OTTAWA, Canada, Friday May 30, 2014 – In 1917, then Canadian Prime Minister Robert Borden first raised the notion of empire building with the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), a move which would have afforded his countrymen their very own passport-free place in the sun year-round.
Successive governments have nevertheless dismissed the idea of TCI becoming a Canadian province or territory, fearing such costly consequences as a surge of refugee claimants, equalization payments and the cost to implement Canada’s health-care system.
The fantasy of shivering snowbirds dodging bitter winters by migrating south to what has been wistfully referred to as “their own Hawaii” nonetheless lived on, and was most recently revived by a visit from Rufus Ewing, premier of the sun-drenched British Overseas Territory.
The TCI premier and his delegation met MPs and paid a brief courtesy call on Prime Minister Stephen Harper to strengthen ties and trade.
Ewing said he came to Parliament Hill to promote trade and tourism, as well as renew cultural and parliamentary bonds. While becoming part of Canada wasn’t on the table, it was still open for discussion, he said.
The TCI premier alluded to the considerable Canadian investment on the islands, including major banks, law firms, hotels, a hospital, and an electricity company, not to mention droves of winter tourists.
Ewing nevertheless wants to formalize closer ties with Canada before the flirtation goes any further.
“There’s no marriage without some kind of relationship,” he joked.
Meanwhile, the notion of Turks and Caicos ever becoming a Canadian province or territory was nixed by Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird.
“We’re not in the business of annexing islands in the Caribbean,” he said on Monday.