The beauty of the landscape has been a part of attracting thousands of newcomers to the Atlantic provinces in recent months, with many seeking out rural myths. Sometimes they are inspired by “Shit’s Creek”, an Emmy-winning Canadian series in which a formerly wealthy family finds a purpose in a small, rural town.
To try to understand population change, I traveled three and a half hours from St. John’s to the quiet fishing village of Bonavista. The city is popularly featured in the Canadian version of the song “This Land Is Your Land”. When the city was discovered in 1497, it was named after Giovanni Capoto, a freelance Venetian explorer who allegedly shouted “O boon vista” (“Oh, happy sight!”).
In Bonavista, I met Barbara Houston, an artist born in Saskatchewan who moved there from Vancouver, where she was drawn by painter landscape, social consciousness and low cost of living. An artist who has become a successful ex-architect and includes sculptures of sheep and goats made by Kelpin, he is building an elegant geometric home studio for about $ 325,000 overlooking the sea. He said such an affordable location would be unimaginable in Vancouver.
“I wanted to pursue my dream of becoming an artist,” he told me. “Here, everyone knows your name,” he said, reminiscent of the open sky growing in Saskatchewan.
Miss. Dozens of “exits” like Houston are helping to revive Bonavista’s economy after years of brain drain following the collapse of Newfoundland’s stockpiles. But there are also tensions, mainly for bursting housing prices. Ms. Houston told me she was shocked when a Pentecostal preacher at a church near her studio exploded outside speakers condemning abortion and same-sex marriage and delivering a speech of “fire and brimstone.”
Crystal Fudge, Bonavista’s economist who owns the local hornbill business, told me that Bonavista “felt like a dying city” when it was growing up. These days, however, newcomers from Saskatchewan, Toronto and the United States are coming to buy her ginger hornbeam. Her neighborhood also includes a pharmacy that sells ice cream mousse frozen on the ice, which reminded me of a shop owned by David Rose, the ponzical character played by Dan Levy in “Shits Creek”.