Love, Business and the Incredible Shrinking Region

Part 2 - Liesl Mulholland

This place has the best nachos in the city. Seriously.

This place has the best nachos in the city. Seriously.

Necessary context for those new to this whole thing:

Earlier this year, published a 5-part series in response to the Globe and Mail Article: Canada’s Incredible Shrinking Region . Need a refresher? (This is the part where you click on the link without me telling you to CLICK HERE because telling someone to CLICK HERE is old fashioned.) 

Since we published the first round of dispatches, a lot has changed including our national leadership, international strife, war, terrorism and the general terribleness of Donald Trump. Seemed like a good time for some hope.

And Now ... Liesl 


Co-owner, The Nook on Gottingen

Current home province

 Nova Scotia

What brought you here/made you stay?

 With all the talk of people leaving and there are no jobs here, I came because I was successful in a job application. I’m staying here because I’m now a “love refugee”. My friend Alex coined the term, and it’s for all of us who end up here or stay here in Nova Scotia because of love! While I love this province, I am categorically a love refugee because of Ryan. Maybe that’s not even politically correct to say?

With Ryan at Peggy's Cove

With Ryan at Peggy's Cove

The national political landscape has shifted since the original article and’s response. Have you noticed any change in the attitudes of people in the Maritimes since the federal election or any changes on a business front?

There seems to be this air of optimism around since the federal elections. Or maybe it is a sense of “well things can’t really get any worse … can they?” I try to surround myself with a diverse group of people so I do shield myself from some of the insularity that I am aware exists. When I read about international students being taunted and shouted at to “go back from where you came from” this makes me more mad than sad. I think about this province that complains about its shrinking population and I really wonder if we’re serious about making some tough decisions. Reports are churned out and reports about reports – but there seems to be a fear to implement all these big ideas.

I’d like to see permanent residents given the right – or is it a privilege? – to vote, even if not in the federal elections … at least let us start with the municipal and provincial elections. I pay taxes (personal and business) but I’m not allowed to vote? Really? That’s not inclusive.

Right now, sometimes it seems like we think of ourselves as separate from other parts of Canada. Do you agree? (Why or why not) and if you agree, how can the Maritimes be part of a larger national and global narrative?

The attitudes in the Maritimes remind me a lot of the Caribbean – there is a familiarity and coziness in it, but also the fear of the unknown or of change. Sometimes I forget that I am in Canada – this developed country – when I hear or see some of the discourse that is happening in the Maritimes. I think in order to be a part of a global narrative, we need to choose a path and stick to it. Having just been here three years I see some decisions being made and un-made because of the government of the day. It’s like spinning in mud and no progress will ever be made for the good of the overall province if this continues to be the case.

Sometimes Maritimers have been known to use phrases like “come from away”. How can the entire region be more welcoming and supportive of newcomers, new businesses and new ways of doing things?

I think unfortunately those persons who are fearful or say negative things are the ones who get the most airplay – kind of like Donald Trump. I’ve seen this region be extremely welcoming, especially now with the Syrian refugee crisis. So many people are stepping up to help in whatever way they can. Maybe it took a catastrophic humanitarian exercise for this to happen. I feel like boundaries that exist are sometimes the ones self-inflicted. I hear people say that “As an African Nova Scotian, they don’t feel like they are welcomed in certain spaces” and it’s a conflict for me because I’m black but I’m not African Nova Scotian so I don’t identify with the challenges that are unique to them. I grew up in a black majority country so I feel entitled to every space and that privilege allows me to not care about the support or welcome that I receive from Maritimers.

What are some of the ways you / your family / your business are trying to support growth and change in the region?

Even though business and commercial taxes are ridiculously high, I chose to invest in this region and in the North End Business community by co-owning The Nook on Gottingen. It’s challenging but also great to be able to frame my mind around some of those concerns rather than just be stuck in the bureaucratic mindset that we can get bogged down in.

There are a lot of regional, national and international stories currently that could make us despair. What makes you hopeful about what’s to come in 2016?

Accepting that my impact in the world may just be a ripple in a pond, and I’m OK with that. So I don’t need to go out and “save the world” anymore. I just need to be kind every day, be happy, share love and laughter with the people around me. If I can’t give that to the stranger on my street, how can I be invested in the billions around the world? Engaging more with my community and putting myself in new and sometimes uncomfortable situations – like going to different cultural events, like Diwali at the Hindu Temple and Hannukah at the Synagogue. What makes me hopeful is looking away from the screen sometimes and just having those moments where you connect with other people – not via a retweet or a like, but an in person, sit and stare at each other, no phones on the table to distract kind of moments …. Those are precious and I am hopeful for more in 2016!

Want more? Read Bob Mann's answers.