By Santo Dodaro
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Additional resources for The Big Picture: The Antigonish Movement of Eastern Nova Scotia
39 As was the case for the maritime provinces as a whole, the First World War gave rise to a period of short-lived prosperity in eastern Nova Scotia, particularly in the two industrial counties. However, the end of the war ushered in a period of economic stagnation and decline affecting all sectors, including within the industrial centres. 40 At the same time, the economy was undergoing fundamental structural changes. The prolonged period of stagnation and decline that continued during the 1920s had a profound effect on a local population that was far removed from the early settler days.
At stake was the survival not only of the communities but also of the Catholic Church itself as an integral part of the region. The First Attempts The first attempts at social and economic change in eastern Nova Scotia constituted, in the main, local responses to the several waves of 34 The Big Picture social and political movements that swept the North American continent in the early 1900s. 60 The Catholic Church, led by Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical Rerum Novarum, also joined the process, inspiring various priests and religious to work to improve the lives of the faithful.
Arguably, the best time may not be during an economic boom, when both the motivation may be low and the opportunity cost may be high, making grassroots activities unlikely to arise. There seems to be a relatively brief “window of opportunity,” perhaps no longer than the span of a generation or two, when a grassroots movement can succeed in reversing the stagnation, out-migration, demoralization, and community decay that characterize economic decline. It is difficult to effect renewal once resignation, demoralization, and apathy are firmly entrenched in the very culture of the people.