On the Atlantic coast, the Maritimes are a subgroup of the region called Atlantic Canada. The population of the Maritime provinces was 1,826,896 in 2008 The Maritimes is home to Mi'kmaq and Maliseet people and has an extensive history of French and English settlement dating back to the seventeenth century, forming a unique culture that predates Canada.
The Maritimes front the Atlantic Ocean and its various sub-basins such as the Gulf of Maine and Gulf of St. Lawrence systems. The region is located northeast of New England, southeast of Quebec's Gaspé Peninsula, and southwest of the island of Newfoundland.
The modern Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is often mistakenly identified as a Maritime province: it is properly part of Atlantic Canada (with the other three provinces) and thus referred to as an Atlantic province. Although it is located on the Atlantic coast, the Gulf of Saint Lawrence physically separates this province from the Maritimes. It also has a uniquely different history; the Dominion of Newfoundland joined Canada eight decades after the three Maritime provinces. The four provinces of Atlantic Canada, sometimes combined with the two of Central Canada, are sometimes referred to as Eastern Canada.
There was talk of a Maritime Union of the three provinces to have greater political power; however, the first discussions on the subject in 1864 at the Charlottetown Conference led to the process of Canadian Confederation which formed the larger Dominion of Canada instead.
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 Archaic Indians, existing First Nations peoples of the time. Evidence of Archaic Indian burial mounds and other ceremonial sites existing in the St. John River valley has been uncovered.
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 the Mi'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 Allagash 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.
Both Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot) and Giovanni da Verrazzano 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 nobleman Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Monts who was accompanied by explorer/cartographer Samuel de Champlain in a 1604 expedition where they established 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-Royal, 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.
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 brought Acadia to the centre of world-scale geopolitical forces. In 1613, Virginian raiders captured Port Royale, and in 1621 Acadia was ceded to Scotland's Sir William Alexander who renamed it Nova Scotia. By 1632, Acadia was returned from Scotland 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.
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.
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 more than 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. Many were expelled to Louisiana, but 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. 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.
Both the colonies of Nova Scotia (present-day Nova Scotia and New Brunswick) and St. John's Island (Prince Edward Island) were affected by the American Revolutionary War, largely by privateering against American shipping, but several coastal communities were also the targets of American raiders. Charlottetown, the capital of the new colony of St. John's Island, was ransacked in 1775 with the provincial secretary kidnapped and the Great Seal stolen. The largest military action in the Maritimes during the revolutionary war was the attack on Fort Cumberland (the renamed Fort Beausejour) in 1776 by a force of American sympathizers led by Jonathan Eddy. The fort was partially overrun after a month-long siege, but the attackers were ultimately repelled after the arrival of British reinforcements from Halifax.
The most significant impact from this war was the settling of large numbers of Loyalist refugees in the region, especially in Shelburne and Parrtown (Saint John). Following the Treaty of Paris in 1783, Loyalist settlers in what would become New Brunswick persuaded British administrators to split the Colony of Nova Scotia to create the new colony of New Brunswick in 1784. At the same time, another part of the Colony of Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island, was split off to become the Colony of Cape Breton Island. The Colony of St. John's Island was renamed to Prince Edward Island on November 29, 1798.
The War of 1812 had some affect on the shipping industry in the Maritime colonies of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Cape Breton Island; however, the significant 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.
British settlement of the Maritimes, as the colonies of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island 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 Great Irish Famine (1845-1849). 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.
During the American Civil War, some Maritimers emigrated to the United States to volunteer for the armies of the Union or the Confederacy. However, the majority of the conflict's impact was felt in the shipping industry since diplomatic tensions between Britain and the Unionist North had deteriorated after Britain expressed support for the secessionist Confederate South. The Union navy, although much smaller than the Royal Navy, did posture off Maritime coasts at times. Although an amphibious invasion was never in question, blockading by Union naval forces was relatively common, particularly at Halifax, where Confederate navy ships sought refuge and reprovisioning.
The immense size of the Union army (the largest on the planet toward the end of the Civil War), however, was viewed with increasing concern by Maritimers throughout the early 1860s. Another concern was the rising threat of Fenian raids on border communities in New Brunswick by those seeking to end British rule of Ireland. This combination of events, coupled with an ongoing decline in British military and economic support to the region as the Home Office favoured newer colonial endeavours in Africa and elsewhere, led to a call among Maritime politicians for a conference on Maritime Union, to be held in early September, 1864 in—chosen in part because of Prince Edward Island's reluctance to give up its jurisdictional sovereignty in favour of uniting with New Brunswick and Nova Scotia into a single colony. New Brunswick and Nova Scotia felt that if the union conference were held in Charlottetown, they might be able to convince Island politicians to support the proposal.
The Charlottetown Conference, as it came to be called, was also attended by a slew of visiting delegates from the neighbouring colony of Canada, who had largely arrived at their own invitation with their own agenda. This agenda saw the conference dominated by discussions of creating an even larger union of the entire territory of British North America into a united colony. The Charlottetown Conference ended with an agreement to meet the following month in Quebec City, where more formal discussions ensued, culminating with meetings in London and the signing of the British North America Act. Of the Maritime provinces, only Nova Scotia and New Brunswick were initially party to the BNA Act, Prince Edward Island's reluctance, combined with a booming agricultural and fishing export economy having led to that colony opting not to sign on.
Maritime society is based upon a mixture of traditions and class backgrounds. Predominantly rural until recent decades, the region traces many of its cultural activities to those rural resource-based economies of fishing, agriculture, forestry, and coal mining.
While Maritimers are predominantly of west European heritage (Scottish, Irish, English, and Acadian), immigration to Industrial Cape Breton during the hey-day of coal mining and steel manufacturing brought people from eastern Europe as well as from Newfoundland. The Maritimes also has a black population who are descendants of former African American runaway slaves and loyalists, largely concentrated in Nova Scotia but also in various communities throughout southern New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. The Mi'kmaq Nation's reserves throughout Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and eastern New Brunswick dominate aboriginal culture in the region, compared to the much smaller population of the Maliseet Nation in western New Brunswick.
Cultural activities are fairly diverse throughout the region, with the music, dance, theatre, and literary art forms tending to follow the particular cultural heritage of specific locales. Notable Nova Scotian folklorist and cultural historian Helen Creighton spent the majority of her lifetime recording the various Celtic musical and folk traditions of rural Nova Scotia during the mid-20th century, prior to this knowledge being wiped out by mass media assimilation with the rest of North America. A fragment of Gaelic culture remains in Nova Scotia but primarily on Cape Breton Island.
Canada has witnessed a "Celtic revival" in which many Maritime musicians and songs have risen to prominence in recent decades. Some companies, particularly breweries such as Alexander Keith's and Moosehead have played up a connection between folklore with alcohol consumption during their marketing campaigns. The Maritimes were among the strongest supporters of prohibition (Prince Edward Island lasting until 1949), and some predominantly rural communities maintain "dry" status, banning the retail sale of alcohol to this day as a vestige of the original temperance movement in the region.
Given the relatively small population of the region (compared with the Central Canadian provinces or the New England states), the regional economy is a net exporter of natural resources, manufactured goods, and services. The regional economy has long been tied to natural resources such as fishing, logging, farming, and mining activities. Significant industrialisation in second half of the 19th century brought steel to Trenton, Nova Scotia, and subsequent creation of a widespread industrial base to take advantage of the region's large underground coal deposits. After Confederation, however, this industrial base withered with technological change, and trading links to Europe and the U.S. were reduced in favour of those with Ontario and Quebec. In recent years, however, the Maritime regional economy has begun increased contributions from manufacturing again and the steady transition to a service economy.
Important manufacturing centres in the region include Pictou County, Truro, the Annapolis Valley and the South Shore, and the Strait of Canso area in Nova Scotia, as well as Summerside in Prince Edward Island, and the Miramichi area, the North Shore and the upper Saint John River valley of New Brunswick.
Some predominantly coastal areas have become major tourist centres, such as parts of Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton Island, the South Shore of Nova Scotia and the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Bay of Fundy coasts of New Brunswick. Additional service-related industries in information technology, pharmaceuticals, insurance and financial sectors—as well as research-related spin-offs from the region's numerous universities and colleges—are significant economic contributors.
Another important contribution to Nova Scotia's provincial economy is through spin-offs and royalties relating to off-shore petroleum exploration and development. Mostly concentrated on the continental shelf of the province's Atlantic coast in the vicinity of Sable Island, exploration activities began in the 1960s and resulted in the first commercial production field for oil beginning in the 1980s. Natural gas was also discovered in the 1980s during exploration work, and this is being commercially recovered, beginning in the late 1990s. Initial optimism in Nova Scotia about the potential of off-shore resources appears to have diminished with the lack of new discoveries, although exploration work continues and is moving farther off-shore into waters on the continental margin.
Regional transportation networks have also changed significantly in recent decades with port modernizations, with new expressways and ongoing arterial highway construction, the abandonment of various low-capacity railway branchlines (including the entire railway system of Prince Edward Island and southwestern Nova Scotia), and the construction of the Canso Causeway and the Confederation Bridge. There have been airport improvements at various centres providing improved connections to markets and destinations in the rest of North America and overseas.
Improvements in infrastructure and the regional economy notwithstanding, the three provinces remain one of the poorer regions of Canada. While urban areas are growing and thriving, economic adjustments have been harsh in rural and resource-dependent communities, and emigration has been an ongoing phenomenon for some parts of the region. Another problem is seen in the lower average wages and family incomes within the region. Property values are depressed, resulting in a smaller tax base for these three provinces, particularly when compared with the national average which benefits from central and western Canadian economic growth.
This has been particularly problematic with the growth of the welfare state in Canada since the 1950s, resulting in the need to draw upon equalization payments to provide nationally-mandated social services. Since the 1990s the region has experienced an exceptionally tumultuous period in its regional economy 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.
While the relative economic underperformance of the Maritime economy 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 region's pecuniary difficulties. The period in which the decline occurred had a great many potential culprits. In 1867 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 with the United States (in the form of the Reciprocity Agreement) had ended. In the 1870s John A. Macdonald's National Policywas implemented, 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 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. 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.
Simultaneous 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 down many of them, 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 Maritimes the situation was very different. Today New Brunswick has several 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 significant population centres are in Charlottetown and Summerside. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, just the opposite was the case with little to no population concentration in major industrial centres as the predominantly rural resource-dependent Maritime economy continued on the same path as it had since European settlement on the region's shores.
Despite the region's absence of economic growth on the same scale as other parts of the nation, the Maritimes has changed markedly throughout the 20th century, partly as a result of global and national economic trends, and partly as a result of government intervention. Each sub-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 Miramichi 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 within 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 led to Maritime poverty, since these processes were rooted in geography, and thus all but inevitable. Kris 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 led 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.
The Maritimes are the only provinces in Canada which entered Confederation in the 19th century and have kept their original colonial boundaries. All three provinces have the smallest land base in the country and have been forced to make do with resources within. By comparison, the former colony of the United Province of Canada (divided into the District of Canada East, and the District of Canada West) and the western provinces were dozens of times larger and in some cases were expanded to take in territory formerly held in British Crown grants to companies such as the Hudson's Bay Company. The economic riches of energy and natural resources held within this larger land base were only realized by other provinces during the 20th century.
One comparison made with the wealthier areas of Canada is that of the region's political and/or work culture. Today few academics make such a claim, but it still a common explanation in other circles. 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.
Maritime conservatism since the Second World War has been very much part of the Red Tory tradition, key influences being former Premier of Nova Scotia and federal Progressive Conservative Party leader Robert Stanfield and New Brunswick Tory strategist Dalton Camp.
In recent years, the social democratic New Democratic Party (NDP) has made significant inroads both federally and provincially in the region. The NDP has elected Members of Parliament (MPs) 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 Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (and later NDP) MPs, and even produced many early members of the Communist Party of Canada in the pre-World War II era. In the 2004 federal election, the NDP captured 28.45% of the vote in Nova Scotia, more than any other province; former NDP leader Alexa McDonough was and is MP for Halifax.
The Maritimes are generally socially conservative but unlike Alberta, they 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. In the 2004 federal election, the Conservatives had one of the worst showings in the region for a right-wing party, going back to Confederation, with the possible exception of the 1993 election.
An 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 descendants 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 Maritimes in the past because of 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 PCs and NDP in many ridings as a result of unpopular cuts to unemployment benefits for seasonal workers, as well as closures of several Canadian 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. The Liberals held onto seats in Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, while being shut out of Nova Scotia entirely, the second time in history (the only other time being the Diefenbaker sweep).
The Maritimes is currently represented in the Canadian Parliament by 25 Members of the House of Commons (Nova Scotia - 11, New Brunswick - 10, Prince Edward Island - 4) and 24 Senators (Nova Scotia and New Brunswick - 10 each, Prince Edward Island - 4). This level of representation was established at the time of Confederation when the Maritimes had a much larger proportion of the national population. The comparatively large population growth of western and central Canada during the immigration boom of the 20th century has reduced the Maritimes' proportion of the national population to less than 10%, resulting in an over-representation in Parliament, with some federal ridings having fewer than 35,000 people, compared to central and western Canada where ridings typically contain 100,000-120,000 people.
The Canadian Senate is structured along regional lines, giving an equal number of seats (24) to the Maritimes, Ontario, Quebec, and western Canada, in addition to the later entry of Newfoundland and Labrador, as well as the three territories. Enshrined in the Constitution, this model was developed to ensure that no area of the country is able to exert undue influence in the Senate. The Maritimes, with its much smaller proportion of the national population (compared to the time of Confederation) also have an over-representation in the Senate, particularly compared to the population growth of Ontario and the western provinces. This has led to calls to reform the Senate; however, such a move would entail constitutional changes.
Another factor related to the number of Senate seats is that a federal court decision in the early 20th century mandated that no province can have fewer Members of Parliament than it has senators. This court decision resulted from a legal challenge by the Government of Prince Edward Island after that province's number of MPs was proposed to change from 4 to 3, accounting for its declining proportion of the national population at that time. When PEI entered Confederation in 1873, it was accorded 6 MPs and 4 Senators; however this was reduced to 4 MPs by the early twentieth century. Senators having been appointed for life at this time, these coveted seats rarely went unfilled for a long period of time anywhere in Canada. As a result, PEI's challenge was accepted by the federal court and its level of federal representation was secured. In the aftermath of the 1989 budget, which saw a fillibuster by Liberal Senators in attempt to kill legislation creating the Goods and Services Tax, Prime Minister Brian Mulroney "stacked" the Senate by creating additional seats in several provinces across Canada, including New Brunswick; however, there was no attempt by these provinces to increase the number of MPs to reflect this change in Senate representation.