Online Guide for Newcomers to Prince Edward Island - Canada
Welcome to Canada and Prince Edward Island
Canada and the people of Prince Edward Island welcome you. We are happy you decided to make your new home here.
Welcome to Canada
Canada is the second largest country in the world and has a population of more than 31 million people. It is divided into ten provinces and three territories, and surrounded by three oceans - Atlantic in the east, Pacific in the west and Arctic to the north.
Welcome to Prince Edward Island
You may know a lot about Canada, but because Prince Edward Island is the smallest Canadian province and not very well known around the world, chances are you would like to find out a little bit more about your new home.
Prince Edward Island, also called 'PEI', or simply 'the Island' is one of the four provinces of Atlantic Canada, along with New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador. The region including New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI is also called the Maritimes.
The province of Prince Edward Island is known as the 'Garden Province' of Canada. This is because much of the land in PEI is farmed, and many Islanders enjoy tending their vegetable and flower gardens during the spring and summer months.
The Island's first residents or First Nations people are the Mi'kmaq. The Mi'kmaq call the Island 'Epekwitk', meaning 'land cradled on the waves'. Europeans later changed the pronunciation of the name to 'Abegweit'.
The Island was first colonized by the French. They called it 'Île Saint-Jean'. The British expelled the French from the Island in the mid-1700s and renamed it 'St. John's Island'. In 1799 the Island was renamed again to 'Prince Edward Island', in honour of Queen Victoria's father, Edward.
One of Canada's most significant historical events, the Charlottetown Conference, was held in PEI in 1864. British North American leaders met at this conference to discuss forming a Canadian union or 'confederation'. As a result, PEI is known as the 'Birthplace of Confederation'. Canada became a nation in 1867. Even though the Confederation was born here, PEI did not join it until 1873, when it became Canada's seventh province.
Here are some geographical facts about the Island:
- PEI is located in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on Canada's east coast, in the Atlantic Ocean.
- PEI is separated from mainland Canada, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia by the Northumberland Strait. It is connected to New Brunswick by the 13 km long Confederation Bridge.
- The Island is 224 km long and from 6 km to 64 km wide.
- The total area of PEI is 5,660 km2.
- No place in the province is more than 16 km from the sea.
- The highest point of land on PEI is 152 m above sea level.
- PEI is divided into three counties: Prince, Queens, and Kings.
- Almost all of the soil on PEI is made up of soft, red sandstone. The redness of the soil is due to the high iron-oxide (rust) content.
- PEI is surrounded by more than 90 beautiful sandy beaches, many with dunes.
- There are no major lakes or rivers on PEI, just ponds, brooks, and streams.
- PEI is in the Atlantic Time (AST) zone. Daylight savings time is observed, and the clocks are set back one hour in the fall, and forward one hour in the spring.
PEI has four seasons: spring, summer, winter, and fall. Spring usually arrives late and is quite cool. Summers are usually pleasant, not too hot, nor too cold. Even though the sea water is relatively cool, and the surface temperature rarely goes over 20°C, Islanders and tourists enjoy going to the beach and swimming in the ocean in the summer. Fall days can be warm and the evenings are usually cool.
Winters are usually long and cold, with lots of snow -- from November to April. Winter storms sometimes cause school and business closures. However, with the climate change, lately there has been less snow and fewer days with extremely low temperatures. It is very windy on the Island. The wind makes cold temperatures seem colder, but during the summer it gives some relief from the heat.
- Spring temperatures range from 8°C to 22°C.
- Summer daytime temperatures are normally in the 20s, and can go as high as 32°C.
- Fall temperatures range from 8°C to 22°C.
- Winters temperatures are between -3°C and -11°C
- The Island receives an average yearly rainfall of 868 mm and an average yearly snowfall of 340 cm (134 in).
Here are some population facts:
- The population of PEI in 2008 was estimated to be 139,451.
- PEI is the most densely populated province in Canada (23.9 persons/km2), but it is not overcrowded.
- Approximately 56% of the population lives in rural areas.
- Most of the population is of British ancestry (Irish, Scottish, and English).
- Approximately 11% of the population speaks French as first language.
- Approximately 2% of the population are Mi'kmaq or have other aboriginal heritage.
The Island does not have any large cities like other Canadian provinces. In fact, there are 31 Canadian cities with a larger population than the entire province of PEI.
Charlottetown is the capital city with a population of approximately 33,000. It was named after Queen Charlotte, wife of King George III. Charlottetown was incorporated as a town in 1855 and the Island's first city in 1875.
PEI has one other city - Summerside, located in Prince County. There are seven towns on the Island: Alberton, Cornwall, Georgetown, Kensington, Montague, Souris, and Stratford. There are also several villages.
- Lucy Maud Montgomery, one of Canada's most well-known authors, was born in PEI. Her most famous book 'Anne of Green Gables' was published in 1908. The story of Anne has been adapted for film, TV movies and series, and theatre stage as a musical. The book has been translated into many languages around the world.
- The Robert Harris Collection at the Confederation Centre of the Arts in Charlottetown consists of some 5,000 works of art. Robert Harris is best known for his painting 'The Fathers of Confederation'.
- PEI has very strict rules for non-resident land ownership. Non-resident individuals and businesses are limited to owning a maximum of 4 km2 and 12 km2 respectively. Non-residents also pay higher taxes for property they own on PEI.
- PEI has 27 elected representatives called Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs). They are responsible for making the laws in PEI.
- The head of government in PEI is a Premier.
- The Province has a Lieutenant Governor, who is appointed as the Queen's provincial representative.
- PEI has four elected Members of Parliament (MPs) who represent their district in the Canadian House of Commons in Ottawa.
- The major industries in the province are agriculture, tourism, fishing, and manufacturing.
- About 30% of Canada’s potatoes are grown in PEI. This is the most important source of income for the province's 2,000 farms. Other crops farmed on PEI are: apples, strawberries, blueberries, carrots, onions, tomatoes, grains, etc.
- Tourism is an important source of income, especially during the summer. The Island’s charm, landscapes, golf courses, and Anne of Green Gables attract a great number of tourists.
- The fishing industry is another major economic interest. Island lobsters, mussels, irish moss, tuna, and oysters are well-known throughout Canada and the world.
- The manufacturing sector is mainly in food processing. High technology is also becoming important, especially in the areas of medicine, electronics, bioscience and agriculture.