Tuesday, August 31, 2010

War For Newfoundland

I'm rather smitten with Atlantic Canada. So, the following may be of interest only to me. Newfoundland is a hot spot for second homes:

In May 2010, I relocated to Upper Amherst Cove (population 30-ish) on the Bonavista Peninsula in an effort to better understand this recent trend that sees people from mainland Canada, America, and Europe snapping up old saltbox homes originally occupied by fishing families. ...

... The problem with summering in a place that is populated year-round is that people use the landscape for different purposes. When possible, locals make their living off the land (and sea) while summer residents see the surroundings as part of the d├ęcor -- a sea and cliff landscape perfectly framed in the kitchen window. Distasteful piles, objects or scars on the land are not tolerated.

Discussions on establishing an open-pit copper mine in a nearby community are quickly shut down by summer residents who rally and write letters to the minister voicing their objections. The locals see it as an employment opportunity while the seasonal folks see it as an affront on their utopia.

A second issue is that real estate prices have tripled in the past decade making it impossible for young people to return home and buy property, and this is unequivocally attributed to the summer residency trend. It's also kind of a bummer to live in a small community where half the lights go dark come Labour Day.

Newfoundland is home to the world's most distinctive domestic diaspora. There is a sense of Newfie nationalism that easily exceeds that of Texas. That foreigners are buying up plots in the homeland cannot sit well with locals near and abroad.

What is clear is that Newfoundland is, once again, a frontier of opportunity. That's a big change from forgotten backwater. I'll be tracking how the province does or does not leverage the mental map redrawing. Meanwhile the folklorists are scrambling to capture the mythic landscape before it is gone.

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