A few weeks ago I posted about some of the challenges of integrating into Cape Breton
I received way more comments and shares than I could keep track of, and the conversations were very thought provoking and respectful. It got me thinking that perhaps Cape Bretoners don’t realize why people choose to move here. I have a personal perspective on this I would like to share, but encourage others to add their comments as well. I'll avoid the tongue and cheek Trump clickbait stuff and give my honest perspective.
1. Cape Bretoners are not materialistic. Growing up in small town Ontario I found the people that were part of my every day life more and more materialistic. Coming from a modest upbringing I found that there was increasing pressure on my family to keep up with everyone else. This was a huge issue in school where kids seemed to have lost sight of values, being drawn to the next marketing craze. So much pressure all around. In Cape Breton things are much up front and genuine, and that is the way I like it. Living here takes all that pressure away, and I can't stress how important it is to me.
2. Cape Breton is paradise on earth. Cape Breton is the place for nature enthusiasts. People come to Cape Breton to hike, cycle, paddle, ski. Although there are efforts to improve physical activity throughout the island, there is no shortage of opportunities and many people enjoy the fresh air, scenery and social outings organized throughout the year. I’m thinking of places like the Coxheath Mountain Trails, North Highlands Nordic, Ski Tuonela, North River Kayaking and Cape Breton Highlands National Park to name but a few.
3. There is so much heritage here and it is hard to not get caught up in it. Many people not from here don’t carry with them the same sense of heritage that people on the island do. People here can trace back their families for generations. Only a small percentage of people from other places have an interest in this or even know where to start. The thought of knowing where you come from provides a better sense of where you are now. Cape Breton inspires a greater understanding of the past. In the time I’ve lived here I have realized that I both have Acadian and Mi'kmaq heritage, something I never knew or felt I had time to research until I came here. The place inspires me to find my own roots, and look at the future with a sense of how we have gotten to this point in time.
4. Cape Breton is good for small business. Yes, I know this flies in the face of some recent events, such as store closures in downtown Sydney. But it is true. There is so much support here for buying local, many motivated people behind the movement and people that are liberal enough to try new things. The is so much energy and ambition here in individuals and places like the local farmers markets and artisan community.
In other places the notion of heritage places and community investment have been overtaken by box stores with uniform shopping options and the global influence of the web. Although not immune to these aspects, Cape Breton is still a place where small businesses can thrive. There is support through groups like Cape Breton Partnership, New Dawn, Innovacorp, and ACOA to help with investment and expertise. There are other examples of communities deciding what is best to attract for community sustainability and prosperity and Cape Breton has the people, geography and expertise to do something similar.
5. Support for the artists and the arts. I have to say that this community is growing and thriving. It is playing a major role in tourism and the local economy. There is so much talent here and it is promoted through groups like the Cape Breton Centre for Craft and Design, CBU Art Gallery, Inverness County Centre for the Arts and Lumiere. Speaking of Lumiere, were you there last year? The outdoor art show in the downtown core of Sydney had to be the largest gathering in Cape Breton in some time. When it comes to performing arts the Highland Arts Theatre has been a major success in a short amount of time. And the recent productions at the Savoy and the Boardmore have been tremendous. There is so much talent and will in Cape Breton that things will just get bigger and better, and it has been fun to watch things grow as someone newer to Cape Breton.
6. Cape Breton is a great home base for east coast tourism. There is so much to see in this area. When I came here I was excited about how close I was to everything - Newfoundland, PEI, Halifax, the Bay of Fundy. From Cape Breton I could get anywhere on the east coast in a short amount of time. Even longer distances are less of a chore and more of an adventure. What I have found since moving here is that there is so much to see on this island that I have hardly had time to explore anywhere else!
7. Cape Breton is the best place to raise kids. I’m throwing this out here. People may disagree, but I feel it is true. This is a place where we can promote good values, have them experience nature, and let kids be kids. I have been impressed by the schools here. I have only dealt with dedicated teachers looking to make meaningful connections with their students. The smaller class sizes has meant more attention. Schools dedicated to their local communities and providing children with a sense of community. People here are so appreciative of children and what they represent - the future of Cape Breton. When it comes to youth engagement there has been a concerted effort to encourage them and it shows. The Doctors Nova Scotia Fiddler’s Fun Run and the thousands of children that attend, youth programs that promote creative art and music, all ages shows, theatre productions, dedicated scout leaders, naturalist programs, summer children animation and leadership programs for children through the Fortress Louisbourg Association. We are investing in youth and looking towards the future - and the future is bright.
8. The cost of living lets you pursue your dreams. Cape Breton is one of the most reasonable places to live in Canada. You won't find a cheaper place to buy a house, and you won't be taxed to death. The best places to find your next home are Realtor.ca or Viewpoint.ca. You also have access to all of the seafood you would ever need if that is your thing. Sure heating costs are a little more expensive, as is meat and dairy that is mostly exported, but the other costs are so relatively reasonable that you will end up farther ahead.
9. This place grows on you. Cape Breton is a place of so many wonderful experiences that you want to share it with everyone that visits. There are the standards - Cabot Trail, Fortress of Louisbourg, Miners Museum but there are also the areas that are not so obvious that take time to uncover.
Chris Bellemore is a blogger originally from Ontario that moved to Cape Breton Island and is logging his experiences in this strange and wonderful place.