Nova Scotia group making cross-Canada journey to attract people to Lunenburg County

A camper carrying people from NOW Lunenburg County as it makes its way across Canada trying to create interest among people to move to the county. Tina Hennigar/NOW Lunenburg County

After a little more than a month going cross-country to invite Canadians to “create a life they love” in Lunenburg County, N.S., a group of Nova Scotians are coming home.

Started by NOW Lunenburg County, a group of businesspeople who organized three years ago in response to the Ivany Report, the Canadian tour was thought up by the organization’s population growth coordinator Tina Hennigar.

Hennigar said one of the issues continuously addressed by the group was population growth — finding a way to bring in young people to enroll children in schools and work in businesses — and as a result, she was hired in September 2016.

On her first day, she was asked where she wanted to work and she suggested buying a camper, believing that having people visit her in an office would not help bring more people to the community. And after they bought the camper, they made a decision.

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“We decided that instead of travelling around to our community, we would do that in time, but what we should first do is travel across the country and talk to folks who were interested in learning more about Lunenburg County,” Hennigar said in a phone interview.

She said by going to different communities and speaking with people, such as those who haven’t put down roots, they’re providing them with another opportunity.

Tina Hennigar sits in the NOW Lunenburg County camper redesigned for the trek across Canada. GoFundMe
“Instead of asking the question, ‘what do you do for a living?’ [we’re] asking the question, ‘what do you want to do for a living?’ There is space in Lunenburg County for people to do things and maybe follow your passion.”
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The journey began in Edmonton on July 20 in the 1976 Boler trailer they decked out as their mobile recruitment office, headed west to British Columbia and then traveled east. They are expected to return to Nova Scotia on Saturday at the Saltbox Brewery in Mahone Bay.

As they travel, Hennigar said she explains what sort of opportunities are available to people, whether they want to be small business owners or start a new career.

But she said she is honest with those she speaks with.

“When I was in Calgary I told people we don’t have jobs in oil and gas and they probably wouldn’t make the living they’re accustomed to making in oil and gas,” she said. “But I also learned from those folks that it’s not all it’s cracked up to be in oil and gas in Calgary, that money isn’t everything and that it’s actually quite difficult.”

Learning more about people’s lives and what they require from their community are a few of the things Hennigar discovered by talking with people and in turn, she said she shared more about her own community. Though some people had made “their roots” and were not interested in moving, others who were looking for new experiences, or those wanting home ownership, did show interest.

“Folks who are saving and saving for a down payment for a house only to get further and further behind and recognize that home ownership is never going to happen for them, so when I share with them some of the real estate prices… people lean in a little bit,” she said.

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“My job is not necessarily to tell people that their communities are not great, because that would be a lie… but my job is really for those who are interested in what else is out there.”

She said people have shown interest as they traveled across the country, and though no one has specifically said they were moving because of the tour, she still has received phone calls about the tour, including from one person who visited Nova Scotia, came across news about her tour and asked her how he could go about moving to the region.

Lunenburg County’s Canadian tour is currently privately funded, costing just under $100,000 in cash and in-kind contributions.

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