing, 2006:46). Similar
socio-cultural characteristics provide a pro-regional impetus that
bolsters natural resource and macroeconomic impulses.
Redistribution characteristics – Cascadia provinces
and states that have incentives to share resources to pursue regional
solutions, e.g. development of border infrastructure, are constricted
in their redistributive capacities, as they lack jurisdictional
authority/autonomy to redistribute funds internationally, thus
fragmenting the region (Foster, 1997: 380). Consequently, in order to
address issues of regional inequity, provinces and states have sought
to develop joint commissions, task forces, and means of knowledge
sharing and regional planning, to strategically coordinate actors and
facilitate dialogue and cooperation, e.g. the PNWER Research
Development and Exchange Network, and have been quick to harness the
resources and capacities rendered by private sector engagement, e.g.
2010 Olympic Bid.9 While this ‘soft’ regionalism has gone a long way in
enhancing the global profile and regional competitiveness of the
Cascadia CBR, the lack of redistributive capacity is an anti-regional
characteristic that has arguably constricted further integration.
Political characteristics – While political alignments
between Cascadia’s state and provincial governments are currently
conducive to cross-border regional development, which can in part be
attributed to a growing neo-liberal consensus even in the most left of
states, this has not always been the case. In 1991 the BC Conservative
government and Washington State Republican government developed the
concept of a ‘Cascadia Corridor Commission’ that would coordinate
considerations of regional issues between local, state, provincial,
regional and national governments and proposed the development of a
‘Cascadia Corridor’ (Alper, 1996). While the concept was supported by
the US House and Senate, the new BC New Democratic government backed
out of the agreement and rejected cross-border contacts, as they were
suspicious of American penetration and disproportionate federal
involvement, leading to the failure of the initiative (Alper, 1996: 8).
Moreover, despite progress made by a few exceptional political
‘regional champions,’ e.g. Senator John Miller who created the
‘Cascadia Program,’ and despite temporal political alliances conducive
to regional development, regional political leadership is lacking due
to the absence of political payoffs and incentives for politicians
engaged in partisan politics, based on bloc-voting and short-term
political gains, to move beyond rhetoric toward deeper regional
integration. Overall, political characteristics have functioned to
constrict the development of the Cascadia CBR.
Legal characteristics – One of the greatest
anti-regional characteristics in Cascadia has been the impact of legal
jurisdictional authorities between national and state/provincial
governments, particularly in Canada, which is more centralist than the
US. Both Canada and the US are federations with constitutions that
provide the legal basis for jurisdictional authority, functioning to
enhance or limit the capacities of one level of government over
another, creating asymmetrical power relations in different policy
areas. Cascadia intersects a vast web of jurisdictional authorities,
federal, provincial/state and municipal.10 Given the lack of authority of
the provinces and states of Cascadia to autonomously enter into
international legal agreements with each other, e.g. the American
constitution provides the national government with explicit powers of
interstate and foreign commerce (Kincaid, 2003: 57), they have been
consigned to developing cross-border relations in domains of ‘low
politics’ through informal agreements and enhanced coordination
mechanisms, e.g. the 1994 Transportation Cooperation Agreement between
BC and Washington (Fry, 1990: 126). To develop an international
agreement, regional actors must lobby their national governments to
engage each other, rendering regional integration in Cascadia
incremental and informal.
Agency and organizational characteristics – Cascadia
north-south linkages have been facilitated in large part by private
sector actors, transnational networks and organizations (Clarke, 2002).
Although sub-national governments have played a critical role in the
deepening of the Cascadia CBR, the region can best be conceptualized as
a dense web of loosely-linked, geographically-overlapping,
sector-specific networks and institutions composed of public and
private actors that converge around a shared regional vision. Through
the generation of information and discourse on ‘Cascadia,’ think tanks, epistemic communities (Haas, 1987), and advocacy coalitions
have effectively perpetuated the idea of Cascadia as a distinct region,
fostered regional considerations in policy processes, and
institutionalized the concept in organizations. Table 5 provides a list
of some of the regional organizations in Cascadia. Cities have
also provided significant impetus to CBR building through developing
cross-border organizations, e.g. the Cascadia Metropolitan Caucus and
the Association of Border Communities, and supporting regional
organizations (Artibise, 1995; Clarke, 2004). Indeed, multi-actor,
inter-organizational informal networks and ‘soft’ institutions in
Cascadia have gone a long way in mobilizing regional identities and
interests to solve collective regional problems from the ‘bottom
While regional networks and organizations in Cascadia tend to be
narrow in scope, the single regional institution that potentially has
the capacity to address regional issues in multiple policy areas is the
PNWER, which was formed in 1989 by legislators from Cascadia’s five
states, two provinces and the Yukon territory, as a regional planning
and facilitation organization, mandated to promote regional
collaboration; enhance competitiveness of the region in domestic and
international markets; leverage regional influence in Ottawa and
Washington; and, achieve continued economic growth while conserving the
environment (PNWER Website 2008: mission statement). It addresses
diverse issues, e.g. security, the environment, energy, infrastructure
and tourism; is composed of premiers, governors, legislators, counties,
economic development commissions, industry associations and private
sector actors; and, has been successful in framing many issues
regionally, e.g. transportation. The PNWER is most noted for its unique
design; its promotion of public-private communication; its working
groups co-chaired by one private and one public sector representative;
and, its sophisticated Secretariat (PNWER Website, 2008; Clarke, 2002;
Blatter, 2006). According to the US Ambassador to Canada, David
Wilkins, “There’s no organization more important than the PNWER to
foster and nurture the relationship between the US and Canada” (PNWER
Website, 2008: Home).
In summation, shared natural resources, common macroeconomies and
similar socio-cultural values promote the development of the Cascadia
CBR. This development is further supported by diverse, dense and
sector-specific cross-border networks of state and non-state actors and
institutions that frame issues and address problems regionally.
Nevertheless, the Cascadia CBR remains largely informal and regional
integration remains incremental as a result of a lack of redistributive
capacity, limited political incentives to promote long-term regional
growth, and constricting legal structures. Taken together, the
particular ‘constellation’ of enabling and constricting internal
characteristics reveals the internal nature of the Cascadia CBR.
Interrelations in the multi-level arena
This section utilizes Blatter’s (1996) model of “cross-border
interaction” to analyze the influences of Cascadia’s multi-level
interrelations with respect to the international/continental,
vertical-intergovernmental, intra-state horizontal, intra-local and
intersectoral arenas, as well as the relationship between the executive
and legislative branches, and public-private partnerships (6). The
interrelationships range on a continuum between loosely coupled, e.g.
‘spill-overs’ of ideas, concepts and strategic adjustments, and
strongly coupled relations, e.g. formal dependence, and may also exist
as incentives/facilitators or constraints/hurdles of cross-border
regional development (Ibid, 9).
International/continental interrelations – The
development of Canada-US CBRs has paralleled discussions of North
American integration since the 1980s, with ‘spill-over’ effects from
CUFTA and NAFTA providing momentum and legitimacy for the development
of new, and reinvigoration of old, cross-border regional initiatives,
e.g. PNWER (Blatter, 1996: 9). Such initiatives have been further
legitimized by the growth and success of the more than 70 European
CBRs,11 which have been empowered, in large part, by EC financial
resources and spatial policies to support cross-border cooperation. In
the absence of a supranational institution to facilitate cross-border
growth, the Cascadia CBR, as other North American CBRs, has developed
from ‘below’ and been promoted by institutions with narrow objectives
and strong private sector engagement. Cross-border initiatives in
Cascadia have developed particularly in the economic realm in order to
“achieve the critical mass for competing successfully in the greater
continental and global market” (Blatter, 1996: 10).
Vertical intergovernmental interrelations – The
vertical intergovernmental alignment of national, provincial/state and
local governments constricts Cascadia’s cross-border governance
capacity. Although central governments are the only actors that possess
an international legal personality, according to Duchacek (1986),
sub-national governments are increasingly engaging internationally in
areas of their jurisdiction and have developed a more strategic and
systematic approach to cross-border relations, in part because of
political incentives and opportunities created by the
integration/decentralization dialectic (Blatter, 1996: 11; Hocking,
1993; Duchaceck, 1986: 241; Smith, 2004). However, legal jurisdictional
barriers continue to fracture the development of the region by
inhibiting sub-national governments from engaging in formal
international relations, which would necessitate central government
engagement and support. Cross-border regional development may be
further constricted by the resistance of local municipalities to
implement cross border policies, as was the case when the BC capital
city of Victoria rejected a proposal for the development of a local
sewage treatment plant despite the ongoing efforts of Cascadia
provincial and state governments to protect their common watershed
(Blatter, 1996: 12).
Intra-national horizontal interrelations – According
to Blatter (1996), “territorial cleavages…of a sub-national unit have
always been used to justify different kinds of cross-border
activity”(12). Indeed, feelings of inequitable treatment, notions of
‘hinderland,’ ‘Western alienation’ and ‘periphery’ provide momentum to
region-building in Cascadia, with assertions that Ottawa and
Washington, DC are too distant and favour ‘one size fits all’ policy
designs. Indeed, the PNWER has, in large part, developed to generate
the political and epistemic critical mass necessary to bolster their
legitimacy when lobbying for national government support and resources.
Blatter asserts that growing cross-border networks in North America are
a result of “more or less visible struggles and competitions between
regional coalitions for money and investment (that facilitates)
territorial interest building processes,” shifting alliances and CBR
development (Ibid, 13).
Intra-local interrelations – Intra-local
interrelations in the Cascadia CBR have been both enabling and
constricting. Despite the fact that sub-national units within Cascadia
share a long history of interrelations and a unique natural resource
geography, intra-local interrelations in the Cascadia CBR often result
in both enhanced understandings, interactions and identification of a
‘common brotherhood’ and antagonistic feelings (Blatter, 2006).
Conflicting intra-local relations are influenced by ‘anti-American’
sentiments and suspicion on the part of Canadian provinces, as well as
cross-border differences, competition and envy, e.g. BC concerns that
retail sales will be lost by cross-border shopping tourism to the US.
Consequently, cross-border institutions in Cascadia have focused on
‘positive sum games’ and framing initiatives as mutually beneficial
Inter-sectoral relations – In the Cascadia CBR,
interactions have mostly focused on relatively narrow functional
solutions, wherein technical actors within departments find solutions
to issues by engaging corresponding cross-border actors and
departments. However, as cross-border issues have spill-overs in
different sectors, which make issues, interactions and solutions more
complex, inter-sectoral conflicts based on contrary values and visions
of the Cascadia CBR have arisen (Alper, 1996; Blatter, 1996). For
instance, in terms of transportation issues, free-trade regionalists
assert the need to develop institutional critical mass and transport
infrastructure to position the region to compete globally, while bioregionalists
advocate for environmental protection and regional growth management
(Blatter, 1996: 14). Thus, although sectoral differentiation has
facilitated technical cooperation in Cascadia, inter-sectoral divisions
have become wider as epistemic communities and sectoral regimes have
strengthened their ties (Blatter, 1996: 14). Resultantly, increased use
of the notion of ‘sustainable regional development’ that encompasses
economic, social and environmental goals has been used in attempts to
bridge the inter-sectoral divisions.
Relationship between executive and legislative branches
–Whereas the executive and parliamentary branches are ‘fused’ in the
Canadian parliamentary system, as the executive is derived from the
legislature, in the US they constitute two distinct units separately
elected by the population. In Cascadia this has, on occasion, produced
serious limitations for institutionalizing linkages that go beyond
transregional informal relations (Blatter, 1996). For instance, from
the early 1970s to late 1980s, attempts of the Washington State
legislature to establish formal linkages with BC failed because the BC
Premier asserted that such linkages were inhibited by the BC political
system (Rutan, 1981: 74). Blatter asserts that although different
executive/legislative relations are not ‘absolute’ hurdles for CBR
integration, combined with partisan competition, it can constrict the
formation of linkages and government connections (Blatter, 1996:
Public-private partnerships – Strong private sector
influence has been a central driver of the Cascadia CBR, e.g. the PNWER
has a private sector council and working groups have private-sector
co-chairs that are expected to set the agenda (PNWER Website,
Organization 2008). Blatter (1996) asserts that “it seems that
integration processes in the cross-border and the public-private
dimension are going hand in hand” (17). The institutional integration
of NGOs within the PNWER has not gone so far as the private sector, as
NGOs tend to create their own cross-border networks and institutions
(Blatter, 1996: 17).
In summation, while continental/international momentum,
intra-national territorial cleavages, intra-local characteristics and
intra-sectoral interrelations have provided momentum to the development
of the Cascadia CBR, vertical-intergovernmental alignments; intra-local
distrust, competition and envy; inter-sectoral contrary values and
visions; and, the particular relationship between executive and
legislative branches of government have constricted the governance
capacity of the Cascadia CBR. The particular combination of enabling
and constricting influences denotes the nature of Cascadia’s
interrelations in the multi-level arena and signifies that cross-border
solutions for problems involving jurisdictional interdependence must
start with the recognition of interrelations within this complex
environment (Blatter, 1996: 17).
Social construction of regional identities in Cascadia
While considerations of contextual imperatives, characteristics and
interrelations are useful in developing an appreciation of the nature
of the Cascadia CBR, they are insufficient as they do not capture how
Cascadia ideationally developed through the framing of these conditions
into metaphors and arguments about regional identity and the generation
of shared norms and purposes (Foster, 1997; Welsh, 2004; Clarke, 2000).
Cascadia is a problematic and contested regional construct in that
depending on the interests and agendas involved, different and
overlapping boundaries of Cascadia are constructed, e.g. Cascadia as a
global economic region, which includes the aforementioned five states,
two provinces and Yukon territory, versus Cascadia as ‘eco-topia,’
which includes only BC, Washington and Oregon (Clarke, 2002). Despite
contested boundaries, Cascadia has come to be, in large part, because
its member states and constituents believe it to be so.
Cascadia has been integrated to a large extent by the generation of
knowledge, discourse, shared ideas and iterated social construction of
the region, which has, in part, been a response to a sense of
remoteness from national governments and an increasing self-perception
as an economic region relative to other global regions, particularly
given its increasing vulnerabilities to the Pacific Rim economy (PRI,
2006). Increasing identification with Cascadia has informed behaviors and objectives, which have persisted to the establishment of institutions that serve to further perpetuate Cascadia. The ideational construction
of the Cascadia CBR has been promoted on both sides of the border by
think tanks (e.g. Discovery Institute, Sightline Institute and Cascadia
Research Collective), policy networks and organizations that champion
the Cascadia concept. Since the development of the Cascadia project in
1993 by the Discovery Institute, the name has become increasingly
ingrained into regional discourse through the general use of the term
in local newspapers, newscasts, magazines and advertisements; policy
statements by private and public sector leaders; regional publications
(e.g. Cascadia Prospectus, Cascadia Review and the Cascadia Times Magazine),
regional conferences, events and summits (e.g. Cascadia Prosperity
Forum and Cascadia Education Conference) and regional institutions
(e.g. Cascadia Forest Alliance, Cascadia National Party and the
Cascadia Metropolitan caucus). Moreover, the Cascadia idea is, at least
to some extent, an artifact of research studies, such as PRI (2006)
study, that provide empirical legitimacy to regional projects. Cascadia
even has its own common flag – The Doug – widely recognized by
people throughout the region (see figure 5). Thus, common ideas, norms,
beliefs, socially constructed identities and a sense of ‘regionness’ on
both sides of the border have been central to the emergence,
development and sustainability of the Cascadia CBR by informing
regional behaviours and legitimizing regional institutions.
Nevertheless, it is important not to overstate the degree to which
‘Cascadians’ identify regionally, as they possess layered identities
that are spatially and temporally contingent.
Two antagonistic worldviews with distinct ontological bases have been developed and publicly expressed. Free trade regionalists define
the problem as one of global competition, frame regionalism in an
international context of competitive growth, and advocate Cascadia as a
regional trade bloc competing in the global economy (Keating, 1997: 24;
Blatter, 1999). Bioregionalists frame regionalism ecologically
and advocate Cascadia as an eco-cultural system committed to
sustainable environmental development (Clarke, 2000; Cold-Ravnkilde et al.,
2004). Both groups have down played the centrality of the nation-state
and have been able to mobilize people and resources on both sides of
the border to further their policy interests (Blatter, 1999). Indeed,
according to Mazza (1995), Cascadia has developed sophisticated
‘bioregional governance’ and is the home of Greenpeace. On the other
hand, Cascadia is the home of Boeing Aircraft and Microsoft, two of the
most important global companies whose products facilitate processes of
globalization (Blatter, 1999; Cold-Ravnkilde et al., 2004). The
fundamental ideas of the two cross-border coalitions make Cascadia a
space of economic and natural flows. Thus, these two issue frames
provide for shared purposes and agendas that mobilize and give
direction to coalitions.
‘Layers of empirical order’: Transportationg governance in Cascadia
Although the lack of consensus on regional definitions and
appropriate regional governance solutions may hinder the development of
the Cascadia CBR, there is evidence of the emergence of regional
governance capacity on transportation issues (Clarke, 2002), which can
be discerned with the development of a coherent, multi-state and
multi-polity policy community active on issues of regional
transportation, which are framing regional solutions to both
environmental and economic competition concerns. As regional
transportation corridors shape cross-border economic and socio-cultural
linkages and regional identity (Cold-Ravnkilde et al., 2004:
59), and as the Cascadia CBR is situated at the intersection of
mutually informative “layers of empirical order” (Rosenau, 1992), this
section discusses ideational, behavioural and material forces involved
in the construction of a ‘seamless’ and expanded transportation system
between Washington, Oregon and BC through public-private coalitions and
Ideational – The concept of a “seamless link” of
“Gateways and Corridors” provided a technically feasible, publicly
acceptable, and politically sensible frame to construct a Cascadia
transport regime and justify the creation of new institutions (Clarke,
2002). The success of the EU’s subsidization of transport
infrastructure, which enhanced linkages between producers and markets
through air, sea and rail, and effectively increased the
competitiveness of European economies, further justified this idea (Ibid).
Transportation issues were well-defined and tapped into values and
sentiments by providing benefits to a wide range of economic and
environmental groups, with proposals ranging from the development of an
International Mobility Transportation Corridor (IMTC) to upgrades in
road infrastructure and bus services (Blank et al., 2006;
Clarke, 2002). Thus, as Cascadia transportation issues were
strategically positioned as solutions to global competition while
folding in values of sustainability and local autonomy, the
transportation community was able to draw on the efforts of both free
traders and bioregionalists (Clarke, 2002).
Behavioral – The cross-border transport policy
community has been active since the early 1980s, incrementally building
the coalition, “softening up” the political climate for transportation
projects, and taking advantage of political opportunities. The
governments of Oregon, Washington and BC engaged with each other, the
PNWER and regional activists to lobby national governments (Cohn and
Smith, 1996). They framed the issues so as to enable the private sector
to enhance competition while allowing sub-national governments,
bureaucrats and policy experts to capitalize on, and gain recognition,
for efficiency improvements of transportation infrastructure to
generate political incentives (Ibid). According to Clarke
(2003), the “seamless corridor” concept served as a powerful means of
bringing together environmental and economic interests to generate the
critical mass to attract national investment. Through advocacy
proclaiming the I5 Corridor to be the ‘Main Street’ connecting NAFTA
partners and designating the Cascadia Corridor as a high-speed rail
corridor, the region was successful in securing national funding to
establish the Northwestern IMTC and an associated joint technical
working group to manage the program and provide leadership to public
and private stakeholders for the wider development of regional
transportation infrastructure (Clarke, 2002).
Material – While lobbying efforts achieved a notable
degree of success, it was not until national leadership, support and
financial resources were secured that the necessary actors for regional
cooperation came together to push the cross-border transportation
agenda forward. Of particular significance was the US Transportation
Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21) fund, which included the
Corridors Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality programs, that provided
flexibility in developing multi-modal transportation infrastructure and
brought the actors necessary for regional cooperation to the table,
e.g. elected officials, business leaders, transportation experts, state
and provincial bureaucrats and local officials etc. (Clarke, 2004: 13).
With the success of transport development in Cascadia, the US national
government later developed the Coordinated Border Infrastructure and
National Corridor Planning and Development grant programs that were
secured by annual funding allocations (Ibid). Trailing behind,
in 2005 the Government of Canada committed to developing improved
transportation infrastructure, and secure and efficient border services
through the Pacific Gateway Strategy.
Thus, the success of the IMTC and the development of cross-border
regional transportation infrastructure in Cascadia was the result of
working within political institutions as well as acting through
cross-border coalitions, ‘top down’ and ‘bottom up” (Clarke, 2004: 13).
Of central importance for governance capacity pertaining to
transportation issues was the existence of workable ideas, potential
for reframing issues to incorporate diverse interests within new
problem definitions, and the availability of institutional channels for
making decisions and directing resources.
Having explored enabling and constricting internal characteristics,
interrelations in the multi-level arena, and the social construction of
‘regionness’ in Cascadia, and through briefly discussing cross-border
transportation issues in Cascadia, it becomes clear that the nature of
cross-border governance capacity is not a direct function of any
particular characteristic, interrelation or ideational construction.
Rather, it evolves out of the particular ‘constellation’ of these
factors and the interaction between ideational, behavioral and material
forces (Blatter, 1996: 3; Rosenau, 1992: 13). Cascadia is a product of
the interaction of all three levels wherein ideas and identities inform
behaviors and objectives, which persist to the establishment of
institutions that constitute and are constituted by CBRs (Ibid,
19). Thus, the prospects of developing regional governance capacity
involve the interaction of these factors (Helco, 1994; Blatter, 1996).
Moreover, the analysis of Cascadia transportation suggests that
contrasting ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ strategies can unnecessarily
establish dualistic characterizations of spatial network strategies, as
the ‘bottom-up’ mobilization in Cascadia has emerged in a context of
overlapping national and transnational regulatory frameworks that
provide incentives for some types of cross-border cooperation and
coalition-building and not others (Clarke, 2004; Benz and Furst,
The nature, implications and future prospects of Canada-US CBRs
This section delineates the insights rendered by the analysis of
Cascadia into the nature and implications of Canada-US CBRs, and
subsequently discusses future prospects for Canada-US cross-border
regional governance capacity and proposes recommendations on how
national governments can begin to surmount the challenges and harness
opportunities rendered by CBRs.
Analysis results: Nature and implications
Nature of Canada-US CBRs – The overview of Canada-US
CBRs and the analysis of the Cascadia region reveal that although
Canada-US CBRs are distinct, there are several internal,
interrelational and ideational features shared by the five major CBRs
that speak to their nature. Global transformations, the ICT revolution,
global economic restructuring and supranational institutions (e.g.
NAFTA and the EU) have widened the scope and provided impetus and
legitimacy for the development of Canada-US CBRs (Perkmann, 2003;
Clarke, 2002). They are entrenched in international, continental,
national and sub-national structures, interact and interrelate with
multiple governance arenas, and consequently change and respond to
multiple influences (Clarke, 2002). Natural resource and macroeconomic
characteristics and socio-cultural values, to varying degrees, shape
CBRs. They tend to emerge organically from the ‘bottom up’ – in the
absence of ‘top down’ structures and rules and limited political
attention – through pragmatic, functional and flexible sub-national
linkages and coalitions that address sector-specific and mutual
challenges in informal low-cost engagements (Blatter, 2001: 202;
Clarke, 2002; PRI, 2006).
The analysis of Cascadia underscores the significance of ideational,
behavioral and structural conditions, which organically interact at
different sites and rates, to provide the foundation for the
development of particular Canada-US CBRs (Rosenau, 1992). In the
construction of regional self identification, public and private
actors, NGOs and communities generate regional ideological platforms
based on the recognition of regional interdependencies and common
problems to provide political legitimacy and orientation to
cross-border regionalism. Over time, relations and coalitions between
loosely-linked networks may become increasingly institutionalized and
embedded as structures of regional governance (Blatter, 1995; Helco,
1994). However, the interrelation of these dimensions is influenced by
national institutions, incentives and disincentives. For instance, the
success of the Cascadia transportation policy network was the product
of the particular ‘constellation’ of all three levels. Success was
achieved through the existence of workable ideas and reframing issues
to incorporate diverse interests within new problem definitions;
ongoing coalition building, lobbying and interaction; and, the
availability of institutional channels for decision-making and
directing resources (Clarke, 2002). Thus, while Canada-US CBRs possess
several tendencies, the nature of particular CBRs is influenced by
their unique position within a constellation of contextual, ideational,
behavioral/interrelational and institutional factors.
Implications of Canada-US CBRs – The emergence and
growing significance of Canada-US CBRs as governance spaces, combined
with the emergence of networks of regional actors and institutions that
possess strategic resources and varying degrees of authority, brings
both opportunities and challenges. With the changing functions of
international boundaries in the context of a more open, globalized and
high-tech economy, the regionalization of decision-making and deepening
of Canada-US CBRs can have positive effects in terms of reducing
conflict, ensuring continuity, facilitating interaction, developing
regional capacity, building social capital and establishing long-term
cross-border relationships to attain higher levels of prosperity and
quality of life (Clement, 2005: 200; PRI, 2006). According to the PRI
(2006), CBRs have the potential to contribute to democratizing
Canada-US relations by providing regional infrastructure for the ‘NAFTA
process,’ supporting activities that complement federal actions, and
enhancing international trading relationships. Indeed, IMTC
demonstrates the capacity of CBRs to transform regions into competitive
global economic hubs of innovation attractive to foreign investment
(Blatter, 2001). Therefore, instead of undermining state authority, the
analysis speaks to the potential of CBRs to complement national
policies by encouraging cross-border cooperation, enhancing the
relevance and effectiveness of policy making and implementation, as
well as increasing the participatory quality of governance (Clarke,
2002; Deeg et al., 2000).
Canada-US CBRs may also have negative implications. The democratic
nature and legitimacy of regional institutions are often called into
question, e.g. the PWNER is often criticized for not being inclusive of
environmental interests and NGOs, and criticisms have gone so far as to
call it “just another private interest group” (Clarke, 2004). As this
relatively new governance space challenges the Westminster autonomous
unitary state model, it brings issues of legitimacy to the forefront,
blurring identities and responsibilities for addressing social and
economic issues and may lead to unintended consequences such as blame
avoidance, ‘scapegoating’ and relations of dependence (Stoker, 1998:
18). Moreover, autonomous self-governing networks of actors that
control strategic resources to varying degrees raise further issues of
accountability, as governments may no longer have the capacity to get
things done without working with other actors (Ibid). Given the
institutional environment within which they are embedded, Canada-US
CBRs confront severe issues of fragmentation and lack of coordination.
In the absence of a coordinating institution or a ‘champion,’
cross-border initiatives are limited to incremental ‘bottom up’ growth
and face uncertain prospects for success. While such governance
dilemmas are familiar at every scale, when problems requiring
cooperation spill across borders, governance becomes increasingly
problematic (Clarke, 2002).
Discussion of results: Engines of integration and a possible impasse
Among other things, the analysis of the Cascadia CBR underscores the
significance of national institutional features influencing Canada-US
CBRs. Indeed, the ebb and flow of enabling and constricting factors has
shaped the incremental nature of Canada-US CBRs (Duffield, 2003).
Contrasting ‘top down’ and bottom up’ strategies establishes a
dualistic characterization of spatial network strategies, as the
‘bottom up’ mobilization in Cascadia has emerged in a context of
overlapping national and transnational regulatory frameworks that
provide incentives for some types of cross-border cooperation and
coalition-building and not others (Clarke, 2004; Benz and Furst, 2003).
Indeed, the Cascadia IMTC came through working within political
institutions as well as acting through cross-border coalitions –
‘bottom up’ and ‘top down’ (Clarke, 2004: 213). The ‘seamless gateways’
rhetoric expressed a workable idea to address concerns of important
interest groups, (e.g. environmental sustainability and economic
competition); was embraced by a coherent, bi-national policy community
active on regional transportation issues; found political leadership in
both Canada and the US; and, was supported by national structural
incentives, culminating in one of the most successful cross-border
initiatives between Canada and the US (Ibid).
While Canada-US CBRs have been largely enabled by ‘bottom up’
factors, the shortage of national political incentives and payoffs, and
the existence of institutional barriers have constricted CBR
development, in so far as border communities have few policy incentives
and limited resources to encourage cross-border cooperation and many
constraints. Consequently, cross-border linkages are likely to be
functional, pragmatic, informal, and sectoral. In Cascadia, the lack of
sub-national jurisdictional authority for redistribution, limiting
federal structures, absence of political incentives to promote
long-term CBR growth, and constraining relationships between the
executive and legislature have come to hinder CBR integration and
regional governance capacity. Although there are many CBR initiatives,
with the PNWER being the most sophisticated, few have the resources and
capacity to act as collective political actors speaking for the
interests of the CBR (Clarke, 2002). Without political incentives,
payoffs, financial support and means of coordination, a governance
dilemma may arise, resulting in an impasse of ‘bottom up’ growth.
Given the existence of legal constraints and in the absence of
national incentives for growth of Canada-US CBRs, cross-border regional
governance capacity is likely to continue to be a collection of
informal networks and ‘soft’ sector-specific institutions. The Cascadia
CBR, which is the most institutionally coordinated and mature of
Canada-US CBRs, seems to be reaching the limits of ‘bottom-up’ growth,
and now requires a more integrated Canada-US CBR strategy in order to
adapt to the competitive global market (Blank et al., 2006: 6).
CBRs stand at the leading edge of the move towards new levels of
competitiveness, wherein the challenge to North America’s competitive
advantage is whether national structures can effectively adapt (Ibid,
7). CBRs fuel North American integration and have the potential to be
important global actors. Although many interests would gain from
greater transnational coordination of Canada-US CBRs, and although
market ties reaching across the Canada-US borders are vibrant Canada-US
CBRs continue to be frustrated and fragmented by legal and fiscal
constraints that generate institutional disincentives for cooperation
(Clarke, 2002; Artibise, 1995).
Recommendations for federal policy – Overcoming a
possible impasse to ‘bottom up’ growth in Cascadia and harnessing the
advantages afforded by CBRs requires the development of a more detailed
understanding of the nature of Canada-US CBRs; recognition by national
governments and policy makers of the growing importance of Canada-US
CBRs as engines of economic growth, integration and competitiveness;
development of regional leadership and political incentives
incorporating CBR concepts in the development of long-term strategies;
and, generation of coordinated bi-national spatial policies and
initiatives to support CBRs (PRI, 2006). Given the limited empirical
and analytical attention paid to Canada-US CBRs, more qualitative
analysis, including Canada-US and international policy innovations and
best-practices and statistical data collection pertaining to
north-south linkages, is required to provide a more accurate and
detailed picture of these regions, to further demonstrate their
socio-economic significance as global economic hubs, and to foster
effective, strategic and enabling policies. As the existence of CBRs
requires new ways of thinking about policies and policy development,
according to the PRI (2006) integrating a cross-border regional lens
and concepts into national strategies would enhance national decisions
by providing regional perspectives on national policies. Ultimately, by
developing coordinated bi-national spatial policies and initiatives and
reducing regulatory differences, the national governments of Canada and
the US would support competitiveness and prosperity, industrial cluster
coordination and CBR global production platforms; facilitate regional
development by enabling actors and sectors to effectively address
common regional challenges; and, bolster Canada-US relations through
innovation, pre-empting bi-national disputes, and securing a stronger
voice for cross-border regional issues in the national capitals (Ibid,
60). This necessitates that national governments engage sub-national
governments and partners in more participatory and effective policy
making (PRI Briefing, 2006: 7).
The recommendations advocate an awareness of the importance of CBRs
through integrating a regional lens into policy making and developing
national incentive structures to build regional capacity. According to
the PRI Briefing Report (2006), “It is at this cross-border regional
level that the costs and benefits are actually felt, and more readily
available. Consequently, it is also at this level that it becomes
easier and more practical to address bi-national issues through the
active participation and cooperation of CBR stakeholders and
organizations’ (7). Thus, as neighbouring and nearby provinces and
states become more interdependent, there is a need to ensure that
political structures respond to economic realities on the ground in
order to address joint problems more effectively, harness the enormous
transformational potential of Canada-US CBRs, and promote globally
competitive cross-border activities (Blank et al., 2006; PRI, 2006; PRI Briefing, 2006; Clarke, 2002; Blatter, 2001).
Summary of study
Informed by the global governance perspective and utilizing a
three-pronged analytic framework, this essay explored the internal,
interrelational and ideational dimensions and forces shaping the
Cascadia CBR in order to provide useful insights into the nature,
implications and future prospects of Canada-US CBRs. Subsequent to
situating the study within global transformations, the analysis
provided a brief overview of the literature on borders and networks and
defined CBRs in material and imagined terms, as involving more or less
institutionalized collaboration between contiguous sub-national
authorities that possess varying degrees of homogeneous features and
functional interdependence across national borders. To support the
assertion that Canada-US CBRs as governance spaces and engines of
integration warrant attention, this study utilized the findings of a
2006 PRI report to provide an overview of the five main Canada-US CBRs
and explored their empirical significance. As the Cascadia CBR was
found to be the most developed CBR overall – with evidence of ongoing
cross-border efforts to enhance regional governance capacities amidst
growing self-consciousness – a comprehensive analysis of Cascadia
utilizing the three-pronged analytic framework was conducted, with
particular attention to Cascadia transportation governance.
The combined overview of Canada-US CBRs and the analysis of Cascadia
rendered important insights in terms of the nature, implications and
future prospects of Canada-US. While each CBR is unique, Canada-US CBRs
tend to emerge incrementally from the ‘bottom up,’ in the absence of
‘top down’ structures and incentives, through functional, flexible and
loosely-linked coalitions that address sector-specific and mutual
challenges in informal, low-cost engagements. The nature of particular
Canada-US CBRs is shaped by their unique position within a
‘constellation’ of enabling and constricting internal characteristics;
multi-level interrelations; and ideational, behavioral and structural
factors. While ‘bottom-up’ cross-border regional governance
arrangements have become increasingly relevant spheres of governance in
the context of multi-level governance, cross-border regional governance
capacity is likely to continue to be a collection of informal networks
and ‘soft’ sector-specific institutions. Cascadia, which is the most
institutionally coordinated and mature of Canada-US CBRs, seems to be
reaching the limits of ‘bottom-up’ growth, and now requires a more
integrated Canada-US CBR strategy in order to adapt to the competitive
global market. Overcoming limitations to growth and harnessing the
advantages afforded by CBRs requires that national policy makers
recognize the growing importance of Canada-US CBRs as engines of
economic growth, integration, and competitiveness; incorporate a
sub-regional lens in the development of long-term strategies; and,
engage bi-nationally and cross-sectorally to provide incentives for CBR
growth to address joint problems more effectively and promote globally
competitive cross-border activities.
Limitations and recommendations for further research
While this paper provides a comprehensive analysis of the Cascadia
CBR, the discussion of results is careful not to stretch the assertion
of a potential impasse to all Canada-US CBRs. As the possibilities for
generalization are impaired by the fact that Cascadia is the most
‘positive’ case of a Canada-US CBR, the discussion would benefit from
an in-depth comparative analysis of each Canada-US CBR and a diachronic
empirical assessment of their dimensions to generate more detailed and
significant findings. Methodologically, the analysis of the Cascadia
CBR would have benefited from a more rigorous empirical assessment,
which time, space and data availability prevented. Given the ‘bottom
up’ nature of Canada’s CBRs, personal interviews with regional policy
entrepreneurs, e.g. George Eskbridge, PNWER President, and a content
analysis of discourse on Cascadia would have enhanced the findings. The
analysis would also have benefited from in-depth discussions of how
cross-border regional networks, regimes and coalitions can
strategically manoeuvre to gain national attention, and of the PNWER as
the most sophisticated Canada-US CBR institution. Moreover, the EU,
which has the most highly developed CBR spatial policy in the world,
has not been adequately addressed. Works of other scholars in this
field may be able to address these issues that time and space
prevented. Further research is also warranted in the following areas:
comparative regional analysis with US-Mexico CBRs; the strategic use of
CBRs in Canada-US relations, e.g. softwood lumber and salmon disputes;
and, the implications of the post 9/11 security discourses and tighter
border controls on Canada-US CBRs.
Victoria Lennox is a graduate of the University of Ottawa and the University of Oxford. She also was the President of Oxford Entrepreneurs in 2008. An earlier version of this paper was submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Degree of Master of Science in Global Governance & Diplomacy at the University of Oxford. The author has a number of startups to her credit and is on the move. She can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
1 Literature on European CBRs developed in response to early European cross-border initiatives such as INTERREG in the 1990s and arose out of literature on European integration, frontiers and regional regimes (e.g. Anderson and Bort, 1997; Perkmann, 2002, 2003; Scott, 1999; Keating, 1997, 1998; Ohmae, 1995).
2 Examples of relevant actors include: individuals (Rosenau, 1997), non-governmental organizations (NGOs) (Rosenau, 1992, 1997; Weiss, 2000; Stoker, 1998), transnational networks (Keck and Sikkink, 1998), epistemic communities (Benz and Furst, 2003), multinational corporations (MNCs), and international organizations (IOs) (Weiss, 2000; Rosenau, 1992, 1997).
3 As manifest in the liberalization of economies, emergence of knowledge-intensive capitalism and global financial centers, growing economic interdependence, and increasing multinational corporate control over strategic resources.
4 This may take many forms, ranging from developing legislation to give effect to international laws to participating in international negotiations (de Mestral, 2005).
5 The methodology for the PRI study involved research and analysis; a survey of 110 leaders and executive interviews; and six regional roundtables engaging more than 200 leaders. This study constitutes the most advanced empirically-based study to date on Canada-US CBRs.
6 For instance, INTERREG programs from 1994-1997 functioned as structural incentives for cross-border programs (Scott, 1998; Clarke, 2000).
7 For instance, the Pacific Northwest Economic Region (PNWER) piloted the International Border Enforcement Team and NEXUS Plus border security projects that were later implemented along the entire border.
8 This of course varies in intensity in accordance with the exchange rate of the Canadian dollar.
9 Washington State greatly supported Vancouver in its bid for the 2010 Olympics, recognizing that what was good for BC was good for the region as a whole. Rather than providing redistributive support for the 2010 bid, members of the PNWER created the 2010 Coordinating Council to “develop coordination of efforts” between states, provinces and private sector organizations (PNWER Website, 2010 Winter Olympics 2008).
10 In Canada, the legal environment is further complicated by the fact that issues pertaining to the environment and economy are concurrently held by federal and provincial governments.
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