SGS Spotlights Sean Cox

Author: Sarah Hall

Posted on Jun 8, 2023

Category: Student Stories

Profile of: Sean Cox

Faculty: Arts

Department: History

Project supervised by:  Dr. Sasha Mullally

New Brunswick’s role in the northeastern “Vacationland” of 20th century tourism significantly influenced spatial conceptualizations of the province and the creation of new mobility infrastructures. By examining the development, improvement, or replacement of transportation networks within the province over time, a complex narrative of changing spatial relationships emerges from the historical record. New Brunswick’s commercial reputation as an environmental tourism destination was crafted decades before the first automobile arrived in the province. However, incursive technologies of 20th century mobility and tourism rapidly transformed spatial and temporal connections, contracting distance and further commodifying the environment into a visual consumable.

The mid-20th century national agreement for linking an “all Canadian” highway from coast to coast inspired new discussions on regional development, debates concerning federal-provincial relationships to mobility networks, and a national interest in developing an economic model for tourism. For New Brunswick, this manifested in a regional struggle to capture and maintain tourism traffic, confronting rapid technological changes and societal designations of “to” or “through” spaces. Early auto-road networks in the province had largely followed their horse drawn predecessors, while the high modernist mega-projects of the mid-20th century quite literally paved new paths through space to reduce travel time, therefore bypassing settlement spaces and linking others together more directly. Caught in this infrastructural tension were the three major urban spaces of New Brunswick; Fredericton, Moncton, and Saint John. As each centre lobbied for greater influence or connection as a regional hub, transportation networks were frequently at the core of these internal arguments and publicity campaigns.

From this spatial approach, New Brunswick’s legacy of investing in modern tourism exposes a more progressive Maritime environment than has been often portrayed. While recessions and conceptual marginalization significantly damaged provincial prosperity at times, the story of New Brunswick’s roads and landscapes is far more compelling than oversimplified narratives of decay and diminishment.