less wealthy North Americans. Its climate, while harsh in winter, is comfortable and sunny during the summer months. It has a mythology, attractive to many, of being an island of farmers and fishers, independent and ingenious, hard workers who shun the traditional eight-hour day. At the same time, it is a province of Canada, albeit the smallest, and therefore enjoys (or endures) three levels of government: the federal, the provincial, and the local or municipal. And it has the Confederation Bridge or ''Fixed Link" connecting it to the mainland, new and still controversial within PEI but better known than the Island itself throughout much of the world, contrasting a romantic image of lost isolation with a practical one of a new era in communications with the rest of Canada and the world. The real long-term impact of the bridge remains to be seen.
For agriculture, the soil is good, rainfall is plentiful, and Islanders believe the quality of their potato crop is the finest in the world. The province also has a strong livestock sector in dairy, hogs, and beef, made self-sufficient in feed supply through the rotation crops from the potato industry. According to the focus groups, other crops are distinctly secondary and receive much less support from the government.
Islanders see themselves as a race of entrepreneurs. As is true of farmers and fishers everywhere, risk is part of their lives, but they claim to face it with their own brand of common sense (and with comfortable awareness of the Canadian Government's generous social safety net). They have a sense of place, and community is important. The provincial capital, Charlottetown, is a small city of about 30,000, but provides an urban counterpoint to the general rural environment. Infrastructure is generally as good as, and in some cases exceeds, other parts of Canada, with one notable exception: the complete lack of public transportation. The province's railroad, which opened in 1875, was removed in the early 1990s, and the abandoned railbed was converted into hiking, biking, and snowmobiling trails.
The threats that Islanders see to their way of life and their culture have roots in many of the same factors as their strengths. The success of the potato crop has led to over-reliance, and many feel that Island agriculture is reaching its limit in terms of production. Productivity in potatoes is high, but there are adverse environmental impacts from erosion, soil degradation, and excess fertilizer and pesticide applications, and there is limited suitable additional land to be cultivated. There has even been some criticism of the sight of the potato monoculture in the PEI landscape, lacking variety and color, and of the loss of the supplementary income that might be supplied by other crops. However, horticulture thrives in private gardens and is a source of potential expertise.
The harsh winters, combined with the seasonality of farming, fishing, and tourism result in a dependence on Federal Government transfers that many Islanders would like to see diminished. Employment Insurance payments and Equalization Transfers from the wealthiest to the poorest Canadian provinces