Modern Times: Tourism & Natural Resources

In the wake of the Great Depression and the larger changes happening in the world -- new transport methods; wars; a growing taste for production, consumption, and fashion -- the Maritimes were forced to scramble. And out of desperation they came up with the same brilliant stroke President Franklin D. Roosevelt did in the wake of the Great Depression: Rather than cutting down all the trees for commerce, build parks and roads to the forests instead, then charge paying customers for the privilege of looking at them and walking among them. (F.D.R. himself was a big fan of the Maritimes, in fact -- he summered at Campobello in New Brunswick every year for decades, and one can still visit his home.)

Subsequently, provincial and national parks, golf courses, roads, inns, and expansive resort hotels began appearing at a furious pace. The spectacular Cabot Trail winding around Cape Breton Island was paved in 1939, ushering in decades of wide-eyed tourists.

During the 70 or so years since, the Maritimes have gradually moved ahead with the times. Natural resources -- specifically timber, paper, lobsters, and fish -- remain the mainstays of the regional economy, just as they have for generations. The region's many protected natural harbors have also created important ports for oil and similar products imported from around the world to North America. New light industries and technology ventures have made inroads in the urban areas. And visitors continue coming for the unique charms of the eastern provinces; tourism income is still necessarily an important piece of the puzzle here.

There is another subtle change occurring here, too. Second homes and cottages in the Maritimes are lately more valuable than they have ever been, and an uptick in new development (during the boom times, at least) by outsiders worries many longtime residents. Meanwhile, the provinces' most remote parts have not really felt any sort of economic kick from the past half century of growth. For these locals, the Maritimes remain an enduringly difficult place to eke out a living -- yet they continue doing so, just as their parents and grandparents did before them.

This tension, between moneyed outsiders and hard-bitten locals, hasn't really come to a head yet. Maybe it never will. (Canadians, on the whole, are uncommonly good-natured.) But there's certainly the potential for a certain clash of wills, even if nobody wishes that to be the next chapter in eastern Canada's long story. After all, the rest of the book has been downright fascinating so far.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.