Situated in the Gulf of ST LAWRENCE and separated from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick by the shallow NORTHUMBERLAND STRAIT, the Island has a crescent shape and extends for 224 km, with a width ranging from 4 to 60 km. The Island makes up only 0.1% of Canada's total land area, and although the population is less than 0.5% of the Canadian total, it is the most concentrated in the country, with nearly 23 persons per square kilometre. In spite of its high density the Island is the second-most rural province in the nation (after Nunavut), as 44.8% of the population is classed as urban.
The Island's deep red soil has always been its most striking feature and important resource and together with the sea has been the mainstay of the population since the early 18th century. The Island was described by Jacques CARTIER in 1534 as "the fairest land that may possibly be seen." The 15 km of water between the Island and the Canadian mainland has helped develop and maintain a strong sense of distinctiveness in the province, which continues to cherish its rural past while it faces the unsettling challenges of the 20th century.
Although designed to reflect its reliance on Great Britain, the province's crest - 3 small oak trees beneath the shelter of a larger oak - and its motto - parva sub ingenti ("the small under the protection of the great") - also aptly describe the position of the province within the Canadian Confederation.
The ice ages left an imprint on the land, especially during the late Pleistocene period between 75 000 and 10 000 years ago. When the last glaciers receded, uncovering what is now PEI, glacial debris and the marks of glacial scouring were left on the exposed land, which began gradually to assume its present character. Because of lower ocean beds and land depressed by the glaciers' weight, the Island was connected to the mainland by a low plain covering much of the present Northumberland Strait. As ocean levels rose with the melting of the glaciers, and as the land rebounded, the crescent shape of the Island emerged about 5000 years ago.
The present land surface of the Island ranges from nearly level in the west to hilly in the central region and to gently rolling hills in the east. The highest elevation is 142 m in central Queens County.
The Island's predominant reddish brown sandy and clay soils are occasionally broken by outcroppings of sedimentary rock, most commonly a red-coloured sandstone or mudstone. The heavy concentrations of iron oxides in the rock and soil give the land its distinctive reddish brown hue.
The coastline is deeply indented by tidal inlets. The north shore of the Island, facing the Gulf of St Lawrence, features extensive sand-dune formations. These shifting sands pose problems for fishermen by clogging harbour entrances, but they provide a haven for summer tourists.
The shoreline of the Island generally alternates between headlands of steep sandstone bluffs and extensive sandy beaches. Many of the Island's harbours have been created by dredging tidal runs and are usable only by vessels of shallow draught, such as inshore fishing boats. A few natural harbours, such as those of Summerside, Charlottetown, Georgetown and Souris, provide access and shelter for larger vessels.
Because the Island has only small ponds, few significant rivers and generally low elevation, water power has not been developed. In the last century numerous gristmills and sawmills used the limited hydropower available, but few survive today. Lacking hydroelectric capability, the Island has been forced to rely on fossil fuels to generate power and on electrical power transmitted from New Brunswick via submarine cable.
Little is left of the original forests of the Island; 3 centuries of clearing for agriculture and shipbuilding, as well as fire and disease, have radically transformed them. Only 100 years ago the upland areas of the province were forested with beech, yellow birch, maple, oak and white pine. Today, most of the woodlands have deteriorated into a mixture of spruce, balsam fir and red maple, which cover over 290 000 ha of the province.
The Island climate is moderate. Winters are long but relatively mild; springs are late and cool. Summers are cool and marked by prevailing southwest breezes. Average mean temperatures are approximately -7° C in January and February and 18° C in July.
The Island is relatively free of fog year-round, unlike neighbouring provinces. Annual precipitation averages 112 cm, ensuring adequate groundwater supply. The waters of both the Gulf of St Lawrence and Northumberland Strait are warmer in 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. Drift ice is often found in Island waters as late as the latter part of May, causing difficulty for fishermen and slowing the arrival of spring.
The 2 major resources of the Island are the soil and the sea. Mineral resources have not been discovered in commercial quantities although trace deposits of coal, uranium, vanadium and other minerals exist. Since 1940, drilling has revealed the existence of natural gas beneath the seabed off the northeast part of the province, but no commercially exploitable finds have been made. Mining to date has been restricted to open-pit removal of sand and gravel, but the latter is of low quality and in insufficient quantities to meet even local demand.
Agriculture, based on the rich soil and temperate climate of the province, is the most important primary resource industry. Most Island soils are coarse-textured sandy loams with a very low stone content. In general the soil is moderately acidic and it is common practice periodically to add lime to the soil to reduce the acidity.
Close to 50% of the Island's land has been identified as being highly productive and upwards of 90% of the entire province is potentially farming land. Although the area actually in agricultural production has dropped in recent years, some land is still being cleared, especially for high-value crops such as potatoes and tobacco. Fishing, especially for lobster and cod (before the moratorium of the early 1990s was put into place), is the second important resource industry of the Island. A supplementary shellfish fishery includes scallops, oysters, clams and lately mussels.
Forestry is relatively undeveloped on the Island, because of the depleted state of the woodlands and lack of effective management of the remaining resource. There have, however, been some attempts to improve the quality of the forest cover. Since 1945, through exploiting the appeal of PEI's unspoiled landscape and sandy beaches, tourism has emerged as a major industry. It has not been an unmixed blessing; often it has brought inappropriate and random development, dependence on low seasonal wages and loss of land to off-Island owners.
Conservation has become a major concern of government and of public interest groups in the province. Overcropping, extensive mechanization, reliance on chemical fertilizers and removal of hedgerows had led to considerable wind and water erosion of some of the Island's best land. It is estimated, for example, that up to 5 t of soil per ha can be eroded from an unprotected plowed field in one year. This soil erosion has also led to heavy siltation of the creek and river systems, turning many streams, navigable in the last century, into shallow and unusable creeks.
Another major concern has been the purchase of large tracts of land by nonresidents for recreation or development and by vertically integrated business for farming. Both problems led to the establishment of a Royal Commission on Land Use and Ownership and to the subsequent creation of a Provincial Land Use Commission (now part of the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission), which regulates zoning, ownership and development questions.
Groups such as the PEI Nature Trust have attempted to bring public attention to many of PEI's imperilled natural areas, but most of the land is privately owned and is vulnerable to inappropriate development, misuse or unwitting neglect.
PEI is the most culturally homogeneous province of Canada. The population is overwhelmingly British in origin, with roughly 9% of French or Acadian descent. Small communities of Dutch, Lebanese and Micmac also exist.
The Micmac can trace their ancestry on the Island as far back as 8000 to 10 000 years ago, although the Micmac, a branch of the Algonquians, actually came to the Island within the last 2000 years. Although left only with small parcels of land of poor quality and suffering from disease and high unemployment, the Micmac population has remained relatively steady.
The majority of the Acadian population can be traced to several hundred Acadians who escaped deportation at the time of the British occupation of the Island following the fall of LOUISBOURG in 1758. Today the group numbers approximately 11 000, and there are large numbers of this population sharing common surnames.
ENGLISH, SCOTS and IRISH arrived in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and by 1861 the population had grown to just over 80 000. Thereafter growth slowed and after 1891 natural increase was unable to keep up with the number of Islanders leaving, especially for New England.
Most of the other ethnic groups in the population are the result of immigration in the last 40 years. The 1950s and 1960s were periods of slow population growth as Islanders continued to leave the province in search of economic opportunities elsewhere. The last decade has seen a small balance of in-migration, and this, combined with natural increase, has allowed growth to the 1996 level of 136 200. Within this population, however, the percentage of those over 65 years of age has steadily increased and the government has indicated some concern about this shift in demography.
CHARLOTTETOWN, the capital city, is the largest urban centre of the province, with a population of 38 114 in 2001. Growth in the capital region has been most notable in the suburbs.
Charlottetown is the only incorporated city in the province and is the seat of most government offices, the provincial university and the Confederation Centre theatre and art gallery. At one time the city was a major port, but in recent years the number of vessels entering has declined significantly, although efforts by several agencies have resulted in regular visits by summer cruise liners. In 1984 the federal Department of Veterans Affairs was moved to the city, resulting in an increase in federal government employees in the area.
The next largest urban centre is SUMMERSIDE (pop 14 654 in 2001). Summerside's principal economic bases are agricultural service industries, government offices and the nearby Canadian Forces Base.
Other population centres in Prince County include KENSINGTON (pop 1385), ALBERTON (pop 1115) and TIGNISH (pop 831). In King's County, MONTAGUE (pop 1950), SOURIS (pop 1248) and GEORGETOWN (pop 721) are the major towns. Like other parts of Canada, PEI has seen a shift from rural to urban population and many smaller villages have declined in size.
The labour force of PEI numbers about 74 700 (2001), but unemployment is a chronic problem, with the rate rarely falling below 10% in recent years. The unemployment rate for 1995 was 14.7% compared with the national level of 9.5%. In 2001, it was 11.9%. However, in 2000, PEI led the nation in employment growth - employment increased from 1999 by 5.2%. This was accompanied by a record-high participated rate of 66.9%, which was above that year's national average. Wage rates and per capita income for Islanders are near the lowest in Canada, and personal income is lower that the national average.
Transportation difficulties, lack of natural resources, and high energy costs make the outlook for the expansion of the provincial labour force remote, despite the development plans of both provincial and federal governments.
Language and Ethnicity
The overwhelming majority of the Island's population (93.8%) reported English as their mother tongue in 1991. Although 9.2% of the Island's population is of French or Acadian descent, only 4.2% of the total population reported French as their mother tongue.
Attempts are being made to preserve and expand the use of French. One of the 3 regional school districts is French, and the St Thomas Aquinas Society, an influential cultural group, actively promotes Acadian language and culture. The native language of most of the Highland Scots who came to the Island in the 18th and 19th centuries has fared less well. Gaelic is virtually extinct because of school systems that rewarded English speakers. The Island's population is British (44%), primarily English, followed by Scots and Irish.
There are almost equal numbers of Protestants (62 000, 1991) and Catholics (60 620) in PEI. The United Church is the largest Protestant group, followed by the Presbyterian, Anglican and Baptist churches. Small but rapidly growing evangelical groups are also active, and there is a tiny Jewish community. Until recently religion has played an important role in Island life. Bitter struggles over religion and education were not resolved until the era of Confederation.
The economic history of PEI has been dominated by geography. In the 18th and 19th centuries its insularity was a benefit. Produce and manufactured goods had to travel only short distances before they could be loaded aboard cheap water transportation and the forests of the Island provided the resources for SHIPBUILDING, which became a major industry in the mid-1800s. The prosperity of the Island was further reinforced by the RECIPROCITY Treaty of 1854 that led to increased export of agricultural products to the US.
At the time of Confederation trade links were well established along the Atlantic seaboard and with the United Kingdom. However, the shift of focus after 1873 towards central Canada and western expansion, together with changes in technology, left the Island - which had been a relatively strong economic partner in Confederation - in a weakened condition that has persisted to this day.
PEI was ill equipped for the industrial age. It lacked coal and water resources essential to industrial development, and the cost and availability of transportation proved to be a difficulty that has not been completely overcome. Industries on the Island were soon crushed by larger and more efficient plants in central Canada, but at the same time the NATIONAL POLICY provided no protection or markets for the Island's natural products.
The change in technology was most strongly felt in the shipbuilding industry. As the wooden sailing ship was replaced by steam vessels constructed of iron and steel, the entire industry died, having neither the raw materials nor the capital to make such a fundamental shift.
One activity in which the Island did provide a successful lead was in fox farming. Beginning in 1890 with the work of industry pioneers Charles Dalton and Robert Oulton, the province became the centre of a lucrative silver fox pelt industry. Fox breeding became very widespread, with many Island farmers supplementing their limited income from traditional agriculture in this way.
By the late 1930s new technology, changing fashions and the GREAT DEPRESSION caused a rapid decline in the industry. Few fox farms survived into the postwar period. Although there was more of a stagnation in the economy than an absolute decline, by the early 1950s the per-capita income in PEI was just over 50% of the national level and the outlook for the future was bleak.
The post-WWII development of what amounted to a new national policy has had the most profound impact on the Island. Income support programs, human-services programs and new federal-provincial fiscal policy have dramatically altered the Islanders' way of life. Attempts to alleviate regional disparities by using forced economic growth have caused a social revolution. Certainly personal income levels have risen substantially, and markedly better health and educational facilities have been established. The Federal-Provincial Comprehensive Development Plan, begun in 1969, has been central to much of this development.
This new period of development through government intervention has not been an unmixed blessing. Increasing dependence has been the principal cost. By 1981 federal spending amounted to 67% of the gross domestic product of PEI. If the provincial government's funding is included, total government spending amounted to 87% of the gross domestic product. At the same time, the number of persons engaged in primary industries has declined sharply and the number of government and related jobs increased. Facing a heavy burden of fixed costs to support social programs and the new infrastructure, it is unlikely that the province will be able to undertake significant initiatives.
In the last 30 years there have been major changes in agriculture on Prince Edward Island. As late as 1951 over 90% of all farms on PEI had horses, for a total of 21 000 animals. Today, workhorses are rarely seen, and fields used to produce the huge amount of forage for these animals have been turned to other uses.
The number of farms has dropped from 10 137 in 1951 to 2217 in 1996. At the same time the area in farms has been reduced by 39% although in recent years the area used as cropland and pasture has remained stable. The size of the average farm has increased from 44 ha in 1951 to 119 ha in 1996, but owing to heavy investment in equipment needed on larger farms the margin of profit for Island farmers has been reduced from approximately 50% to 25%; thus, a producer has to sell twice as much to have the same net income.
Total farm cash receipts in 2000 were $317 million. Of this total the largest single crop was POTATOES, which earned over $154 million. Potatoes flourish in the soil and climate conditions found in PEI. The province is the nation's largest supplier of potatoes and the second-largest supplier of seed potatoes. Over 45 000 ha are planted annually and the average yield is about 25 t per ha. Three-quarters of this yield is high-grade seed potatoes that are exported to more than 15 countries. Table stock is either sold fresh in eastern Canada and the US or processed into french fries and other potato products. There are about 330 dairy farms in the province with a total of over 16 000 milk cows, which produced almost 90 million litres of milk in 1999-2000. Eighty percent of this is processed into milk products, such as evaporated milk, most of which are exported.
Cattle are also raised for beef. Although recent fluctuation in beef prices has resulted in uneven production, Island farmers sent about 30 000 cattle to slaughter per year between 1978 and 1993, and in 2000 the receipts from cattle and calves amounted to $26 million, although on a volume basis, slaughtering was down 7% from 1999. Almost as important is the production of hogs, which are raised on a commercial scale by about 175 farmers. TOBACCO has been produced on PEI since 1959. Despite being a crop sensitive to unpredictable weather and faced with high energy costs and high labour requirements, tobacco has been successful.
The provincial and federal governments have put in place a large number of programs to halt the exodus of farmers from the land and to increase farm incomes, and they have met with some degree of success, but the high cost of entering the industry remains a problem. Both levels of government are active in agricultural research and Agriculture Canada maintains a large research facility in Charlottetown. The Atlantic Veterinary College on the campus of University of Prince Edward Island has a significant impact on both animal and aquatic research that will be of benefit to the fishing industry.
Tourism, construction, primary resource-related manufacturing and services are the major industries of PEI. Of these TOURISM has grown most in the last 2 decades, although growth has halted. In 2000 the island attracted about 1.2 million tourists who spent over $301 million. The completion of the Confederation Bridge in 1997 greatly increased tourist visits - in comparison, in 1996 approximately 700 000 tourists visited PEI.
Since the 1960s the government has been deeply involved in the promotion of industry and in the construction and operation of attractions and accommodations. Attempts have been made to divert tourists from the central part of the Island, which is dominated by PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND NATIONAL PARK, to eastern and western parts of the province, which have benefited less from the tourist dollar. A major problem is the shortness of the season, which consists of only 8 to 10 weeks in July and August.
Government has been promoting attractions and activity in other seasons, and the recent openings of new hotel and convention complexes are part of the attempt to promote year-round tourism. The major attraction remains the fine, warm sandy beaches along the 1107 km of shoreline. Golf, deep-sea fishing and horse racing are among the sports available for tourists. In the last decade government and private developers have established a number of "heritage" attractions, including sites operated by the Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation.
Manufacturing in the province is dominated by fish- and farm-product processing. This area grew rapidly until 1979, but since then has declined as expansion in product lines has not offset the closure of some major plants. In 2000 there were 5400 employed. The dollar value of goods shipped in 2000 was $1.1 billion for all manufacturing industries. One of the development strategies explored by the government in the Comprehensive Development Plan was the establishment of manufacturing plants in industrial parks, but many of the attempts to introduce nonfood-related manufacturing have failed. The last 2 decades have seen increased employment in the service sector and both the federal and provincial governments are major employers with almost 6000 persons on government payrolls in 1999.
Although forestry was a principal industry in the 1800s, it has since declined dramatically. About 50% of the province is covered by woodland, 92% of which is privately owned. Most of the best timber was harvested in the 19th century and over 80 000 ha have regenerated in species of little commercial value. Today, forests are being reconsidered as a source of both fuel and lumber for provincial use. Many Island homes are now being heated at least in part by wood fuel, and the number will likely increase as costs of fuel oil and electricity continue to rise. Employing over 400 people, the wood industry shipped over $55 million of product in 2000.
In 1994 there were just over 6500 fishermen and helpers in the province (up from 3200 in 1985). Almost all of the 1500 vessels used are small inshore boats, most of which are employed in the lobster fishery. The fishery also provided seasonal employment in processing plants for up to 2000 workers. Fish landings in 2000 had a value of $139 million. Lobster is by far the most valuable species with 2000 landings of over 8600 t, having a value of $85 million. Other shellfish, including scallops and the famous Malpeque oysters have been capturing more of the share of value from lobster over the past 10 years. The shellfish industry was temporarily shut down in late 1987 after 100 people became ill and at least 2 died after eating poisoned molluscs from PEI. A toxin, domoic acid, was identified and restricted. Fishing for the giant bluefin tuna has become an important attraction for sportfishermen from around the world, but the species is also fished commercially.
Groundfish such as cod, hake, flounder and redfish and pelagic species such as herring and mackerel are also caught in the Island's waters, accounting for a value of $2.9 million in 1999. An important industry in the western part of the Island is the harvesting of IRISH MOSS, a marine plant that, when processed, yields carrageenin, an emulsifying and stabilizing agent used in many food products.
Transportation to and from the Island by sea is currently handled by 2 ferry systems. CN (Marine Atlantic) operates a year-round service from Borden, PEI, to Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick, for passengers and motor vehicles; icebreaking ferries are used in winter. Northumberland Ferries Ltd, a private company heavily subsidized by the federal government, operates between Wood Islands, PEI, and Caribou, Nova Scotia, from May to November, closing when ice and weather become severe. The province is also connected to major Canadian centres by daily air routes operated by both Canadian Airlines International and Air Canada.
There has been recurring interest in a fixed crossing to the mainland. A popular proposal in the late 19th century was for a tunnel under Northumberland Strait. As recently as the late 1960s, work was actually begun on a causeway but was abandoned in favour of the negotiation of the Comprehensive Development Plan.
In 1987, renewed proposals for constructing a fixed link in the form of a bridge or tunnel came forward from the federal government and private developers. January 1988 saw a plebiscite held on the question by the provincial government of Premier Joe GHIZ. In this controversial vote, 59% voted in favour, and 41% were opposed to the idea of a fixed link to the mainland. Construction on the multibillion dollar project began in 1994. The Confederation Bridge, which opened 31 May 1997, links Borden-Carleton, PEI, to Cape Jourimain, NB. At 12.9 km, it is the world's longest bridge over ice-covered water. It is curved to keep drivers alert and reduce accidents, and the average crossing takes about 10 minutes.
CN reduced services on the Island as the operation of branch lines became less economical. In 1990, CN dropped its remaining lines and the Island no longer has rail service. Opposition to these cutbacks was strong, especially from farmers who marketed their produce via the rail system.
The road network within the province has been substantially improved and now almost all primary and secondary routes are paved, which has greatly increased the use of road transportation in the shipping of primary and manufactured products.
Energy costs are one of the most serious problems facing PEI. Electrical energy is the most expensive in Canada. All power is either generated in oil-fixed thermal plants or is imported via submarine cable from New Brunswick. Since there is no potential for large-scale hydroelectrical development, alternative energy sources such as wind, solar and wood-fired generators are being investigated. As yet, none of these alternatives has been proven to have the required capacity, despite successful small-scale applications.
Government and Politics
Government and politics are closer to the people in PEI than in any other province. Its small population has a full range of federal, provincial and municipal institutions. As a result, constituencies are small, politicians familiar, and a sense of informality pervades the political process. The basic structures of provincial government are similar to those of other provinces, but there are important distinctions arising from the size and political history of the province.
Government was established in PEI by order-in-council in 1769, but it was not until the post-Confederation period that the modern structure and practice of government emerged. There is a lieutenant-governor appointed by the governor general for a 5-year term. The executive council, or Cabinet, usually consists of 10 members responsible for single or multiple departments and is headed by the premier. The legislative assembly has representatives from 27 constitiencies (until the election of 18 November 1996 it had 32 representatives, with one councillor and one assemblyman drawn from each of 16 electoral districts). Charlottetown elects 5 members and Summerside 2. Many of the constituencies are rural and small, some having barely 2000 voters. See PEI LIEUTENANT-GOVERNORS: TABLE; PEI PREMIERS: TABLE.
The judicial system consists of the Supreme Court, which has Estates, Family and Trial divisions and which sits on Appeals en banco, provincial courts and the Small Claims Court. There are no county courts in the province.
There are 3 levels of municipal government in the province: city, town and community. Charlottetown (inc 1855) is the only city, governed by a mayor and councillors, elected for 2-year terms. The 8 towns are Parkdale, Alberton, Borden, Georgetown, Kensington, Montague, Souris and Summerside, the largest and oldest. There are also 89 incorporated communities. The towns are governed by mayors and councillors and the communities by elected commissioners.
The Island is represented by 4 members of Parliament, elected from the ridings of Egmont, Malpeque, Hillsborough and Cardigan, and 4 senators. When PEI entered Confederation in 1873 it was entitled to 6 members, but declining population relative to the rest of Canada reduced this figure to 5 in 1892 and 4 in 1904, and by 1911 it was entitled to only 3 members. After vigorous protests, the BNA Act was amended in 1915, stating that no province should have fewer members of Parliament than senators. Thus, PEI was guaranteed its current 4 seats.
The dependence of the Island on federal funding is underlined by the fact that expenditures by the federal government, including payments to individuals, were more than one and one-half times the provincial budget.
The Island is reasonably well served by hospital and health facilities, especially since the introduction of a provincial health-care plan in the late 1960s providing nonpremium medical and hospital services. The largest hospital is the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Charlottetown. There are 8 smaller hospitals in the province. As in other provinces, health-care costs have risen sharply.
The emergence of fairly stable political parties in PEI was a product of the 1870s. From that time to the present the Liberal and Conservative parties have dominated the electoral scene. Although a provincial NDP organization exists, and although the CCF/NDP has run candidates in both provincial and federal elections since the 1940s, no third-party candidate has ever come close to gaining a seat in the legislature.
When PEI entered Confederation it had a bicameral legislature, an upper house or council elected by property owners, and an assembly elected by universal male suffrage. As provinces moved in the late 19th century to abolish upper houses, a unique compromise emerged in PEI. A single legislative assembly was created in 1893, but for each constituency there was one candidate designated a councillor and one an assemblyman. Property owners elected the councillor and all males the assemblyman. Persons holding property in more than one riding could vote in each riding, a system that led to all manner of obvious abuses. This property qualification was maintained until 1963, and the practice of electing a councillor and an assemblyman from each district continues to the present. The franchise was extended to women in 1922.
Because the population is almost equally split between Roman Catholics and Protestants, a practice developed of ensuring that opposing candidates in provincial elections faced a coreligionist, but in recent years this tradition has weakened. Owing to the small size of constituencies and the nearly even division of political allegiances, elections tend to be decided by narrow margins. Each vote is important, and candidates stay in touch with their constituents, especially when patronage is to be distributed. The introduction of the secret ballot in 1913 reduced the impact of patronage but by no means eliminated it.
Political issues have tended to be relatively low key. Governments more often change because the party in power has grown tired and it "is time to give the other guys a chance." Politics has become relatively more sophisticated in the past decade; television advertising and the emergence of "image" as an important factor have affected PEI as they have other provinces.
The public school system originated in the Free Education Act of 1852, which authorized the establishment of autonomous school districts based on local communities. Each of the 475 districts was entitled to a one-room school, usually offering grades 1 through 10. The school districts were governed by local boards, which collected taxes, hired teachers and organized volunteer services. Along with the church and the general store, schools became focal points in each community.
This system served the Island well in the 19th and early 20th centuries, but began to show serious deficiencies by the 1920s and 1930s. Inadequate facilities, lack of opportunities to study beyond grade 10 (except for a fortunate few who could attend high school in Charlottetown) and poorly paid, underqualified teachers all began to reach public attention. By 1956 per-capita expenditures for elementary and secondary education were the lowest in Canada - $92 compared with the $279 Canadian average - and by the 1960s the local schools, while providing an essential focus of community life, had fallen far behind Canadian educational norms.
The Comprehensive Development Plan provided the vehicle and the rationale for transforming the Island educational system. Beginning in 1972 the many small school districts were replaced by 5 regional boards, and the process of closing schools and building new, consolidated institutions began. In 1971 there were 189 schools; by 1994 that number had declined to 70. New regulations requiring university degrees for teachers were introduced, and teachers' salaries rose from an average of $5724 in 1971 to $41 199 by 1994.
The facilities and opportunities available to Island students improved immeasurably as a result of the consolidation process. Yet much of the interaction of home and school and the cohesiveness of local communities has been lost.
In 1999, 24 301 students were enrolled in the public school system, which offers grades 1 through 12. Expenditure on elementary and secondary education has increased almost as dramatically as the number of schools has dropped, rising from $30.6 million in 1974 to $124 million in 1985, but remained at this level into the early 1990s. By 2000, $183 million was spent on elementary and secondary education. Funding is distributed by the Foundation Program, administered by the Department of Education.
The educational system underwent further reform in the early 1990s. In 1994 the 5 regional school boards were again restructured and reduced to 3 (2 English, 1 French.)
Higher education in PEI began with the creation of Prince of Wales College (1834) and St Dunstan's University (1855). These 2 institutions remained small and separated along religious lines. In 1969 a single new university, the University of Prince Edward Island, was founded.
In 2000-2001 a total of 3064 full-time and part-time students were enrolled. Holland College (1969) is responsible for a wide range of vocational and occupational training programs at several locations throughout the province. It had an enrolment of 2383 full-time and 6750 part-time students in 2000-2001.
The rich cultural heritage of PEI developed as an integral part of the community partially because of the relative isolation of the province. Even within the province there was little communication between the Acadian communities in the western part of the Island and the predominantly Scots communities in the southeast. Although the French language and Acadian culture have been strengthened in recent years, the Gaelic language has all but disappeared. Because of threats to the cultural life of the province, many groups have emerged in recent years supporting aspects of the Island's cultural heritage.
The provincial government assists these groups and funds a wide variety of activities. The Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation, for example, not only administers historic sites but is also active in collecting and interpreting material culture. The Prince Edward Island Council of the Arts also assists and encourages local cultural development. Both Holland College and the University of Prince Edward Island are vital contributors to the contemporary cultural life of the Island.
The Confederation Centre of the Arts was built as a memorial to the FATHERS OF CONFEDERATION in 1964 to mark the 100th anniversary of the CHARLOTTETOWN CONFERENCE. The centre is a major arts complex with 3 theatres, an art gallery and a public library. The gallery has a fine collection of Canadian art and features a large collection of the works of Robert HARRIS, a portraitist of the late 19th and early 20th century whose most notable work is the group portrait of the FATHERS OF CONFEDERATION. The 1100-seat main stage theatre is home to the CHARLOTTETOWN SUMMER FESTIVAL, a showcase of Canadian musical theatre. Recent years have seen the growth of community theatre productions across the province.
At present there is an active artistic community on the Island and in addition to the Confederation Centre Gallery there are several other private and public galleries. While the province has been the home or birthplace of a large number of popular or academic writers, none is so well known as Lucy Maud MONTGOMERY, author of ANNE OF GREEN GABLES. Most of Montgomery's stories are set on the Island and each year thousands of visitors come to the Island to see places mentioned in her books or associated with her life.
The Prince Edward Island Arts Guild was officially opened in 1994. The building is the headquarters for many of the Island's arts organizations including the Prince Edward Island Council of the Arts. Studio space and a multidiscipline space for performances, exhibitions, book readings and so on, are available; art classes are held as well.
PEI is served by English-language CBC radio including CBC stereo, and by English- and French-language CBC television. The CTV television network also covers the Island but is not produced locally. Two private radio stations broadcast in Charlottetown and one operates in Summerside. Cable television systems operate in all Island population centres, offering a wide range of programs, mostly of US origin.
There are 3 daily newspapers published in the province: the Guardian (morning) and the Evening Patriot (evening) in Charlottetown and the Journal-Pioneer in Summerside. The liveliest newspapers are the weekly Eastern Graphic published in Montague and the West Prince Graphic, published in Alberton. La Voix acadienne is a French-language weekly produced in Summerside.
Of Prince Edward Island's many important historic sites, the best known is PROVINCE HOUSE, the location of the Charlottetown Conference of 1864. Government House, the residence of the lieutenant-governor, is a fine early 19th-century building which has been carefully refurbished. Other sites include Green Gables, the L.M. Montgomery home at Cavendish and heritage sites operated by the Museum and Heritage Foundation at Charlottetown, Summerside, Elmira, Port Hill, Basin Head and Orwell Corner. A visitor can appreciate much of the Island's architectural heritage by simply walking in the older areas of Charlottetown or Summerside, or by driving along the country roads. Many fine examples of both rural and urban buildings from the last century are still intact and functional.
The first inhabitants of PEI were the precursors of the Micmac. These native people may have occupied sites on PEI as much as 10 000 years ago by crossing the low plain now covered by Northumberland Strait. Occupation since that time has most likely been continuous, although there are some indications that there may have been seasonal migrations to hunt and fish on the Island as well. The Micmac have inhabited the area for the last 2000 years.
The first European to record seeing the Island was Jacques Cartier, who landed at several spots on the north shore during his explorations of the gulf in the summer of 1534. Although there was to be no permanent settlement for almost 200 years, the harbours and bays were known to French and BASQUE fishermen, but no trace of their visits has survived.
French settlement of the Island (then known as as Île St-Jean) began in the 1720s with the colony being a dependency of Île Royale, although a small garrison was stationed near what is now Charlottetown. Settlement was slow, with the population in 1748 reaching just over 700. However, with increasing British pressure on the Acadian inhabitants of Nova Scotia culminating in the decision to expel them in 1755, the population of the Island was significantly increased. Some 4500 settlers were on the Island at the fall of LOUISBOURG in 1758, but the British quickly forced all but a few hundred to leave, even though the colony was not ceded to them until the TREATY OF PARIS (1763).
Under the British administration the name of the Island was anglicized to the Island of Saint John. This was the first of the new possessions to benefit from a plan to survey all of the territory in North America. Surveyor General Samuel HOLLAND was able to provide detailed plans of the Island by 1765. He had divided it into 67 townships of 20 000 acres each. Almost all of these were granted as the result of a lottery held in 1767 to military officers and others to whom the British government owed favours.
With the exception of small areas surrounding the land allotted for towns, there was no crown land. The proprietors were required to settle their lands to fulfil the terms of their grants, but few made an effort to do so. As a result the Island had vast areas of undeveloped land, yet those who wished to open up farms often had to pay steep rents or purchase fees.
Some proprietors refused to sell land at all and settlers found that they had no more security of tenure than they formerly had as tenants in England or Scotland. Further, the costs of the administration of the Island were to be borne by a tax paid by the proprietors on the land they held. This was often impossible to collect, and efforts made by the local government to enforce the terms of the grants were usually overruled by the British government under the influence of the landowners, most of whom never set foot in the colony.
The LAND QUESTION was the dominating political concern from 1767 until Confederation. Confrontation between the agents of the proprietors and the tenants frequently led to violence, and attempts to change the system were blocked in England. During the 1840s the government was able to buy out some of the landowners and make the land available for purchase by the tenants, but funds available for this purpose were quickly exhausted.
In spite of these difficulties the population grew from just over 4000 in 1798 to 62 000 around 1850. Although there was an influx of LOYALISTS after the American Revolution, the majority of the newcomers were from the British Isles. Several large groups were brought from Scotland in the late 1700s and early 1800s by landowners such as Captain John MacDonald and Lord SELKIRK, and by 1850 the Irish represented a sizable proportion of the recent immigrants.
After 1758 the Island had been administered from Nova Scotia and later in 1763 became part of that province. In 1769, however, following representations made by the proprietors, a separate administration was set up complete with governor, lieutenant-governor, council and assembly. In 1799 the name of the colony was changed by the assembly to Prince Edward Island to honour a son of King George III stationed with the army in Halifax at the time.
With rapid growth in the second quarter of the 19th century, demands came for more effective control over the affairs of the colony by the elected assembly. Although the concept of representative government had been accepted since 1773, the administration was still dominated by the appointed executive council. In 1851 RESPONSIBLE GOVERNMENT was granted to the colony and the first elected administration under George COLES took office. The period was not a politically stable one, however, for in the next 22 years a total of 12 governments were in office. The land question continued and, in addition, matters such as assistance to religious schools divided the population.
The Charlottetown Conference of 1864, the first in a series of meetings leading to Confederation, was held in the colony, and it marked the beginning of a period of political change that would leave a deep imprint. The meeting had been called to discuss maritime union, but when visiting representatives from Canada began to promote a larger union the original proposal failed to capture the imagination of Islanders.
When the other British North American colonies joined in the new federation in 1867, few people in PEI regretted not being part of the union. The aloofness of the Islanders, however, could not last for long. A massive debt incurred by the Islanders in building a railway running from one end of the colony to the other, combined with pressures from the British government and Canadian promises, pushed the Island into Confederation in 1873.
The enticements held out by the Canadians included an absorption of the colony's debt, year-round communication with the mainland, and the provision of funds with which the colony could buy out the proprietors and end the land question. Although few Islanders displayed much enthusiasm, most accepted the union as a marriage of necessity.
The post-Confederation period brought severe blows to the Island's economy and population as new technology, the National Policy and other forces combined to reduce the Island's prosperity. Although the province reached a population level of 109 000 in 1891, the lure of employment in western and central Canada and in the US led to a drain on the population, which had slipped to 88 000 by the time of the GREAT DEPRESSION. Dominion-provincial relations dominated the political sphere as the Island sought to increase its subsidy from Ottawa, retain the level of political representation it had enjoyed at Confederation, and finally establish the continuous communication with the mainland that had been promised in 1873.
Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the economy of the province was stable, with only slight changes in both farming and fishing - with the notable exception of the fox-farming industry between 1890 and 1939. By the mid-1960s, however, the situation had changed considerably. The number of farmers and fishermen had dropped, and the economy, which had lagged behind that of the rest of Canada, was in serious trouble.
The 20th century has forced Islanders to give up more and more of their cherished independence, but it has also brought with it better lives for almost all Islanders, at least in material terms. Education, health and social support programs, higher incomes and greater mobility have had a price, but it is one that most Islanders have been willing to pay. Though Islanders might still regard the rest of the world as being "from away," they are also securely a part of Canada.
Author S. ANDREW ROBB AND H.T. HOLMAN
Links to Other Sites
The website for the Historica-Dominion Institute, parent organization of The Canadian Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Check out their extensive online feature about the War of 1812, the "Heritage Minutes" video collection, and many other interactive resources concerning Canadian history, culture, and heritage.
Prince Edward Island
The official website of the Government of Prince Edward Island.
Lighthouses of Prince Edward Island
A guide to lighthouses located on Prince Edward Island. Includes a glossary and information about lighthouse technology. From the Virtual Museum of Canada.
Symbols of Canada
An illustrated guide to national and provincial symbols of Canada, our national anthem, national and provincial holidays, and more. Click on "Historical Flags of Canada" and then "Posters of Historical Flags of Canada" for additional images. From the Canadian Heritage website.
Charlottetown Conference of 1864
This website covers the key issues and events at the Charlottetown Conference of 1864. Also features biographical profiles and an impressive collection of archival photographs and documents. From Library and Archives Canada.
Canadian Potato Museum
Peel back the parts of the virtual "Potato Exhibit" and other spud delights.
An interesting portrait of the historic PEI community of Kensington. A Canada's Digital Collections website.
Library and Archives Canada
The website for Library and Archives Canada. Offers searchable online collections of textual documents, photographs, audio recordings, and other digitized resources. Also includes virtual exhibits about Canadian history and culture, and research aids that assist in locating material in the physical collections.
Watch the Heritage Minute that honours Kate Henderson and the many other rural teachers of Canada's past. From the Historica-Dominion Institute. See also related online learning resources.
Maps of provinces and territories from "The Atlas of Canada," Natural Resources Canada.
Ardgowan National Historic Site
The Ardgowan National Historic Site in Prince Edward Island was once the home of William Henry Pope, one of the Fathers of Confederation. A Parks Canada website.
Port-la-Joye -- Fort Amherst National Historic Site of Canada
This Parks Canada site commemorates the first permanent European settlement on Prince Edward Island and location of French and British fortifications.
Geographical Names of Canada
Search the "Canadian Geographical Names Data Base" for the official name of a city, town, lake (or any other geographical feature) in any province or territory in Canada. See also the real story of how Toronto got its name. A Natural Resources Canada website.
A biography of George Coles with photographs and related archival resources. From the “Canadian Confederation” website, Library and Archives Canada.
John Hamilton Gray
An illustrated biography of John Hamilton Gray from the "Canadian Confederation" website, Library and Archives Canada.
William Henry Pope
This section of the “Canadian Confederation” website features a biography of William Henry Pope. Includes photographs and other archival resources. From Library and Archives Canada.
Prince Edward Island
An overview of the major issues and events leading up to Prince Edward Island's entry into Confederation. Includes biographies of prominent personalities, old photos and related archival material. From Library and Archives Canada.
Explore the history of Island Premiers through the last 150 years. From the official website of the Government of Prince Edward Island.
A history of the "census" in Canada. Check the menu on the left for data on small groups (such as lone-parent families, ethnic groups, industrial and occupational categories and immigrants) and for information about areas as small as a city neighbourhood or as large as the entire country. From the website for Statistics Canada.
Aboriginal Place Names
This site highlights Aboriginal place names found across Canada. From the Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development.
Harvests of Prince Edward Island
The "Harvests of Prince Edward Island" project utilizes the collections and resources of the Island's community museums to explore a number of the harvests which have been important to the Island's history. From the Community Museums Association of Prince Edward Island and the Virtual Museum of Canada.
Archives Canada is a gateway to archival resources found in over 800 repositories across Canada. Features searchable access to virtual exhibits and photo databases residing on the websites of individual archives or Provincial/Territorial Councils. Includes documentary records, maps, photographs, sound recordings, videos, and more.
The Edge of Home: Milton Acorn from The Island
A synopsis of “The Edge of Home: Milton Acorn from The Island,” a collection of Acorn's poems, written about, or rooted in, his home province of Prince Edward Island. From the website for the University of Prince Edward Island.
National Inventory of Canadian Military Memorials
A searchable database of over 5,100 Canadian military memorials. Provides photographs, descriptions, and the wording displayed on plaques. Also a glossary of related terms. A website from the Directorate of History and Heritage.
Prince Edward Island National Park of Canada
The website for Prince Edward Island National Park of Canada, home to sand dunes, barrier islands and sand pits, beaches, sandstone cliffs, wetlands and forests. Also features unique cultural resources, notably Green Gables and Dalvay-by-the-Sea National Historic Site. From Parks Canada.
The website for acclaimed Canadian author David Helwig.
History and Politics of Prince Edward Island
An article about the history and politics of Prince Edward Island. From the "Canadian Parliamentary Review."
Names of the provinces and territories
Abbreviations and symbols for the names of the provinces and territories. From the website for Natural Resources Canada.
New monument marks Acadian expulsion
A brief CBC News article about the "Acadian Odyssey Monument" in Charlottetown. Check the links on the right side of the page for more information about Acadian history in Prince Edward Island.
Prince Edward Island Map and Satellite Image
A map and satellite image of Prince Edward Island and adjacent waterways. From geology.com.
Old Home Week
The website for Old Home Week on Prince Edward Island. Features modern fun and attractions combined with agricultural and family farm-based customs of years past.
Beacons of Light
An extensive history of lighthouses found in Prince Edward Island. From the Virtual Museum of Canada.
Sir John Harvey
View an illustrated biography of military officer and colonial administrator Sir John Harvey. From the website "The New Brunswick Land Company & The Settlement of Stanley and Harvey."
This site highlights the vibrant arts and cultural scene in the City of Summerside, Prince Edward Island. See also related features on the history of the region.