Fast & Curious: Short Takes on Random Things

Inspiration Village

Great news, guys! Sydney is finally going to ship a sea container to Central Canada!

Artist’s rendering of Inspiration Village.

Okay, strictly speaking, we’re not “shipping” it. According to its press release, Destination Cape Breton Association will “transform” a sea container “into a life-size depiction of the many unforgettable experiences Cape Breton Island has to offer tourists.” The transformed sea container will join 40 other similarly transformed sea containers from other parts of Canada in Ottawa’s ByWard Market from 20 May to 14 September 2017. Together, they will constitute “Inspiration Village,” where, among other activities, visitors will be able to “take their photo in cut-outs of polar bears and beluga whales.”

Says DCBA CEO Mary Tulle:

To have a place in Inspiration Village presents a huge opportunity for Cape Breton Island to stand on a national stage during this four-month event. It is projected that Inspiration Village will attract hundreds of thousands of visitors during the four-month period. Cape Breton Island stands to have an impact on each one of those visitors through our highly visible presence at the event.

By the time she spoke to the Cape Breton Post, those “hundreds of thousands” of potential viewers had multiplied significantly:

Inspiration Village is a celebration, not just of Canada’s 150th, but of Ottawa. The mayor of Ottawa very much wanted to showcase all of Canada not just to Canadians but to the anticipated 11 million people that will be visiting Ottawa. So we are there with many other provinces and with Parks Canada and with other partners.

But let me be the first to admit, I’d be inspired if DCBA were to succeed in creating “life-size” depictions of the Cabot Trail, the Fortress of Louisbourg and the Bras d’Or lakes in a 20-foot sea container in downtown Ottawa. Who wouldn’t be?


In defense of seniors

Let me begin by stating that I understand that having an aging population is problematic and that Cape Breton needs to attract and/or keep more young people.

That said, media coverage of Atlantic Canada’s demographic situation sometimes inches into “grey peril” territory. Headlines like “Where have all the East Coast’s kids gone?” in the Toronto Star make it sound like we’ve got them all locked in a basement somewhere.

This photo is part of a funny "Senior Planet" feature on how to be an "active senior" according to Stock Photography.

This photo is part of a funny “Senior Planet” feature on how stock photography represents “active seniors”

I want to say two things:

One, we still consider people who are 65 to be “seniors,” but average life expectancy in Canada is now 82, and the difference between 65 and 82 is significant.

Two, many of the seniors of my acquaintance are still extraordinarily active in their communities — volunteering for school breakfast programs, sitting on community boards, coaching sports teams, supporting local theater, participating in fundraising activities, etc, etc, etc.

They’re also paying for the services of plumbers and electricians and hair stylists and carpenters and painters and mechanics. I know that they also account for more and more of our healthcare budget, but to see them solely as walking medical bills is to see only part of the picture.



We need more people in Cape Breton, that’s certain, and the more I think about it, the more I think the answer is simply to throw open the doors to immigrants.

I heard a great episode of NPR’s Planet Money on immigration which explored three possibilities for increasing immigration to the United States. Option three (which starts at 11:15), is presented by Alex Nowrasteh, a self-described libertarian from the Cato Institute (and not the sort of person I usually find myself in agreement with). Nowrasteh argues for what the hosts describe as a “free-for-all” approach to immigration, that is, only criminals, suspected terrorists and those with serious communicable diseases like drug-resistant tuberculosis should be turned away.

Whitney Pier, CB, melting pot monument. (Photo by George Mortimer, CBC

Whitney Pier, CB, melting pot monument. (Photo by George Mortimer, CBC)

And here’s the kicker: this actually was the immigration policy of the US from 1790 to 1882.

Nowrasteh answers worries about too many people coming by pointing out that the US is actually, given its geographic size, underpopulated (and Canada much more so). He says when large numbers of people arrive, it’s not a question of the existing economy struggling to accommodate them — instead, the existing economy expands to the benefit of everyone.

Look at what’s happening in PEI — yes, it is still losing young people at too high a rate, but Stats Canada said that in 2016, the number of people on the island aged 45 and under stopped declining and started to increase. As for the island’s economy, it grew 2.4% in 2016. Immigration is cited as a factor in both these successes.

What’s the difference between PEI and Cape Breton? We’re both islands in the North Atlantic, we have similar populations (PEI 146,283, Cape Breton 132,010), we’re dependent on some of the same industries. If anything, Cape Breton has an advantage over PEI because we’ve done mass immigration before — we’re good at it.

One of my party tricks when I lived abroad was telling people I came from a “city” of 25,000 people. “That’s not a city, that’s a village,” Europeans would say. (Not an “Inspiration Village,” of course, even Europeans know that involves sea containers) And then I’d tell them about the mix of people in my “village:” Mi’kmaq and Acadien and Scots and Irish and Poles and Ukrainians and Italians and Lebanese and West Indians and more. It never failed to impress. Because it’s impressive.

We live in a good place. Around the world, millions of people are longing to live in a good place. Why does connecting those dots have to be so hard?


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