Top Ten New Brunswick & Nova Scotia Social Innovations

My soul is Maritime infused. My earliest memory is of tap dancing as a toddler to Don Messer’s Jubilee on the radio. My Mother was a Prince Edward Islander. I cut my community and political organizing teeth in Halifax. Scents, sounds, scenes and songs from the Maritimes mingle delightfully in my memory. Springtime driving along the Saint John River Valley. Exploring every dry creek bed in summertime Cape Breton. Watching the great Mi’k Maq fiddler Lee Cremo, win the Maritime Old Time Fiddling Contest. Always the music. The source and accompaniment to all ingenuity, creativity and innovation.

Arguably the Maritimes are the crucible of Canada. The impact of their innovations shaped us politically and socially. I can’t imagine Canada without them.

Here in alphabetical order are my top ten Nova Scotia/New Brunswick social innovations: 

  • Business Community Anti-Poverty Initiative – A unique and effective configuration of business and community leaders in Saint John with the goal of reducing poverty particularly for single parents and children. Started by retired bank executive Bill Gale who I profiled in Pattern Six of Impact.       
  • Bilingualism – New Brunswick became Canada’s first (and still the only) officially bilingual province in 1969. This commitment was enshrined in Canada’s constitution in 1992.
  • Black United Front – Ensuring justice, social reform and racial equality for Nova Scotia’s Indigenous Blacks and African Canadians. Inspired and lead by Rocky Jones legendary lawyer, activist and human rights crusader.
  • Coady Institute – the institutional container for the Antigonish Movement which blended adult education, social action and economic cooperation and swept across the Maritimes like heather.
  • Ice Cream Cone – Yes, we owe Sussex, New Brunswick for gallons of cool pleasure. It doesn’t get more social than that.
  • New Dawn Enterprises – The oldest community development corporation in Canada. Creating a culture of self-reliance in Cape Breton since 1976. They have set the template for community development in Canada and beyond.
  • Order of Good Cheer (1606) – French and Indians coming together for food, fun, mutual support and health in the darkest, coldest days of winter. Out of adversity, pleasure. That’s a tradition to be honoured.
  • Pugwash Conference – Pugwash was the site of the first conference of scientists, scholars and public figures from both sides of the Cold War to state their opposition to all weapons of mass destruction and the peaceful resolution of conflicts through dialogue and mutual understanding. Credited with being a groundbreaking and innovative “transnational” organization, Pugwash shared the Nobel Prize for Peace in 1995.
  • Responsible Government – Joseph Howe was instrumental in securing Responsible Government for Nova Scotia in 1848. These principles influenced Baldwin and Lafontaine who, along with Howe, are acknowledged as architects of responsible government in Canada
  • New Brunswick Universities: University of New Brunswick – the first public university in North America. Mount Allison – graduated the first woman in the British Empire with a BSc (Grace Annie Lockhart.)

Let me know what I’ve missed.

PS: I’m heading east for a series of events including a Walrus Talk about Innovation Monday evening October 26 in Saint John and a book ‘unlaunch’on Oct.28th and morning workshop on Oct. 29th in Halifax.

       Drop by and say hello.


Oh it’s delightful to have ambitions. I am so glad I have such a lot. And there never seems to be any end to them – that’s the best of it. Just as soon as you attain to one ambition you see another glittering higher up still. It does make life so interesting.

     Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

And here is the master himself Don Messer and his Islanders with St. Anne’s Reel.


Peace Is Our Time

Wanted Book Publishing Social Entrepreneur

Take Us to the Limit

Salt, Seed and Taking Care

Caring Makes the World Go Round

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