Encyclopedia  |   World Factbook  |   World Flags  |   Reference Tables  |   List of Lists     
   Academic Disciplines  |   Historical Timeline  |   Themed Timelines  |   Biographies  |   How-Tos     
Sponsor by The Tattoo Collection
Canadian Maritimes
Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Canadian Maritimes

Often simply "The Maritimes", the Canadian Maritimes are a region of Canada on the Atlantic coast, northeast of New England, southeast of the Gaspé, and southwest of Newfoundland. The Maritime provinces are New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.

Newfoundland and Labrador is sometimes mistakenly called a Maritime province, but, although it is maritime, it became a province much later than the Maritimes, and the name has been reserved for the provinces which it has always described. Newfoundland and Labrador can be called part of Atlantic Canada.

There is occasional talk of a Maritime Union of the three provinces to have a greater say in national affairs, however, the first discussions on the subject in 1864 at the Charlottetown Conference led to the larger Canadian Confederation instead. So far this remains an idea and is not likely in the near future.

Table of contents
1 Economy
2 Politics
3 History
4 See also
5 External links


Industries of the area have long been dependent upon natural resources. These include fishing, logging, pulp and paper, and farming. In recent years all three provinces have become major tourist centres, especially Prince Edward Island. There is little manufacturing in the Maritimes compared with the rest of Canada. Very recently off-shore oil and gas exploration has begun to increase the wealth of the region, although the initial optimism about the potential of off-shore resources appears to have been exaggerated. The Maritime region has consistently been one of the poorer regions of Canada, and has long received transfer payments from other provinces. Since the 1990s the region has experienced an exceptionally difficult period with the collapse of large portions of the ground fishery throughout Atlantic Canada, the closing of coal mines and a steel mill on Cape Breton Island, and the closure of military bases in all three provinces.

The economies of the three Maritime provinces have been less healthy than those of the rest of Canada for many decades, with only the closely related province of Newfoundland and Labrador being poorer. The per capita income of the Maritimes has long been lower than the Canadian average. For instance in 1959 the average income for a person in the Maritimes was one-third below the Canadian average. Wages are also lower in the region while unemployment is higher. For decades the Maritimes have been among Canada?s so called "have not" provinces that receive more from the federal government than they give. Transfer payments have been paid by the wealthier provinces to the Maritimes since the creation of the scheme in 1957. While the Maritimes account for 6.7 percent of Canada's population they have only five percent of the nation's GDP. Because of these economic conditions, a large number of emigrants move west to Ontario and further each year, and few immigrants from abroad decide to relocate themselves in the region. Maritime population growth has thus been far slower than the rest of the country for over a century. In 1901, Halifax, Nova Scotia was Canada's eighth largest city; by 1931 it was only the thirteenth. In the same period Saint John, New Brunswick saw a similar fall from ninth to fourteenth. Most of Canada's large corporations are based in Central Canada. Even many of those that began their existence in the Maritimes, such as the Bank of Nova Scotia, are now often based in Toronto. The vast majority of Canada's economic and business elite are also from regions other than the Maritimes, especially Central Canada with some from the far western provinces of British Columbia and Alberta.

While this relative poverty has been long lasting, it has not always been present. The mid-19th century, especially the 1850s and 1860s has long been seen as a "Golden Age" in the Maritimes. Growth was strong and the region had one of British North America's most extensive manufacturing sectors. The question of why the Maritimes fell from being a centre of Canadian manufacturing to being an economic hinterland is thus a central one to the study of the regions pecuniary difficulties. The period in which the decline occurred had a great many potential culprits. 1867 saw Nova Scotia and New Brunswick merged with the Canadas in Confederation with Prince Edward Island joining them six years later in 1873. Canada was formed only a year after free trade in the form of the Reciprocity Agreement had ended with the United States. As a result, the 1870s saw the introduction and implementation of John A. Macdonald's National Policy creating a system of protective tariffs around the new nation. Throughout the period there was also significant technological change both in the production and transportation of goods.

The cause of economic malaise in the Maritimes is an issue of great debate and controversy among historians, economists, and geographers. The differing opinions can approximately be divided into the "structuralists," who argue that poor policy decisions are to blame, and the others, who argue that unavoiadable technological and geographical factors caused the decline.

The exact date that the Maritimes began to fall behind the rest of Canada is difficult to determine. Historian Kris Inwood places the date very early, at least in Nova Scotia, finding clear signs that the Maritimes "Golden Age" of the mid-nineteenth century was over by 1870, before Confederation or the National Policy could have had any significant impact. Richard Caves places the date closer to 1885, however. T.W. Acheson takes a similar view and provides considerable evidence that the early 1880s were in fact a booming period in Nova Scotia and this growth was only undermined towards the end of that decade. David Alexander argues that any earlier declines were simply part of the global Long Depression, and that the Maritimes first fell behind the rest of Canada when the great boom period of the early twentieth century had little effect on the region. E.R. Forbes, however, emphasizes that the precipitous decline did not occur until after the First World War during the 1920s when new railway policies were implemented. Forbes also contends that significant Canadian defence spending during the Second World War favoured powerful political interests in Central Canada such as C.D. Howe, when major Maritime shipyards and factories, as well as Canada's largest steel mill, located in Cape Breton Island, fared poorly.

One of the most important changes, and one that almost certainly had an effect, was the revolution in transportation that occurred at this time. The Maritimes were connected to central Canada by the Intercolonial Railway in the 1870s, removing a longstanding barrier to trade. For the first time this placed the Maritime manufacturers in direct competition with those of Central Canada. Maritime trading patterns shifted considerably from mainly trading with New England, Britain, and the Caribbean, to being focused on commerce with the Canadian interior, enforced by the federal government's tariff policies.

Simultaneously with the construction of railways in the region, the age of the wooden sailing ship began to come to an end, being replaced by larger and faster steel steam ships. The Maritimes had long been a centre for shipbuilding and this industry was hurt by the change. The larger ships were also less likely to call on the smaller population centres such as Saint John and Halifax, preferring to travel to cities like New York and Montreal. Even the Cunard Line, founded by Haligonian Samuel Cunard, stopped making more than a single ceremonial voyage to Halifax each year.

More controversial than the role of technology is the argument over the role of politics in the origins of the region's decline. Confederation and the tariff and railway freight policies that followed have often been blamed for having a deleterious effect on the Maritime economies. Arguments have been made that the Maritimes' poverty was caused by control over policy by Central Canada which used the national structures for its own enrichment. This was the central view of the Maritime Rights movement of the 1920s, which advocated greater local control over the region's finances. T.W. Acheson is one of the main proponents of this theory. He notes the growth that was occurring during the early years of the National Policy in Nova Scotia demonstrates how the effects of railway fares and the tariff structure helped undermine this growth. Capitalists from Central Canada purchased the factories and industries of the Maritimes from their bankrupt local owners and proceeded to close many of them down, consolidating the industry in Central Canada.

The policies in the early years of Confederation were designed by Central Canadian interests, and they reflected the needs of that region. The unified Canadian market and the introduction of railroads created a relative weakness in the Maritime economies. Central to this concept, according to Acheson, was the lack of metropolises in the Maritimes.

Montreal and Toronto were well suited to benefit from the development of large-scale manufacturing and extensive railway systems in [Quebec]] and Ontario, these being the goals of the Macdonald and Laurier governments. In the Martimes the situation was very different. Today New Brunswick has a number of mid-sized centres in Saint John, Moncton, and Fredericton but no significant population centre. Nova Scotia has a growing metropolitan area surrounding Halifax, but a contracting population in industrial Cape Breton, and several smaller centres in Bridgewater, Kentville, Yarmouth, and Pictou County. Prince Edward Island's only signficant population centres are in Charlottetown and Summerside.

Each region within the Maritimes has developed over time to exploit different resources and expertise. Saint John became a centre of the timber trade and shipbuilding, and is currently a centre for oil refining and some manufacturing. The northern New Brunswick communities of Edmundston, Campbellton, Dalhousie, Bathurst, and Newcastle are focused on the pulp and paper industry and some mining activity. Moncton was a centre for railways and has changed its focus to becoming a multi-modal transportation centre with associated manufacturing and retail interests. The Halifax metropolitan area has come to dominate peninsular Nova Scotia as a retail and service centre, but that province's industries were spread out from the coal and steel industries of industrial Cape Breton and Pictou counties, the mixed farming of the North Shore and Annapolis Valley, and the fishing industry was primarily focused on the South Shore and Eastern Shore. Prince Edward Island is largely dominated by farming, fishing, and tourism.

Given the geographic diversity of the various sub-regions with the Maritimes, policies to centralize the population and economy were not initially successful, thus Maritime factories closed while those in Ontario and Quebec prospered.

The traditional Staples Thesis, advocated by scholars such as S.A. Saunders, looks at the resource endowments of the Maritimes and argues that it was the decline of the traditional industries of shipbuilding and fishing that lead to Maritime poverty, since these processes were rooted in geography, and thus all but inevitable. Inwood, has revived the staples approach and looks at a number of geographic weaknesses relative to Central Canada. He repeats Acheson?s argument that the region lacks major urban centres, but adds that the Maritimes were also lacking the great rivers that lead to the cheap and abundant hydro-electric power, key to Quebec and Ontario's urban and manufacturing development, that the extraction costs of Maritime resources were relatively higher (particularly in the case of Cape Breton coal), and that the soils of the region were poorer and thus the agricultural sector weaker.

One comparison made with the wealthier areas of Canada is that of culture. Today few academics make such a claim, but it still a common explanation in other circles. Stephen Harper famously blamed the Maritimes for their "culture of defeat" that was keeping the region poorer. Some writers have also alleged that Maritime business people were unwilling to take risks or invest in manufacturing, a thesis Acheson devotes much attention to debunking.

In recent years dependency theory has been used to examine the situation of the Maritimes, and while it rejects most traditional economic models it does correspond with the evidence.


All three provinces are currently governed by the Progressive Conservatives, however Maritime Conservatism since the Second World War has been very much part of the Red Tory tradition, a key influence being former Nova Scotia Premier and federal PC leader Robert Stanfield.

In recent years the social-democratic New Democratic Party has made significant inroads both federally and provincially in the region. The NDP has elected MP's from New Brunswick, but most of the focus of the party at the federal and provincial levels is currently in the Halifax area of Nova Scotia. Industrial Cape Breton has historically been a region of labour activism, electing CCF (and later NDP) MP's, and even counted many early members of the Communist Party of Canada in the pre-Second World War era.

The Maritimes is generally very socially conservative, but unlike the province of Alberta, the Maritimes also have fiscally socialist tendencies. It is because of the lack of support for fiscal conservatism that federal parties such as the Canadian Alliance never had much success in the region, and the level of support for the new Conservative Party of Canada in the region is uncertain.

One area within the region where both fiscal and social conservatism do coincide and where the federal Reform Party and Canadian Alliance have met success is in the central-western part of New Brunswick in the St. John River valley north of Saint John and south of Grand Falls. Contributing demographics include a predominantly Anglophone population residing in a largely rural agrarian setting. One influence might be proximity to the International Boundary and the state of Maine. The valley is also settled by descendents of United Empire Loyalists, some of whom established fundamentalist Christian congregations in the area which continue to influence certain segments of society. There are also a large number of active and retired military personnel located in the Fredericton and Oromocto area as a result of the large military base at CFB Gagetown. Another area in the region with smatterings of coinciding fiscal and social conservatism is the Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia.

The Liberal Party of Canada has done well in the area in the past due to its interventionist policies. The Acadian Peninsula region of New Brunswick, long dependent upon seasonal employment in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence fishery, tends to vote for the Liberals or NDP for this reason. In the 1997 federal election, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's Liberals endured a bitter defeat to the PC's and NDP in many ridings as a result of unpopular cuts to unemployment benefits for seasonal workers, as well as closures of several Canadian Armed Forces bases, the refusal to honour a promise to rescind the Goods and Services Tax, cutbacks to provincial equalization payments, health care, post-secondary education and regional transportation infrastructure such as airports, fishing harbours, seaports, and railways. Liberals only managed to hold onto seats in Prince Edward Island, and certain parts of Newfoundland and Labrador, and New Brunswick, while being shut out of Nova Scotia entirely for one of the first times in recent history.



Following the northerly retreat of glaciers at the end of the Wisconsin glaciation over ten thousand years ago, human settlement by Native Americans or First Nations began in the Maritimes with paleo Indians during the Early Period, ending around six thousand years ago.

The Middle Period, starting six thousand years ago, and ending three thousand years ago, was dominated by rising sea levels from the melting glaciers in polar regions. This is also when what is called the Laurentian tradition started among existing First Nations peoples, with some evidence of burial mounds and other ceremonial sites existing in the St. John River valley.

The Late Period extended from three thousand years ago until first contact with European settlers and was dominated by the organization of First Nations peoples into the Algonquian-influenced Abenaki Nation which existed largely in present-day interior Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, and theMi'kmaq Nation which inhabited all of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, eastern New Brunswick and the southern Gaspé. The primarily agrarian Maliseet Nation settled throughout the St. John River and Alagash River valleys of present-day New Brunswick and Maine. The Passamaquoddy Nation inhabited the northwestern coastal regions of the present-day Bay of Fundy. The Mi'kmaq Nation is also assumed to have crossed the present-day Cabot Strait at around this time to settle on the south coast of Newfoundland but were in a minority position compared to the Beothuk Nation.

Pre-history - 1604

The Maritimes was the first area in Canada to be settled by Europeans. There is speculation that Viking explorers discovered and settled in the Vinland region around 1000 AD, which is when the L'Anse aux Meadows settlement in Newfoundland and Labrador has been dated, and it is possible that further exploration was made into the present-day Maritimes and northeastern United States. There have also been undocumented reports of other explorers having sighted the Maritimes in the form of Irish Monks (before 1000 AD) and of Prince Henry Sinclair in 1398.

Both Giovanni Caboto and Giovanni da Verrazano are reliably reported to have sailed in or near Maritime waters during their voyages of discovery for England and France respectively. Several Portuguese explorers have also documented various parts of the Maritimes, namely Diego Homem. However, it was French explorer Jacques Cartier who made the first detailed reconnaissance of the region for a European power, and in so doing, claimed the region for the King of France. Cartier was followed by explorer/cartographer Samuel de Champlain who established in 1604 the second permanent European settlement in North America, following Spain's settlement at St. Augustine. Champlain's settlement at Saint Croix Island, later moved to Port Royale, survived where the ill-fated English settlement at Roanoke did not, and pre-dated the more successful English settlement at Jamestown by three years. Champlain went on to greater fame as the founder of New France which comprises much of the present-day lower Saint Lawrence River valley in the province of Quebec.

1604 - 1713

Champlain's success in the region, which came to be called Acadie, led to the fertile tidal marshes surrounding the southeastern and northeastern reaches of the Bay of Fundy being populated by French immigrants who called themselves Acadien. Acadians eventually built small settlements throughout what is today mainland Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, as well as Ile-Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island), Ile-Royale (Cape Breton Island), and other shorelines of the Gulf of St. Lawrence in present-day Newfoundland and Labrador, and Quebec. Acadian settlements had primarily agrarian economies, although there were many early examples of Acadian fishing settlements in southwestern Nova Scotia and in Ile-Royale, as well as along the south and west coasts of Newfoundland, the Gaspe Peninsula, and the present-day Côte-Nord region of Quebec. It should be noted that most Acadian fishing activities were overshadowed by the comparatively enormous seasonal European fishing fleets based out of Newfoundland which took advantage of proximity to the Grand Banks.

The growing English colonies along the American seaboard to the south, and various European wars between England and France during the 17th and 18th centuries saw Acadia, and Acadians at the centre of world-scale geopolitical forces. In 1613, Virginian raiders captured Port Royale and in 1621 Acadia, that being most of present-day Atlantic Canada, Anticosti Island and the Gaspe Peninsula, was ceded to Sir William Alexander who renamed it Nova Scotia. By 1632, Acadia was returned to France under the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye, and the Port Royale settlement was moved to the site of nearby present-day Annapolis Royal. More French settlers, primarily from the Vienne, Normandie, and Brittany regions of France, continued to populate the colony of Acadia during the latter part of the 17th and early part of the 18th centuries. Important settlements also began in the Beaubassin region of the present-day Isthmus of Chignecto, and in the St. John River valley, and settlers began to establish communities on Ile-Saint-Jean and Ile-Royale as well.

In 1654, New England raiders attacked Acadian settlements on the Annapolis Basin, starting a period of uncertainty for Acadians throughout the English constitutional crises under Oliver Cromwell, and only being properly resolved under the Treaty of Breda in 1667 when France's claim to the region was reaffirmed. Colonial administration by France throughout the history of Acadia was contemptuous at best. France's priorities were in settling and strengthening its claim on New France and the exploration and settlement of interior North America and the Mississippi River valley.

1713 - 1745

Further French-English conflict resulted in the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 which saw France formally relinquish Acadia to Britain. Confusion over the boundaries between Acadia, New France, and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts left Britain in possession of what is present-day mainland Nova Scotia. The early British capital of the Colony of Nova Scotia (sometimes referred to as the 14th Colony) was established at Annapolis Royal, where Fort Anne was constructed.

France still maintained control over much of present-day New Brunswick and northern Maine, Ile-Saint-Jean, and Ile-Royale. In 1719, to further protect strategic interests in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and St. Lawrence River, France began the 20-year construction of a large fortress at Louisbourg on Ile-Royale. Massachusetts was increasingly concerned over reports of the capabilities of this fortress, and of privateers staging out of its harbour to raid New England fishermen on the Grand Banks. The War of the Austrian Succession saw Britain and France in conflict with each other, and in 1745 several warships and a small contingent of troops were sent from Boston, first to the Nova Scotian fishing port of Canso, and on to Louisbourg where they laid siege to the fortress until the French surrendered and were evacuated.

1745 - 1763

The British returned control of Ile-Royale to France with the fortress virtually intact three years later under the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle and the French reestablished their forces there. In 1749, to counter the rising threat of Louisbourg, Halifax was founded and the Royal Navy established a major naval base and citadel.

The Seven Years' War from 1756 to 1763 was the final struggle for European domination of North America. The French colony of New France was the objective and the present-day Maritime provinces saw conflict beginning in 1755 with the British capture of French forces at Fort Beausejour and Fort Gaspereau, guarding the Isthmus of Chignecto. In 1758, the fortress of Louisbourg was laid siege for a second time within 15 years, this time by in excess of 27,000 British soldiers and sailors with over 150 warships. After the French surrender, Louisbourg was thoroughly destroyed by British engineers to ensure it would never be reclaimed. With the fall of Louisbourg, French resistance in the region crumbled. British forces seized remaining French control over Acadia in the coming months, with Ile-Saint-Jean falling in 1759 to British forces on their way to Quebec City for the Siege of Quebec and ensuing Battle of the Plains of Abraham.

It was also during the course of this war that British administrators in Nova Scotia began the expulsion of the Acadians from their adopted homeland. Some Acadian families, and sometimes entire communities, escaped British soldiers tasked with their deportation, by hiding for years in hidden forest settlements, aided by the Mi'kmaq First Nations. These Acadians during the 19th century created new settlements in western Nova Scotia, southwestern and northwestern Cape Breton Island, and western Prince Edward Island, but their most significant concentration was along the New Brunswick shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

1763 - 1784

Following the Seven Years' War, empty Acadian lands were settled first by New England planters and then by foreign Protestants. Ile-Royale was renamed to Cape Breton Island and incorporated into the Colony of Nova Scotia at this time. Both the colonies of Nova Scotia (present-day Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) and St. John's Island (Prince Edward Island) were impacted during the American War of Independence, largely by privateering against American shipping, but several coastal communities were also the targets of American raiders.

The most significant impact from this war were the settling of Loyalist refugees. Following the Treaty of Paris in 1783, Loyalists persuaded Britain to split the Colony of Nova Scotia to create the neighbouring Colony of New Brunswick in 1784.

1784 - 1814

The Colony of St. John's Island was renamed to Prince Edward Island in 1798.

The War of 1812 had some impact on the shipping industry in the Maritime colonies of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island, however the signficant Royal Navy presence in Halifax and other ports in the region prevented any serious attempts by American raiders. Maritime and American privateers targeted unprotected shipping of both the United States and Britain respectively, further reducing trade. The American border with New Brunswick did not have any significant action during this conflict, although British forces did occupy a portion of coastal Maine at one point. The most significant incident from this war which occurred in the Maritimes was the British capture and detention of the American frigate USS Chesapeake in Halifax.

1814 - 1865

British settlement of the Maritimes, as the colonies came to be known, accelerated throughout the late 18th century and into the 19th century with significant immigration to the region as a result of Scottish migrants displaced by the Highland Clearances and Irish escaping the potato famine. As a result, significant portions of the three provinces are influenced by Celtic heritages, with Scottish Gaelic having been widely spoken, particularly in Cape Breton, although it is less prevalent today.

The American Civil War saw some Maritimers emigrate to the United States for participating in military service, however the majority of the conflict's impact was felt in the shipping industry since diplomatic tensions between Britain and the Unionist North with some naval posturing off Maritime coasts. Blockading by Union naval forces was common, particularly at Halifax, where Confederate navy ships sought refuge and reprovisioning.

1865 - 1873

New Brunswick and Nova Scotia were two of the original four provinces to enter into Confederation on July 1, 1867 while Prince Edward Island entered on July 1, 1873.

See also

External links