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ALAN HOLMAN: The Island is changing

['Stratford Mayor David Dunphy, left, and tulip grower Bas Arendse of Vanco Farms share a sneak peek of what is to come in this year’s Points East Tulip Fest for which seven municipalities and more than a dozen businesses have planted more than 100,000 tulip bulbs from Stratford to Souris and beyond. ']
'Stratford Mayor David Dunphy, left, and tulip grower Bas Arendse of Vanco Farms share a sneak peek of what is to come in this year’s Points East Tulip Fest for which seven municipalities and more than a dozen businesses have planted more than 100,000 tulip bulbs from Stratford to Souris and beyond. ' File Photo

And that isn’t all bad; province never been so prosperous, nor had so many people living here

BY ALAN HOLMAN

GUARDIAN COLUMNIST

As you drive from Charlottetown to Montague, you go past two examples of innovation provided by the opposite ends of the Island’s agricultural spectrum.

On Highway 1, at Mount Albion, you pass the large potato warehouses of Vanco, and next to them are buildings where the company processes the thousands of tulips that they grow and sell throughout the Maritimes and parts of the New England states every spring.

Further down the road on Highway 3, half-way between Alberry Plains and New Perth, you drive by a pasture that quite often has black bovine animals grazing in it. The animals aren’t cows, they’re water buffalo. Buffalo milk is thick and rich, it makes excellent cheese. Some people think it is healthier than regular cows’ milk.

The tulips and the buffalo have one thing in common, both were introduced to the Island by newcomers. But, these immigrants as different as day and night. The tulips were introduced by a Dutch family seeking to grow and expand their already large, modern, potato operation, while the buffalo were brought by an Amish family from Ontario, who farm with horses, not tractors.

These are just two examples of innovation in one of the Island’s traditional industries, brought here by ‘people from away’. There are likely many more examples to be found in P.E.I.’s manufacturing and digital sectors.

New people often bring new ideas; they don’t automatically follow the way things are done here. For some Islanders that’s upsetting. They want things to remain as they are. Or return to the nostalgic ‘good old days’ of the past.

Recently a flysheet, a single-page tract, was distributed in Charlottetown decrying the number of immigrants the government allows in. The tract blames immigrants for unaffordable housing in Toronto and Vancouver. It didn’t go so far as to blame them for Charlottetown’s present hot real estate market.

However, the tract did say that, “if not stopped, senseless immigration policies will lead to the replacement of Canada’s founding majority population.”

by that, the flysheet means people of British decent, then that train has already left the station. A recent estimate indicates that today only about 35 per cent of Canadians have their roots in British Isles.

The tract was produced by a group from Vancouver called Immigration Watch Canada (IWC). Nowhere on the organization’s website does it name who they represent, or who the officers of the organization are.

The IWC website makes the dubious claim that immigration costs nearly $96 million dollars a day or $34 billion, (billion with a ‘b’) a year. That is nearly $10 billion a year more than the budget for the Department of Defence.

Until recently immigration issues have been fairly benign on the Island, mainly because, outside of a few Lebanese in the city, and some European farmers, there weren’t very many immigrants on the Island.

This changed when the provincial government decided to cash in on a federal program that sells Canadian passports to wealthy foreigners. The Provincial Nominee Program saw a rapid influx of foreigners, mainly Chinese, who want, and can afford, the luxury of having a Canadian passport.

The downside of this is, many of them come to Island, meet the minimal requirements of the PNP, pay the fees and the deposits requiring they stay a for a year, and then quickly leave, forfeiting their deposits. This has been the source of millions in revenue for the province. The MacLauchlan government recently proclaimed a budget surplus, something they couldn’t have done without the PNP money.

The upside (outside of the forfeited money) is some of the people who came, find they like it here and are now trying to find the means to create a life for themselves on the Island.

They should be encouraged to stay. The Island is changing and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The province has never been so prosperous, nor has it ever had so many people living here.

Islanders should not fall prey to the negative rantings of Immigration Watch Canada, or people expressing similar views.

- Alan Holman is a freelance journalist living in Charlottetown. He can be reached at: acholman@pei.eastlink.ca

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