The Garden Transformed: Prince Edward Island, 1945-1980
Les Harding is author of The Voyages of Lesser Men: Thumbnail Sketches
in Canadian Exploration.
The “Garden of the Gulf’ is no longer the quiet rural backwater it once was. Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables would hardly recognize the place. Since World War II Prince Edward Island has undergone revolutionary changes — changes that have been little studied. This book is an important attempt to redress that need.
Consisting of unpublished articles by twelve academics from the Island and elsewhere, the volume provides critical evaluation of contemporary Prince Edward Island issues. The articles are clear, balanced, well researched, and meticulously footnoted. Each article is divided by subheadings and has a conclusion. The subjects covered are: the problems involved in the writing of Prince Edward Island history, politics on the Island, the plight of third parties, the changing patterns of land use, agriculture in transition, the mixed blessings of tourism, managing development, school consolidation, higher education, and the future of the Island dialect. There is also a statistical overview.
Underlying many of the articles is an implicit warning about the danger of relying too heavily on professional planners and consultants “from away,” people who have little sensitivity to or understanding of the unique problems and aspirations of a small province. The articles range from good to excellent. Much of the criticism, particularly that on land use, agriculture, development problems, and the basic theme of the whole book — the conflict between traditional values and modernization — is eye opening for anyone.
Some overlap is unavoidable in a work of this type but the editors have kept it to a minimum. Even so, a back-of-the-book index would have been useful to bring together what different contributors have said on the same subject.
The editors, and this reviewer, express the wish that further volumes will be forthcoming to deal with fishing, labour, health, culture, ethnic groups, ecology, federal-provincial relations, communications, and other vital subjects.