Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




Professor John D. Eyles




This thesis investigates the complexity of policy making in the Great Lakes. The International Joint Commission (IJC) is central to this investigation because of its binational position making recommendations to the Canadian and American governments under the 1972 Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. The central tenet of this research is that policy text, as a social system, reflects the social context in which it was formed. This research uses an Advocacy Coalition Framework (ACF), frame analysis and semiotic analysis to present an interpretive policy analysis. Main data sources are key informant interviews and policy texts. An advocacy coalition framework is used to identify and structure the values within the policy subsystem. The frame analysis builds on the role of values in policy, as represented by the IJC Biennial Reports. The semiotic analysis is used to investigate the policy text at a more detailed level. Hence semiotics will bring to the forefront both 'meaning' and a 'validation of values' to the policy process (Yanow, 1996). Each of these three analyses are contextualized within a detailed description of the socio-political context to understand "policy-oriented learning" (Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith, 1997). This thesis three main findings are: values (in the form of ideologies, interests, and beliefs) play a critical role in the nature of policy making; the IJC plays a pivotal role, as policy-broker; and environmental policy change occurs through human health frames linking ecosystem and human health. This work makes substantive, methodological, and theoretical contributions. Substantively, it provides Great Lakes policy makers and researchers with an understanding of the parameters of environmental policy, specifically how human health is being used as a catalyst for policy change. Methodologically, it addresses policy discourse, communication, policy paradoxes and policy meaning. Theory contributions arise from conceptualizing language and policy text as a social system and through policy "framing", specifically how problems are framed and re-framed in place over time.

McMaster University Library

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Geography Commons