Christmas is upon us and with Christmas comes an influx of expatriate Cape Bretoners, returning home for a week, a weekend or more to spend time with friends and family. At first blush, many of those who arrive get caught up in being home and being on vacation, away from the pressures of making a living. They get to hang out with old friends and see people they haven’t seen in a while. They fall under the spell of a magical time of year spent in a magical land and they take advantage of the opportunity to have a good time. During this time of year there are parties and musical events to go to. They start to wish they could be home more often and maybe even more permanently.
Eventually this wears off. The big day comes and goes and by the time the champagne is poured, they’ve started to find their way back to reality, back to the day-to-day grind they’ve found they can’t live without. Literally. So few opportunities exist in this area that young people, people with ambitions beyond traditional industries, people with great ideas, have to go away to places where they can do what they do and be supported for doing it. It’s distressing for those of us who have stuck around and tried make a go of it, but it’s necessary to get out and see what the world has to offer beyond our rocky and depressing shores. But when everyone comes home, during this time of year or Spring Break or the Summer, the population swells with younger people. Bars are full of people, musical events are well attended and an exchange of ideas naturally flows out of typical conversations. It’s easy to get carried away by what could be accomplished if this critical mass had a more constant presence.
That people have to leave for better opportunities and new experiences isn’t going to change, nor should it. I didn’t recognize the value of living in Cape Breton until I lived in Ottawa for a while. I didn’t realize the potential that exists for a place like Cape Breton until I spent some time hanging around in Glasgow and Liverpool and New York and Cincinnati and more time hanging around in Toronto than is necessary. But with very little initiative taken by the powers that be, beyond the establishment of hundreds of single-sector jobs lured here by government investment to quick fix the economy, there’s another thing that isn’t going to change – that there is nothing here for them to come back to, even if they are willing. That has to change.
Happy holidays everyone. Enjoy your stay and think about your future.