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Book examines Father Greg's community development work

Harvey Johnstone
Harvey Johnstone - Contributed
SYDNEY, N.S. —

The ongoing impact of the late Father Greg MacLeod may not be realized by most until they go into bookstores or libraries this month.

MacLeod, who died in 2017, is the subject of not one but two books this year and both approach him in very different ways. Earlier this year, Father Daniel Doucet released his book, “Father Greg: A Life,” which takes more of a biographical look at the man best known for his role in community economic development. The second book, by fellow Cape Breton University professor Harvey Johnstone, examines the impact of what MacLeod did.

Harvey Johnstone’s latest book, “Boundary Exploration: The Entrepreneurial Experiments of Fr. Greg MacLeod,” will be launched Wednesday, Dec. 4, at the Shannon School of Business BMO Lecture Theatre, 3-4:30 p.m., with a reception in the TD Student Lounge.
Harvey Johnstone’s latest book, “Boundary Exploration: The Entrepreneurial Experiments of Fr. Greg MacLeod,” will be launched Wednesday, Dec. 4, at the Shannon School of Business BMO Lecture Theatre, 3-4:30 p.m., with a reception in the TD Student Lounge.

Johnstone’s work is called “Boundary Exploration: The Entrepreneurial Experiments of Fr. Greg MacLeod.” It will be launched Wednesday (Dec. 4) at the Shannon School of Business BMO Lecture Theatre between 3-4:30 p.m., with a reception in the TD Student Lounge.

“This book is really a taking a look at many of the projects that Greg did and many of the businesses that he started,” says Johnstone, 72, who’s now a professor emeritus at CBU.

“I think the businesses he started, particularly New Dawn, are very significant locally but I think the significance goes well beyond that. I think they were cutting edge at the time they were started. New Dawn was formed in 1976 and at the time there really wasn’t a company like it. Today there are probably a number of companies that imitate it but it is the longest-surviving entity of its type in Canada. Those sorts of things are quite unique.”

Johnstone says MacLeod left the activity of New Dawn in the mid-80s, starting up and putting much of his efforts into another company that would also be significant, BCA Holdings.

“BCA stands for Banking Community Assets — it’s a venture capital company,” says Johnstone. “There too, just like New Dawn was a unique entity, BCA is very unusual. It’s very unusual to have a venture capital company that is not-for-profit and limited by guarantee — that’s a very strange but useful way to organize a venture capital company … That company has also survived the test of time. It’s still active today and, over the years, that company has been involved in a lot of local businesses, rescuing them, stabilizing them and then moving on to other ventures.”

Among the companies that BCA helped was East Coast Rope and the Bras d’Or Lakes Inn and it initiated the Tompkins Centre in Reserve and the Wentworth Condominiums.

“It’s a very wide spectrum of activities. There are radio stations, fish plants, hardwood floor manufacturers, food processing plants — you name it,” says Johnstone. “Just about all of these businesses are still functioning today.

“That in itself is a major achievement.”

MacLeod, usually known as Father Greg, was the founder of New Dawn Enterprises, New Deal Development in Sydney Mines, BCA with its various subsidiaries, and the Tompkins Institute. He was an internationally respected writer on the topic of community development. He was the recipient of the Order of Canada, as well as of honorary degrees from Dalhousie University, The Atlantic School of Theology and Saint Francis Xavier University.

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