Country of Our Own
The 2035 online encyclopedia tells how Nova Scotia declared independence in 2027, returning to its roots as an outward-facing nation on the Atlantic Rim.
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Nova Scotia ("New Scotland”) is an island country on the northeast coast of North America, about halfway between the Equator and the North Pole. The two main islands have an area of 55,284 square kilometres (21,300 mi2) with another 3,800 square kilometres made up by smaller coastal islands. Nowhere in Nova Scotia is more than 67 km (42 mi) from the ocean. As of 2034, the population was 1,321,727.
Nova Scotia’s first residents were most likely Archaic Maritime Natives, ancestors of the Mi'kmaq, the people who had been inhabiting the (then) peninsula for thousands of years at the time of European arrival.
Modern legend says that the Scottish Nobleman Henry Sinclair reached the shores of Nova Scotia in 1398, on a quest to protect the Holy Grail (the blood line of Jesus) from orthodox elements within the Catholic Church. Italian explorer John Cabot reportedly visited in 1497. The French arrived in 1604, and Catholic Mi’kmaq and Acadians were the predominant populations in the colony for the next 150 years. During the first 80 years the French and Acadians were in Nova Scotia, there were nine significant battles as the English and Scottish (later British), Dutch and French fought for possession of the colony.
Nova Scotia established representative government in 1758 and was the first colony in the British Empire to achieve responsible government, becoming self-governing in 1848 through the efforts of Joseph Howe.
In colonial history, Nova Scotia included all the Canadian Maritime provinces and northern Maine. In 1763 Cape Breton Island and St. John's Island (what is now Prince Edward Island) became part of Nova Scotia. In 1769, St. John's Island became a separate colony. Nova Scotia included New Brunswick until that province was established in 1784.
A Thriving Seafaring Region
In the second half of the 19th century, Nova Scotia became a world leader in both building and owning wooden sailing ships. The fame Nova Scotia achieved from sailors was assured when Joshua Slocum became the first man to sail single-handedly around the world (1895). This international attention continued into the following century, with the many racing victories of the Bluenose schooner. Throughout the 19th century, numerous Nova Scotian businesses achieved national and international importance: The Starr Manufacturing Company (first skate manufacturer in Canada); the Bank of Nova Scotia; Canadian Imperial Bank of Canada; Cunard Line; Alexander Keith's Brewery, Morse's Tea Company (first tea company in Canada); among others.
Confederation has Mixed Reviews
Premier Charles Tupper led Nova Scotia into the Canadian Confederation on July 1, 1867. The Anti-Confederation Party was led by Joseph Howe. Almost three months later, in the election of September 18, 1867, the Anti-Confederation Party won 18 out of 19 federal seats, and 36 out of 38 seats in the provincial legislature. A motion passed by the Nova Scotia House of Assembly in 1868 refusing to recognise the legitimacy of Confederation was never rescinded.
In an 1869 by-election, Howe was successful in turning the province away from appealing confederation to simply seeking "better terms" within it. Despite its temporary popularity, Howe's movement failed in its goal to withdraw from Canada because London was determined the union go forward. Howe did succeed in getting better financial terms for the province, and gained a national office for himself.
In 1866 came the end of Canadian-American Reciprocity Treaty, which led to higher and damaging American tariffs on goods imported from Nova Scotia. In the long run the transition from wood-wind-water sailing to steel steamships undercut the advantages Nova Scotia had enjoyed before 1867. Many residents for decades grumbled that Confederation had slowed the economic progress of the province and it lagged other parts of Canada. Repeal, as anti-confederation became known, would rear its head again in the 1880s, and transform into the Maritime Rights Movement in the 1920s. Some Nova Scotia flags flew at half mast on Dominion Day as late as that time.
The late 19th and early 20th century was a time of manufacturing and heavy industry in eastern Nova Scotia, with the population concentrating in the larger towns. The Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Company (known as Scotia) became a vertically integrated industrial giant. By the end of this period, however, factories and steel plants were suffering from competition with growing industrial conglomerates in Central Canada and the United States. For a Canadian Nova Scotia, distance from markets and capital scarcity became enduring barriers to growth.
Nova Scotia was hard hit by the worldwide Great Depression that began in 1929 as demand for coal and steel, and the prices of fish and lumber, plummeted. Prosperity returned in World War II, especially as Halifax again became a major staging point for convoys to Britain. Post-war immigration and the “baby boom” continued to build a robust economy and population.
In the first half of the 20th century, Nova Scotia became more of a rural society sustained by small family enterprises and seasonal farming, fishing, and forestry. Halifax remained a centre of government, with a busy port and naval centre, but was no longer a strong regional leader in industry and finance.
Crisis of Confidence
During the second half of the 20th century, Canada developed universal medicare and extensive safety-net programs for seasonal and retired workers, and the unemployed. In addition, both federal and provincial governments subsidized economically challenged regions and industries. By the 1980s the federal and provincial public sector contributed over 40% of GDP in Nova Scotia, the highest of any Canadian province.
This trend slowed in the late 1900s and early 2000s, as government debt mounted. This, combined with collapse in resource and subsidized industries, led to a crisis of confidence, followed by outmigration and the declining well-being and prosperity of those who remained, primarily an aging population.
In the early 2020s, the acceleration of global climate-related disasters led to international sanctions against Canada and the shut-down of the Alberta tar sands. Alberta joined the U.S., whose urgent quest for energy independence overrode environmental concerns. Some Albertans migrated to Cascadia, which formed on the west coast as a semi-autonomous alliance between British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. California, which was running out of water and literally burning up, joined Cascadia in 2025. Soon after, Quebec declared independence, as did Newfoundland. Nova Scotia, now cut off from central Canada, followed suit, declaring independence in December 2027. As storm surges washed out the land bridge to the mainland, Nova Scotia soon became an independent island state.
In 2028 a new national government reinstated a historical program known as Voluntary Planning, in which roundtables of citizen volunteers joined with content experts to recommend policies and laws for the new country. In every urban and rural community, kitchen and neighbourhood conversations fed into a broad-based process of establishing guiding principles, which were translated into a Founding Charter. The country drew on its history and the character of the land and people, as well as its new outward-facing Atlantic Rim orientation, to develop a vision and mission for the future. There was a sense of urgency, as well as of careful deliberation. While in a vulnerable position, Nova Scotia’s citizens wanted to be careful not to perpetuate the shadows of a colonial past, which included low self-esteem and extreme swings between limited vision and risk aversion, followed by inflated expectations attached to naïve and grandiose quick-fix solutions.
Nova Scotia now had the freedom to create its own environmental, immigration, and healthcare laws and policies, and quickly went to work creating a favourable immigration and resettlement program for climate change refugees who would contribute to Nova Scotia’s economy and way of life. The new national strategy took advantage of history and geography, establishing the country as a natural trade gateway between Europe and eastern North America. It focused its resources and infrastructure on developing “green shipping” vessels—a favoured mode of transportation in a post-oil world. It used its currency independence to instate progressive taxation and expertise in currency trading, which attracted conscientious investors and settlers, especially those from island countries more squarely in the path of tropical hurricanes and typhoons.
As Nova Scotians faced outward once more, they reviewed their early history, which contained many stories of dislocation, struggle, trauma, and a modest search for a reasonable way of life. Their forebears included the Mi’kmaq who had survived colonialism and residential schools, Scots driven from their home by the Highland Clearances, Acadians who were banished from their new homeland and then returned, African slaves who had escaped or been relocated from Jamaica and America, survivors of the terrible Halifax Explosion of 1917, and other new and historical refugees. Rather than sinking under the weight of these past struggles, they saw that this legacy naturally connected them to others in the world who were suffering from every manner of trauma—from natural disasters to political dislocation and war. Nova Scotians realized that in fact they had an abundance of experience, resources, and compassion to offer those in more acute need. In this way Nova Scotia became known for its leading-edge disaster relief products, which to this day continue to be transported around the world through the famed Scotia Green Shipping Lines.
Modern-day Nova Scotia has a reputation as a small, modestly prosperous, compassionate, and proud maritime nation. Its people are increasingly diverse, rooted in a shared sense of what it means to choose a wholesome, dignified way of life, while aspiring to be truly global citizens.
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Susan Szpakowski and Tony Lamport are co-initiators of Likely Stories.