"Our human destiny is inextricably linked to the actions of all other living things. Respecting this principle is the fundamental challenge in changing the nature of business."
- Paul Hawken, The Ecology of Commerce


- = Sustainable Economy Initiatives = -

New Dawn Enterprises, Cape Breton

New Dawn is the oldest community development corporation in Canada, based in the Cape Breton area of Nova Scotia. It seeks to identify community needs, and then establishes ventures that speak to those needs. It employs around 175 people, and delivers services to 600 Cape Bretoners daily, in a region where the unofficial unemployment rate is 45%.


Cape Breton Island sits at the northern end of Nova Scotia, on Canada’s eastern coast. The island is well-known for its beauty and its Celtic music, but it also has a long history of coal-mining, absentee management, exploitation, and high unemployment. In the 1920s, Father James John Tompkins - "Father Jimmy" - founded the Antigonish Movement. Inspired by a vision of people taking control over their own lives, work and destinies, the movement used education to train people to exercise cooperative leadership, and organize local organizations that are concerned with local wellbeing. In 1973, the Cape Breton Association for Cooperative development was set up by local people in an attempt to tackle the region’s problems. It responded to a call for help from a local craft school by buying an empty downtown building, and renovated it as a craft centre, a store and apartments. The Association then started borrowing money to rehabilitate other properties, and soon owned property worth $200,000. In 1976 – 25 years ago - New Dawn was incorporated to bring a more structured approach to community development. Its earliest ventures included a much-needed dental clinic, the Cape Breton School of Crafts, a half-way house for the mentally challenged, and a variety of housing projects.

Aims and Objectives

New Dawn Enterprises is a non-profit community development corporation, committed to establishing and operating locally-base ventures that contribute to the creation of a self-supporting community in Cape Breton.


New Dawn is governed by a volunteer group of citizens known as the "members", who have backgrounds in the trades and professions that contribute to the realization of the company’s goals. A Board of Directors is elected on a rotating basis from among the members, and meets quarterly. The Board is supported by a number of committees, reflecting New Dawn’s major activities.


The Cape Breton Association for Housing Development is the original organization which started it all. Over the years, it has upgraded or built 250 housing units for low to middle income families, built two fully equipped dental clinics, established two group homes for the mentally challenged, and developed 72 co-op housing units. In the process it has become one of the region’s largest private landlords, working in partnership with the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and the provincial government.

Pine Tree Park Estates is a decommissioned 100 acres military base which New Dawn has developed into a thriving mixed-use community. Pine Tree Park includes 60 residential seniors units; the New Dawn Guest Home (a 30-bed residential care facility); a 16-pad mobile home park for seniors and single parents; 30 duplex units that allow seniors to live on one side while their care-giving families live on the other side (providing 24-hour care at a cost that is substantially lower than institutional care); 4 homes for people who need nursing care; 14 commercial units for business start-ups (including a ceramics studio and store, a flooring outlet and a recycling business); a curling rink; and a bridge club.

Cape Care Services is a comprehensive 24-hour health and support program for people who need assistance in their own home, on a fee-for-service basis. Operating throughout Cape Breton, its 105 full and part-time staff provide nursing, personal care, cleaning, and foot care. The Foot Division also runs clinics in nursing homes and seniors facilities and clubs, and a mobile clinic that visits communities.

Sydney Senior Care Home Living arranges 24-hour home-living care for 37 seniors by caregivers and their families, who contract to look after one to three seniors, either in their own home, or in one of the Pine Tree Park duplex units (see above). The care includes meal-provision and housekeeping, as well as personal care.

The Volunteer Resource Centre runs a skills-matching service that links over 400 registered volunteers with people and organizations that need them. The Centre also operates Meals on Wheels, ‘Each One Teach One’ (a voluntary literacy program that helps 100 students a year); ‘Friendly Visiting’, a companionship program for seniors; and a voluntary health-care transport and snow removal service for seniors.

Highland Resources Limited is a trade school that runs a comprehensive 32-week Continuing Care Assistant training program for personal care workers that leads to certification for work in long-term care facilities, and an Industrial Training facility that provides a range of quality welding programs.

New Dawn Guest Home - A state-of-the-art 30-bed residential care facility. – a niche publishing company


After a difficult patch in the early 1980s, when New Dawn depended government funding for its programs (but not its core operations), New Dawn’s finances are now on a stable footing, with each venture operating its own self-sufficient finances. Each year, it contributes $4.5 million to the community through wages, benefits and the purchase of goods, and pays $225,000 in local taxes.


New Dawn employs 175 people and provides services to over 600 people daily. In spite of these efforts, however, Cape Breton still has an official unemployment rate of 20%, and an unofficial rate of 45%. To bring the region up to the Canadian national average, Cape Breton needs 20,000 new jobs. New Dawn shares a frustration with other development organizations and businesses in the area that their development efforts are so limited because the region lacks efficient transport, a first-class education and training system, innovative local government, access to capital, and a long-term economic development plan. In any given year, over $600 million of locally generated savings leaves Nova Scotia through retirements funds to be invested elsewhere in Canada and North America, instead of being used for local development.


2001 is New Dawn’s 25th anniversary, and plans for the future are focussed on a major community economic conference to be held in Sydney, Nova Scotia, on October 25th-26th, 2001, when New Dawn will reach out to community economic development colleagues across Canada and around the world. It will also tells its story through a video, a pictorial book, and a variety of community events. The plans for the next 25 years are to employ more people, serve more people, pay more wages and contribute more to the local economy.

For further information contact :

Charlene Blackie,
New Dawn Enterprises,
PO Box 1055,
Sydney, Nova Scotia B1P 6J7

Tel (902) 539-9560 Fax: (902) 539-7210

Written by Guy Dauncey for The Planning Exchange, Glasgow, Scotland.