Maritime Rights

Maritime Rights was a regional protest that climaxed in the 1920s. Essentially a reform movement, it was triggered by the region's declining influence in CONFEDERATION and its inability to protect important interests in transportation, tariffs, port development and federal subsidies. Promoted by newspapers, boards of trade, Maritime clubs, Acadian "national" conventions, farm organizations and some trade unions, the agitation included frequent delegations to Ottawa, economic conferences, propaganda pamphlets and cross-country speaking tours. An amorphous movement, its leadership was legion, and included Nova Scotians H.S. Congdon, W.H. Dennis and F.B. McCurdy; New Brunswickers A.M. Belding and A.P. Patterson; and Prince Edward Islander A.E. MacLean.

Regional issues encouraged major shifts in the popular vote against unsympathetic federal governments. In 1921 Liberals swept 25 of 31 seats; in 1925, amid worsening economic depression, Conservatives won 23 of 29. In 1926 the Mackenzie King government appointed British lawyer Sir Andrew Duncan to investigate Maritime discontent. His recommendations of freight-rate reductions and subsidy increases were implemented, but suggestions for subsidies based on fiscal need and transportation use to encourage regional development were ignored. Hopes once raised turned to cynicism in the Great Depression and regional resentment along with vestiges of co-operation remained the movement's legacies.