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Atlantic Coastal Zoning Information Steering Committee

In 1992, the Council of Maritime Premiers gave rise to the Atlantic Coastal Zoning Information Steering Committee (ACZISC); it was initially set up to ensure that provincial departments had access to the zonal information that they required for decision-making, and to facilitate information management and resource mapping. Soon thereafter, membership in ACZISC was opened up to seven interested federal departments. Later, membership was also extended to the private sector and to First Nations. ACZISC continues to operate.

The current purpose of ACZISC is that of "information sharing" in respect of coastal zoning issues. Related projects deal with: database directory; inventory of coastal mapping projects; information on how to share data; and, maps and imagery on-line.

The Steering Committee for ACZISC is a committee of equals; it was not initiated by a particular department and no department has taken the lead. The Steering Committee -- which meets about three to four times each year -- has representation from all of the member departments, private industry and First Nations organizations. The Steering Committee has terms of reference, by-laws and operational protocols, and decides what activities ACZISC will undertake. There are a number of working groups that report to the Steering Committee.

There is a small, two-member Secretariat that carries out the work for ACZISC. The Secretariat is located in the International Oceans Institute of Canada on the Dalhousie University campus.

The Secretariat reports to the Steering Committee and takes direction from it. When the Steering Committee is not meeting, direction to the Secretariat on time-sensitive issues is provided by an Executive Council which has four members -- one each for the Provinces, the federal departments, the private sector and First Nations.

Together the provincial departments contribute $65,000 to ACZISC; that funding is matched by the seven federal departments. There is no enabling agreement currently in place. Recently the Regional Directors General of the federal departments developed a federal MOU to set out their funding responsibilities for the next three years. However, the pooling of funds is complicated by the different methods employed by federal departments to transfer the operating money: some request an invoice from ACZISC, so that they can provide payment for services rendered; others prefer their contribution to flow to a designated department, which is then in charge of transferring the funds to the ACZISC.

The case study for ACZISC said that "this horizontal initiative has been less problematic than originally anticipated, perhaps for two main reasons: it is good value for the dollar, and no one department really owns it".

Lessons Learned:

Atlantic Coastal Zone Information Steering Committee

In its nine years of operation, the Atlantic Coastal Zone Information Steering Committee (ACZISC) has been seen as a successful horizontal initiative. Some of the key lessons learned have been:

  • resource issues are critical; the pooling of funds is the area of horizontal cooperation that causes the most concern for ACZISC; since so many departments and agencies contribute the funds, the process is not smooth
  • importance of the horizontal structure; the effective functioning of the Steering Committee is one key to the success of ACZISC; the Steering Committee has benefitted from involving all the partners and having senior representation from the two levels of government
  • a sense of shared responsibility is important; ACZISC works well, largely because all the partners share in the responsibility for ensuring its success
  • patience is required for horizontal initiatives; the case study stated that "you have to have patience to work across boundaries; it takes longer to get consensus but you do get better decisions and less hassle when implementing policies and decisions at either level of government"
  • good cooperation exists among regional offices of government; the case study suggested that the regional offices of government seem to be able to cooperate more readily than head offices; the former tend to be more flexible whereas head offices get tied up in mandates, legislative issues, etc