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Halifax, Nova Scotia

Halifax is a Canadian city, the provincial capital, the largest population centre in Nova Scotia, and the economic centre of the Atlantic Provinces.

In 1995, the city of Halifax was amalgamated with the city of Dartmouth, the town of Bedford, and the unincorporated portion of Halifax County, Nova Scotia to create the Halifax Regional Municipality, also frequently referred to by its initials "HRM" (2001 population, 359,111). The HRM constitutes the most populous urban area on Canada's Atlantic coast, and the second largest coastal city in the country, after Vancouver, British Columbia. The city makes up about 40% of Nova Scotia's population, and 15% of that of the Atlantic provinces.



  • Originally named Chebucto - or biggest harbour - by the Mi'kmaq people who lived there, Halifax was founded by British General Edward Cornwallis on July 9, 1749 as a military outpost for the British with a handful of farming settlers. The outpost was named in honour of George Montague-Dunk, 2nd Earl of Halifax, who was the President of the British Board of Trade. Halifax was ideal for a military base, as it has the second largest natural harbour in the world, and could be well protected with batteries at McNab's Island , the North West Arm , Point Pleasant, George's Island and York Redoubt . There is also a large hill overlooking the harbour, on which was built a citadel.
  • On July 17th, 1749 the first liquor license to be issued in Nova Scotia was given to John Shippey and his tavern The Spread Eagle
  • The town of Dartmouth was settled soon after on the opposite side of the harbour. To link the two communities, a ferry service was started between Halifax and Dartmouth that still operates today. It is the oldest saltwater ferry in North America.
  • The city's first University, Saint Mary's was founded in 1802, originally as an elementary school. It became a university after Dalhousie University, was founded in 1818.
  • The City of Halifax was incorporated in 1842 and elected its first mayor, Stephen Binney .
  • When the Titanic sank in 1912, the search effort was coordinated from Halifax and 150 of the 328 recovered bodies were buried there in the Fairview Lawn Cemetery, the Mount Olivet Cemetery, and the Baron de Hirsch cemetery.
  • During the First and Second World Wars, convoys of ships would assemble in the Bedford Basin, in Halifax harbour, before heading across the Atlantic Ocean. On December 6, 1917, a particularly foggy morning during World War I, the largest man-made explosion prior to nuclear weapons, the Halifax Explosion, occurred. An incoming Belgian ship, the Imo, laden with armaments, struck an outgoing French ship, the Mont Blanc, at the mouth of the harbour. Both caught fire and were abandoned. Minutes later the arms ship exploded, flattening a large portion of the city; resulting in 2000 dead and 9000 injured. The explosion was heard 420 km away.
  • During the 1960s the Black community of Africville was demolished and its residents displaced to clear land for industrial use as well as for the A. Murray MacKay bridge (Halifax's "north" bridge).
  • The 1960s, 70s, and 80s saw less suburban sprawl than in many comparable Canadian cities. This was partly as a result of a weaker economy and smaller population base than, for example, central Canada, but also because of a deliberate local government policy to limit suburban growth. In the 1990s private developers were given more licence to build as they wished. Today Halifax is more compact than most Canadian cities, although large expanses of suburban growth have occurred in Dartmouth and Sackville. One development in the late 1990s was the Bayers Lake Business Park, a large grouping of warehouse style retailers, which has become an important centre of commerce for the city, and the province.
  • In the 1990s, like many other Canadian cities, Halifax amalgamated with its suburbs under a single municipal government, the Halifax Regional Municipality, rather than several individual city governments. Although cities in other provinces affected by amalgamation retained their original names, Halifax is often referred to as "HRM" especially in the media.
  • Although discussions had been underway for decades, a deal was finally signed in 2003 that saw the construction of several sewage treatment plants around the harbour. For the first time, starting in 2006, sewage will be treated before entering the harbour.
  • On September 29, 2003, Halifax was hit by Hurricane Juan, the largest hurricane to hit the city directly since 1893. The storm caused serious disruption in the city for more than a week. The entire city lost power for a brief period, and it took up to two weeks to restore power to all areas. Several people were killed during the storm or its aftermath: A mother and two children were killed in a house fire thought to be caused by a burning candle, a paramedic was killed in downtown Halifax when a falling tree landed on his ambulance, and a man from Hants County was also killed by a falling tree.

Notable persons born in Halifax

Climate and Geography

Halifax is situated on the rocky southeast coast of Nova Scotia. Like many major eastern Canadian cities, it lies south of the 49th parallel. The weather, while notoriously unpredictible, is usually milder than that of central Canada, with the temperature remaining (with occasional notable exceptions) between about -5C and 25C. Generally, winters are milder than most of Canada (excluding southwest BC), with snow alternately falling and melting from December through March. Spring and autumn are cool and foggy, and summer can range from hot and dry to cool and rainy. Hurricanes are fairly uncommon but do occur occasionally.

The city is built on a series of hills and plateaus surrounding Halifax harbour; the central part of the city lies on a peninsula extending into the harbour. The suburbs include many former and existing fishing communities. Because of its hilly streets, foggy climate, and Victorian architecture, comparisons are sometimes drawn between Halifax and San Francisco, California. Halifax is also often compared to Boston, Massachusetts, for its cultural and architectural similarities. While the regional municipality itself (formerly Halifax County) stretches quite far along Nova Scotia's south-east coast, the urban/suburban core is quite small geographically and is situated mostly around Halifax Harbour and the Sackville River .


Halifax is home to five degree-granting post-secondary educational institutions: Dalhousie University, Saint Mary's University, The University of King's College, Mount Saint Vincent University and The Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. The former Technical University of Nova Scotia is now integrated with Dalhousie University. The University of King's College shares Arts and Science faculty with Dalhousie University. The Nova Scotia Community College network maintains three major campuses in Halifax and Dartmouth.


The city still serves a major military purpose, as home port for the Atlantic Fleet of the Canadian Navy, and as such maintains Canada's largest naval base and the nation's largest military complex in terms of stationed personnel at CFB Halifax which is comprised of HMCS Dockyard and the Stadacona facilities.

The waterfront still witnesses the brawny marine commerce of the North Atlantic Great Circle route with two major container terminals, a small oil refinery, as well as general cargo piers and more specialized cargo handling piers for products such as automobiles and gypsum. Port facilities are also seeing increased use for logistics support of offshore natural gas production platforms near Sable Island, and for ongoing oil and gas exploration. The port has a modestly active shipyard and is also home to a Canadian Coast Guard base and the internationally-renowned Bedford Institute of Oceanography. In recent years, the port has witnessed an increased number of cruise ships. The port is also the eastern terminus of the transcontinental Canadian National Railway which maintains extensive facilities throughout the waterfront areas.

One of Halifax's first mayors, Alexander Keith, was a brewer and produced Alexander Keith's India Pale Ale. The city also has a number of locally brewed beers, including Garrison's Brown and Red Ales, the Clancy's line, Propeller Extra Special Bitter and their sodas, and the products of the various brewpubs, such as the Granite Brewery, the Rogue's Roost, and the (quite new) Olde Halifax Alehouse.

The economy of Halifax has done relatively well in the 1990s and since the turn of the century. Unemployment is low and construction projects have multiplied in those years, especially in suburban areas such as Clayton Park and Sackville. One result has been the "gentrification" of some areas of Halifax, for example the North End. The formerly working class area which was reconstructed following its devastation in the disaster of 1917 is now home to many more affluent people, with the resulting change in character of some of its neighbourhoods. The South End , which has traditionally been quite wealthy has remained so. However, some areas of the city have acquired negative reputations, notably Spryfield in the city's Mainland South district, the Gottingen Street area in the North End and parts of Dartmouth. Although there is much controversy within the city on whether these reputations are warranted or not, these areas seem to have drug-related crimes and violent crimes at a higher rate than the rest of the city.

Another change in Halifax in recent years has been the extensive redevelopment of the waterfront. Traditionally the waterfront was used by industry and to service the ships coming into port. However, with changes in the industry the large ships now use large container terminals in different parts of the harbour. The older areas have now been converted for commercial use, mostly to lure tourists.


Halifax has a large population of students who have a strong influence on the cultural scene in the city. There are a number of art galleries and theatres in the city. There is a large theatre, the Neptune Theatre that performs mainstream hits. Dalhousie University's Rebecca Cohn Auditorium is another popular theatre for dramatic and musical events. Every summer, Shakespeare plays are performed in Point Pleasant Park in a Shakespeare by the Sea festival. There are many smaller theatre companies, including the physical theatre company Zuppa Circus. Concerts are often performed on Citadel Hill and at the Halifax Metro Centre.

Halifax has also become a film making centre, with many American and Canadian filmmakers using the city's streetscapes, often to stand in for other cities that are more expensive to work in. The city's port status also makes it a popular location for films about ships; scenes from the films Titanic and K-19: The Widowmaker were filmed near Halifax.

The CBC news satire show This Hour Has 22 Minutes is based in Halifax, as is the mock-reality show Trailer Park Boys.

The sports/entertainment hub of the city is the Halifax Metro Centre. Another popular venue is the Halifax Forum.

The tourism industry has also had a strong influence on the city, certainly in the downtown core. In the summer thousands of small vendors cater to the cruise ship passengers and others who fill the town. The most popular destinations are the Public Gardens, an ornamental garden, Point Pleasant Park, the casino, the Citadel, and the shopping and restaurants downtown.

Halifax is reputed to have the highest number of bars per capita of any city in Canada. Additionally, the India pale ale Alexander Keith's is brewed in Halifax.

The Tall Ships Challenge came to Halifax in 2000 and 2004. The Marblehead yacht race (Boston to Halifax) is held bi-anually, while on the off years the city hosts the Route Halifax-SPM (Halifax to St. Pierre). Other festivals include the Nova Scotia International Tattoo , the Atlantic Jazz Festival , the Atlantic Film Festival and the Busker festival held in August every year.

Three major newspapers make Halifax home. The Chronicle-Herald and The Daily News are dailies and The Coast is weekly. The Herald is a broadsheet paper covering mainland Nova Scotia, it usually has a moderate conservative editorial policy; the Daily News is in a tabloid format focused primarily on HRM. The Coast is a free weekly paper focused primarily on peninsular Halifax, although it does cover all of HRM with a generally left leaning editorial policy.

Halifax is the centre of television broadcasting for Nova Scotia. CBC has extensive facilities. ATV, Atlantic Television, the CTV affiliate is also based in Halifax, as well as a sister network, ASN (Atlantic Satellite Network). Global Television operates a station in the city.

Various radio stations make Halifax home: C100 is probably the most prominant, playing contemporary hits. Q104 also plays to a wide audience with "classic rock". CBC Radio 1 and 2 broadcast out of the city for all of mainland Nova Scotia. The Universities also run their own stations.


See also: List of mayors of Halifax, Nova Scotia

In the early 1990s the provincial government sought to reduce the number of municipal governments in Halifax County and Cape Breton County and created a task force in 1992 to pursue this rationalization. In 1995, an Act to Incorporate the Halifax Regional Municipality received Royal Assent in the provincial legislature and the HRM was created on April 1, 1996 by amalgamating the neighbouring cities of Halifax and Dartmouth with the town of Bedford and rural Halifax County. Sable Island is also considered to be jurisdictionally part of HRM, despite being located 180 km offshore. The population of HRM is 359,111 according to the 2001 census, making it Canada's 13th largest population centre.

The term Haligonians has been borrowed since amalgamation to apply more broadly to all residents of HRM, although many citizens in Dartmouth and smaller centres in the municipality tend to avoid use of the term when applied to themselves. In fact, despite amalgamation, most residents of the municipality (and Canada Post) still refer to the names of the pre-amalgamation municipalities when describing geographic areas.

The former city of Halifax is represented in the federal riding of Halifax. Other HRM ridings include Dartmouth—Cole Harbour , Halifax West, and Sackville—Eastern Shore .


Halifax International Airport, which serves Halifax, is located in the northern part of the Halifax Regional Municipality in Enfield.

Halifax and Dartmouth are linked by two major bridges: the Angus L. MacDonald Bridge, built in 1955, and the A. Murray Mackay bridge, opened in 1970. A ferry also connects the two sides with regular services throughout the day. High-speed ferries are being planned to connect downtown Halifax with Bedford, Herring Cove/Purcell's Cove, and Eastern Passage.

Traffic is problematic in many older parts of the city for several reasons. Peninsular Halifax, similar to an island, has several choke points through which any traffic leaving the area must pass: the bridges, and the Armdale rotary. Density is increasing on the peninsuala, but thep population of workers living in Bedford and Dartmouth is also increasing. In many areas the roads can no longer be widened easily, this is especially true at the Armdale Rotary (a roundabout linking major roads from the mainland to those on the peninsula) and along Quinpool Road. A proposal in 2003-04 to widen Robie Street north of the commons met with vocal local protests, leading to a compromised, smaller expansion of the road. Many of the newer neighbourhoods benefit from expressways designed for modern automobile traffic, notably the Bicentennial (102) which runs through Clayton Park, Bedford and Sackville, and the Circumferential (111) which loops around Dartmouth and is the widest highway in the province.

Halifax's main form of public transportation is the bus, however, as of 2004 the mayor, Peter Kelly, and several regional councillors also favour instituting a commuter rail system on current and abandoned railway lines in the area.

Peter Kelly, and other councillors, have also stated an interest in improving bicycle transport in the city. However, since Peter Kelly's election in 2000 little has been done, despite the creation of a part time position to oversee the planning and implementation of bicycle transport plan. In 2003 the position was eliminated, with little other than planning accomplished. Overall, Halifax remains fairly difficult for bicycles, partially as a result of geography and climate, but also because there are very few bicycle lanes. However, due to the generally courteous attitude of most Halifax drivers bicycling does enjoy some popularity.

Car drivers in Halifax are well known for their meek and courteous attitudes. As a result, the city is quite pedestrian friendly, many drivers yielding to pedestrians crossing anywhere, even illegally. The large number of crosswalks also helps to make the city friendly to foot traffic.

North: Truro, Colchester County, East Hants (District) of Hants County
West: West Hants (District) of Hants County Halifax East: St. Mary's (District) of Guysborough County, Atlantic Ocean
South: Chester, Lunenburg County

See also: List of cities in Canada

Neighbourhoods and Towns

Major Parks

Sports Teams

Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

External link

  • Halifax Regional Municipality
Halifax, Nova Scotia

Provincial and territorial Capitals of Canada

Edmonton, ABVictoria, BCWinnipeg, MBFredericton, NBSt. John's, NLYellowknife, NWTHalifax, NSIqaluit, NUToronto, ONCharlottetown, PEIQuebec City, QCRegina, SKWhitehorse, YT

Last updated: 02-07-2005 21:24:51
Last updated: 04-30-2005 11:13:36