City of Firsts

The City of Saint John was the first community in British North America to be granted local self-rule way back in 1785 soon after British Empire Loyalists arrived as refugees from the American Revolutionary War.

The end result was the development of Canada’s first municipal government, which gave Saint John local control over its own affairs. This enabled successive mayors, councils and wider business community to work together to finance and build what we today would recognize as the foundations of the modern city. Together they established in Saint John:

  • Canada’s first chartered bank, the Bank of New Brunswick
  • Canada’s first public water system
  • Canada’s first police force
  • Canada’first public high school
  • Canada’first fire insurance company
  • Canada’first penny newspaper
  • Canada’s first 12-hour work day
  • Canada’first public library
  • Canada’first public playground

History of Innovation

The Saint John region was an early leader in the development of digital technology because of collaborations between government, academia and the private sector, led by NBTel, now part of Bell Canada.

NBTel was the first company in Canada to install a fully digital switching network in 1993. This lead to other Canadian firsts:

  • voice mail (1993)
  • the screenphone (1993)
  • caller ID (1993)
  • Internet service (1994)
  • high-speed Internet on home computers (1996)
  • streaming video services over phone wires (1998)

This innovation lead the way to key tech start-ups like Radian6 (now part of Salesforce) and the development and attraction of a cluster of IT companies in Uptown Saint John.  It is one of the largest IT workforce in 130 communities across Canada. To learn more about the cluster and what it means to work here, go to