Prince Edward Island
Prince Edward Island, province (2001 pop. 135,294), 2,184 sq mi (5,657 sq km), E Canada, off N.B. and N.S.
One of the Maritime Provinces, Prince Edward Island lies in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and is separated on the S from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick by the Northumberland Strait, which is crossed by the Confederation Bridge (1997). It is Canada's smallest province but also has Canada's highest population density. The generally low, level island is c.140 mi (225 km) long and 5 to 35 mi (8–56 km) wide. Sandy beaches line the deeply indented north shore, and much of this popular resort spot is now Prince Edward Island National Park (est. 1937). Low red sandstone cliffs rim the south shores, and the tides reach to the headwaters of the island's short rivers.
With its fertile and distinctive red soil and its agreeable climate, the island has become known as the Garden of the Gulf. About 90% of the land is arable. The capital is Charlottetown.
Economy and Higher Education
Agriculture and fishing have long dominated the economy. Since earliest settlement, fishing has been important, yielding an abundance of lobsters, oysters, halibut, mackerel, and herring. Livestock, fruit, and vegetables are produced, and potatoes are exported.
Because of the lack of raw materials and cheap sources of power, manufacturing is largely limited to food processing, such as the making of butter and cheese and the canning of pork and lobsters. There has been little diversification of the economy, but the tourist industry has grown. Sites and events associated with Anne of Green Gables, the story by islander Lucy Maud Montgomery, draw many visitors, and the Confederation Bridge is expected to greatly increase tourism.
The Univ. of Prince Edward Island is at Charlottetown.
History and Politics
The Micmac lived on the island before Europeans arrived. Jacques Cartier wrote enthusiastically about it after landing there in 1534. Samuel de Champlain named it Île St. Jean in 1603, and it was known by that name (or Isle St. John) until 1799, when it was renamed after Edward, duke of Kent, who later fathered Queen Victoria. The first permanent settlement was made by the French in 1719 near present-day Charlottetown, but the British gained control under the Treaty of Paris in 1763. Many French settlers were deported by the British (see Acadia), but others remained; their descendants still live here. In 1803, Lord Selkirk's first colony of impoverished Scots settled here; persons of Scottish extraction now constitute about one third of the inhabitants.
In 1763, Prince Edward Island was annexed to Nova Scotia, but it became a separate colony in 1769. Responsible, or cabinet, government was granted in 1851. In 1864 delegates from the Maritime Provinces met in Charlottetown to discuss union—the first step toward forming the Canadian confederation, which was achieved in 1867. However, Prince Edward Island did not join the confederation until 1873. Throughout the 20th cent. the island's economy was relatively stable, although lack of energy and technology caused it to lag behind the rest of Canada.
The Progressive Conservatives (or Conservatives) and the Liberals are the only parties to have formed provincial governments since 1873. In 1993, Catherine Callbeck, who led the Liberals to a sweep, became Canada's first female provincial premier. Progressive Conservative Patrick Binns became premier in 1996 and was returned to office in 2000 and 2003. In 2007 the Liberals won a majority, and Robert Ghiz became premier; they remained in power after the 2011 vote. Ghiz stepped down in 2015 and Wade MacLauchlan succeeded him. The Liberals retained power after elections later in the year. The province sends 4 senators and 4 representatives to the national parliament.
See A. H. Clark, Three Centuries and the Island (1957); D. C. Harvey, The French Regime in Prince Edward Island (1926, repr. 1970); J. M. Bumsted, Land, Settlement, and Politics on Eighteenth-Century Prince Edward Island (1987).