What’s in a name? The Dartmouth FAQ


Several unrelated things have led a lot of Dartmouthians to wrongly believe that the municipal government is trying to officially erase the name Dartmouth.

It isn’t true, and anyone who tells you that this is the plan has not done the research or has some other agenda.

I put this Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) together to answer some of the rumours that are running around.

Change.org petition requests (EDIT July 15:  Apparently, while you cannot ‘unsign’ a petition on change.org, you CAN change the petition question after someone has signed the petition.  This is crazy to me and completely undermines the validity of any petition generated by change.org.   The Dartmouth petition has been edited and the questions changed since I posted this blog article.)

1 restore the name Dartmouth as a mailing address and for voter registration and ID

Mailing addresses have not changed.

In fact mailing addresses must still use the existing community names in addition to correct postal codes, e.g. Dartmouth, Cole Harbour, Bedford, Lower Sackville, Musquodoboit Harbour, etc. are still recognized and required as part of the federal postage delivery system. You can check this here, all Dartmouth addresses show as “Dartmouth, NS”

The elections Canada Website appears to be using the Federally designated “Census Area” not municipal community names.

There is no Municipal requirement for voter registration and ID to be anything different than the mailing address used by Canada Post.

The Census Area has been “Halifax (Regional Municipality)” since 1996. All census areas correspond to municipal boundaries. You can see it being used on the Elections Canada site in the pic below. At least one person in Dartmouth has received a voting card and it arrived with “Dartmouth NS” as the address. Using the census area in this way is a weird Federal thing that has nothing to do with the municipality.

Census Subdivision

2 – ensure the name Dartmouth is visibly associated with landmarks such as the Dartmouth Common, Dartmouth Waterfront, Dartmouth Ferry, Sullivan’s Pond and others

The municipality is not changing any of these names. There has been no policy change at Council or by staff to change any names. In fact, Council has a policy of maintaining community names (see below). Two notes though:

  • the Sullivan’s Pond community sign had said Halifax Regional Municipality for at least two years (see pics below). Clearly the use of the Halifax logo was simply changing the logo on the same sign to the new brand.


  • The ferry service was taken over by the regional transit system from the former city of Dartmouth in 1994, before amalgamation. The oldest HRM budget I could find on line refers to it just as the “Ferry Service” back in 2000. There has been no change to the name as a result of the rebranding, see page 127 of the 2000/01 budget.

3 – ensure the name Dartmouth is visibly associated with Dartmouth-specific policies and legislation, such as the Dartmouth Municipal Planning Strategy and Dartmouth Land Use By-law

The Municipality is currently re-writing the Municipal Planning Strategy (MPS) and Land Use By-Laws(LUB) for the regional centre plan, ie: Dartmouth inside the circumferential and Halifax peninsula.  There will be one new Regional Centre MPS and LUB for both areas. Dartmouth will continue to be described in area plans inside these documents, for example the Downtown Dartmouth sub-area will continue to be used.  It will not rename Dartmouth to Halifax, nor will it rename Halifax peninsula to Dartmouth.

4 – ensure that those entering Dartmouth are greeted with “Welcome to Dartmouth” signage.

There is no plan remove Dartmouth signs, or any other community sign. The signs are being updated to have the new logo on them. As you can see below, the community name is bigger and more prominent in the new design, the Halifax logo is smaller and moved below the community name.  The 2003 community naming policy continues to be in effect. You can read about it in this report.

The ‘community’ in the top pic is blurry because I grabbed it from Google Street View, which sometimes does that.

Other Questions:

How did this happen? Did Council approve this change?

The new brand was debated at a regular, advertised meeting of Regional Council, and approved on April 15, 2014.  Council then passed a policy on branding around the name, brand and new logo.

How come the public didn’t know about it? 

The branding exercise actually involved one of the broadest consultations in the history of the municipality.   Extensive research conducted before, during and after the branding project resulted in more than 2,500 people (at 39 locations including the Black Cultural Centre, Alderney Market/Dartmouth Ferry Terminal, Shubie Park, Cole Harbour Place, Mic Mac Mall, and Woodlawn Library) contributing to the best name for the Halifax region, in addition to 16,000+ visitors to the online portal/social media posts and 1,100 stakeholder and focus group participants.

The decision was not done in secret; it got a lot of press.

Okay but why? Why did Council suddenly make this change?

The rebranding was a key goal of the Halifax Partnerships Economic Strategy since 2011. The goal was to “create and transition to a unique, international brand for Halifax”.

The Municipal brand project was directed by Council in part as response to this request. It was seen as a way to “better reflect the region’s best attributes and project the image of the municipality in a more relevant, memorable and compelling manner,” and to better serve the region’s economic development and tourism interests.

What about the Burnside signs?

Burnside and City of Lakes signs were in really poor repair and needed to be replaced. These signs have said Halifax on them for almost 20 years. The new brand signs make the area name and street name more prominent, and actually make the Halifax logo smaller.


Isn’t Halifax Regional Municipality the legal name?

Yes, many municipalities have a legal name such as “City of Toronto” in the City of Toronto Act 2006, but logo just says Toronto, and both names are used interchangeably. The legal name “Halifax Regional Municipality” is still used on legal documents, and where appropriate for things like oaths, minutes and formal occasions.

How much did it cost to rebrand the city? It must cost a lot of money to paint all those buses and stuff!

The expenses include costs related to the original development and approval of the brand (approximately $300,000) and one-time costs associated with any initial implementation of the brand program (approximately $50,000)

The municipality continues to replace the old logo with the new brand whenever they going to incur replacement costs anyway. Every year some Halifax Transit buses and ferries are repainted to maintain the appearance and protect the structure of the vehicles.  They are now being repainted in the new brand instead of the old design.  It doesn’t cost more money to paint on the new design or replace a broken sign, it is money that would be spent anyway.  Because of this it will take several years to completely renew the municipal brand.

Halifax, Dartmouth and county bus livery 1950-present.


  • Erika Beatty

    Thanks for the research, Waye, and for being a clear, upfront communicator.

    Part of the attention might be because of the success of the new branding: in many of the photos you provided above the word “Halifax” stands out much more clearly in the new sign than in the old ones, even if the font was made smaller. Not everyone will love the new brand, but it really stands out.

    And if it helps the discussion, when I moved to Nova Scotia from Manitoba, I was tickled pink to share with friends that I was moving to Halifax – that’s how most people in the rest of the country identify the whole region, not just the core. My recent move across the harbour I’m obviously sharing with old and new friends as moving from the North End to Dartmouth. No one seems stumped.

    It’s all about perspective I think. Is the signage for people who live here (and presumably already know where they are) or for outsiders we hope to “welcome!”?

    • Mofhrm

      I agree about the signs.
      They definitely are not as clear as the old one differentiating the Halifax and the community name.
      I think if the HALIFAX was put in the same spot as the old sign or as an additional sign attachment it would be better.
      A quick glance at signs from the Greater Toronto area show that they are not labeling them with Toronto. They may have Parks and Rec Toronto below in much smaller lettering on some of the rec facility. But they all clearly have the name of the community first and foremost. .

      • Matt

        What part of “As you can see below, the community name is bigger and more prominent in the new design, the Halifax logo is smaller and moved below the community name” do you not understand?

        Did you read the blog post above?

        • Mofhrm

          Yes, I did. Did you actually look at the signs? Did you actually read my post or just see what you wanted to read?
          The word Halifax is smaller but not much and with the new design of the new signs it all blends together and is not as distinguishable or clear as the older signs. I read it< i just don;t agree with it.
          You obviously didn't even read what I wrote. Did you design the new signs?

          • Erika Beatty

            Sorry if I wasn’t clear about my reaction to the signs.

            I like them. The community is prominently featured, with the region (Halifax), secondary. I think visitors need to be able to easily see what community they are entering (or leaving), and that they are still in the region of Halifax.

            The new branding requires fewer characters to get the message across, which is really helpful when driving by. Hopefully it’s a passenger who is navigating, but not always, so being able to get a quick visual snapshot is really helpful.

            I hope that helps.

        • Gargramel

          The community name is barely bigger and in the most successful city in the country they do not force the Toronto label onto the communities and cities making up Toronto.

          • Yes they do, in amalgamated Toronto. You are thinking about the cities that still have governments of their own that make up GTA.

    • Gargramel

      Actually that is a statement of your belief not fact as to what the rest of the country thinks.

  • Scott Benjamin

    If all that is true, what is the objection to a clarification on all those signs, such as “Halifax Regional Municipality” in small print below the logo?
    Many locals are already confusing “H/lif/x” the brand with “Halifax” the former city, thinking Dartmouth, Bedford etc are part of the latter. What can we expect strangers (the purported targets of the branding) supposed to think fer cryin’ out loud?

    • Waye Mason

      The region is Halifax. IT has communities in it. Already you see parts of the City of Halifax be referred to primarily by their old pre-annexation names, Fairview, Armdale, Spryfield. I don’t think it is really confusing. Most cities in Canada – Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal for example – have communities in them that used to be cities, and those names are still used.

      • Scott Benjamin

        There you go, making the mistake I referred to.. The region is Halifax Regional Municipality until the Governor in Council says otherwise. Maybe the region is *called* Halifax but it isn’t Halifax.

        • Waye Mason

          The municipality is legally Halifax Regional Municipality. As I say in my blog post, the legal name of Toronto is City of Toronto. People call it Toronto. People call Halifax, Halifax. You are right – it has to be Halifax Regional Municipality on legal documents, oaths, laws, unless the GIC allows a change. But it can and is Halifax for marketing and branding purposes, and any argument that there is a legal impediment to that is a specious arguement.

          • Mofhrm

            Sorry but when you refer to an almost 5500 km2 region as Halifax, it is confusing to tourists. Toronto is now where near as big land wise.

            • Brian Crocker

              It hasn’t been confusing to tourists since amalgamation, and if you think every single tourist who ever set foot here has said “regional municipality” every time they refer to where they are going, after saying “Halifax”, then you’ve haven’t hung around tourists much.

              • Mofhrm

                It’s too big.

          • Gargramel

            This is misleading as all the cities that make up Toronto all have their own identities and their signage reflects that. All their welcome to signs show the name of their city only, nowhere is Toronto listed in big prominent lettering.

            • No, the cities you refer to in GTA also have their own governments. I am talking about the former cities that were amalgamated. North York was where I lived when were were posted there. Here you can see the TORONTO logo on the municipal plaza that used to be the heart of North York, in front of the old North York city hall. https://www.google.ca/maps/@43.768135,-79.412689,3a,15y,219.58h,97.65t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sNYUl6MvbUYpJR5oFIN4ATQ!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

              Here you see my old high school address is still “North York” because the community still exists. http://www.earlhaig.ca/main.php

            • That is wrong. The cities that make up GTA are all cities with their own government. The former cities that make up Toronto, North York, Scarborough, Etobicoke and York no longer have their own signs for flags, they all now have the Toronto logo.

              • Truth > Fiction

                Actually etobicoke sign says” welcome to Etobicoke the leading edge of metro”!

                • Truth > Fiction

                  Also entering scarborough the signs simply say welcome to scarborough..so no I am not wrong but you are in trying to justify your position by misleading people

                  • Like Halifax there is nothing to stop someone from putting up a sign. For example, there are signs saying “Welcome to Armdale” on the roundabout, or “Welcome to Cole Harbour” at Cole Harbour Road and Caldwell. In Toronto, amalgamated 1998, the libraries in all the former cities are Toronto Public Libraries it is all Toronto Police, it is all Toronto Fire, and all the municipal services have the new Toronto logo and the Toronto flag. I suggest that Dartmouth area councillors should work with residents and business groups and get some signs up just like has been done for 20 years in the rest of the municipality.

              • Liz Campbell

                One yr later, Waye Mason… and your point is? In the Greater Toronto Area, there are 25 incorporated municipalities in either York Region, Halton Region, Peel Region, Durham Region or Toronto. The former cities you mention above amalgamated in 1998. While this maybe the case for Toronto, it does not make it ok for HRM. The forced amalgamation of all communities within Halifax County included all Incorporated cities, townships, villages. All were to keep their community identities. Quite frankly, Dartmouth is not willing to be assimilated to Halifax, though it appears to be the desire of the makers of H/LIF/X that this be the case.
                Further, it is not only fool hardy to have two levels of ‘Halifax’ in our Municipality. If GTA works for the Greater Toronto area, the HRM can work for the Halifax Regional Municipality. The word ‘Regional’ keeps the Region intact. It is inclusive. H/LIF/X is only furthering the interests of the former city, now community, of Halifax. Many residents in the many communities on, in Savage’s words, “the Mainland” are not in support of elevating the “Peninsula” at their expense. Despite the argument that “what’s good for Halifax, is good for the Region”, is erroneous and dismissive to many residents in HRM. It is a divisive logo/brand. My views are in no way intended to insult the people of Halifax community. I love the community of Halifax and its people, history and culture. However, I love my community, DARTMOUTH; I’m a Dartmouthian and not a Haligonian.

                • I guess we will have to agree to disagree. As a Dartmouthian myself I think more community signs in Dartmouth is appropriate, but whether you like it or not, there is only one municipal government here now.

  • Richard MacDonald

    Use the Halifax logo in Halifax, not in Dartmouth…..I never liked amalgamation but at least hrh showed it was regional on signs…just having the Halifax logo is not right & it DOES take away from Dartmouth…

    • Waye Mason

      The regional government is the same in Bedford and Dartmouth and Tantallon. It is going to have the same logo on all of it, because we have one government. The community of Dartmouth exists but it is in the regional municipality of Halifax.

  • Can we all just take a second to marvel at the beauty in that yellow 1950s bus?!

    • Absolutely my favorite. Classic and beautiful.

  • Margo Grant

    Thanks for a much-needed Q&A. It won’t satisfy the Hali-haters, but then nothing would.

    • Gargramel

      It’s not a matter of hating Halifax no one really does but had Halifax had this done to them I can guarantee they would be screaming and kicking about losing their identity

  • Jeff Overmars

    It’s mind-numbing to see the “debate” rage on in the comments here, but the internet is a smarter place b/c of your post. Thanks for it. I’ll add that I’m a proud Dartmouth resident who doesn’t hate Halifax, however you refer to it.

    • Gargramel

      It’s not a matter of hating Halifax it’s a matter of having ones identity stolen from them and reduced little by little .

  • David Michels

    It would have been most simple at amalgamation to have chosen a neutral or regional name for the greater community, for instance Chebucto, that covers a larger area than the original city of Halifax. Others can likely suggest even better traditional or contemporary names for the area. Rather than do so the architects of amalgamation chose Halifax RM and now we have the simply branded HALIFAX. Haliginians would have been equally offended to have been subsumed under another name, but of course they weren’t required to do so. The HRM name change was expected to be controversial and it was controversial. The branding name change to HALIFAX was expected to be controversial and it is. Decisions have consequences, Mr. Mason, both for those affected by the decision and the decision makers. Thank you for the bus retrospective.

  • Gargramel

    Part of the issue was and still remains that a proud Independent city had its governance stolen from it at legislation point WITHOUT holding a referendum.
    These public consultations that you refer to were completely accurate there was public consultation with halifax getting over three times as many of these opportunities to have their say limiting the opportunity of Dartmouth and if they could make one of the few meetings held here. It continues to disgust many taxpayers in dartmouth that our tax dollars continue to be syphon ed off to pay for the continuing overhaul of Halifax proper. Let’s face it 54 plus million for an ugly library while the rest of the communities making up the hrm got very little in equal dollop or value. Shall we continue the plethora of instances where Halifax proper has continuously recited the majority of the tax dollars from all the communities making up the HRM since amalgamation . You cannot provide a list of projects where dollar for dollar were created in each community based on its population levels and equivalent tax bill. We can however provide a massive list show g all the majority of funding projects being carried out in Halifax. Yet people wonder why there is still such resentment after all these years. Hhhmm I wonder why!

    • Yes, lets ignore the new Woodside library, the complete refurb of Cole Harbour, the rehab of the Dartmouth ferry terminal, the Highfield terminal, the new amazing Bridge terminal at $13.5 million? How about the $70 million being spent on the Dartmouth 4 pad and the Dartmouth Sportsplex in the next 2 years.

    • On a per population basis the cash is spent pretty equally, but since the old city of Halifax has twice the population of Dartmouth it gets twice the stuff. Economic development investments are based on where the activity takes place and taxes come from, using those metrics of course Downtown Halifax and Burnside get more investment than Downtown Dartmouth, or Mainstreet, as former generate 10 times as much taxes and have 10 times the number of businesses. I don’t buy this argument that old city of Halifax gets everything. Show me that math, not heresay.

      • Truth > Fiction

        Wow you really are a pro halifax aren’t you…lol….let’s see when amalgamation was forced on us the development of Dartmouth came to a standstill and Halifax received the major funding for new projects. Yes old halifax has a higher population but that does not mean more tax revenue as the majority of those residents are apartment dwellers who pay no property taxes or water bills etc. Please show some numbers to substantiate the claim that a halifax apartment dweller is paying more taxes than I am in my home.

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