See also related page Major Time Line of the Port Of Halifax

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) is one of the newest municipalities in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, in terms of incorporation.

It was formed on April 1, 1996 by dissolving and amalgamating the following municipalities:

All municipal services and staff were merged into the new municipal unit. The awkward name of the municipality was quickly shortened by media, residents and politicians to the informal “HRM,” which is commonly heard.

The regional municipality’s boundary includes all of Halifax County except for several First Nation reserves. All of the 188 rural and urban communities within Halifax County have retained their geographic names for legal, mapping, mail, 9-1-1 and other services. The name “Halifax Regional Municipality” is used to refer to the entire region as well as the municipal government.

The urban core area of HRM is located in the western end of the municipality, fronting on Halifax Harbour in the Halifax – Dartmouth and Bedford area and constitutes the most populous urban area on Canada’s Atlantic coast, and the second largest coastal population centre in the country, after Vancouver, British Columbia. HRM currently accounts for 40% of Nova Scotia’s population, and 15% of that of the Atlantic provinces. The western and most of the eastern parts of the municipality are mostly rural.

Pre-AmalgamationThe history behind the individual communities comprising the Halifax Regional Municipality (HRM) can be traced back several centuries.

Halifax Metropolitan Area

Main article: History of Halifax, Nova Scotia

The settlement of Halifax was established in 1749 as a Royal Navy base and British Army garrison to counter French military forces at Fortress Louisbourg. Incorporated as the City of Halifax in 1842, Halifax gradually grew to occupy the entire Halifax Peninsula by the end of World War II. An important port for the Caribbean-Canada-United Kingdom shipping triangle during the 19th century, Halifax’s strategic harbour was also an integral part of Allied war efforts during both world wars. The city expanded in 1969, amalgamating several adjacent communities from Halifax County. With its amalgamation into HRM, the City of Halifax was officially dissolved, however the provincial government designated the area occupied by the now-former city as the Halifax Metropolitan Area.

Dartmouth Metropolitan Area

Main article: History of Dartmouth, Nova Scotia

The settlement of Dartmouth was established in 1750, one year following the founding of its neighbouring cross-harbour community of Halifax. For many decades Dartmouth remained largely rural in nature, lacking direct transportation links to the growing military and commercial presence in Halifax, except for a dedicated ferry service. During the late 1800s, two unsuccessful attempts were made to build railway bridges across the harbour to service a growing manufacturing industry along the Dartmouth waterfront, however these bridges were destroyed by storms. Permanent rail links were established by the 1890s and the town of Dartmouth grew into a small urban centre. The biggest change to the town came in 1955 when the Angus L. MacDonald Bridge opened, connecting Dartmouth to Halifax. Unprecedented suburban growth led to the town merging with several neighbouring suburbs in 1961 to be incorporated as the City of Dartmouth. The A. Murray MacKay Bridge opened in 1970, furthering growth and leading to the economic integration of what many were terming Nova Scotia’s “twin cities”. With its amalgamation into HRM, the City of Dartmouth was officially dissolved, however the provincial government designated the area occupied by the now-former city as the Dartmouth Metropolitan Area.


Located at the mouth of the Sackville River, Bedford was originally known by several names, such as Fort Sackville, Ten Mile House, and Sunnyside. It used the name Bedford Basin (named after the Bedford Basin) from 1856 to 1902, when it was shortened to just Bedford, taking its name from the Duke of Bedford who was the Secretary of State in 1749. Bedford was organised as an unincorporated rural community in 1921 and underwent rapid suburban growth during the post-war years. One of the largest unincorporated municipalities in Nova Scotia by the 1970s, Bedford incorporated as the Town of Bedford in 1980. With its amalgamation into HRM, the Town of Bedford was officially dissolved, however the provincial government designated the area occupied by the now-former town as Bedford (Urban Community).

Halifax County

Named after George Montagu-Dunk, 2nd Earl of Halifax, Halifax County was one off the five original counties of Nova Scotia created by an Order in Council in 1759. Over the ensuing decades, new counties were created and the original five were realigned – Cape Breton Island was annexed to Halifax County in 1763 and separated in 1765. Hants County was created from Halifax County in 1781, as were Shelburne and Sydney counties in 1784, followed by Colchester and Pictou counties in 1835. The present boundaries of Halifax County were established in 1908. Owing to the need for a more efficient county-wide government, the Municipality of the County of Halifax was incorporated in 1962, including all areas in the county outside of the cities of Halifax and Dartmouth. In 1980, Bedford incorporated as a separate municipality (a town). With its amalgamation into HRM, the Municipality of the County of Halifax was officially dissolved, however the geographic division of Halifax County continues to exist and the boundaries of HRM are contiguous with the county, except for several First Nations reserves.

Precursor to amalgamation

In 1993, the Conservative provincial government of Nova Scotia began to consider merging the cities of Halifax and Dartmouth with the town of Bedford and Halifax County. Halifax, Dartmouth and Bedford were relatively densely populated while Halifax County was largely rural with large areas of wilderness. Amalgamating these regions had been proposed as far back as 1974.
Bill Hayward, a consultant, was hired by the government of premier Don Cameron to prepare a report on the potential savings resulting from the merger of municipalities in Halifax County and Cape Breton County. Before the report was completed, Cameron’s party was defeated in a provincial general election and a former mayor of Dartmouth, Dr. John Savage won the election.
Savage had previously declared his opposition to regional amalgamations, however he relented and his administration backed the creation of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality in August 1995 to solve a funding and demographic short-fall facing several communities in Cape Breton County. The merger was not without controversy, however it appeared to achieve the predicted economic goals in the short-term so Savage’s government opted to proceed with the Halifax County merger; Bill Hayward was retained to oversee the process on behalf of the government.
Hayward’s report had predicted that a regional amalgamation in Halifax County would save over $20 million annually, through reductions in duplicate services and by eliminating duplicate high-level administrative positions for the population of 350,000. Many residents in Halifax County municipalities were against the merger with rural areas tending to generate the most opposition; those residents feared that they would be forced to pay higher taxes and follow urban standards without receiving a higher level of municipal services.
Hayward’s predicted cost savings were widely criticised as unrealistic, with many feeling that he had arbitrarily determined the figures. Politicians were equally divided on the merger, as many saw the influence of their local constituencies being reduced in a larger municipality which would be dominated by the former cities of Halifax and Dartmouth.
The actual public debate over the planned amalgamation was fairly muted, with a few sparsely-attended public information sessions and some discussion in various media. The prevailing attitude among residents and outside observers was that amalgamation would be inevitable and could not be stopped. The New Democratic Party did call for a plebiscite on the matter, although this was never implemented.

Incorporation and dissolution

In 1995, an Act to Incorporate the Halifax Regional Municipality received Royal Assent in the provincial legislature and the Halifax Regional Municipality was established on April 1, 1996, the same day all former municipalities were dissolved.

Aftermath of amalgamation

Several problems with the amalgamation were noted, with the most obvious being that many of the predicted cost savings did not materialise. Some savings to be achieved by eliminating duplicate jobs were offset by the fact that staff from rural areas now demanded to paid at the same rate as their urban counterparts, forcing the cost for amalgamation to double from initial estimates.

Small scandals such as the purchase of $1,000 chairs for the new Halifax Regional Council cast a negative light on the process, and unflattering articles in the national media portrayed the Halifax amalgamation as an example of how not to merge municipalities. Halifax was repeatedly referenced as a scenario to avoid when the Government of Ontario was looking at amalgamating municipalities in the Greater Toronto Area during the late 1990s.

Since amalgamation, the municipality has experienced dramatic growth and prosperity, mainly resulting from HRM benefiting from a much-delayed urban growth in Atlantic Canada – this being one of the last regions in North America to urbanise. Critics have pointed out that the majority of economic development has benefited the former cities of Halifax and Dartmouth, with many rural areas of HRM continuing to experience economic stagnation and decline.

The term Haligonian refers specifically to residents of the former City of Halifax. Since amalgamation, there have been attempts to apply the term more broadly to all residents of HRM, however the majority of citizens in Dartmouth, Bedford and smaller centres in the municipality tend to avoid its use. Despite amalgamation, most residents of the municipality, maps, (and Canada Post) still refer to the names of the pre-amalgamation municipalities when describing geographic area and when referring to their specific groupings of citizens.

In 2004, there was some discussion in the eastern shore area of applying to the province of Nova Scotia to form their own municipality. This was due to the perceived lack of services to and representation from this part of HRM.

HRM history (1996-2006)


Entrance to the Public Gardens before Hurricane Juan


Entrance to the Public Gardens before Hurricane Juan

  • During the mid-to-late 1990s HRM developed a strong national and international following to its music scene, particularly the alternative genre. Musical acts from HRM include such notable groups as: Sloan, The Nellis Complex, Thrush Hermit, Christina Clark, Sarah MacLachlan and Matt Mays.
  • Although discussions had been underway for decades in the former cities of Halifax and Dartmouth, a deal was finally signed in 2003 that saw the construction of several sewage treatment plants for the core urban area, as well as an extensive trunk collector system to link outfalls to each plant. For the first time since settlement came to the area, human sewage will be treated before it is discharged into the Atlantic Ocean; estimated start-up is for 2007.
  • On September 29, 2003, HRM was hit by Hurricane Juan which made landfall west of the urban core. Juan was the most powerful hurricane to directly hit the Halifax-Dartmouth metropolitan area since 1893. The storm caused a serious disruption throughout the central and eastern part of the municipality during the first week of October. Although some areas of the urban core only lost electricity for a brief period, outlying rural regions in the eastern part of HRM were without electricity for up to two weeks. Millions of trees in HRM were damaged or destroyed in the dense forests along the Eastern Shore.

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