Prince Edward Island

Prince Edward Island (PEI or P.E.I.; French: Île-du-Prince-Édouard; Scottish Gaelic: Eilean a’ Phrionnsa (lit. "the Island of the Prince") or Eilean Eòin (lit. "John's Island" in reference to the island's former name of St. John's Island); Míkmaq: Apekweit or Epikwetk roughly translated "land cradled in the waves") is a Canadian province consisting of an island of the same name. The maritime province is the smallest in the nation in both land area and population (excluding the territories). The island has a few other names: "Garden of the Gulf" referring to the pastoral scenery and lush agricultural lands throughout the province; and "Birthplace of Confederation", referring to the Charlottetown Conference in 1864.

According to the 2008 estimates, Prince Edward Island has 139,407 residents collectively referred to as Islanders. It is located in a rectangle defined roughly by 46°–47° N, and 62°–64° 30′W and at in size, it is the 104th largest island in the world, and Canada's 23rd largest island. The island's namesake is Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (1767–1820), the fourth son of King George III and the father of Queen Victoria.


Known as the Garden of the Gulf, the island is located in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence west of Cape Breton Island, north of the Nova Scotia peninsula, and east of New Brunswick. Its southern shore bounds the Northumberland Strait. The island has two urban areas. The largest surrounds Charlottetown Harbour, situated centrally on the island's southern shore, and consists of the capital city Charlottetown, and suburban towns Cornwall and Stratford and a developing urban fringe. A much smaller urban area surrounds Summerside Harbour, situated on the southern shore west of Charlottetown Harbour, and consists primarily of the city of Summerside. As with all natural harbours on the island, Charlottetown and Summerside harbours are created by rias.

The island's landscape is pastoral: rolling hills, woods, reddish white sand beaches, ocean coves and the famous red soil have given Prince Edward Island a reputation as a province of outstanding natural beauty. The provincial government has enacted laws that attempt to preserve the landscape through regulation, although the lack of consistent enforcement and absence of province-wide zoning and land-use planning has resulted in some aesthetically displeasing development in recent years.

The island's lush landscape has had a strong bearing on its economy and its culture. Author Lucy Maud Montgomery drew inspiration from the land during the late Victorian Era for the setting of her classic novel Anne of Green Gables. Today, many of the same qualities that Montgomery and others found in the island are enjoyed by tourists who visit during all seasons. They enjoy a variety of leisure activities, including beaches, various golf courses, eco-tourism adventures, and simply touring the countryside and enjoying cultural events in local communities around the island.

The smaller rural communities as well as the towns and villages throughout the province proudly retain a slower-paced, old world flavour, something that factors heavily into Prince Edward Island's popularity as a destination for relaxation. The economy of most rural communities on the island are based on small-scale agriculture, given that the size of farm properties is small when compared with other areas in Canada. There is an increasing amount of industrial farming as older farm properties are consolidated and modernised.

The coastline consists of a combination of long beaches, dunes, red sandstone cliffs, salt water marshes and numerous bays and harbours. The beaches, dunes and sandstone cliffs consist of sedimentary rock and other material with a high iron concentration which oxidises upon exposure to the air. The geological properties of a white silica sand found at Basin Head are unique in the province; the sand grains cause a scrubbing noise as they rub against each other when walked on, aptly named the singing sands. Large dune fields on the north shore can be found on barrier islands at the entrances to various bays and harbours. The magnificent sand dunes at Greenwich are of particular significance. The shifting, parabolic dune system is home to a variety of birds and rare plants and is also a site of significant archeological interest.


Prince Edward Island's climate varies widely. The winter weather begins in late November, with flurries as early as late October. Through November and December, the temperatures are typically from 5°C to -5°C. As the Northumberland Strait and the Gulf of St. Lawrence freeze they contribute to colder temperatures and heavier snowfall. The temperature steadily falls until the beginning of February, following which the temperatures steadily rise. From as early as December until as late as April, the island is often handicapped by severe storms and blizzards. While the mainland warms in the spring, the surrounding ice keeps the island cold and snowy for a few more weeks. Once this ice has melted, the temperatures rise continuously until spring begins, in late April or early May. The spring weather patterns are very erratic, at any time in May the temperatures can reach 25°C or sink as low as 5°C. Most of the precipitation experienced in May is a continuous drizzle as opposed to rainfall, though there are exceptions. The weather stabilizes in June, at about 15° - 20°C. The summer is mild and humid in July and August with temperatures sometimes reaching 30°C. The long winter and late spring are compensated for by the summer continuing through September and mild weather even into October. By late fall, temperatures tend to drop quickly.


Prince Edward Island was originally inhabited by the Mi'kmaq people. They named the island Abegweit, meaning Land Cradled on the Waves. They believed that the island was formed by the Great Spirit placing some dark red clay which was shaped as a crescent on the Blue Waters.

As part of the French colony of Acadia, the island was called "Île Saint-Jean". Roughly one thousand Acadians lived on the island. However, many fled to the island from mainland Nova Scotia during the British-ordered expulsion in 1755. Many more were forcibly deported in 1758 when British soldiers, under the command of Colonel Andrew Rollo, were ordered by General Jeffery Amherst to capture the island.

Great Britain obtained the island from France under the terms of the Treaty of Paris in 1763 which settled the Seven Years' War, calling the colony St. John's Island (also the Island of St. John's).

The first British governor of St. John's Island, Walter Patterson, was appointed in 1769. He assumed office in 1770 and had a controversial career during which the initial attempts to populate and develop the island under a feudal system were slowed by land title disputes and factional conflict. In an attempt to attract settlers from Ireland, in one of his first acts (1770) Patterson led the island's colonial assembly to rename the island "New Ireland," but the British Government promptly vetoed this as exceeding the authority vested in the colonial government; only the Privy Council in London could change the name of a colony.

Prince Edward Island became the site of the first ever American military intrusion of foreign land in 1775, when the settlement of Charlottetown was raided by a pair of American employed privateers. During and after the American Revolutionary War from 1776–1783, the colony's efforts to attract exiled Loyalist refugees from the rebellious American colonies met with some success. Walter Patterson's brother, John Patterson, one of the original grantees of land on the island, was a temporarily-exiled Loyalist and led efforts to persuade others to come.

The 1787 dismissal of Governor Patterson and his recall to London in 1789 dampened his brother's efforts, leading John to focus on his interests in the United States (one of John's sons, Commodore Daniel Patterson, became a noted United States Navy hero, and John's grandsons, Rear Admiral Thomas H. Patterson and Lt. Carlile Pollock Patterson USN, achieved success).

Edmund Fanning, also a Loyalist exiled by the Revolution, took over as the second governor, serving until about 1806. His tenure was more successful than Walter Patterson's.

On November 29, 1798, during Fanning's administration, Great Britain granted approval to change the colony's name from St. John's Island to Prince Edward Island to distinguish it from similar names in the Atlantic, 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 in charge of all British military forces on the continent as Commander-in-Chief, North America and was headquartered in Halifax. Prince Edward was also the father of Queen Victoria.

During the 19th century, the colony of Prince Edward Island began to attract "adventurous Victorian families looking for elegance on the sea. Prince Edward Island became a fashionable retreat in the nineteenth century for British nobility".

Joining Canada

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 balked at joining in 1867, choosing to remain a colony of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. In the late 1860s, the colony examined various options, including the possibility of becoming a discrete dominion unto itself, as well as entertaining delegations from the United States, who were interested in Prince Edward Island joining the United States of America.

In 1871, the colony began construction of a railway and, frustrated by Great Britain's Colonial Office, began negotiations with the United States. In 1873, Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, anxious to thwart American expansionism and facing the distraction of the Pacific Scandal, negotiated for Prince Edward Island to join Canada. The Federal Government of Canada assumed the colony's extensive railway debts and agreed to finance a buy-out of the last of the colony's absentee landlords to free the island of leasehold tenure and from any new migrants entering the island. Prince Edward Island entered Confederation on July 1, 1873.

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 many ways. 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 upon the centenary of the Charlottetown Conference, where it stands in Charlottetown as a national monument to the "Fathers of Confederation."


According to the 2001 Canadian Census, the largest ethnic group consists of people of Scottish descent (38.0%), followed by English (28.7%), Irish (27.9%), French (21.3%), German (4.0%), and Dutch (3.1%) descent. Almost half of all respondents also identified their ethnicity as "Canadian."

''' Population of Prince Edward Island since 1851
Year Population Mean annual* 5-year* 10-year* Rank**
1851 62,678 5
1861 80,857 2.6 29.0
1871 94,021 1.5 16.3
1881 108,891 1.5 15.8
1891 109,078 0.017 0.2 6
1901 103,259 −0.55 -5.3 7
1911 93,728 −0.96 -9.2 9
1921 88,615 −0.56 -5.4
1931 88,038 −0.065 -0.7
1941 95,047 0.77 8.0
1951 98,429 0.35 3.6 10
1956 99,285 0.17 0.9
1961 104,629 1.1 5.4 6.3
1966 108,535 0.74 3.7 9.3
1971 111,635 0.56 2.9 6.7
1976 118,225 1.2 5.9 8.9
1981 122,506 0.7 3.6 9.7
1986 126,640 0.67 3.4 7.1
1991 129,765 0.49 2.5 5.9
1996 134,557 0.73 3.7 6.3
2001 135,294 0.11 0.5 4.2
2006 135,851 NA 0.4 NA

Source: Statistics Canada


The 2006 Canadian census showed a population of 135,851. Of the 133,570 singular responses to the census question concerning 'mother tongue' the most commonly reported languages were:
1. English 125,260 93.8%
2. French 5,345 4.0%
3. Dutch 865 0.6%
4. German 275 0.2%
5. Spanish 220 0.2%
6. Chinese 190 0.1%
7. Arabic 150 0.1%
8. Hungarian 120 0.1%
9. Mi'kmaq 90 0.1%
10. Japanese 80 0.1%
11. Polish 70 0.1%
12. Korean 65 ~
In addition, there were also 105 responses of both English and a 'non-official language'; 25 of both French and a 'non-official language'; 495 of both English and French; 10 of English, French, and a 'non-official language'; and about 1,640 people who either did not respond to the question, or reported multiple non-official languages, or else gave some other unenumerated response. (Figures shown are for the number of single language responses and the percentage of total single-language responses.)


The largest denominations by number of adherents according to the 2001 census were the Roman Catholic Church with 63,240 (47 %); the United Church of Canada with 26,570 (20 %); and the Anglican Church of Canada with 6,525 (5 %).


The provincial economy is dominated by the seasonal industries of agriculture, tourism, and the fishery. The province is limited in terms of heavy industry and manufacturing. Although commercial deposits of minerals have not been found, exploration for natural gas beneath the eastern end of the province has resulted in the discovery of an undisclosed quantity of gas.

Agriculture remains the dominant industry in the provincial economy, as it has since colonial times. During the twentieth century, potatoes replaced mixed farming as the leading cash crop, accounting for one-third of provincial farm income. The province currently accounts for a third of Canada's total potato production, producing approximately 1.3 billion kilograms annually. Comparatively, the state of Idaho produces approximately 6.2 billion kilograms annually, with a population approximately 9.5 times greater. The province is a major producer of seed potatoes, exporting to more than twenty countries around the world.

As a legacy of the island's colonial history, the provincial government enforces extremely strict rules for non-resident land ownership. Residents and corporations are limited to maximum holdings of 400 and 1,200 hectares respectively. There are also restrictions on non-resident ownership of shorelines.

Many of the province's coastal communities rely upon shellfish harvesting, particularly lobster fishing as well as oyster fishing and mussel farming.

The provincial government provides consumer protection in the form of regulation for certain items, ranging from apartment rent increases to petroleum products including gas, diesel, propane and heating oil. These are all regulated through the Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission (IRAC). IRAC is authorised to limit the number of companies who are permitted to sell petroleum products.

The sale of carbonated beverages such as beer and soft drinks in non-refillable containers, such as aluminum cans or plastic bottles, was banned in 1976 as an environmental measure in response to public concerns over litter. Beer and soft drink companies opted to use refillable glass bottles for their products which were redeemable at stores and bottle depots. The introduction of recycling programs for cans and plastic bottles in neighbouring provinces in recent years (also using a redemption system) has seen the provincial government introduce legislation to reverse this ban with the restriction lifted on May 3, 2008.

Prince Edward Island has Canada's highest provincial retail sales tax rate, currently (2008) established at 10%. The tax is applied to almost all goods and services except some clothing, food and home heating fuel. The tax is also applied to the Federal Goods and Services Tax.

At present, approximately fifteen percent of all electricity consumed on the island is generated from renewable energy (largely wind turbines); the provincial government has set renewable energy targets as high as 30-50% for electricity consumed by 2015. Until wind generation, the province relied entirely on electricity imports on a submarine cable from New Brunswick. A thermal oil-fired generating station in Charlottetown is also available.

Persons employed on Prince Edward Island earn a minimum wage of $8.00/hour as of October 1, 2008.


Prince Edward Island's transportation network has traditionally revolved around its seaports of Charlottetown, Summerside, Borden, Georgetown, and Souris — all linked to its railway system, and airports (Charlottetown and Summerside) for communication with mainland North America. The railway system was abandoned by CN in 1989 in favour of an agreement with the federal government to improve major highways. Until 1997, the province was linked by two passenger-vehicle ferry services to the mainland: one, provided by Marine Atlantic, operated year-round between Borden and Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick; the other, provided by Northumberland Ferries Limited, operates seasonally between Wood Islands and Caribou, Nova Scotia. A third ferry service provided by CTMA operates seasonally between Souris and Cap-aux-Meules, Quebec and connects with Quebec's Magdalen Islands.

On June 1, 1997, the Confederation Bridge opened, connecting Borden-Carleton to Cape Jourimain, New Brunswick. The longest bridge over ice covered waters in the world, it replaced the Marine Atlantic ferry service. Since then, the Confederation Bridge's assured transportation link to the mainland has altered the province's tourism and agricultural and fisheries export economies.

The province has very strict laws regarding use of road-side signs. Billboards and the use of portable signs are banned. There are standard directional information signs on all roads in the province for various businesses and attractions in the immediate area. Some municipalities' by-laws also restrict the types of permanent signs that may be installed on private property.


Prince Edward Island has a high level of political representation, with four Members of Parliament, four Senators, 27 Members of the Legislative Assembly and two cities, seven towns and sixty incorporated rural communities yielding over five hundred municipal councillors and mayors. This gives a total of 566 elected officials for a population (as of 2006) of 135,851.

Prince Edward Island is the first province in Canada to have elected a female Premier (Catherine Callbeck) to the legislature in 1993; at the time Lieutenant Governor Marion Reid and Leader of the Official Opposition Patricia Mella were also women. British Columbia had had a woman as Premier prior to Callbeck (Rita Johnston), although she did not win a provincial election.

Prince Edward Island has a three-tier waste management system called Waste Watch, operated by the Island Waste Management Corporation, a Crown Corporation. The program is mandatory and has reduced the amount of waste on the island by 64%. Consequently, the province is a national leader in waste diversion and recycling.

Prince Edward Island is the only province which has not ratified the National Building Code of Canada.


Ten largest municipalities by population
Municipality 2001 1996
Charlottetown 32,245a 32,531
Summerside 14,654b 15,525
Stratford 6,314 5,869
Cornwall 4,412 4,291
Lot 34 2,344 2,180
Montague 1,945 1,995
Lot 1c 1,900 1,936
Lot 65 1,829 1,595
Lot 19 1,775 1,759
Lot 2d 1,720 1,766
a Agglomerated population: 58,358.
b Agglomerated population: 16,200.
c Tignish and surrounding area.
d St. Louis/Elmsdale area.


Prince Edward Island is home to one university, the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI), located in Charlottetown. The university was created by the Island legislature to replace Prince of Wales College and St. Dunstan's University, which still has its charter. UPEI is also home to the Atlantic Veterinary College, which offers the region's only veterinary medicine program. UPEI recently replaced its English graduation requirements (two English courses) with Global Issues 151 and another writing intensive course, the first university in North America to do so.

Holland College is the provincial community college, with campuses across the province, including specialised facilities such as the Atlantic Police Academy, Marine Training Centre, and the Culinary Institute of Canada.

The College of Piping and Celtic Performing Arts of Canada, located in Summerside, specialises in the instruction of bagpipe and other traditional Scottish and Irish performance art such as highland dance.

Prince Edward Island's secondary schools include Charlottetown Rural, Colonel Gray, and Bluefield High Schools in Queens County; Souris, Montague, and Morell Regional High Schools in Kings County; and Kensington Intermediate Senior High, Kinkora Regional High School, Three Oaks Senior High, and Westisle Composite High School in Prince County. There are also two K-12 French schools, École François Buote in Charlottetown and École Évangeline in the western part of the province.

Prince Edward Island, along with most rural regions in North America, is experiencing an accelerated rate of youth emigration. The provincial government has projected that public school enrollment will decline by 40% during the 2010s.

Health care

The province has seven hospitals:

The Hillsborough Hospital in Charlottetown is the province's only psychiatric hospital.

In recent decades, the province has shown statistically significant and abnormally high rates of diagnosed rare cancers. Health officials, ecologists and environmental activists point to the use of pesticides for industrial potato farming as a primary contaminant.


The island's cultural traditions of art, music and creative writing are all supported through the public education system. There is an annual arts festival, the Charlottetown Festival, hosted each year at the Confederation Centre of the Arts. The musical play Anne of Green Gables has run every year at the festival for more than four decades. An unofficial sequel, Anne & Gilbert, premiered in the Playhouse in Victoria-by-the-Sea in 2005. Elmer Blaney Harris founded an artist colony at Fortune Bridge and set his famous play Johnny Belinda on the island.

Prince Edward Island's documented music history begins in the 19th century with religious music, some written by local pump and block maker, and organ-importer, Watson Duchemin. Several big bands including the Sons of Temperance Band and the Charlottetown Brass Band, were active. Today, Acadian, Celtic and rock music prevail, with exponents including Timothy Chaisson, Lennie Gallant and Two Hours Traffic. The celebrated singer-songwriter Stompin' Tom Connors spent his formative years in Skinners Pond. Robert Harris was a well-known artist.



See also



  • Arsenault, Georges. The Island Acadians Charlottetown, P.E.I.: Ragweed, 1989. 296 pp.
  • Baglole, Harry, ed. Exploring Island History: A Guide to the Historical Resources of Prince Edward Island. Belfast, P.E.I.: Ragweed, 1977
  • Bolger, Francis W. P., ed. Canada's Smallest Province: A History of Prince Edward Island. Charlottetown: Prince Edward Island Centennial Comm., 1973. 403 pp.
  • Boyde Beck. Prince Edward Island: An (Un)Authorized History (1996)
  • Bumsted, J. M. Land, Settlement, and Politics on Eighteenth-Century Prince Edward Island. McGill-Queen's U. Press, 1987. 238 pp.
  • Clark, A. H. Three Centuries and the Island. A Historical Geography of Settlement and Agriculture in Prince Edward Island, Canada (1959) very broad look at historical geography
  • Ives, Edward D. Drive Dull Care Away: Folksongs from Prince Edward Island. Charlottetown, P.E.I.: Inst. of Island Studies, 1999. 269 pp.
  • MacKinnon, Frank. Church Politics and Education in Canada: The P.E.I. Experience. Calgary, Alta.: Detselig, 1995. 144 pp.
  • MacKinnon, Wayne. The Life of the Party: A History of the Liberal Party in Prince Edward Island. Summerside: Liberal Party of Prince Edward Island, 1973. 153 pp.
  • Sharpe, Errol. A People's History of Prince Edward Island. Toronto: Steel Rail, 1976. 252 pp.
  • Smitheram, Verner; Milne, David; and Dasgupta, Satadal, ed. The Garden Transformed: Prince Edward Island, 1945–1980. Charlottetown, P.E.I.: Ragweed, 1982. 271 pp.
  • W. Ross Livingston; Responsible Government in Prince Edward Island: A Triumph of Self-Government under the Crown. 1931. online
  • Weale, David and Baglole, Harry. The Island and Confederation: The End of an Era. Summerside, P. E. I.: Williams and Crue, 1973. 166 pp.

External links

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