Since kicking off this business, in 2017, there have been two things that I found that I really
enjoy. First, is the people that I get to meet and talk about books with and second, is the
research that I have to undertake when books I have an opportunity to buy or have bought are
on a topic I know little about. Such as the two items, the subjects of this musing.
These are two Government of Canada publications from the 1870s on the Baie Verte Canal. It
did not take long to discover that this was a canal that would cut across the Isthmus of
Chignecto. Baie Verte is a bay in the Northumberland Strait.
There are two types of canals – the first built to ease transportation within a region and these
can be found throughout the world. Most of them were built in the 19th century or earlier and the
utilization has dropped significantly with the advent of more efficient forms of transportation. We
have a good example of that here in Nova Scotia with the Shubenacadie Canal that was
functional between 1861 and 1871.
The other type of canal is used for strategically shortening the distance ships have to travel by
creating links between two bodies of water. And these continue to be used by more and more
vessels. Think Suez Canal and the Panama Canal. Smaller in scale for sure but the Baie Verte
Canal would have connected the Northumberland Strait to the Bay of Fundy, meaning ships
would no longer have to take the longer route to get around Nova Scotia as they travel along the
In conducting my research, I came across a Macleans magazine article dated July 15, 1931.
Once again, consideration was being given to the building of this waterway. It would appear that
the earliest consideration goes back to 1686 when Villiers submitted a recommendation to the
French Government and there have been many proposals since then. The closest the canal
came to fruition is in 1873 and 1874, as outlined in the two documents I acquired.
Headed by Sir Hugh Allan and including such eminent scientists of the time as Sir Casimir
Gzowski and Samuel Keefer, they declared the Chignecto Canal to be an undertaking of first
importance, “essential to the welfare and prosperity of the whole country.” Having been
appointed to examine the entire canal situation of the Dominion, this Commission grouped the
Chignecto project with the Sault Ste. Marie Canal, the Lachine Canal, and necessary
improvements at Welland and in the upper St. Lawrence. The 1873 document strongly
recommends the Canal and the 1874 report is about the technical aspects of the constructions.
All of these projects were undertaken except for the one in the Maritimes; another example of
Post-Confederation favouritism of Upper Canada and the neglect of the Atlantic region.
The 1874 Report was prepared by the Chief Engineer of Public Works Canada and this was the
“how to” report. It includes a beautiful map of the proposed canal.
The next time you go across the Tantramar Marsh and cross between Nova Scotia and New
Brunswick just think of what you might have seen and taken a bridge over!