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Prince Edward Island
By Beachcomber, retrieved from Wikipedia
Nov 4, 2003, 08:00
Prince Edward Island (PEI; French, l'Île-du-Prince-Édouard) is a province of the Canadian Maritimes. It is Canada's smallest province in terms of both size and population.
The province comprises the island of the same name located in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, northeast of New Brunswick and north of Nova Scotia from which it is separated by the Northumberland Strait. The strait was recently spanned by Confederation Bridge.
The population is 137 800 (Prince Edward Islanders). The capital and largest city is Charlottetown. See also a list of communities in Prince Edward Island. Summerside is the second largest city and is located in Prince County, in the western part of the province. Stratford, the third largest community, is across the Hillsborough or East River from Charlottetown. Cornwall, the fourth largest community, is just west of Charlottetown, across the North River. This puts more than a third of the province's population in the area.
PEI is known for its potatoes, grown from the distinctive red soil. It is also known as the setting for Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables series.
The island is also referred to as Abegweit, this name being derived from the Mi'kmaq word for Prince Edward Island, Epekwit'k, meaning "cradled (or cradle) on the waves."
As a French colony comprising part of Acadia, the island was called Île Saint-Jean. Acadians on the island, many having already fled a British-ordered expulsion in the mainland British colony of Nova Scotia in 1755, were subsequently deported in 1758 when the British seized Île Saint-Jean during the Seven Years' War.
The new British colony of St. John's Island was virtually empty following the cessation of hostilities, save a British garrison. To attract settlers without draining the British treasury, "Captain Samuel Holland, of the Royal Engineers, sent a proposal to the Lords of Commissioners of Trade and Plantation, proposing that a scientific survey be done to encourage land settlement and the fishery in British North America, particularly in the areas recently ceded by France."
The survey was carried out in 1765 whereby three 500,000 acre counties were created, each of which was further subdivided into 100,000 acre parishes. Each county received a county seat (called "royalties"), and the remaining countryside was divided into 67 townships (called "lots") of 20,000 acres in area which were promptly auctioned to British nobility.
The owners of the lots were expected to recruit settlers and finance their transportation to the island, whereby settlers were required to clear a certain amount of forest for farmland and pay annual "quitrents" to their landlords. Similar feudal systems were used in other British and European colonies, but few caused as much controversy, given peasant farmer uprisings over the following century against the actions of absentee landlords.
In 1798, Great Britain changed the colony's name from St. John's Island to Prince Edward Island to distinguish it from similar names in the Atlantic area, such as the cities of Saint John and St. John's. The colony's new name honoured the fourth son of King George III, Prince Edward Augustus, the Duke of Kent (1767-1820), who was then commanding British troops in Halifax. Prince Edward was also the father of Queen Victoria.
In September 1864, Prince Edward Island hosted the Charlottetown Conference, which was the first meeting in the process leading to the Articles of Confederation and the creation of Canada in 1867. Prince Edward Island did not find the terms of union favourable and together with Newfoundland, balked at joining in 1867. In the late 1860s the colony examined various options including the possibility of becoming an independent dominion, as well as entertaining delegations from the United States interested in joining their political union.
In the early 1870s the colony began construction of a railway, however with mounting construction debts, and under pressure from Great Britain's Colonial Office, negotiations with Canada were reinstated. In 1873, Prime Minister Sir John A. MacDonald, anxious to thwart American expansionism and facing the distraction of the Pacific Scandal, conceded to a request that the federal government assume the colony's railway debts, and also agreed to paying off the last of the colony's absentee landlords to free the island of leasehold tenure. Another equally important condition was for the federal government to provide "efficient steamship service" to the mainland. Prince Edward Island entered Confederation with little fanfare on July 1, 1873.
At the time of Confederation, Prince Edward Island's Parliamentary representation consisted of 6 seats in the House of Commons and 4 seats in the Senate. Prince Edward Island's population remained stable but western expansion in Canada reduced its proportion of the nation's population. As a result, representation declined to 4 Members of Parliament by the 1910s. In 1915 Prince Edward Island's representation in the House of Commons was about to fall from 4 to 3 when the provincial government argued that since the province had 4 Senators, it could have no less than an equal number of Members of Parliament; Senators being appointed for life at this time, it was very rare for these coveted positions to be vacant for long. The provincial government took the issue to court and won the case, forcing the federal government to create a law mandating that no province can have fewer seats in the House of Commons than it has seats in the Senate.
As a result of having hosted the inaugural meeting of Confederation, the Charlottetown Conference, Prince Edward Island presents itself as the "Birthplace of Confederation" with several buildings, a ferry vessel, and the Confederation Bridge using the term "confederation" in some way. The most prominent building in the province with this name is the Confederation Centre of the Arts, presented as a gift to Prince Edward Islanders by the 10 provincial governments and the federal government in 1964 upon the centenary of the Charlottetown Conference where it stands in Charlottetown as a national monument to the "Fathers of Confederation."
In the most recent provincial election, Progressive Conservative Premier Pat Binns was returned to power. The province's other major party is the PEI Liberal Party
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