Strata of the Lower Cambrian (Atdabanian) Ella Bay Formation reflect progradation and exposure of a rimmed carbonate platform, subject to intermittent introduction of siliciclastic material from an inshore coastal sand belt or fluviodeltaic source. Initial rapid progradation of platformal carbonates was related to late rift subsidence. Stabilization of depositional sites of oolitic and stromatolitic platform marginal carbonates during middle and late Ella Bay times reflects the earliest phase of differential subsidence of the platform and deep-water basin within the Franklinian mobile belt. Carbonate strata landward of the rim accumulated in a protected shelf setting that was for the most part below effective storm wave base. Towards the end of Ella Bay times, the outer rim became emergent as a result of differential rotation along listric faults as the continental margin began to subside in response to early sea-floor spreading. Dissolution of carbonates along the outer rim during this phase led to the development of distinctive breccia-conglomerates as cave and karst fill. Carbonate production in the lagoon became highly restricted as siliciclastics derived from the inshore clastic belt flooded the area. The pronounced change in style between the Ella Bay Formation and overling clastics of the Ellesmere Group, which consists of a thick sequence of northwesterly prograding clastic wedges, may reflect a change to more rapid subsidence as the ocean began to spread. The local unconformity between the Ella Bay Formation and the Ellesmere Group is thus interpreted as a breakup unconformity.