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Letter: Cape Breton golf proposal offers battle of the brands

Letter to the Editor by Margaret MacDonell Saltwire - Dec.8, 2022

Letter originally published here

It strikes me that there is a battle of the brands occurring in Mabou with Cabot Cape Breton’s return proposal for golf course development at West Mabou Beach Provincial Park.

Mabou is already well branded: “Home of the Rankins” and the place “Where Culture Lives.”

To quote from Heather Rankin’s “Mabou, My Home”, (Cape Breton “Its beauty, simplicity, sense of community and deeply ingrained Celtic traditions make it a very special place to visit. It has nurtured and inspired many fine musicians, artists and writers, and tourists flock to its shores each summer to relish in its beauty and its culture.” Mabou’s brand: beauty and culture.

A few years ago, after the first Cabot proposal was rejected by the MacNeil government, I learned of the Gaelic College expansion project, Beinn Mhabu, and I thought that’s the kind of development Mabou needs. This makes so much more sense than a golf course. Right on brand.

Strange thing is the same person who promoted Beinn Mhabu, Rodney MacDonald, is now peddling a very different brand for Mabou: Cabot’s brand. And, in the light of recent events, it turns out Cabot, too, has chosen its brand very well: Cabot the brave new explorers/exploiters of pristine protected parkland. It’s their brand and their modus operandi not just here in Cape Breton but, for Keiser, in Scotland and Oregon too.

Is this the brand we want for Mabou? One that trades in culture and beauty for a monoculture? Do we really want to let Inverness County become a monoculture of elite golf?

Cabot co-owner Mike Keiser has publicly stated he would like to see Inverness County become the next Martha’s Vineyard – playground for the rich. Take heed golf course supporters who believe the fourth Cabot golf course will do what the first three hasn’t done: bring your family back home for gainful employment. Increased property values will be out of reach for Cabot workers with minimum wage, seasonal jobs once Inverness County becomes Martha Vineyard North. Yes, a few businesses will benefit but not the overall standard of living.

And then, of course, there’s the other monoculture: pesticide-laden turf. Pesticides needed to kill biodiversity and ensure a monoculture. How twisted is that? Is that the legacy we want to leave to our future generations? It’s not like the dunes will go back to their present pristine state once the “lease” ends.

In effect, we would be handing over our beach to Cabot. The biodiversity will be gone. Forever. The monoculture of a golf course green will replace the extremely rare biodiversity that exists at West Mabou Beach Provincial Park. We all knew West Mabou Beach was special; but we are learning it is even more precious, even more unique, home to more rare and endangered species than almost any other place in Nova Scotia. Let’s brand that!

And, in fact, eco-tourism brings more money into the economy of Cape Breton than golf. Go figure.

It will be ironic if the $1.92-million grant given to Rodney’s Beinn Mhabu by Iain Rankin for the promotion of Gaelic culture in Inverness County effectively becomes subsidized housing for Rodney’s Cabot.

And it’s worth noting that $1.92 million is almost double the Nova Scotia government’s 2022 budget for capital funding for infrastructure upgrades (improved accessibility, comfort stations, washrooms, picnic shelters, water system improvements, etc.) for ALL Nova Scotia provincial parks. Go figure.

I lament the very real threat of becoming a Cabot monoculture. We can’t let West Mabou Beach Provincial Park suffer the same fate of (at the hands of?) the House of MacDonald.

Margaret MacDonell

Halifax/West Mabou

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