[an error occurred while processing this directive] FactsCanada.ca -- Friday Feature 2000-13Fr -- Prince Edward Island
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Prince Edward Island.

November 17, 2000.

Well, it's time the Friday feature spot was used to detail a particular Canadian province and, for no particular reason other than the fact that my father was born there, I am choosing Prince Edward Island as the first. In future Friday Features other provinces and territories will be covered. This article is not meant to be comprehensive beyond encyclopedic boundaries, but will provide you more of an overview of the province. I hope you find it informative.


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Prince Edward Island
By John MacDonald (john@factscanada.com)


Some background information and terms you will need to know to fully appreciate this article:

ACADIA is a land deeply bathed in history. Its current status is that of a minority, or a "country without borders". These vague boundaries nonetheless do not deter their vigorous spirit. Their territorial origin follows the French colonial efforts in the early seventeenth century, when the first agricultural settlements occurred in Canada. The name Acadia most likely originated with Giovanni da Verrazzabo, an Italian explorer serving the King of France. In 1524 he made his first trip to the "new world" and gave the name "Archadia" to an area of the Atlantic, referencing in his diary "the beauty of its trees".

LOUISBOURG was an eighteenth century "fortified" town, capital and major settlement of the French colony of Ile Royale (known today as Cape Breton). Louisbourg was besieged in 1745, during the War of Austrian Succession, by troops from New England supported by Britain's Royal Navy, and in 1758 surrendered to the British army and navy. There is a modern day Louisbourg on Cape Breton, but it evolved on the other end on the Louisbourg harbour.

MICMAC is a name referring to the native people who inhabit the eastern part of Canada, mostly in the coastal areas of the Gaspe and the maritime provinces.

THE GASPE is a large peninsula in eastern Quebec jutting out into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

ICEBREAKERS are ships used to break up ice floes in shipping channels. Canada currently operates 21 of the world's estimated 110 icebreakers, and icebreakers will be detailed more in a future Sunday Newsletter article.


Prince Edward Island (referred to as PEI from here on) is Canada's smallest province, and was the seventh to join confederation. For the people who live there it is affectionately known simply as "the Island". Other nicknames attributed to PEI have been "Abegweit" (Micmac for "cradle in the waves"), "garden of the gulf", "million-acre farm", and "cradle of confederation". My father and I, along with others I have spoken to, have also called it "spud island". Although less articulate, this is because a spud is a potato, and PEI has the ideal soil and climate conditions for this vegetable. As a matter of fact, even though the make-up of PEI's agricultural output has changed significantly since the middle of the twentieth century, the potato still remains their major crop; statistics from the 1990s put the spud at 31.3 percent of PEI's entire agricultural output, with farm cash receipts in excess of $300 million. This makes PEI the nation's largest producer of the "french fry provider", and the second largest producer of the potato seed. Yielding about 25 tons per hectare, PEI produces some 1.25 billion pounds of potatoes with its 25 000 hectares of dedicated land. PEI also exports 75 percent of its crop to fifteen different countries. Tobacco has also been a money making crop since 1959, despite its sensitivity to unpredictable weather and high labour requirements.

As I mentioned above, the make-up of PEI's agricultural output has changed significantly over the past few decades. This observation is supported by the fact that 10 137 farms were in production in 1951, a number that has been reduced substantially to just over 2300 today. From this same time frame we find that in 1951, 90 percent of the farms had horses working the land. There were more than 21 000 equine workers on the Island, while today few can been found engaging this old-time agricultural endeavour. The huge amount of land used just to sustain these animals has now been modified to produce other food for mankind.

Cattle are also raised here mainly for their beef products, and about 30 000 are sent to slaughter each year in this province alone. Total farming receipts for this commodity exceed $29 million per annum. Almost as important for the same reasons is the production of hogs or pigs.

The provincial and federal governments have put in place a number of programs to put an end to the mass exodus of farmers from PEI and to increase farm incomes. So far they have had some degree of success, but the high cost of entering the industry continues to deter new prospects. Both levels of government are active in agricultural research and Agriculture Canada maintains a large research facility in Charlottetown (PEI's capital). The Atlantic Veterinary College on the campus of the University of Prince Edward Island also has an appreciable impact on both aquatic and animal research.

PEI is the most culturally consistent province in Canada, with an overwhelming percentage (over 85 percent) originating in the British Isles. About 9 percent are of French or Acadian descent, with other groups of significance being the Dutch, Lebanese and the Micmac. This homogeneity accounts for the 94 percent rate of English speaking people on the Island. Of the estimated 136 200 people living on the Island, the religious denominations fall overwhelmingly into two groups which are almost equal; Protestants number about 62 000 while Catholics are slightly behind with 60 620.

While the Micmacs (a branch of the Algonquians) can trace their ancestry on the Island back some eight to ten thousand years, most actually settled on the Island only within the past two thousand years. The majority of the Acadian population can be traced to several hundred who escaped deportation at the time of the British occupation of the Island following the fall of Louisbourg in 1758. Today they number around 11 000, with most sharing similar surnames. The English, Scots and Irish arrived in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries and had grown to over 80 000 by 1861. Thereafter their growth slowed, and by 1891 natural increases could not keep pace with emigration, especially emigration to the New England States. Most of the other ethnic groups occur as a result of immigration within the last 40 years, although the 1950s and 1960s were periods of slow population growth as Islanders continued to leave in search of better economic opportunities elsewhere.

PEI is situated in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and is separated from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick by the "shallow" Northumberland Strait. The Island is shaped like a crescent and is about 224 kilometres long. Its width varies from four to sixty kilometres. Being Canada's smallest province, PEI is really tiny, comprising only 0.1 percent of our nation's total land area. Although its population is only 0.5 percent of Canada's total, it has the distinction of being the most concentrated population in the land, with almost 23 people per square kilometre of land. Despite this high density, PEI is still the most rural province in the dominion, as fewer than 40 percent of the population is classified as urban.

Although conceived to reflect its original reliance on Great Britain, the provincial crest (three small oak trees beneath the safeguard, or shelter, of a larger oak) and its motto (Parva sub ingenti, Latin for "the small under the protection of the great") also aptly describe the position of the province within Canada.

PEI has a moderate climate. Winters are long but relatively mild in comparison to other maritime provinces. Their spring is late and cool, and the summer is also classified as cool and marked by prevailing south-west breezes. The average mean temperature for the Island is minus seven degrees Celsius in January and February, and around eighteen degrees Celsius in July. The Island remains almost fog-free year-round, unlike its surrounding provinces. Its annual precipitation averages 112 centimetres, or about 44 inches. The waters of both the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Northumberland Strait are warmer in the summer than the coastal waters of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, although in winter ice covers both the Strait and the Gulf, and icebreakers are needed to keep shipping lanes open. Drifting ice is found often in Island waters as late as the end of May, causing hazards for fisherman.

Some 32 531 of the total population of 136 200 live in the capital city of Charlottetown, and another 25 000 or so in the communities immediately surrounding the capital, bring the population of Greater Charlottetown to 57 472, or 42 percent of the entire provincial populace. Charlottetown is the only incorporated city on the Island. The next largest urban centre is Summerside with a population of only 7474.

There have been thirty different Premiers of PEI since 1873, with two repeating tenures. These gentlemen and one lady, their life spans, party affiliation, and tenure dates are shown below:

1. James Colledge Pope (1826-1885) -- Conservative -- 1873.
2. Lemuel Cambridge Owen (1822-1912) -- Conservative -- 1873-1876.
3. Sir Louis Henry Davies (1845-1924) -- Coalition Party -- 1876-1879.
4. Sir William Wilfred Sullivan (1843-1920) -- Conservative -- 1879-1889.
5. Neil McLeod (1842-1915) -- Conservative -- 1889-1891.
6. Frederick Peters (1852-1919) -- Liberal -- 1891-1897.
7. Alexander Bannerman Warburton (1852-1929) -- Liberal -- 1897-1898.
8. Donald Farquharson (1834-1903) -- Liberal -- 1898-1901.
9. Arthur Peters (1854-1908) -- Liberal -- 1901-1908.
10. Francis Longworth Haszard (1849-1938) -- Liberal -- 1908-1911.
11. Herbert James Palmer (1851-1939) -- Liberal -- 1911.
12. John Alexander Mathieson (1863-1947) -- Conservative -- 1911-1917.
13. Aubin-Edmond Arsenault (1870-1968) -- Conservative -- 1917-1919.
14. John Howatt Bell (1846-1929) -- Liberal -- 1919-1923.
15. James David Stewart (1874-1933) -- Conservative -- 1923-1927 (first term).
16. Albert Charles Saunders (1874-1943) -- Liberal -- 1927-1930.
17. Walter Maxfield Lea (1874-1936) -- Liberal -- 1930-1931 (first term).
18. James David Stewart (1874-1933) -- Conservative -- 1931-1933 (second term).
19. William Joseph Parnell MacMillan (1881-1957) -- Conservative -- 1933-1935.
20. Walter Maxfield Lea (1874-1936) -- Liberal -- 1935-1936 (second term).
21. Thane Alexander Campbell (1895-1978) -- Liberal -- 1936-1943.
22. John Walter Jones, "J. Walter" (1878-1954) -- Liberal -- 1943-1953.
23. Alexander Wallace Matheson (1903-1976) -- Liberal -- 1953-1959.
24. Walter Russell Shaw (1887-1981) -- Conservative -- 1959-1966.
25. Alexander Bradshaw Campbell (1933-) -- Liberal -- 1966-1978.
26. William Bennett Campbell, "W. Bennett" (1943-) -- Liberal -- 1978-1979.
27. John Angus MacLean, "J. Angus" (1914-) -- Conservative -- 1979-1981.
28. James Matthew Lee (1937-) -- Conservative -- 1981-1986.
29. Joseph Atallah Ghiz (1945-1996) -- Liberal -- 1986-1993.
30. Catherine Callbeck (1939-) -- Liberal -- 1993-1996 (second woman to head a provincial government in Canada).
31. Keith Wayne Milligan (1950-) -- Liberal -- 1996.
32. Patrick George Binns (1948-) -- Conservative -- 1996 to present.

To my knowledge this is now the most inclusive list of PEI premiers on the Web, as I had to cull the information from a number of sources. Although this list may not seem important to most at present, it represents what we at FactsCanada want to become; a good source of factual material on Canada from the past to the present and even into the 21st century.


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From Craig -- My apologies for the extreme lateness of today's issue. The good news is that the Web site is now updated with every newsletter as it is sent out, and we are making progress with the design. I still don't like the way it looks, but I'll fix that soon. There's also a little form on the site that makes subscribing and un-subscribing a piece of cake, so tell all your friends! We also have an announcement about the site up our sleeves, but we won't be making that until Sunday the 26th. Bye for now.


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