The Incredible Shrinking Region Awakens

Part 1 - Bob Mann on hope, home and what comes next. 

Bob with one of his FIVE CHILDREN (that's right, FIVE). 

Bob with one of his FIVE CHILDREN (that's right, FIVE). 

Earlier this year, published a 5-part series in response to the Globe and Mail Article: Canada’s Incredible Shrinking Region . Need a refresher? (This is the part where you click on the link without me telling you to CLICK HERE because telling someone to CLICK HERE is old fashioned.) 

Since we published the first round of dispatches, a lot has changed including our national leadership, international strife, war, terrorism and the general terribleness of Donald Trump. Seemed like a good time for some hope.

Here we go:


Bob Mann



Current home province

Nova Scotia

What brought you here/made you stay?

I was born and raised here and this is where my family is. It would take something significant to get me to consider relocating.

The national political landscape has shifted since the original article and’s response. Have you noticed any change in the attitudes of people in the Maritimes since the federal election or any changes on a business front?

I’ve definitely seen a change in attitude since the federal election, but it’s still early days. The focus has shifted so dramatically to international security issues that it’s kind of hard to gauge the pulse right now on issues like the economy. But I’ve definitely seen a shift that represents a broader perspective of our place in the world and how we can best serve each other. Before the election, I felt like we were shutting our doors on meaningful international participation, but this new government appears poised to take a different approach. In addition to it being just the right thing to do, I think this new approach can only help us economically. We need people to keep us strong. We have lots of opportunity here.

Right now, sometimes it seems like we think of ourselves as separate from other parts of Canada. Do you agree? (Why or why not?) and if you agree, how can the Maritimes be part of a larger national and global narrative?

There have been many times in my life when I’ve felt that we’ve oversold our uniqueness. We tell the world that we’re “friendlier”, but friendlier than what, exactly? Has this made us more open to others than other parts of Canada? Have we been more welcoming to people of different backgrounds, races and ethnicities? Has our part of Canada been a better place for Aboriginal Peoples than other parts of Canada? What would be our basis for thinking so? I have my doubts about these things. In my view, Atlantic Canada has made far too much of its uniqueness in the past and not nearly enough of our similarities and the things that unite us. We’ve been hothouse flowers when it comes to the economic success of other regions and smug when those regions suffer downturns. I dislike this regional competitiveness and the attitudes that go with it. It’s viral, learned way of thinking that isn’t helpful. I grew up in Cape Breton where I frequently heard people speaking ill of the “mainland”. Now I live and work on the mainland and I hear the same kind of rhetoric directed towards other provinces. It’s not helpful. 

Sometimes Maritimers have been known to use phrases like “come from away”. How can the entire region be more welcoming and supportive of newcomers, new businesses and new ways of doing things?

We’re going to get seriously left behind other parts of the world if we don’t change our “come from away” attitudes. We need to be grateful for everyone who comes to our home from somewhere else, because they bring with them skills, ideas and perspectives we may not have but for our exposure to them. I want my children to travel and be welcome in other places, and the best assurance of this happening is that they will carry with them our reputation of being welcoming ourselves. But this will only be so if we earn that reputation. But I’m not naïve; there are many here who will not easily have their minds changed; who will always be skeptical of outsiders. I think that’s always going to be true, to a certain extent. But we can have laws, policies and initiatives that favour and reinforce the right behaviours and discourage the wrong ones. This needs to be part of the DNA of our businesses, our laws and our governments.

What are some of the ways you / your family / your business are trying to support growth and change in the region?

It’s a big question. I’m not entirely convinced that growth is everything it’s cracked up to be. The language is shifting and I think sustainability will soon overtake growth as the key yardstick of success. On the other hand, I have made the odd and incremental life choice to have a family with five children, so I’m not the most credible critic of growth. In any event, I like to think that I’ve done my own small part to maintain the population in our little province.

There are a lot of regional, national and international stories currently that could make us despair. What makes you hopeful about what’s to come in 2016?

What increasingly gives me hope is every time there is some negative, ruinous or calamitous story, is the sheer number of people I see rejecting those views. I believe those numbers are growing. I think it’s the reason for the results of the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections in the U.S., and our most recent federal election here. I believe that good, generous people who have faith in the goodness of others and a willingness to cultivate that goodness are gradually outnumbering those who feel otherwise. I see new evidence of that every day.