Canada’s own Hawaii, or, the case for annexing the Turks and Caicos Islands

Balou46 [CC BY-SA 4.0] , from Wikimedia Commons

Enough with this frigid hellscape

JFC. It’s minus one million in Toronto right now (OK, -20C). Normally I’d just say “kill me now”, throw up my hands, and that would be that. But I already swore up a storm on my way home from work, cursing this frigid hellscape, asking myself why I live here, etc. So now I’m good. I’m home and ready to kick it into gear. I’ve got a campaign to launch, drawing on a funny speech I gave at Toastmasters a couple years ago.

Winter in Canada could be a tropical nirvana!

My fellow Canadians, what if I told you that winter in Canada could be a sunny, tropical nirvana. [Unwinds scarf.] That instead of applying industrial strength moisturizer, you could apply sunscreen. That instead of donning a toque [doffs toque] on a January day, you could don a snorkel and mask.

We just need to partner up with the Turks and Caicos Islands!

My fellow Canadians, we could make this dream a reality. We just need to partner with the Turks and Caicos Islands. Let’s invite them to become our 11th province or 4th territory, or the first Canadian Overseas Territory or heck, even part of Nova Scotia.

Right next to the Bahamas, baby!

OK but what are the Turks and Caicos Islands?

The Turks and Caicos are a chain of 30 small islands in the Caribbean, just southeast of the Bahamas. I’m talking about hundreds of kilometers of white sandy beaches, warm seas and colourful coral reefs. I’m talking about 350 days of sunshine a year and January temperatures around 28 degrees Celsius.

The idea of spending Canadian dollars to soak up Canadian rays of sunshine on toasty Canadian beaches has obvious appeal in the frozen north, especially at this unfortunate time of year. But beyond our visions of winter vacations, a union with the Turks and Caicos would increase Canada’s sphere of influence in a region where we do more than $2 billion in business every year. Imagine a strategic deep-water trading port we could build at the gateway to the Caribbean and Central America. Picture the red and white of our maple leaf flag gently flapping in the warm trade winds (alongside the lovely blue flag of the Turks and Caicos, of course).

And when you consider the nearly 4 million Canadians who visit three main Caribbean destinations every year – nearby Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Mexico – just imagine the tourism tax dollars the Canadian government could earn with a Caribbean destination of our own! If we annex the Turks and Caicos Islands, we can treat them just like continental America uses Hawaii. Hawaii lets the US maintain a strategic economic and military foothold in the Pacific, and it’s also an incredible place to vacation or retire.

Why shouldn’t Canada have its own Hawaii?

So I ask you, why shouldn’t Canada have its own Hawaii? The British have tropical footholds all over the world! Bermuda, Anguilla, the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Monserrat, Saint Helena, Gibraltar, Pitcairn, Tristan da Cunha, and more are British Overseas Territories to this day. (And yes, I know about colonialism.) The French have Martinique, Guadaloupe, Saint Martin, Saint Bart’s, Réunion, Mayotte, French Guiana, not to mention gorgeous French Polynesia (including Bora Bora and Tahiti). (Again, I know why.) And the Dutch have the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire and Curaçao), plus the other half of Saint Martin. (Yup, I’m aware.)

The Turks and Caicos are currently a British Overseas Territory. But the Islands, with their 40,000 inhabitants, are internally governed and may be amendable to forging an official partnership with Canada. Furthermore, the British already know we want to get an arrangement going with the Turks and Caicos and I believe are unlikely to put up a fight.

Turn your mind to the stately Gothic-style stone buildings of Parliament Hill in Ottawa with their iconic green oxidized copper roofs. Believe it or not the idea of annexing the Turks and Caicos first emerged in 1917 under Prime Minister Robert Borden. That’s right, over a century ago. The idea got a second wind in the 1970s, as jet travel was becoming more affordable, when an NDP member of parliament tabled a private members bill asking to form a parliamentary committee to explore a union. Then, in 2004, Nova Scotia voted unanimously to invite the Turks and Caicos to join its province. And from 2003-2015 a Conservative MP took up the cause, forming an all-party committee.

Now turn your mind to the grand old buildings of Cockburn Town on Grand Turk Island, the sun illuminating the pastel hues they are painted in. Canada’s decades of overtures to the Turks and Caicos have not gone unnoticed or unreciprocated. Starting in the 1970s, the Islands made a series of proposals to join Canada and sent us a serious offer in the 1980s that we proceeded to ignore while distracted by NAFTA talks. In the 1990s, polls showed that 90% of Islanders supported a union with Canada. And more recently, a senior Canadian government official based in Turks and Caicos (TBH a job I feel I’d excel in) confirmed there’s still interest among locals.

The dream of annexing or otherwise forging a partnership with the Turks and Caicos is a Canadian dream one hundred years strong that just won’t die. The Turks and Caicos could be a safe retirement haven for Canadian seniors and a tourism hot spot that uses the loonie and has healthcare and justice systems aligned with our own.

My fellow Canadians, a domestic paradise in the sun is within reach. Write your member of parliament today to get this back on the federal government’s agenda. If given the choice between the toque and the snorkel and mask, I choose the snorkel and mask every time.