Also called the Atlantic region, The East includes the provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island, constituting a cluster of peninsulas and islands.  The East is significantly affected by the Atlantic Ocean.  The tension between the pull of the continent, and that of the Atlantic Ocean, has over the centuries shaped the region’s cultural, social, political and economic development.


Service-related industries in information technology, pharmaceuticals, insurance, and financial sectors as well as research related spin-offs from the regions numerous universities and colleges are significant economic contributors.

Another important contribution to the Atlantic region’s economy is through spin-offs and royalties relating to off-shore petroleum, oil and gas exploration, and development.  Given the small population of the Atlantic Region, the regional economy is a net exporter of natural resources, manufactured goods, and services.  The regional economy has long been tied to natural resources such as fishing, logging, farming, and mining activities.  Some predominantly coastal areas have become major tourist centres, such as parts of Prince Edward Island, Cape Breton Island, the South Shore of Nova Scotia, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Bay of Fundy coasts of New Brunswick.


Atlantic Canada covers 539,062 square kilometres, just a little more than 5% of Canada’s land surface.  Population in The East makes up 6.5% of the Canadian total, and the population of each province is:

Nova Scotia (provincial population 913,000)

  • Halifax, with a population of 390,000, is the largest population centre in Atlantic Canada, and the largest in Canada east of Quebec City. It is a major economic centre in eastern Canada, with a large concentration of government services and private sector companies.
  • Significant industrialization in the second half of the 19th century brought steel to Trenton, Nova Scotia and subsequent creation of a widespread industrial base to take advantage of the region’s large underground coal deposits. After Confederation, however, this industrial base withered with technological change, and trading links to Europe and the U.S. were reduced in favour of those with Ontario and Quebec.  In recent years, however, the Atlantic regional economy has begun increased contributions from manufacturing again, and the steady transition to a service economy.

Prince Edward Island (provincial population 136,000)

  • Prince Edward Island (PEI) is Canada’s smallest province, and makes up only 0.1% of Canada’s total land area. Although the population is less than 0.5% of the Canadian total, it is the most concentrated in the country, with nearly 23 persons per square kilometer.  In spite of its high density the island is the second most rural province in the nation (after Nunavut), as 44% of their population is classed as urban.

New Brunswick (provincial population 730,000)

  • The province of New Brunswick is the only Canadian province which is officially French and English bilingual.

Newfoundland & Labrador (provincial population 515,000)

  • St. Johns, with a population of 197,000, is the oldest English-founded city in North America and is the capital of Newfoundland & Labrador.