Why (and Why Not) Move to Nova Scotia?

Port Royal is close to our house on Hollow Mountain Road
Port Royal: The oldest European settlement north of Florida

You need a compelling reason to go to the trouble and expense of moving from one part of the country to another — and even more so from one country to another.

Ontario is a great province.  We enjoyed living there.  So why did we move?

It was prompted mainly by the winters there.  Ian in particular decided to look for a spot with a milder climate (though at one point in our relocation search, we were seriously considering Northern Ontario – -Thunder Bay, Rainy River!).  And there was also the small consideration of price…

Real Estate Prices – This blog is full of testimony to the fact that as far as real estate prices go, Nova Scotia is hard to beat.  We conducted an extensive Internet search before we moved, and we settled on the convenience store in Hillsburn as the best overall value for our money.  A good-sized commercial building with an ocean-view and an operating business for $50,000? — where else but Nova Scotia?  And houses are just as affordable here.

Mild Temperatures – Nova Scotia is the warmest province in Canada on a year-round basis.  This past winter was one of the coldest on record in Canada.  And yet our overnight temperatures didn’t fall below -18 celcius.  It was not uncommon when we lived in Ontario to see the mercury plummet to -35 celcius on the really cold nights, making life a whole lot more miserable and difficult.


Sea foam
Sea foam and fishing boat, Annapolis River, near Annapolis Royal

Water, water and more water (and awesome views!)!  Nova Scotia is called Canada’s Ocean Playground for a good reason.  It is surrounded by ocean.  But within the province are plenty of lakes and rivers, brooks and streams.  Where we live, hills and valleys (and a few mountain ranges) are abundant.  In fact, a truly level lot is hard to find.  There’s no shortage of lookout posts. The scenery in this area is stunning.  It is a photographer’s dream.

Seafood – If you enjoy freshly cooked seafood, Nova Scotia is your province.  Seafood restaurants, diners, take-outs … even though there seems to be a shortage of some types of commercial enterprises (such as book stores, pet stores, farm supply stores. — the list goes on depending on your interests —  and, of course, manufacturing industry), fresh seafood outlets is not one of them.

Historical Sites –  Nova Scotia is one of the first-settled areas (by Europeans) in North America.  In fact, French explorers established settlements along the Annapolis River basin in the Annapolis Royal/Port Royal area (close to where our Hollow Mountain house is located) as early as 1605.  Port Royal was the first European settlement in North America north of Florida.

Prices and Taxes – We’ve become accustomed to consumer pricing in Nova Scotia, but I do recall our initial shock at the price of milk.  More than $4.00 for a two-litre carton.  We used to pay that for four litres!  And you would think that in a land of seafood, fish would be less expensive.  But those cans of sardines and kippered snacks are still less expensive in Ontario than here.  Pet foods, gas, tobacco products, most store-bought items are more expensive in Nova Scotia.  But the difference for most isn’t all that drastic — dairy products were what made the most staggering impression on us when we first moved here.

HST is 15% not 13% (as in Ontario).  Nova Scotia’s HST is the highest in the country.  If you are an HST-registrant, it doesn’t matter much as you can claim the business-related HST you pay as an ITC.  But it does matter for consumers.

We have read and been told that provincial taxes in Nova Scotia are higher than in most provinces.  (This is certainly true compared to Ontario.) And we know the government likes to collect user fees (such as those imposed on small businesses).

Jobs – There’s much written by the press about “no jobs” in Nova Scotia.  Our observation is that there are jobs (perhaps more available jobs than was the case in our area of Ontario) but that most pay minimum-wage.  A higher percentage are seasonal, part-time.  And the jobs aren’t restricted to positions on lobster boats.  Tourist-related, retail, health care, food-service — there are definitely jobs out there.  But fewer positions in the manufacturing industry  — at least in the area in which we live.

Entrepreneurial Opportunities – The sky’s the limit in this category.  When we lived close to Brockville, we regarded the city of 20,000 as lacking compared to Ottawa and Kingston.  Here in Nova Scotia, though, a city like Brockville would be viewed as a shopping mecca.  There are a few good-sized stores in Digby, just five minutes from Smiths Cove.  But to find a shopping district on par with Brockville, one would have to drive an hour and a half to New Minas.  As a rule, it seems to require more driving in Nova Scotia to find anything except the most basic items.  This would seem to create opportunities for the entrepreneur.  The government of Nova Scotia is also proactive in encouraging the development of certain industries – such as forestry, agriculture and alternative energy sources.

Agriculture  – Nova Scotia’s climate is characterized by moderation.  It is described as “modified continental”.  The ocean waters surrounding the province act as the moderating influence so that the temperatures are not as extreme as they are in continental regions of the country.  This makes for ideal conditions for growing certain crops.  Near where we live, for example, in Bear River, there are a few successful wineries, unusual considering the size of the small community.  Livestock, too, fare better in milder climates.  We remember all too well how harsh winter weather in Ontario cut short young lives that would have survived in milder temperatures.

Waiting it out
Low tide at Parker’s Cove wharf suspends activities

The Tides – The Bay of Fundy, close to where we live, is world-renowned for boasting the highest tides in the world.  The tide phenomenon is a whole article in itself, but suffice to say that experiencing the effects of high and low tide is well worth at least a visit to the area.  High tides can be powerful, even destructive, especially if strong winds are associated with them; low tides can definitely be inconvenient, especially if you are stuck somewhere you don’t really want to be.  Nova Scotia has set as one of its economic goals harnessing the power of the tides to produce energy.  In fact, there is a tidal power site right on the outskirts of Annapolis Royal.  Built in 1984, it was the first one in operation in North America.




One thought on “Why (and Why Not) Move to Nova Scotia?”

  1. Great post! I’m retiring from the military this year. Currently living in Kemptville which as you know is not too far from Brockville. My wife and I (with our 12-year old daughter) were thinking of relocating to NS. I actually spent some time (1999, 2010) in Aldershot (New Minas/Kentville). Planning to return to school to do a 1-2 year program at NSCC, however hard to know what to do. I crave getting back to the east coast (I’m originally from NL), however going there to not find a job, is a little frightening. However, reading about the tides, scenery and everything else makes it an urge hard to fight.

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