People arriving to the west coast of Cape Breton Island have always been struck by its beauty. The rugged cliffs, deep valleys, and unparalleled views of the Northumberland Strait are enchanting. The pure water of MacLellan’s Brook drew the original owners of Glenora Distillers to the area for business reasons – the chance to produce the only single malt whisky in North America, at Glenora Distillery.
Until recently, though, that magnetic beauty has been a well-kept secret. Tourism has always been an important part of economic life, but it’s only in the last decade or so that we’ve seen truly amazing growth. At Glenora, cars roll up our driveway with license plates from every part of North America. Visitors from all corners of the world sign our guest book.
I’ve seen that growth, and I want to see it continue and take the next step forward. A big part of that will be a new airport for Inverness County. I see this as the next evolution for tourism in the region. We know how much people want to visit Cape Breton – as of April, room bookings are up 12 per cent over last year – but it isn’t always easy for them to get here.
By providing direct commercial service from major tourism markets like Toronto and Boston, this new airport would benefit just about every business on the west coast of the island. Is it possible that some businesses would lost out as a result? Yes, but that’s no way to make decisions. We need to do what works for the greater good, rather than focus on small areas of disagreement.
Think about it. If someone is planning a vacation to western Cape Breton, and a new airport saves them at least seven hours in total travel time from Halifax, where are they going to spend that time they saved? In our communities and at our businesses. Spending money, enjoying all we have to offer, and providing a much-needed boost in economic activity.
I know that times aren’t always easy in western Cape Breton. It took many years for Glenora to get off the ground, and there were times when it was very touch and go as to whether it was going to continue as an ongoing business. When things are tough, it can be easy to look for scapegoats or easy answers to hard questions. A new airport won’t solve all the problems we face in our communities – far from it. But it will move us forward and provide opportunities that currently don’t exist. There are other problems we face, but they require different solutions. We have to be able to separate this proposal from issues in health care or education. Anger or misunderstanding around those issues should be directed at those problems, not at an unrelated project that will build on one of our greatest strengths.
I understand there is some skepticism about the airport proposal. Some think it’s all about golf and catering to rich elites. I don’t see it that way at all. To me, the more people we can bring to our area, the better. That might sound simple, but fundamental truths often are.
President of Glenora Distillers Ltd.