Economy of Halifax, Nova Scotia

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The Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) is a major generator of economic activity in Atlantic Canada.

Largest employers[edit]

Government and military[edit]

The largest employer in HRM is government, with most provincial government departments headquartered in the area, as well as many regional offices for federal government departments and agencies.

The Department of National Defence is the single largest employer and Halifax Harbour continues to serve a major military purpose as the Atlantic Ocean home port for the Royal Canadian Navy. CFB Halifax is Canada's largest naval base and the nation's largest military base in number of personnel. This base comprises various shore-based facilities including HMC Dockyard, Stadacona, CFAD Bedford, and other adjunct facilities throughout HRM and central Nova Scotia. Approximately 2/3 of the navy's major ships are home ported in Halifax. Another major military facility is located at 12 Wing, CFB Shearwater in Eastern Passage. This is the home base of naval aviation in Canada and is used as a heliport for the CH-124 Sea King.

Port of Halifax[edit]

The largest influence on HRM's economy is its port and related spin-offs. Halifax is one of Canada's top four container ports in terms of the volume of cargo handled.[1] Halifax Harbour is strategically located just north of the Great Circle Route between western Europe and the Eastern Seaboard of North America as the first inbound, last outbound major port of call on the continent with strategic rail connections to central and western Canada and the United States. The Halifax Port Authority operates two major container terminals, a medium-sized oil refinery, numerous general cargo piers and more specialized cargo handling piers for products such as automobiles and bulk gypsum.

Port facilities are also increasingly used for logistics support of offshore natural gas production platforms near Sable Island, and for ongoing oil and gas exploration. The port has a shipyard and the eastern side of the harbour is home to Canadian Coast Guard Base Dartmouth and the internationally renowned Bedford Institute of Oceanography. In recent years, there has been an increase in number of cruise ships through a redeveloped passenger terminal at Pier 21. The port is also the eastern terminus of the transcontinental Canadian National Railway which maintains extensive facilities around the waterfront.

The Halifax Shipyard is one of Canada's most well-equipped, having recently undergone a $300-million modernization to accommodate the building of new combat vessels for the Canadian navy.[2]

Another deep water port is the Sheet Harbour Industrial Port, which mainly serves the offshore and forestry industry in eastern Nova Scotia.

Primary industries[edit]

Agriculture, fishing, mining, forestry and natural gas extraction are major resource industries found in the rural areas of HRM.

The main agriculture area of the Halifax Regional Municipality is the Musquodoboit Valley. The total number of farms in HRM is 150, of which 110 are family-owned, and at the 2001 census there were 3,630 people working in agriculture and resource-based industries in the municipality, out of a total population of 359,111.

Fishing harbours are located along all coastal areas with some having an independent harbour authority, and others being managed by small craft harbours under the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Forestry is most common in the Musquodoboit Valley - Eastern Shore area where there are 21 sawmills.

Other resource industries in HRM include the natural gas fields off the coast of Sable Island, as well as clay, shale, gold, limestone, and gypsum extraction in rural areas of the city.

Secondary industries[edit]

HRM is a major regional manufacturing centre.

It is an exporter of beer, being home to the Keith's brewery and Oland Brewery as well as several local specialty beers produced in micro-breweries. The aerospace industry has an increasing significance in the regional economy, through engine manufacturer Pratt and Whitney Canada, and IMP Aerospace, as well as the increasing passenger and cargo traffic at Halifax International Airport.

Tertiary industries[edit]

With the largest population centre in Atlantic Canada and a geographically central location in Nova Scotia, HRM has witnessed a transformation in its economy during recent decades with the growth of the service sector. The historic home to the Bank of Nova Scotia (branch #1 is located there), the municipality has received an influx of banking and financial service-related employment in recent years. Maritime Life is headquartered in the municipality and many call centres, computer and information technology firms are located in HRM. Halifax is also home to the three largest law firms in Atlantic Canada, McInnes Cooper, Stewart McKelvey, and Cox & Palmer.

Growth prospects[edit]

The economy of HRM has been relatively strong in the past decade. Growth in public sector employment at all levels of government that far exceeds demographic population growth nationally, coupled with wage and benefits packages that are at least 12% greater than comparative private sector jobs[3] have provided HRM with sustained growth in population and economic activity in recent years. HRM has also benefited from a demographic shift of younger Atlantic Canadians from rural and small town communities to urban centres.

Another important ingredient in HRM's growth has been a major investment in offshore oil and gas exploration, resulting in many high-paying jobs locating to the area. Halifax Harbour was also the staging site for much of the development of the Sable Offshore Energy natural gas project during the late 1990s, as well as somewhat smaller crude oil development projects during the 1970s-1990s.

Unemployment is relatively low (5.9% in July 2010) and is well below both the provincial and national averages.[4]

Real estate development and gentrification[edit]

The number of construction projects for residential and commercial structures has grown steadily; notably in suburban areas such as Clayton Park and Lower Sackville although the downtown core has seen a resurgence, which has included several high rise proposals.

One impact relating to the strength of the economy has been the gentrification of some former working-class areas of the city, such as downtown and north-end Dartmouth and the North End of the Halifax Peninsula. In the latter case, a formerly working class area which was reconstructed following its devastation in the disaster of 1917 is now home to many affluent people, with the resulting change in character of some of its neighbourhoods.

The South End (of the peninsula) has remained a traditionally wealthy district.

Some areas of HRM are known for their concentrations of lower income housing, urban neglect and a perception of higher rates of crime, notably Spryfield in HRM's Mainland South district, the Göttingen Street area in the peninsula's North End, as well as remaining areas of north end Dartmouth and certain pockets of Lower Sackville.

Another change in recent years has been the extensive redevelopment of the waterfront in Halifax, Bedford and Dartmouth. Traditionally the focus has been industry and shipping. However, with changes in shipping technology, larger ships now use container terminals or other harbour facilities, leaving the waterfronts along the Halifax and Dartmouth urban core relatively unused (aside from naval and shipyard activities). Many former industrial waterfront areas have been converted to commercial use to attract the tourist trade.


HRM is also a major communication centre and gateway.

Private sector telecommunication companies Bell Aliant and Eastlink have extensive service in the municipality and offer wire telephone, Internet and television signals.

Rogers Wireless, Bell Canada, and Telus offer cellular telephone service in urban areas and along major transportation corridors.

The communities of Pennant Point, Herring Cove and Beaver Harbour are landing sites for fibre optic Trans-Atlantic cables.

The communities of Harrietsfield and Pennant Point are home to earth stations.

Corporate headquarters[edit]

Headquarters of Air Canada Jazz

Air Canada Jazz,[5] CanJet,[6] and Maritime Air Charter are headquartered in Enfield and in the Halifax Regional Municipality.[7][8][9]

Regional airline Air Nova, which became a part of Air Canada Jazz, was headquartered in Enfield.[10]


  1. ^ Bonney, Joseph (2 September 2013). "Canada's Big 4 Container Ports Put Focus on Infrastructure". The Journal of Commerce. 
  2. ^ Jane Taber (August 21, 2013). "Irving ramps up for Halifax Shipyard contract". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 27 August 2016. 
  3. ^ Comparing Public and Private Sector Compensation in Canada
  4. ^
  5. ^ "Contact Us." Air Canada Jazz. Retrieved on May 19, 2009.
  6. ^ "Contact Us Archived 2008-12-27 at the Wayback Machine.." CanJet. Retrieved on May 21, 2009.
  7. ^ "Contact Us." Maritime Air Charter. Retrieved on December 30, 2010. "Maritime Air Charter Limited 549 Barnes Road Enfield, NS B2T 1K3 < Please note that while our physical location has changed to 645 Pratt and Whitney Drive, at present our mailing address remains unchanged >"
  8. ^ "Our Location." Direct image link - Maritime Air Charter. Retrieved on December 30, 2010.
  9. ^ "Map." Halifax Regional Municipality. Retrieved on March 2, 2011.
  10. ^ "Our Facilities." Air Nova. August 23, 2000. Retrieved on June 18, 2009.