Halifax Mayor Peter Kelly has heard some thoughts about how to create a prosperous city from a Northern Irish counterpart whose region has been quite successful at it.

Tom Hartley, the Lord Mayor of Belfast, spent Monday visiting Halifax and stopped into city hall for a chat.

“In a way the pressures on a city like Belfast are similar to the pressure on a city like Halifax,” Mr. Hartley said in an interview.

But Halifax has been mired in a seemingly never-ending debate about downtown development in recent years, while Belfast has experienced a building boom and attracted investment from all over Europe as it capitalized on the peace after the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

“There’s a lot happening in our city,” Mr. Hartley said.

“This year there is about 500 million pounds (about $913 million) of investment coming on-stream in Belfast.”

Mr. Hartley pointed out that several historic civic buildings and cathedrals have been refurbished and there are new multimillion-dollar riverside developments in the works, including the ambitious Titanic Quarter — named after the ill-fated ocean liner that was built there — slated for completion in 2012 to mark the centennial of the ship’s sinking.

“Each city has its own creative and dynamic population who can make change,” Mr. Hartley said. “You really need to join up your services. You really need to bring people from different disciplines together. You really need to utilize the talent of a city to then sort of drive the city forward. And I think that’s the secret today.

“And that lesson is as relevant to Halifax as it is to Belfast.”

Mr. Kelly, who has spoken proudly in the past of his Irish heritage, couldn’t be reached for comment.

Charles Cirtwill, vice-president of the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies, said Belfast has benefited greatly because it’s part of the U.K. and is next to the Republic of Ireland, two growth-oriented countries that have invested in healthcare, education, transportation and attracting people.

But Halifax has been held back by all levels of government, he said.

“It’s only been in the response to the latest recession that you’ve seen national strategies much more focused on individuals than simply growing government,” Mr. Cirtwill said. “Nova Scotia is, in my view, one of the laggards in terms of having an innovative response to the recession.

“All we’re doing is looking at spending on the same things, just spending more.”

Mr. Cirtwill said provinces such as Ontario and New Brunswick have taken a more innovative approach in restructuring their economies.

“The business community spends a lot of time saying we need leadership and it’s only really been in the last little while that some of them have started to step forward to fill that vacuum,” he said.

Still, Belfast’s Lord Mayor was quick to notice some things that are immune to government change.

“This is like our January weather,” Mr. Hartley said as he toured the Holy Cross Cemetery on South Street, where many Irish immigrants were buried.