Canada as a Tropical Paradise

by MaxPower

Why was I not informed? Why did it take a national TV show to bring this issue to my attention? For an issue which is as important as this I expect to be informed immediately.

This just in. The Turks & Caicos islands would like to be annexed by Canada and they have been waiting for it to happen since 1988! It was in 1988 that citizens of the island voted 90% in favour of ‘some kind of association with Canada’. The idea of an association of Canada and the Turks & Caicos islands is not new. It has been around since the 1970’s but the element that is hard to understand is why nothing has been done on this issue.

The Turks & Caicos Islands (TCI) is a British dependent territory with a population of 25,000 which consists of eight islands and forty smaller keys at the south-eastern tip of the Bahamas chain. The main island of Providenciales measures just 90 square kilometers. In 1987 and 1988 when this was last being discussed in Canada one of the perceived problems was it appeared there was no economic benefit of a union to Canada. The Turks & Caicos were isolated, lacking in basic infrastructure, and many politicians saw them as a potential drain on resources. This strictly economic analysis ignores the feeling of goodwill and pride that would be associated with a mutually beneficial agreement between a country and its territory (or associated state, or whatever union the TCI may like to adopt with Canada).

That potential economic drain has been reversed. Recently, Global TV reported that since 1988 the residents of the TCI have built themselves the third fastest growing economy in the Caribbean. Indeed, aside from infrastructure debt, they run a balanced budget of roughly one hundred million dollars Canadian, ironically a similar amount to what is said to have been handed out to some Chretien cronies in Quebec. Now I think I speak for all Canadians, including Quebecers, when I say that $100 million would have been much better spent securing an island paradise for Canadians to visit.

In the most recent televised interview with Dr. Michael Misick, the Chief Minister of the TCI, explained that islanders (or ‘belongers’ as they call themselves) are currently a “British overseas territory. What it means is that we’re not independent. We have a special relationship with another government where they are responsible for foreign affairs, defence, internal security and we are responsible for domestic affairs whether it’s planning, development, and tourism.” The TCI receives absolutely no money from the UK, they are now entirely self-sufficient.

Currently, in Canada there are ‘have’ provinces, Alberta and Ontario, and ‘have not’ provinces, every other province. These two ‘have’ provinces supply the rest of the provinces with money to run their governments. Let us say hypothetically, Canada added another province with a population of 25,000 (roughly the size of a subdivision in a major city), how much extra burden would there be to Canadian tax payers? I’d suppose that unless Governor General Adrienne Clarkson decided that she would need to tour the Caribbean four or five times on the tax payers dime at $5 million a pop, there would be no hardship experienced by Canadian tax payers.

So let us think logically here. What are the ‘pros’ for Canada?

First and foremost, a Canadian territory in the Caribbean, where Canadian tourists could go, without a visa or passport and bask in the sun using Canadian dollars, surrounded by other Canadian citizens.

Second, the added source of investment and tourist potential for Canadians. The TCI’s main industry is tourism and Canada has been desperately trying to attract tourists to the country following some highly publicized bad tourism ops. Undoubtedly, additional investment is needed in the TCI to bring the accommodation and infrastructure standard up to the Canadian level. I would suggest that almost all of this would be done through private investors and companies, leaving almost no need for government intervention.

Third, increased tax revenue through Canadians vacationing in Canada. If I had a choice to go to Cuba, Jamaica or a Canadian territory for a fun in the sun vacation, I’d choose Canada in a second. If you have more Canadians spending their tourist dollars in Canada and more foreign tourists (Americans) converting their tourist dollar to Canadian dollars, the additional tax revenue potential is astonishing. The need for this rebalancing of our tourism deficit is highlighted in a recent study that shows Canada’s tourism deficit doubled last year to $4.3 billion. This means that $4.3 billion more dollars were spent outside the country by Canadian tourists in foreign countries than came into the country through foreign tourists visiting Canada. The most popular destinations for Canadians? Florida, Hawaii, the Caribbean, Cuba and Mexico. This is a clear indication that the TCI would be a welcome addition to Canada.

Now for this potential union to be seen as ‘win-win’ and not be suspect to imperialistic undertones, there have to be clear benefits for the TCI. In 1998, the Canadian Parliamentary Review published a list of potential benefits for the TCI. Including:

Association with Canada would provide an influx of investment and government dollars both in tourism and infrastructure. If the islanders become citizens of Canada, they would gain access to Canada’s medicare system as well as the entire social safety net that Canadian citizens enjoy. TCI residents would be brought up to Canadian standards of living, not a hard thing to do considering there are only 25,000 TCI citizens.

Economically, the islands would also gain from tariff free trade with Canada, allowing residents, business and local governments to procure goods and services from Canada at much cheaper prices then they do currently when trading with (mainly) the US.

Additionally, since the TCI’s official language is English, TCIers would enjoy the fruits of the Canadian education system immediately.

Back to my first question: Why has this not happened? Canada allows approximately 180,000 immigrants to come to Canada per year, so obviously the economics of adding 25,000 more who come with their own jobs and infrastructure is not the issue. The issue, it seems, is political will. If the political will could be ‘sparked’ this dream could become a reality. Unfortunately, it appears Canadian politicians have better things to do. I wrote my local Liberal MP to ask for both his and the government’s opinion on these matters, to which I received no response. Calls to his constituent office have also gone unanswered. Are we letting the last shot at paradise slip through our collective fingers?

  • Canada as a Tropical Paradise
  • by MaxPower
  • Published on March 1st, 2004

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