Geography: Lecture 10
• This region is home to the three Maritime provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia,
Prince Edward Island) and Newfoundland and Labrador.
• These four provinces have the lowest populations of the Canadian provinces.
Economy of Atlantic Canada
• Unemployment rates are frequently the highest in Canada and there is heavy
dependence on Ottawa for economic support.
• What are the reasons for the weak economic performance of the area?
1. The division into four small provinces discourages an integrated economy.
2. Some of the natural resources in the area have been exhausted (coal, iron) or
3. The population is widely dispersed and consists of small markets.
4. The distance from major markets has suppressed the manufacturing base.
• Recent boosts to the economy:
Offshore petroleum deposits
Exporting energy to New England
Wealth returning to the area from commuters to Alberta’s oil sands
Physical Geography of Atlantic Canada
• The area contains two physiographic regions:
• The Appalachian Uplands and the Canadian Shield
• The Maritimes and the island of Newfoundland are located in the Appalachian Uplands;
Labrador is located in the Canadian Shield.
• The Appalachian Uplands are an ancient, eroded mountain chain (older than Rockies)
• Over millions of years, streams have cut deeply into the land resulting in hilly terrain with
rugged areas. • Labrador is located in the Canadian Shield.
• Most prominent features are the Torngat Mountains formed 750 million years ago.
Climate of Atlantic Canada
• The proximity to the Atlantic Ocean results in high amounts of cloud cover, fog, and
• The cold Labrador Current keeps the winters cold enough for heavy snowfall.
• Winter storms that move across the continent gain moisture from the Atlantic Ocean and
thus intensify as they move over the region.
• Such storms that rapidly gain intensity in the region are referred to as nor’easters.
• Newfoundland is known for having the least desirable climate of any province.
• The Gulf Stream is a warm ocean current originating in Florida.
• It meets the cold Labrador Current off the coast of St. Johns.
• This causes considerable foggy, misty weather.
The Labrador Current
• The presence of the current is evident by the flow of icebergs that originate in
• The Labrador current is responsible for carrying the iceberg that led to the Titanic sinking
• Cape Breton Island was formerly a major iron and steel centre in Canada.
• Waste products from the Sydney Steel Company were housed in the Sydney tar ponds.
• Toxic chemicals began leaking into a nearby creek and seeping into basements.
• Research indicated that those in the vicinity had a high risk of developing cancer.
• The Sydney tar ponds are the site of the biggest environmental clean up project in
• From 1998 to 2012, the federal and Nova Scotia governments spent $400M cleaning the
area. Historical Geography of Atlantic Canada
• The region was the first part of North America to be discovered by Europeans.
• Vikings established a settlement at the northernmost point of the island of Newfoundland
in 1000 AD.
• Italian explorer John Cabot reached the area in 1497 while searching for a route to Asia.
• By the 1700s, the population of the area was a mix of British, French (Acadians) and the
Aboriginal peoples (Mi’kmaq).
• The American Revolution had an impact on the historical settlement of Atlantic Canada.
• Following victory by the U.S., 40,000 Loyalists migrated to Nova Scotia and New
• Waves of immigrants from the British Isles continued over the next 100 years.
• The Scottish tended to settle on Cape Breton Island and the Irish around Saint John.
Early Economic Growth
• In the early 1800s, harvesting of the area’s natural wealth was rampant.
• The availability of timber and the seaside location provided ideal conditions for
• Just before Confederation, iron replaced wood as the main resource for shipbuilding.
• Nova Scotia and New Brunswick joined Canada at the time of Confederation.
• P.E.I. became the 7 province in 1873.
• Newfoundland joined as the 10 province in 1949.
• All were rather reluctant to join.
• The Maritime colonies saw New England as their natural market.
• The Intercolonial Railway aided in luring the Maritimes to join Confederation.
• This gave access to the National market and allowed Maritime firms to achieve
economies of scale. • However, the National Policy led to the development of the core as a manufacturing area
and ultimately resulted in the Maritimes remaining as a periphery.
Nova Scotia Steel Industry
• Iron mining provided the basis for the steel industry on Cape Breton Island.
• Much of the steel was exported for the construction of railroads in Western Canada.
• Demand for steel dropped following WW11 and the size of the labour force was reduced.
• The Steel Mill closed in 2001 and has left Cape Breton Island with a depressed
• Unemployment is especially high in the rural and coastal communities of Atlantic
• Many of these towns and villages have their roots in the fishing industry that can no
longer support them.
• Many workers have turned to commuting to Alberta, in particular Fort McMurray.
• Workers spend 20 consecutive days in Fort McMurray and then return to Atlantic
Canada for 8 days.
• Geography has resulted in Labrador being drawn into the orbit of Quebec.
1. Hydroelectricity produced in Labrador is transmitted by lines through Quebec.
2. Iron ore mined in Labrador is shipped to the Port of Sept-Isles, Quebec
3. The Labrador-Quebec Highway connects Labrador’s largest city (Goose Bat) to
Quebec’s provincial highway system. The Continental Shelf
• Atlantic Canada has a vast continental shelf (extended perimeter of a continent
associated with a coastal plain) that extends up to 400 km offshore.
• Areas where the water is relatively shallow are known as Banks.
• The largest are the Grand Banks east of St. Johns.
• In 1977, Ottawa claimed the right to manage the fisheries within a 200 nautical mile zone
off the east coast; Washington did the same.
• This resulted in an area of dispute between the two countries.
• A decision by the International Court awarded 5/6 of the banks to the U.S.
• The 1/6 that belongs to Canada is very rich in scallops and has helped the Nova Scotia
• There are differences in the type of catch by location:
• Newfoundland depended mostly on cod fishing until the collapse of that industry.