With Turks and Caicos Premier Rufus Ewing kicking off a two-city Canadian visit, it was inevitable that his presence would reignite the perennial proposition to invite the tropical British territory to join the federation.
But no one could have predicted that Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall would so seriously up the ante with a counter-offer of his own that would seemingly sidestep Ottawa entirely.
"If you don't want another prov/territory," he tweeted at Prime Minister Stephen Harper, "Turks/Caicos can join Canada as a part of Sask."
Wall's Prince Edward Island counterpart, Robert Ghiz, was quick to lend his support for the plan on behalf of Canada's smallest province.
"Hey, Brad," he replied via Twitter, "PEI would be happy to partner with Saskatchewan on the Turks and Caicos project!"
"Now we're talking," Wall replied.
Asked on Twitter what the new province would be called, Wall suggested "Saskaturks and Caicos" or "Saskatchewarm."
Ministers, MPs joke over offer
Ewing did his best to shift the focus to his efforts to build a "more robust" relationship with Canada, chastising Canadian reporters who were having fun exploring the idea of adding a tropical island paradise as an 11th province. Using the analogy of flirting with the idea, Ewing said he's talking about serious business for his people.
"I will not minimize the extent of our visit here to flirting. It's a serious business in terms of economic growth and development of my country and my people, and I'm looking to Canada as a big brother or a big sister," he said.
Ewing says he wants to work with Canada on all sectors, including:
- Trade and financial services.
- Education and professional development.
- Public services and collaboration between both parliaments.
- Relaxing immigration rules "to almost have seamless borders."
"We're not flirting because what I've asked is for us to look at a working group so that we can look at ways in which we can collaborate and strengthen our relationship," Ewing said.
The premier himself may not be a fan of the idea of Turks and Caicos joining Canada. In 2013, he reportedly said leaving Britain to join Canada would be like jumping "from one master to another.”
'A question that I cannot answer'
"I cannot stand here and let my personal views stand for my people," Ewing said when asked about the quote.
"My people have not said no because they've not had the opportunity to be asked," he pointed out.
"Annexation is still a question that I cannot answer."
Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird seemed bemused over being suddenly besieged with questions on the logistics of such a union.
"The premier ... wasn't asking to become the eleventh province," he told reporters after meeting with Ewing.
"That's not something we're exploring. We're not looking at any sort of formal association with the islands."
'Nepean-Turks and Caicos'
Still, Baird couldn't resist poking a little fun at the notion, even suggesting a possible riding name — one that happens to include his own: "Nepean-Turks and Caicos."
"I can just imagine the amount of constituency work that would be done there," Baird said.
Transport Minister Lisa Raitt joked that she would be willing to become the regional minister.
Meanwhile, Liberal MP Scott Brison compared the discussion to the Loch Ness monster, noting its tendency to surface every now and then before disappearing without a trace.
In any case, it appears that Wall may have to get in line behind Nova Scotia.
In 2004, the provincial legislature voted unanimously to invite Turks and Caicos to join the province if the islands should eventually become part of Canada.
Ewing didn't totally dismiss the idea, however, explaining that he'd trained in Halifax and recalls walking through three feet of snow there.
I've never been to Saskatchewan, but I've been to Ontario, I've been to Ottawa, I've been to the Maritimes, and I've been to British Columbia. They're all lovely provinces and so I'd love to have relationships with all the provinces," he said.
Asked where he'd rather be in the winter, he was coy.
"In the winter? You never know. I'm from Turks and Caicos so I enjoy sea and sunshine all the time. I may just want to come to Canada for a great vacation and ski during the cold time. I've never skied in my life so I'd love to do that."
Your play, Alberta.