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Cricket, anyone? Let’s take on Turks

I think foreign affairs minister John Baird reacted rashly when he put the kibosh on yet another hint that the British protectorate of Turks & Caicos would be amenable to becoming Canada’s 11th province.

Perhaps he was just distracted. Baird was in Ukraine at the time, with, as it happens, the current MP championing the idea of annexing T&C, Edmonton East MP Peter Goldring. Both were assisting the international effort to ensure fair and free elections there.

Bad timing, I guess. But Turks & Caicos have a history of that when it comes to the annexation idea.

The last time that issue arose, the Tory government of the day was also distracted — by free trade negotiations with the United States. Not a time for aggrandizement in the Western Hemisphere.

Back then, all three parties in Nova Scotia voted to include the tropical islands — with their miles and miles of beautiful beachfront — into their own province, to, you know, help bring them into the Canadian family.

This time around, Saskatchewan premier Brad Wall beat them to the punch. He wants the islands to be part of his province.

“Canada needs a Hawaii,” he said last week, after the idea rocketed to front of mind with the visit of T&C’s premier (and tourism minister) Rufus Ewing.

Officially, Ewing visited Canada last week to open a trade office in Toronto, but as a head of state, he was obliged to visit the cold portals of Ottawa as well. Of course, as soon as the microphones were turned on for the press, questions flew about the idea of annexation.

Ewing smiled and said his objective was trade talks. Really. But he would not close the door to the idea of annexation, even if an exasperated and distracted John Baird couldn’t slam closed it fast enough.

A time out, please, Mr. Baird. Let’s give people a chance to think about this.

Well, another chance, really. We’ve been thinking about it since 1917 when Robert Borden proposed the idea. Should have done it then, really.

Although the United States provides the lion’s share of the more than 200,000 tourists who flock to the island (since they can’t hop a small jet to nearby Cuba), Canada is the archipelago’s largest economic partner.

More than 42,000 Canadians visit the islands every year, which is more than the combined population of natives on the islands.

Outside of tourism, Turks & Caicos is a politically stable, friendly offshore banking centre. Which might explain the government’s official reluctance to cozy up to them.

If Canada is T&C’s top trading partner, and that trade is offshore banking. . . well, you get the picture.

But all the more reason to make those foreign banks Canadian, and tax them, wouldn’t you think?

Right now, the string of 40 islands, only eight of which are inhabited, is experiencing a population boom. And it isn’t natural growth.

Good old Wikipedia reports that for the most recent year they have on record (2008), there were only 450 live births on the island, and 390 deaths. And that was peak natural growth.

But since the turn of the century, the islands’ population has grown by more than half, from just under 20,000 in 2001 to more than 31,000 today.

Almost 60 per cent of the people living in Turks & Caicos today are recent immigrants.

Being a British protectorate, their health-care system is similar to ours, with a national health plan paid for out of payroll deductions, and a mix of public and private care delivery. Pretty much like us.

They have an elected governing body, with four appointees made by the governor from Britain.

And get this: Turks & Caicos is closer to Ottawa than Edmonton. Direct flights from our frozen cities would be easy, and we could breeze through to the beaches, without needing the irritation of a passport or customs search. No duty-free shopping on the way back, though.

We already have a growing population of people from cricket-playing cultures. Maybe it’s time we studied the rules.

Considering our base of expats from India, the Philippines and other countries, mixed with newly-Canadian lifetime players from Turks & Caicos. . . I see the basis for a pretty strong national team.

At the very least, we would absolutely clobber the Americans.

Reason enough to give this a second thought. Or, in our case, a fourth.

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