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Recently Peter Goldring, MP for Edmonton, revived the idea of bringing the Caribbean islands of Turks and Caicos into the Canadian fold. This is not the first time the idea has been shopped around, and it’s the kind of story, like a Maritime Union or an Albertan secession, that captures hearts and minds in the hopes that something will shake up the mundanity of Canadian geography. “What if?” They may say, but I say the time for what ifs is over. This is the perfect time to bring these far-flung islands under our wing and we have a perfect way to do it; by merging them with their virtually identical twin island of PEI.
The common line of thinking is to bring the islands in as a new province or territory, as Mr. Goldring has suggested. But with a population of ~40,000 and some 600 square kilometers of land, it falls well below the bar of even our smallest provincial population or territorial landmass. In the past Nova Scotia has offered to take the islands in, unanimously passing a non-binding resolution in 2004 on the matter. And while their stated reasons for such a merging would be their “historical trade connections and a sea-going culture”, any astute observer would know that the real reason comes only from that natural moosehead rambunction combined with a vicious imperialistic streak that has already netted them a long list of islands. Why would the Turks and Caicos want to hang out with a wannabe island like Nova Scotia when it could be friends with the fifth best island in the world anyway?
But the reasoning for us islands to stick together goes deeper than that. PEI shares a lot more in common with our little Caribbean bros in all sorts of facets. We both had tough early childhoods being raised by France and ultimately conquered by the British, and being ex-British subjects ourselves, we understand their need to get away from the motherisland and rebound into a new relationship. A large part of our economies revolve around tourism, and the T&Cs just got around to upscaling their main cruse ship port. Twinsys! They have a rich culture of music, particularly in the form of ripsaw, that could mesh and blend seamlessly with our own fiddling and indie stylings to form a pan-Atlantic party mix of party hits. Imagine The Five Cays Under the Tree covering Boxer the Horse. And their government has been marred in scandal much like our own, with a UK inquiry discovering a “high probability of systemic corruption or other serious dishonesty”, to the point where governance of their islands was suspended for two years. So at the very least they’ll be in good company. Even geographically, if you look at Turks and Caicos upside down and squint a little, they kind of look like us.
But lets say it happens. Lets say we get approval tomorrow, and PEI is now a package deal. The first move should be to make that literal, as in have the government divert money from giving away free iPods and towards creating a vacation package that sees you spend a few days on PEI before hopping on a plane and skipping down to the Turks and Caicos for the rest, or vice-versa. Boom, everyone’s tourism value just went up. Unlike PEI, the Turks and Caicos are already self-sufficient and know how to balance a budget, so with their help and a little federal cash (as is tradition), we could invest in some infrastructure down there like roundabouts, highways, and a new Canadian owned port for trade. Thirty percent of the hotels and resorts in the Turks and Caicos are already Canadian owned, so the next move would be to ship as much lobster and potatoes as you could down there and serve it as a high priced delicacy, with the potential to move it throughout the Caribbean from your new fancy port. Do that in reverse, importing conch-style dishes to our northern hemisphere (Conch Love Month anyone?), and you’d have a hit. Open up a Canadian military base alongside that port of yours to take down smugglers and pirates and you’d suddenly have a lot of people willing to pay for patrol protection. Boom, done, you just expanded Canada’s strategic reach in some place other than the arctic and bolstered our world reputation. The final move would be encouraging it as a retirement destination, evenly distributing much of PEI’s current senior population to lessen healthcare burdens and allowing for younger workers to move up. Wow, is that a burgeoning economy in your pocket or a delicious conch fritter?