CNN reporting from Cape Breton as Trump inspired spotlight continues

by Michael MacDonald in Halifax

Two weeks after a saucy Canadian website poked fun at Donald Trump by inviting disaffected American voters to move to Cape Breton, the island's moment in the American spotlight continues unabated.

On the same day U.S. voters were taking part in the Super Tuesday presidential primaries, cable news giant CNN dispatched a reporter and crew to Nova Scotia to find out what Cape Breton has to offer.

"They are just so intrigued by the interest of Americans in looking at Cape Breton," says Mary Tulle, CEO of the tourism agency Destination Cape Breton. "They wanted to get a sense of what is this little place, Cape Breton Island, is all about."

The network is following up on a series of reports that confirmed the website "Cape Breton if Donald Trump Wins," has gone viral, attracting 787,000 unique visitors since Feb. 15 _ most of them from the United States.

The site takes aim at Trump and his histrionic approach to Republican politics, but it also has plenty to say and show about the island's beauty, celtic culture and laid-back lifestyle.

Tulle says it isn't hard to explain the enduring appeal of the website, which is linked to the Destination Cape Breton site and scores of stunning photos and videos showing off the island's rolling green hills, rocky headlands and secluded beaches.

"When people actually see how beautiful (Cape Breton) is, and they hear about the quality of life and they learn about the value of real estate and the strength of their dollar... those elements are part of what's keeping this story alive," she said.

Rob Calabrese, a Cape Breton radio announcer and creator of the website, says he's received hundreds of emails from Americans making serious inquiries about moving to Nova Scotia.

"The idea of living in a place like this-election aside-is attractive," he says.

"Everybody is stressed, everybody is worried about something and, all of a sudden, you have this beautiful island in front of your face and it makes the imagination roam."

Tulle said the CNN team talked to real estate agent Valarie Sampson, an immigration lawyer and residents at a local restaurant in Sydney before heading to rural Marion Bridge to look at a house that's up for sale.

The modern, four-bedroom house on Hillside Road includes a 20,000-square-foot lot that overlooks the Mira River. It also has a covered deck and private dock.

Asking price: $449,000 or $335,000 in U.S. dollars. And many Cape Breton houses are much cheaper.

Sampson, a sales agent with Remax Park Place Inc., says she has been overwhelmed with inquiries about properties, immigration and employment opportunities.

Sales stemming from the Trump website are ``inevitable,'' though they may be months away, she said.

"We've had people say, 'This has nothing to do with whether Trump wins. We found the website and we're looking at your island. Can we really come up and buy a property for this price?"

With the Canadian dollar continuing to show weakness against the U.S. dollar, Sampson says an uptick in sales was expected, but nothing like the response she's seen in the past two weeks.

"It's absolutely amazing, and it's been a great opportunity for us to showcase the island for its uniqueness, its beauty and its culture."

Tulle says CNN's reports will be broadcast Wednesday on CNN International's flagship global affairs program, hosted by Christiane Amanpour.


The Canadian Press

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