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Prince Edward Island

This article is about a Canadian province. For the South African sub-antarctic islands, see Prince Edward Islands

Prince Edward Island (PEI; French, l'Île-du-Prince-Édouard) is a Canadian province situated in the Maritimes. It is the nation's smallest province in terms of both size and population; it has the highest population density of all Canadian provinces, yet this is only 24.47/km².

The population is 137,800 Prince Edward Islanders (or colloquially just "Islanders").

It is located in a rectangle defined roughly by 46°–47° N, and 62°–64° 30′ W.

The island's namesake is Prince Edward Augustus, Duke of Kent and Strathearn (1767-1820), the father of Queen Victoria.



The province comprises the island of the same name located in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, east of New Brunswick and north of Nova Scotia from which it is separated by the Northumberland Strait. The strait was recently spanned by Confederation Bridge.

The capital and largest city is Charlottetown, situated centrally on the island's southern shore. (See also a list of communities in Prince Edward Island.) Summerside is the second largest city and is located in Prince County, in the western part of the province. Stratford, and Cornwall, the third and fourth largest communities are located immediately east and west of Charlottetown respectively, placing more than a third of the province's population within the capital region.

The island's landscape has been heavily impacted by humans since the arrival of European explorers in the 16th century. Today, there is no original forested land on the Island, although approximately half of the landmass is covered by forest. Virtually the entire province is dominated by agriculture, resulting from the ease of farming in the distinctive red sedimentary soil. The island's pastoral landscape has a strong bearing on its economy and culture as author Lucy Maud Montgomery drew inspiration from it during the late Victorian Era for the setting of Anne of Green Gables. Today, many of the same qualities Montgomery and others found in the Island are enjoyed by millions of tourists who visit in all seasons for a variety of leisure activities ranging from world-reknowned beaches, various golf courses, eco-tourism adventures, to touring the countryside and enjoying cultural events in local communities.


Prince Edward Island was originally part of the colony of Acadia in New France, which was subsequently renamed Nova Scotia upon annexation by the British. In 1769 Saint John's Island was split off as a colony, and later renamed Prince Edward Island.


The provincial economy is dominated by the seasonal industries of agriculture, tourism, and the fishery. The province is extremely limited in terms of natural resources such as minerals, although there are undetermined quantities of natural gas beneath the eastern end of the province.

Agriculture remains the dominant industry in the provincial economy, as it has since colonial times, although potatoes have replaced mixed farming during the 20th century to become 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; comparatively this is approximately half of the total production for the state of Idaho.

Tourism eclipsed the fishery in the latter half of the 20th century with over a million visitors entering the province each year to use beaches, golf courses, and visit local attractions and events. The high season, as with most Canadian provinces, is during the summer months of July and August, although increased travel by American visitors during September and October for fall foliage tours of the Maritime provinces and neighbouring New England and Newfoundland is pushing the shoulder season farther into the winter months.

The province is less dependent on the ground fishery than the other Atlantic provinces, with fishing being dominated by shellfish harvesting - most notably lobster. There are two separate lobster seasons for different parts of the province, occurring between May-September outside of moulting times. As the province is surrounded by sea ice between December-April, the fishery is entirely seasonal. In recent decades, the provincial government has been encouraging diversification of the fishery by promoting the aquaculture industry, largely through cultivation of mussels.

Some PEI facts

  • The island has several nicknames: Epikwetk (Abegweit) which is a Mi'kmaq word meaning "Cradled in the Waves"; "Garden of the Gulf" referring to the pastoral scenery and lush agricultural lands throughout the province; "Million Acre Farm" also refers to the province being dominated by agriculture; and finally "Birthplace of Confederation", referring to the Charlottetown Conference in 1864.
  • Until 1924, automobiles drove on the left side of the road.
  • The Prince Edward Island Railway (Canadian Government Railways after 1915, CNR after 1918) was a narrow gauge system when it was built in 1873. Converted to standard gauge by 1930, the railway was abandoned province-wide in 1989, making PEI the first Canadian province to be without a railway.
  • The world's fur-farming industry started with fox fur on a farm in Prince County.
  • PEI has recently become home to a small population of a unique form of coyote, closely related to wolves, which evolved in neighbouring Maritime provinces.
  • Repeal of Prohibition was vetoed in 1945 by then Lieutenant Governor B.W. LePage.
  • There are 31 Canadian cities with a greater population than PEI. 13 are in Ontario alone.
  • PEI has extremely strict rules for non-resident land ownership as a legacy of Islanders' distrust in this area from their colonial past. Residents and corporations are limited to maximum holdings of 400 and 1200 hectares (4 and 12 km²) respectively. There are also restrictions on non-resident ownership of shorelines and higher property taxation is in place for recreational properties, the majority of which are owned by non-residents.
  • PEI had among the highest per capita enlistment rate in the armed forces of any Canadian province in the volunteer army, navy and air force of the Second World War.



See also

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