Are you one of those people who threatens to move to Canada when elections don’t go your way? Well, last month, a Canadian website went live, encouraging Americans to head to Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, should Republican candidate Donald Trump win the presidency.
Now, a month later, the site has racked up well over a million individual hits — with some interest from Mainers. You might be forgiven for thinking the whole thing is just a big joke, but it isn’t really, and the biggest winner might just be tourism.
So, our neighbors across the bay do pay attention to what happens in American politics.
“When you guys have like a federal election, a presidential election, we hear the threat that ‘I’m moving to Canada,’” says Rob Calabrese, a radio DJ in Sydney, Nova Scotia, who launched the website urging Americans to choose Cape Breton Island for their post-Trump escape. And it’s not all joke: The island of about 135,000 people is in trouble, he says.
“We lose about 1,000 people every year,” he says. “When you look at the graduating class from high school 2016 in Cape Breton, it’s double the size of the kindergarten class.”
And Calabrese says no one sees that trend turning around any time in the next 20 years without new families moving to the region.
There’s a local push to get some of Canada’s Syrian refugees resettled in Cape Breton. Even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has hinted at opening up the borders at Cape Breton in an effort to stimulate the island’s economy.
So far, more than 50 people from Maine have reached out to Calabrese — something he’s thrilled about. He says of all the states, Maine is probably most like Nova Scotia, and Mainers would feel at home there.
While it’s unclear yet how serious the option really is for potentially desperate Mainers post-November, one thing to emerge from all this: More Mainers than ever are going to be spending their money in Cape Breton this summer.
Destination Cape Breton CEO Mary Tulle says as soon as the “Trump Bump” went live, bookings started pouring in.
“February is not traditionally a heavy booking time, so it’s quite exciting,” she says.
Tulle says the visitor site usually gets about 150 clicks from Mainers between February and March. This year some 3,500 Mainers have visited the site, with more than a third of those showing “extensive interest” and clicking through to make actual arrangements.
Hotels in the region, she says, are reporting an unheard-of 40 percent jump in bookings since mid-February.
“I never like to use the word ‘cautiously optimistic,’” Tulle says. “I am comfortably optimistic that it’s going to be a very strong season.”
Calabrese is also taking stock of the tourist season.
“Of course you would never just move to a place you’ve never visited — that’s preposterous,” he says. “But we’re going to get a lot of visits this summer, that’s for sure.”
After that, all eyes will be on the results of the general election.
This article appears through a media partnership with Maine Public Broadcasting Network.