-by Bill Dunphy
Dear Tony Trigiani,
Thank you for your interest in Cape Breton Island, but I fear that you are confused about a whole lot of things. That is understandable, you coming from Toronto, where everyone believes they have had an NHL team in their city for the past 48 years.
As CEO of the Never Forgotten Memorial Foundation, please allow me to help un-confuse you regarding your plan to erect a 30-metre statue called “Mother Canada”, complete with the accompanying Commemoration Ring of True Patriot Love, the We See Thee Rise Observation Deck and, of course, the With Glowing Hearts National Sanctuary, in the Cape Breton Highlands National Park. I am assuming that it is confusion, and not drug addiction, that led you to believe this concrete monstrosity would be a welcome addition to the park, fitting in with the rugged cliffs, roiling sea, stunning rock formations and trees which culminate in the raw beauty of the Cabot Trail.
To clear some of the confusion, let me first make it clear that we are not Newfoundlanders. I can understand if you harbour some resentment against our fellow Atlantic Canadians, since Toronto has long been the main destination for thousands of Newfies seeking work and this is your way of getting back at them. But that’s not us. We’re Nova Scotians and we go to Alberta when the urge to work hits us.
Also, to have a statue looking towards Europe, it would make sense to build it on Canada’s most easterly point. That’s not Green Cove. It’s a place called Cape Spear, which is very close to St. John’s, NL, where the gaudy thing might receive a warmer welcome. If you build it at Green Cove, then you will have to be very careful where Mother Canada faces, a little too much to the northeast and her view will be obscured by Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula; a little too much to the southeast and she’ll be looking at Morocco.
I think you might also be confused on Green Cove’s accessibility. For four months of the year, the Cabot Trail draws approximately 400,000 visitors. For eight months of the year, you can fire a cannon down the highway and likely won’t hit anything except for an unlucky moose. Maybe you can sell enough Mother Canada key chains, Mother Canada post cards and Mother Canada travel mugs in those four months to make a go of it, but the other eight months is a long time to have the place sit empty.
Not to be an alarmist, or to suggest anyone would be inclined to do harm to this monument, but there is a history down north of residents there taking matters into their own hands when they get it into their heads that someone or something is not listening to them or doing something they don’t want done. I recall back in the early 1990s a nice Swiss couple trying to build a spa on a cliff in between Meat Cove and Capstick who ended up on the wrong side of some residents. You can still see the ruins of what’s left of the abandoned project.
I’m also a little concerned that you and our Conservative government haven’t properly gauged the level of respect we already have for those who fought and died in the two world wars and Korea. There isn’t one community in Cape Breton that doesn’t have a cenotaph. Other communities have additional reminders of our reverence to our war dead, including our Royal Canadian Legions, many of which have museums and other displays in their halls; our schools, some of which have photo galleries of those who served in those wars; there are cannons on display in other communities, next to the war memorials that they guard; and our local museums all have some space dedicated to our service men and women.
Like the tourist trap you are proposing, I find it extremely tacky that your foundation can insinuate that to be against this project is to be against veterans, when in fact, many of us find the project itself is an affront to those who fought and died for our right to have national parks free of the crass commercialism you propose to bring to the Cape Breton Highlands.
I would like to think that you are also confused about your foundation’s ability to pay for the construction of this thing through public and corporate donations, to the tune of $25 million to $60 million (your cost projections are also confusing). But I realize now, with the backing of prime minister Stephen Harper, that you probably don’t care how much private investment you receive, especially when outgoing deputy prime minister Peter MacKay has referred to the project as a “private-public partnership.” We know all about P3 in Cape Breton; we have a bunch of schools built under that moniker that made for fat paydays to the investment firm that constructed them. Call me naive, but if the “private” investment doesn’t live up to your expectations, we just know the “public” will end up on the hook...again.
Whenever I see the artist’s rendition of what this statue and gift shop will look like, I keep looking to see if the date is April 1st. If the only positive feedback the project creates is from those who are eager to see local construction jobs in the Ingonish area, then maybe it’s time to reconsider the dubious wisdom of ever thinking this was a good idea.
The project was announced as if it was a done deal, free of such annoying details like public consultation or environmental impact that everyone else must adhere to if they want to build an outhouse in their backyard, let alone in a national park. It must be a real pisser to be obligated now to seek public comment, though the deadline of June 5th didn’t leave much time for the public to become aware and to respond.
While I have your ear, I have a great alternative project on which you can spend at least $25 million of your (or is it ours?) money. We have an island off our western shore in the Gulf of St. Lawrence called Seawolf Island (known locally as Margaree Island). It is sort of in the shape of a whale. If you constructed a 40-metre tall whale’s tail (I’m not sure of the exact height as it would have to be built to scale) on the north end of the island, and then installed a water cannon on the south end which would shoot a geyser of water into the air periodically, then tourists from all over the world would flock to Cape Breton to see this. The fact that the island is a National Wildlife Area and a breeding ground for the great cormorant, great blue heron, great black-backed gull, herring gull and black guillemot shouldn’t be a problem. If you can build a boondoggle in a national park then I’m pretty sure you have carte blanche to build whatever you want wherever you want. And by turning Margaree Island into a theme park, you can build the Moby Dick Whale Interpretive Centre in Inverness, open the Whale of a Tale Gift Shop, and sell plastic Wally the Whales wearing little tartan hats.
After all, between you and me, it’s all about the money, isn’t it?