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Old 05-19-2020, 01:38 AM
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Why are Canada's Atlantic provinces relatively unknown/underdeveloped?


I'm talking about New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland and Labrador.

Despite a seemingly advantageous position on the Atlantic coast, these provinces have only a few mid-sized cities (the largest, Halifax, has just 400,000 people in its metro area). They are relatively poor. Unlike, say, Vancouver or Montreal, they are not an international travel destination. They rarely make the world news, and I would venture to say that very little is known about them outside of Canada.

I understand that they have some challenging weather and maybe some dodgy tides, but are there other reasons why these provinces remain so underdeveloped and off the radar?
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Old 05-19-2020, 01:49 AM
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I am not a Canadian, but my WAG is that it's partly that the vast majority of Canada's population lies within a hundred miles of the U.S. border. The Atlantic provinces are well situated for oceanic trade, but they are a far distance from the American border.
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Old 05-19-2020, 02:20 AM
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My guess, but I'm theorising here, is the existence of the Saint Lawrence river. In the United States, the East Coast - particularly New York and Boston - developed very fast and early on in the country's history as economic centres, because that is where the ports were that handled trade with Europe and where immigrants arrived. Canada has the Saint Lawrence river, which allows ships coming in from the Atlantic to gar far inland. That allowed the economically dominant urban centres (Montreal at first, later surpassed by Toronto) to develop further inland, closer to where the resources of the country are.
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Old 05-19-2020, 03:30 AM
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You see the same thing with New Hampshire and Maine beaches. Yes, they are very nice, but summer lasts for about an hour and a half. I'm sure it's even worse further north.

Why would I want to sunbathe in Newfoundland and freeze my balls off when I can go to ports further south and be warm?

Last edited by UltraVires; 05-19-2020 at 03:30 AM.
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Old 05-19-2020, 04:15 AM
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The OP mentioned Vancouver by name, yet didn't seem to notice that the west coast has no major cities either. North of Vancouver is no different than north of Montreal. Velocity had a good guess about being distant from the USA, but in my opinion it's just a coincidence resulting from the fact that the border is practically a straight line east-west. Too far from the border is identical to too far north and too damn cold.

And looking at the map, there's not too much on the east coast of Asia either. North of Japan, forget it. The west coast of Europe seems to be an exception, possibly resulting from those countries being smaller than the other three coasts, and a few centuries headstart in modernization.
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Old 05-19-2020, 04:51 AM
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The west coast of Europe seems to be an exception, possibly resulting from those countries being smaller than the other three coasts, and a few centuries headstart in modernization.
Don't discount the effect of the North Atlantic Drift
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Old 05-19-2020, 05:46 AM
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My guess, but I'm theorising here, is the existence of the Saint Lawrence river...
A river can be an inducement for commerce, but a barrier as well. If a shipping center developed in Halifax, the trucking connection to the USA would be unfavorable due to the river being in the way.
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Old 05-19-2020, 06:25 AM
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Speaking only of Nova Scotia where I briefly lived and know a little about, its economy was based on fishing, which collapsed due to overfishing and abuse and has never recovered, shipbuilding, which collapsed as all the big trees were cut down and wooden ships became obsolete anyway, coal mining -- they got the coal out and the mines were abandoned. Pattern? It has the agricultural issues of New England -- short season and poor soil in most places, little flat ground.

Now the main industries are tourism (again, short season), and cutting the small trees for paper pulp.

Prince Edward Island is flat and has good soil, used to be a beautiful mixed farmland but big ag has taken it over and now it is mostly monocropped potatoes.

I live on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. I think it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Due to its poverty and isolation it may remain that way.

Last edited by Ulfreida; 05-19-2020 at 06:26 AM.
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Old 05-19-2020, 06:30 AM
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I would agree with Schnitte. The Saint Lawrence creates a different economic dynamic for Canada, compared to the east coast of the US. It is a broad maritime highway that goes far inland, all the way to the Great Lakes. Particularly with the development of the St Lawrence Seaway, trade doesn’t need to be landed at harbours in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to be shipped inland, unlike New York or Boston in the States.

Prior to the development of the Seaway, Halifax played a greater economic role, and in fact access to Halifax as a year-round ice-free port was one of the goals of Confederation. Our Constitution required the federal government to build a railway connecting Ontario and Quebec with Halifax. Halifax also boomed during the 19th century as the major base for the Royal Navy, but that ended in the early 20th century as Britain withdrew.

One of the major themes in Canadian history analysis has been the central role of the Saint Lawrence in our economic and political development. See “The Commercial Empire of the Saint Lawrence” by Donald Creighton, for example, as well as the earlier writings by Harold Innis.
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Old 05-19-2020, 06:39 AM
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That’s the general comment about Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.

Prince Edward Island is way too small to have much economic impact, with a population of only ~ 150,000 people.

Newfoundland & Labrador is different. It’s nickname is “The Rock” and it’s well-earned. It doesn’t have much by way of agriculture. It’s economy has generally been based on the sea, but that only goes so far, especially when the cod fisheries collapsed. It doesn’t have a lot of industry, in part because it’s so far away from the rest of North American settlement. Off-shore oil is a big component of its economy.
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Old 05-19-2020, 06:40 AM
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I am not a Canadian, but my WAG is that it's partly that the vast majority of Canada's population lies within a hundred miles of the U.S. border. The Atlantic provinces are well situated for oceanic trade, but they are a far distance from the American border.


New Brunswick shares a border with Maine.
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Old 05-19-2020, 06:53 AM
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The OP mentioned Vancouver by name, yet didn't seem to notice that the west coast has no major cities either.
Vancouver metropolitan area has a population of about 2.5 million, which strikes me as a major city. It’s Canada’s 3rd largest, and the Port of Vancouver is the busiest port on our west coast.

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North of Vancouver is no different than north of Montreal.
Vancouver is on the coast and there are other port cities to the north on the coast. Montreal is not on the coast but far inland. Not sure what you mean here?
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Old 05-19-2020, 06:55 AM
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A river can be an inducement for commerce, but a barrier as well. If a shipping center developed in Halifax, the trucking connection to the USA would be unfavorable due to the river being in the way.
Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are south of the Saint Lawrence and New Brunswick has a land border with the States.
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Old 05-19-2020, 07:14 AM
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...but in my opinion it's just a coincidence resulting from the fact that the border is practically a straight line east-west.
The border is a straight line out west, but not so in the east. The southern most point in Canada, Pelee Point and Island in Ontario, is the same latitude as Northern California, while the border with Maine is at 47 degrees.

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Old 05-19-2020, 07:21 AM
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The OP mentioned Vancouver by name, yet didn't seem to notice that the west coast has no major cities either. North of Vancouver is no different than north of Montreal. Velocity had a good guess about being distant from the USA, but in my opinion it's just a coincidence resulting from the fact that the border is practically a straight line east-west. Too far from the border is identical to too far north and too damn cold.

And looking at the map, there's not too much on the east coast of Asia either. North of Japan, forget it. The west coast of Europe seems to be an exception, possibly resulting from those countries being smaller than the other three coasts, and a few centuries headstart in modernization.
I think all of this is readily explainable by terrain and climate.
1. The Canadian Maritimes, if you look at them, are either remote islands, or remote peninsulas that are cut off from the mainland by the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Labrador is a mountainous tundra climate.
2. Vancouver is a major city, but as you get north of it, the province becomes very mountainous, cut by bays, and a lot of it is inland of Vancouver Island. North of that, it's so mountainous that there's nowhere that makes sense to build except fishing towns.
3. East Asia north of Japan has a very cold climate. The Sea of Okhotsk is not navigable for much of the winter due to drift ice. Again, it doesn't support much except fishing towns.
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Old 05-19-2020, 07:27 AM
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Newfoundland & Labrador is different. It’s nickname is “The Rock” and it’s well-earned. It doesn’t have much by way of agriculture.
I've heard that there is more produce grown in the backyards of Toronto than in the entirety of Newfoundland and Labrador.

ETA: I don't know if that is true but if it isn't, it is close.

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Old 05-19-2020, 07:30 AM
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Halifax also boomed during the 19th century as the major base for the Royal Navy, but that ended in the early 20th century as Britain withdrew.
It's no coincidence that one of Canada's large banks is the Bank of Nova Scotia.
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Old 05-19-2020, 07:38 AM
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Halifax also boomed in 1917.
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Old 05-19-2020, 07:51 AM
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A river can be an inducement for commerce, but a barrier as well. If a shipping center developed in Halifax, the trucking connection to the USA would be unfavorable due to the river being in the way.
We're talking 18th and early 19th century here, the time when the major urban centres in Canada and the US developed. At that time trucking was not an available mode of transport; not even railways were - the most efficient way of hauling large amounts of cargo was by boat, both on the oceans and on rivers and canals (viz. the importance of the Erie Canal in the economic history of the United States). Sure, now trucking is an available mode of transport. But by now, path dependencies have come into play which have had the effect that the urban centres are still where they developed in the past.
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Old 05-19-2020, 08:19 AM
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Link to article on the Laurentian Thesis.
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Old 05-19-2020, 08:23 AM
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It's no coincidence that one of Canada's large banks is the Bank of Nova Scotia.
But moved its head office to Toronto in 1900.
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Old 05-19-2020, 08:25 AM
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New Brunswick shares a border with Maine.
It does, but that bit of Maine really doesn't count. There's no settlements of any size in Aroostook County, Maine, which makes up most of the border. It's about a five hour drive from Fredericton to Portland, and those are only medium sized towns of about 60,000. To go from a real population center to another, you're looking at the ten hour drive from Halifax to Boston.

Compare that to the neighboring communities on the Niagara peninsula or west of the Cascades, where you have Detroit and Windsor or Vancouver and Seattle just an hour or so away from each other, and whose suburbs intermingle. Heck, you could make an argument that Buffalo, Niagara Falls(-es), Hamilton and Toronto make up one giant, border straddling megalopolis.

Those are regions that take advantage of their proximity to the US. Atlantic Canada might as well all be nestled up with Newfoundland for its ability to leverage the population of the US in its favor.
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Old 05-19-2020, 08:39 AM
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Sure, but that's a different statement than saying there far away from the US border.

Point of terminology: Nova Scotia, PEI and New Brunswick are the Maritime provinces. Those three, plus N&L, are the Atlantic provinces.
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Old 05-19-2020, 09:00 AM
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Speaking only of Nova Scotia where I briefly lived and know a little about, its economy was based on fishing, which collapsed due to overfishing and abuse and has never recovered, shipbuilding, which collapsed as all the big trees were cut down and wooden ships became obsolete anyway, coal mining -- they got the coal out and the mines were abandoned. Pattern? It has the agricultural issues of New England -- short season and poor soil in most places, little flat ground.

Now the main industries are tourism (again, short season), and cutting the small trees for paper pulp.

Prince Edward Island is flat and has good soil, used to be a beautiful mixed farmland but big ag has taken it over and now it is mostly monocropped potatoes.

I live on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia. I think it is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Due to its poverty and isolation it may remain that way.
I visited the Maritimes a few years ago, and I agree with this all. My Great Grandmother was born in SpringHill. The mine closed so the family moved on and the town is utterly depressing today.

Cape Breton Island as well as the coastal drive from Halifax to there are stunningly beautiful- we did it in the fall. But Highway 316 was so bad I feared we had damaged our rental car just driving on it.

It really was a haul even reaching Sydney, involving a flight to Boston (the closest the discount airlines flew) then a drive to Portland, a ferry to Yarmouth, then a drive across to Sydney. This was a sightseeing trip but did take several days. Yes, Halifax has an airport but you'd have a heart attack checking prices from Minneapolis to there since those airports are in bed with different legacy carriers and it's impossible to fly on discount airlines. The trip was expensive enough when the Canadian dollar was at parity. It's a lot simpler and cheaper for U.S. tourists to go to Maine.

P.E.I has the house of Anne and beaches, but otherwise looks like Midwestern U.S. farm country.

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Old 05-19-2020, 09:17 AM
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Yes, Halifax has an airport but you'd have a heart attack checking prices from Minneapolis to there since those airports are in bed with different legacy carriers and it's impossible to fly on discount airlines.
We don't have discount airlines in Canada, except in the most densely populated areas (eg Porter in Toronto area). Combination of huge country and low population. Airports here are non-profits, and our local airport is always trying to get US carriers to expand, but the population likely doesn't work for discounts, which have a low margin to start with. We did have a direct flight to Chicago for a few years, but the airline discontinued because it wasn't profitable.

And WestJet, one of our two main airlines (if it survives) is by no means a legacy airline. It's less than 20 years old, and was set up to take advantage of deregulation.
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Old 05-20-2020, 11:50 PM
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We should also point out that Newfoundland was a separate "country" until 1949. There was a debate whether it should amalgamate with Canada or the USA, and eventually picked Canada. (Britain was anxious to dump it on someone after WWII when it could no longer afford to maintain a bankrupt colony).

The area is relatively isolated from the rest of North America. It was fine when it was on the sail route from Europe, and indeed was a major part of the colonies at that time. The agricultural land area is limited and mostly developed by the late 1800's - and much of the rest is either by climate or terrain not agricultural land. (Just go to Google Earth or Maps satellite view to compare how much of that terrain is really agricultural - then compare with the area from Quebec City to Detroit) But as the settlements in central Canada grew, traffic bypassed them to get to Montreal and access to the far richer markets of Quebec and Ontario, and central USA. Railways really got going in the late 1800's, but so did steam-powered ships; and a ship although slower can carry a lot more cargo a lot cheaper than a railway of that time. It made more sense to ship cargo to Montreal than to load it on a train in Halifax.

A fascinating rad would be Pierre Berton's two books, "The National Dream" and "The Last Spike" about building the railway across Canada. It was an astounding feat of the time and meant that the Montreal port now fed a massive market stretching to Vancouver and Victoria. As industry grew, Toronto and Montreal had better cheaper access to the resources of the continent than facilitated industrialization, thus pushing the Maritimes even further into the backwater.
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Old 05-20-2020, 11:55 PM
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We don't have discount airlines in Canada, except in the most densely populated areas (eg Porter in Toronto area). Combination of huge country and low population. Airports here are non-profits, and our local airport is always trying to get US carriers to expand, but the population likely doesn't work for discounts, which have a low margin to start with. We did have a direct flight to Chicago for a few years, but the airline discontinued because it wasn't profitable.

And WestJet, one of our two main airlines (if it survives) is by no means a legacy airline. It's less than 20 years old, and was set up to take advantage of deregulation.
Also, IIRC, the feds are trying to avoid allowing US discount airlines to invade. They want them to do cross-border, but won't allow a US carrier to fly for example a Calgary-Toronto-New York flight that can allow passengers to buy only the Calgary-Toronto portion. that would lead to eventually the end of Canadian airlines and all Canadian passengers traffic being routed through US "hub" airports.

Face it, if we were one big country, Calgary travel would go to Denver, Chicago, or Minneapolis hubs then on to Toronto. This is why we don't have open skies.
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Old 05-21-2020, 01:38 AM
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Something that is missing from the explanations that is also relevant is the demographic shift of the eastern European immigrants that all landed on the east coast and then got the hell out and moved west.

My grandfather arrived rom Poland and worked in the coal mines near Sydney NS. My father and his siblings were all born there and when you talk to them and family friends they all hated it there. The Maritimes definitely had a British based societal class system. At the top of the list were people of British descent, followed by Scottish, then Irish, then eastern European immigrants were lumped at the bottom.

My family tells many stores of getting the shit beat out of them every day at school because they were dirty immigrants. As soon as jobs started to open up after the depression in Ontario and the west, all those hard working immigrants fled.
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Old 05-21-2020, 11:46 AM
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Something that is missing from the explanations that is also relevant is the demographic shift of the eastern European immigrants that all landed on the east coast and then got the hell out and moved west.

My grandfather arrived rom Poland and worked in the coal mines near Sydney NS. My father and his siblings were all born there and when you talk to them and family friends they all hated it there. The Maritimes definitely had a British based societal class system. At the top of the list were people of British descent, followed by Scottish, then Irish, then eastern European immigrants were lumped at the bottom.

My family tells many stores of getting the shit beat out of them every day at school because they were dirty immigrants. As soon as jobs started to open up after the depression in Ontario and the west, all those hard working immigrants fled.
OTOH, many in the Maritimes head west for jobs and have for decades. I suppose the difference is the ones with deeper roots there move back when they retire. The booming Alberta economy was full of Newfies and others from there - a sign of the lack of jobs, particularly once the fisheries dwindled off.
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