Nova Scotia, Ottawa, and the Politics of Regional Development


412 pages
Contains Bibliography, Index
ISBN 0-8020-6745-X
DDC 338.9716




Reviewed by Phillip J. Wood

Phillip J. Wood is an associate professor of political studies at
Queen’s University.


This is an ambitious effort in the political economy genre to rescue the
study of regional development policy in Canada from where it usually
resides, in the fields of conventional policy analysis and public
administration. It attempts theoretical and historical synthesis (both
of which are only partly successful, although there is much of value in
the effort) of the historical development of the Nova Scotia economy and
of provincial economic development policy, the politics of federal
regional policy-making (which is the main focus), and the national and
international contexts in which these efforts occurred. In addition,
there is an introductory chapter on regional development theory, and a
concluding theoretical discussion of the politics of centre-periphery

In broad terms, Bickerton argues that the failure of federal regional
policy can be ascribed to the fact that it has generally been shaped by
forces beyond the control of provincial actors. In the absence of a
systematic national effort to develop an economic-planning capacity, or
at least an “industrial policy,” regional policy initiatives were
bound to be sporadic, beset by a variety of competing claims, and
peripheral to the main jobs of the Canadian capitalist state—to
respond to the demands of the nationally dominant factions of capital
and to develop an overall policy structure that would interfere as
little as possible with the regionally centralizing logic of a
capitalist economy. The state took its best shot (dree) at regional
policy in a context of relative prosperity in the late 1960s and early
1970s. But this window of opportunity was short-lived, undermined by the
beginning of serious economic and regional restructuring at the
international level, and by a renewed policy emphasis on

Federal policies have not been without effect, however. While they have
failed to generate serious regional development, they have provided
enough in the way of subsidies and other benefits to keep the political
lid on. Their contribution to the continued marginalization of Nova
Scotia has thus been double-barrelled.


Bickerton, James., “Nova Scotia, Ottawa, and the Politics of Regional Development,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed September 25, 2023,