By Dorcas Marfo, Staff Reporter, The Toronot Star, August 18, 2022
As part of a tourism initiative called “Date My County,” these towns in eastern Ontario want to pay a lucky winner to relocate there for a one-year courtship.
And they say romance is dead.
A new tourism campaign, launched by several counties in eastern Ontario, is looking for “The One” to spend time with, someone who “craves adventure” and “loves long strolls.”
The United Counties of Stormont, Dundas, and Glengarry (SDG) are looking to find their love match in someone willing to commit to a yearlong sojourn.
Billed as “Date My County,” the tourism initiative is offering $1,500 per month to the winner to live and work there, starting this fall, through January 2024.
Manager of economic development for the SDG, Tara Kirkpatrick, said the counties realized they needed to do something to set themselves apart from other relocation initiatives.
Uniquely marketed as a dating campaign, the contest is looking for a “passionate suitor,” who will potentially fall in love with the SDG counties and blog regularly about their experience.
With easy access to two metropolitan cities, and located an hour east of Ottawa and an hour west of Montreal, the rural area is well-connected, Kirkpatrick said.
“You can go and watch the Canadiens play in downtown Montreal, after working all day and make it to work the next day,” said Kirkpatrick.
Toronto is five hours by Via Rail.
How have people reacted to the “dating” campaign? The first week of open applications saw 15 submissions, said Kirkpatrick.
The response from new Canadians has been great, she added.
“We had three inquiries from new Canadians from the GTA over the weekend,” said Kirkpatrick. Curious and searching for a place to settle, an increasing number of new Canadians are looking to the SDG counties, she added.
Smaller rural areas are sometimes overlooked by people, overshadowed by busy city centres, said Kirkpatrick, but residents of SDG are helping change that.
“They’re telling their families, who might have relocated, that they can come back now. The kids can come back from university with their degree and get a job here,” said Kirkpatrick.
Last year’s Cornwall Job Fair saw more than 500 vacant work positions, and Kirkpatrick said it’s safe to assume that numbers have doubled this year.
“We have a lot of openings — everything from skilled trade workers, to lawyers, and judges and doctors, and, right through the line, to customer service workers and student jobs,” Kirkpatrick said.
The chosen winner of the tourism campaign can work locally or remotely, from anywhere.
The winning applicant can also choose their living accommodation, including staying in different Airbnbs consecutively; renting an apartment, or buying a house.
“We wanted to make it as open as possible,” Kirkpatrick said.
What can potential “suitors” expect in SDG counties? With several shorelines scattered along the St. Lawrence River, SDG offers a number of water activities including boating, sailing, diving and more.
“It’s a great place for people who want to stay active,” said Kirkpatrick.
Other scenic and tourist attractions, include national historic sites as one of the earliest European settlements in Ontario, vineyard cideries and breweries, fields of sunflowers, and trails for hiking and biking.
Glengarry Highland Games, a large Scottish festival, attracts 25,000 people per year, said Kirkpatrick. “They often refer to it as, ‘They’re coming home to the county,’ because that’s what it feels like.
“It’s a very welcoming approach and we’re trying to mimic that same sense of wellness,” Kirkpatrick added.