The Public Policy Forum’s optimism about Atlantic Canada was reinforced during the pandemic, when its good governance and social cohesion served as a wake-up call to other Canadians. High vaccination and low infection rates, accompanied by an historic turnaround in population growth and significant inroads in the innovation economy, piqued our curiosity.

Was the Atlantic Bubble a precursor to an Atlantic boom? Was there real and measurable momentum in the economy and, if so, where? Which economic and social indicators would be key to ascertaining this and building on current momentum? If one set higher goals for these indicators, what policies would be needed to support long-term inclusive growth objectives?

We wanted to find out. So PPF, together with the Centre for the Study of Living Standards and a group of advisers from the Atlantic provinces, identified 20 key social and economic indicators to ascertain whether momentum actually exists.

The short answer is yes, it does — definitively. A convincing majority of our indicators provide concrete proof there is indeed something going on. The research shows trendlines pointing upward in the years since about 2015, in sharp contrast to the performance from 2008 to 2015. Momentum is tangible and recent, so much so that the public imagination has not yet caught up with this profound shift.

The objective of this report is two-fold: to report on these indicators and use the data to shape reinforcing policy choices; and to alert the rest of Canada and even residents of Atlantic Canada that change is occurring. With the evidence from these findings, we hope Atlantic Canadians and their policymakers will be better informed in making policy choices and have new tools at their disposal to supercharge the encouraging trendlines.

There is a lot of ground to make up.

The Wind in Our Sails

Atlantic Canadians have always taken care of each other. Conditions, from the weather to the economy, have made us resilient and entrepreneurial, shapers of our own destiny.

It is apparent to us as former leaders in the region that a new day is dawning. Our focus on education is reaping dividends. We are now widely recognized for our cluster of great universities and colleges, which provide springboards to prosperity in an information economy. During the early stages of the pandemic, our Atlantic bubble formed quickly. Fueled by a hard-wired concern for our neighbours, our social cohesion was the envy of the country. Our vaccination rates were high; our infection rates were low.

“All of us are better,” the great Alistair MacLeod wrote, “when we’re loved.” We are, and we do.

It is no surprise to us that, finally, more people are coming down the road than going.

Yet something even more profound is happening — an explosion in innovation led by a new generation of entrepreneurs, combined with our existing economic base and enviable lifestyle, to supercharge opportunity.

As the Public Policy Forum convincingly documents in its Atlantic Canada Momentum Index: Population? Up. Immigration? Up. GDP per capita? Up. Education, employment rate, productivity, housing starts, life satisfaction? Up.

This report produced by PPF is the beginning of what we hope will be a joyous repositioning of the Atlantic provinces within Confederation.

We believe in the future of Atlantic Canada. The wind is in our sails.

  • David Alward, premier, New Brunswick, 2010-2014
  • Dwight Ball, premier, Newfoundland and Labrador, 2015-2020
  • Catherine Callbeck, premier, Prince Edward Island, 1993-1996
  • Karen Casey, deputy premier, Nova Scotia, 2017-2021
  • Darrell Dexter, premier, Nova Scotia, 2009-2013
  • Brian Gallant, premier, New Brunswick, 2014-2018
  • Robert Ghiz, premier, P.E.I., 2007-2015
  • Shawn Graham, premier, New Brunswick, 2006-2010
  • Stephen Horsman, deputy premier, New Brunswick, 2014-2018

  • Stephen Kent, deputy premier, Newfoundland and Labrador, 2014-2015
  • Aldéa Landry, deputy premier, New Brunswick, 1987-1991
  • Rodney MacDonald, premier, Nova Scotia, 2006-2009
  • Wade MacLauchlan, premier, P.E.I., 2015-2019
  • Frank McKenna, premier, New Brunswick, 1987-1997
  • Stephen McNeil, premier, Nova Scotia, 2013-2021
  • Tom Marshall, premier, Newfoundland and Labrador, 2014
  • Brian Tobin, premier, Newfoundland and Labrador, 1996-2000

The Atlantic Canada Momentum Index
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For more information about this report, please contact Alishya Weiland, Policy Lead:

For more information about our Atlantic Initiative, please contact Carole Lee Reinhardt, Director, Atlantic: