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A Brief History of HRM

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Greater Halifax holds a strong military tradition. In 1749, the Hon. Edward Cornwallis landed with some 2,500 settlers on the Chebucto peninsula to establish a permanent fortified settlement. The little community was soon christened 'Halifax' in honour of Lord Halifax, President of the British Board of Trade at that time. In 1750, 'Dartmouth' was founded, named for the town of Dartmouth, England, and in honour of Sir William Legge, 2nd Earl of Dartmouth, keeper of the privy seal. In 1752 the first ferry between Halifax and Dartmouth was established, now the oldest, continuously running salt water ferry system in North America.

Despite many hardships the community grew and was not long in becoming the site of several Canadian 'firsts". The first newspaper in Canada, the Halifax "Gazette", appeared in 1752 and Canada's first Post Office began operations in Halifax in 1755. The year 1758 saw the first representative assembly meet in Halifax, while in the some year began the community's long association with naval affairs when a dockyard was completed. In 1759 Halifax served as a base for the British operations against the French fort at Louisbourg.

Wars and periods of international unrest contributed a good deal towards the development and prosperity of HRM over the years. The Seven Years' War (of which the siege of Louisbourg was one campaign) was the first such instance. Close on its heels in the 1770's followed the War of American Independence which saw Halifax again a base of military and naval operations. Many Loyalists flocked to the Greater Halifax area during this period. From 1785-1792, Dartmouth was headquarters of a whaling company established when Quaker families moved from the Island of Nantucket - a number of Quaker buildings still stand in Dartmouth.

Large numbers of black loyalists settled in the area, followed by a contingent of Maroons from Jamaica, building a strong and vibrant black heritage.

The rise to power in France of Napoleon Bonaparte caused Britain to keep her Atlantic bastion alert and ready to repulse possible attack. Once again, in 1812, Halifax was brought to the state of readiness to meet assault this time from our good neighbour to the south.

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The early years of the 19th Century saw HRM developing in the ways of peace as well as war. To touch only a few of the highlights one notes the formation of the Halifax Insurance Company in 1809, the first steamship crossing of the Atlantic by the 'Royal William' from Halifax in 1837, and the founding on one of Canada's leading institutions, the Bank of Nova Scotia, in 1832. The inauguration of regular transatlantic Steamship service via the Cunard liner S.S. 'Britannia' took place in 1840. A telephone system was installed in 1882. City Hall opened its doors in 1890. During the World War 1 years Halifax was a major centre of naval operations and few will forget the dreadful explosion of 1917 that devastated a major part of Halifax peninsula. The Trans-Atlantic telegraph was anchored at Halifax in 1925 and Trans Canada Airways commenced operations between Halifax and Vancouver in 1941. Some twenty years later, in 1960, HRM's International Airport opened to serve another generation of air travellers.

While the threat of attack disappeared with the passing of the years, no one will forget the extremely important role played by HRM from 1914 to 1918 and again from 1939 to 1945 as the western anchor of the vital war convoy routes which spanned the Atlantic.


The Road to Amalgamation

April 1992

The Report of the Task Force on Local Government was made public. The task Force was established to develop a strategy for the design and implementation of an appropriate form of local government for Nova Scotia that would:

1. Define clear lines of authority for service provision, to ensure that each level of government could be held accountable to its taxpayers. More specifically, service of general benefit (universal service or people services) should be provided by the provincial or federal governments, while services of more local concern should be provided by municipal governments.

2. Rationalize municipal boundaries to match settlement patterns. (The most far-reaching of the Task Force recommendations was that a unitary or amalgamated government was required in Halifax County to focus one level of decision-making on regional problems, and to ensure the financial ability of the region to pay.)

December 1992

The Government of Nova Scotia announced it intended to implement the Task Force recommendations for both service reallocation and municipal restructuring.

January 1993

William Hayward was named Municipal Reform Commissioner and tasked with gathering the information necessary to evaluate and implement municipal restructuring in Halifax County.

July 1993

The Interim Report of the Municipal Reform Commissioner was released. The seminal conclusion of the Report was the proposed reallocation of services and municipal restructuring to a unitary government would provide financial benefits to taxpayers in Halifax County, and would also produce a more effective and efficient local government.

October 1994

The Government of Nova Scotia decided to proceed with the amalgamation of the City of Halifax, City of Dartmouth, Town of Bedford and Halifax County Municipality.

December 1994

William Hayward was appointed Co-ordinator, Municipal Amalgamation.

May 1995

An Act to Incorporate the Halifax Regional Municipality was given Royal Assent by the Lieutenant Governor.

April 1, 1996

Halifax Regional Municipality was established with a Regional Council.

*Reprinted from Halifax Regional Municipality Access & Information Guide

Books About US

  • HALIFAX - WARDEN OF THE NORTH by Thomas H. Raddall, 1964. Nimbus Publishing Limited (ISBN 1-55109-060-0)

  • HISTORIC HALIFAX by Elizabeth Pacey, 1988. Hounslow Press (ISBN 0-88882-103-4)

  • THE DARK SIDE OF LIFE IN VICTORIAN HALIFAX by Judith Fingard, 1989. Pottersfield Press (ISBN 0-919001-58-0)

  • SHATTERED CITY: THE HALIFAX EXPLOSION AND THE ROAD TO RECOVERY by Janet F. Kitz, 1989. Nimbus Publishing Limited (ISBN 0-921054-11-4HC/ISBN 0-921054-30-0 PB)