Alberta, the westernmost of Canada's 3 Prairie provinces, shares many physical features with its neighbours to the east, SASKATCHEWAN and MANITOBA. The Rocky Mountains form the southern portion of Alberta's western boundary with BRITISH COLUMBIA.
Alberta, the westernmost of Canada's 3 Prairie provinces, shares many physical features with its neighbours to the east, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. The Rocky Mountains form the southern portion of Alberta's western boundary with British Columbia. Alberta's western location places it at considerable distance from the traditional economic and political power centres of Canada; however, the province possesses the country's largest deposits of oil and natural gas, and expansion of the petroleum industry from 1947 to 1982 made it the fastest-growing province in that period, producing a westward shift of economic power in Canada.
Alberta was named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta, 4th daughter of Queen Victoria. Alberta then was one of 4 provisional districts of the North-West Territories, and included only that part of the present province south of 55° N lat and west of 111° long. Alberta's current boundaries were determined in 1905 when it became a province. Though appearing quite homogeneous, Alberta may be divided into 2 distinct sociocultural regions - southern Alberta, with Calgary as its focal point; and central and northern Alberta, with Edmonton as the metropolitan centre.
This division has deep historic roots. Southern Alberta was once the domain of the Blackfoot nation; farther north the Cree and various woodland tribes held sway. In the early days of non-native settlement, the south welcomed the rancher, while the grain farmer opened the central agricultural region.
Calgary and southern Alberta were first linked to the east by the Canadian Pacific Railway, Edmonton and the north by the Grand Trunk Pacific and Canadian Northern railways. Later, Calgary became the administrative and financial headquarters for the province's petroleum industry, Edmonton its exploration and production centre.
Politically, both regions have consistently supported conservative parties since the 1920s, first through the Social Credit Party and then the Conservative Party; recently opposition in the north has tended to coalesce around the New Democratic Party or Liberal Party provincially, while in the south it gravitates to right-of-centre candidates.
Land and Resources
Physiography, climate, soil and vegetation combine to delineate 4 biophysical regions within Alberta. The prairie region includes most of southern Alberta, more precisely the land south and east of an arc stretching from Waterton in the southwest corner to a point along the Saskatchewan border east of Red Deer. This gently rolling grassland is relatively dry and mostly treeless. The terrain varies locally, in places broken by deep river valleys, and rising from less than 300 m in the northeast to over 1460 m in the Cypress Hills in the southeast. The parkland region predominates in central Alberta, forming a crescent to the west and north of the prairie region and including most of the North Saskatchewan River drainage basin.
This area varies from the flatland of old lake bottoms to rolling landscape with numerous lakes and depressions. It contains both treed and grassy terrain, with soil and climatic factors favourable to agriculture. The boreal forest region covers the northern half of the province. Here great rivers and lakes dominate the landscape, draining northward to the Arctic Ocean. Soil and climatic factors militate against agriculture, except in the Peace River region of the northwest, where parkland conditions create the world's most northerly grain-growing area. West of the plains an area of foothill ridges rise to the Rocky Mountains west of Grande Prairie and along the southern portion of Alberta's western boundary with BC. Here is found some of Canada's most spectacular natural scenery, with several peaks rising above 3600 m.
Agricultural settlement of Alberta took place primarily in the 1896-1914 period. By 1901 the population of the future province was 73 022; in 1911 it reached 373 943. Settlers arrived from eastern Canada, the US, Great Britain and continental Europe. The rate of growth declined in subsequent years, with total population reaching 584 454 in 1921, 796 169 in 1941 and 1 331 944 in 1961. Growth was slowest during the Great Depression of the 1930s. The rate increased after World War II, through immigration from overseas and the movement of people from other parts of Canada to a visibly prosperous Alberta.
The oil boom of the 1970s furthered this trend and the province experienced rapid growth, from 1 768 500 in 1973 to 2 367 400 in 1984. Between the 1996 and 2001 census, Alberta has enjoyed a 10.3% increase in population, by far the largest growth in the nation during that time. The province's population in 2001 was 2 974 807.
Alberta's economy has followed a pattern of primary resource exploitation and dependence on external markets, with prices and revenues largely determined by outside economic and political forces. This pattern was established with the fur trade of the 18th century and continued in the 19th century with ranching and then grain growing. The completion of the CPR in 1885 provided market routes for Alberta grain, as well as aiding the penetration of eastern Canadian manufactured goods. Agriculture remained the dominant economic activity until the discovery of oil in the Leduc field in 1947 and has since been surpassed in net product value by mining and manufacturing as well.
A rapid rise in the world price of oil in the early 1970s drove the Alberta economy to unprecedented and frantic growth. After a decade of financial boom, spurred almost entirely by profits created through the petroleum industry, the nationwide economic recession of 1982-83 was particularly severe in Alberta, as construction slowed, retail sales dropped and unemployment rose from 4% to over 10%. Investment and spending declined dramatically in 1982 and 1983 and have since stabilized at levels much lower than those reached during the boom. After several years of little or no economic growth, 1986 brought massive declines in world oil and grain prices. Despite repeated provincial government promises in the 1970s and 1980s to use the enormous royalty revenues generated from oil and gas sales to diversify the economy, it was not until the late 1980s that Alberta diversified into the forestry sector. The mid-1990s saw Alberta's fortunes rise with once again higher world prices for its oil and natural gas.
Government and Politics
Legislative power is vested in a lieutenant-governor (appointed by the governor general on the advice of the prime minister and representing the Crown) and an 83-member, single-chamber, elected legislative assembly. However, the traditional powers of the lieutenant-governor have in practice lapsed. Executive power is exercised by a Cabinet of responsible ministers selected by the premier, the leader of the political party commanding a majority in the legislative assembly. Each minister presides over one or more departments of government. See Lieutenant-Governors of Alberta; Premiers of Alberta.
The senior division of the judiciary is the Court of Queen's Bench, whose justices are appointed by the federal government. The Trial Division of the Queen's Bench hears both civil and criminal cases, usually the more severe ones, while the Appeals Division hears appeals from both the Queen's Bench and the Provincial Court. This Provincial Court, with its judges appointed by the province, hears the great majority of both civil and criminal cases in the first instance.
The first schools in Alberta were founded by Catholic and Protestant missionaries in the mid-19th century. The North-West Territories School Ordinance of 1884 established a dual confessional system of Catholic and Protestant schooling based on the Québec model. Subsequent Protestant settlement and the determination of territorial political leader F.W.A.G. Haultain saw the gradual weakening of religious duality in education.
Alberta entered Confederation in 1905 with a system based on the Ontario model - one provincial educational system, allowing local provision for the dissenting religious minority, known as separate schools, but excluding province-wide duality. Ontario also provided the initial model for programs of study, course content and grade structures, a model that lasted until the 1930s. That decade, however, was a particularly innovative one in education, and saw the introduction of social studies, the junior high school and the large unit of rural school administration, plus expansion in adult education and steps towards the economic and professional betterment of teachers.
Cultural life in Alberta has had to combat 2 major negative forces: the persistence of a "frontier ethos" that emphasizes economic materialism and rugged individualism, and a cultural dependency on external metropolitan centres such as New York, London, Toronto and Los Angeles. Yet it has had advantages: a rich physical landscape that has influenced both painters and writers; a diverse population that perpetuates various ethnic cultures; plus periodic governmental, corporate and private affluence, which has benefited the cultural sector. The provincial government support is through the Department of Community Development and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. Some $16 million in lottery-derived revenue is provided to the arts annually through the Foundation.
In the late 18th century southern Alberta was occupied by the Blackfoot, Blood, Peigan and Gros Ventre. The Kootenay and other transmountain peoples made regular bison-hunting expeditions into the area, while more southerly tribes came on warring raids. Along the North Saskatchewan River were the Sarcee, though there is some question whether they existed there before the fur trade; farther north were the Beaver, and beyond them the Slavey.
These native people felt the effects of European culture long before they saw their first Europeans. Metal tools and weapons brought by the Hudson's Bay Company were traded and retraded westwards across the Prairies; similarly the horse moved north from Spanish Mexico in the early 1700s. Gradually tribes close to Hudson Bay became dependent on trade goods and began to penetrate westwards in search of furs to use as barter. The Cree and Assiniboine (including the Stoney) moved up the North Saskatchewan River in the 18th century, forcing the Sarcee and Blackfoot tribes south and the Beaver north. The Chipewyan entered the northeast corner of Alberta, pushing the Beaver back towards the mountains. By the early 1800s, the Gros Ventre had moved south into the US.
Alberta's oldest surface landscape is its extreme northeastern part, east of the Slave and lower Athabasca rivers, where crystalline rocks formed during the Precambrian era (4000 to 544 million years ago) appear at the surface. This small outcrop of the Canadian Shield does not end in the northeast, for its rocks form a basement under the rest of the province, sloping down to 6000 m in the southwest.
During the Paleozoic era (544 to 250 million years ago) Alberta alternated between dry land and sea, and life evolved from simple plants and animals to vertebrates and dryland vegetation. The decay of this plant and animal life, especially during the Devonian period (410 to 353 million years ago), formed the basis of most of the province's oil and natural gas deposits.
The Mesozoic era (250 to 65 million years ago) also subjected Alberta to alternating upraisings of the land and infloodings of ocean waters. This was the era of the dinosaurs, the period that bequeathed the badland formations of the Red Deer River valley, and laid down most of the province's coal resources.
The Cenozoic era (65 million years ago to the present) saw the uplifting of the Rocky Mountains and the establishment of the province's physiographic framework. About 25 000 years ago the last advance of continental ice scoured the terrain and virtually covered the entire province. Only the highest parts of the Rockies, the Cypress Hills and the Porcupine Hills escaped. The final retreat of the ice age, beginning about 13 000 years ago, created the current river systems and soils.
The prairie region of southern Alberta includes both short-grass and mixed-grass characteristics. The short-grass area of the southeastern corner features short, drought-resistant grasses such as blue grama, growing on light brown soil deficient in nitrogen and phosphorus, and about 12 cm deep. Annual water deficiency and wind erosion cause considerable soil drifting. The mixed-grass area, forming an arc to the west and north of the short-grass region, contains more fertile, dark brown soil, while western wheat grass and other taller grasses provide the natural vegetation.
The parkland regions of central Alberta and the Peace River country are characterized by a natural vegetation cover of tall grasses and aspen trees. The central parkland contains fertile black soils, while the dark grey and grey soils of the Peace River area are slightly less fertile.
The boreal region of northern Alberta contains forest vegetation varying from predominant aspen and white birch in the south to white spruce, larch and black spruce farther north. Balsam fir and jack pine are also found in eastern areas, with alpine fir and lodgepole pine in the west. Nutrient-deficient grey soils underlie the forest cover. Alpine fir, white spruce and lodgepole pine dominate the lower elevations of the Rocky Mountains. At higher elevations, scattered stands of black spruce and alpine larch are interspersed with lichens and alpine flowers in picturesque alpine meadows. Rock, permanent snow cover and glacial ice dominate the very highest elevations.
The small Milk River basin in southeastern Alberta drains through the Missouri and Mississippi rivers south to the Gulf of Mexico. The rest of southern Alberta is drained by the South and North Saskatchewan river basins east to Hudson Bay via the Nelson River system. These rivers carry 75% of the water that flows east. Northern Alberta is dominated by the Athabasca, Hay and Peace river basins, which drain north through the Mackenzie River to the Arctic Ocean.
Low annual precipitation, high evaporation rates and fast runoff produce chronic water deficits in southern Alberta, varying from a moderate deficiency in the parkland region to a severe shortage in the short-grass prairie area. Irrigation has been used in the latter area since the late 19th century; approximately 500 000 ha are part of formal irrigation systems. Yet the amount of water available for irrigation is itself limited by the water flow in the South Saskatchewan River basin.
There have been recurrent proposals to divert water southward from the Peace and Athabasca rivers. Lake Claire and Lesser Slave Lake are the 2 largest lakes entirely within Alberta.
Alberta's northerly latitude, stretching between lat 49° N and lat 60° N, puts the province in the northern cool-temperate zone. Thus cold winters and relatively short, cool summers are to be expected. Yet the most important factors in determining both temperatures and precipitation are the height and width of the Rocky Mountains and the direction of the prevailing winds.
The mountain ranges intercept air moving in from the Pacific and drain it of moisture. Thus the Rockies' eastern slopes are in a rain shadow, and Alberta's skies are predominantly clear. Precipitation is generally low, ranging from about 30 cm annually in the southeast to 40-45 cm in the north except for the foothills region, where accumulations reach 55-60 cm annually.
The dry clear air provides Albertans with plenty of sunshine, ranging from 1900 annual hours in the north to 2300 in the Lethbridge area in the south. Air funnelling through the Rockies also produces the warm, dry chinook winds, especially strong and prevalent in southwestern Alberta. Chinooks can raise temperatures dramatically within hours, melting snow and exposing grass, and providing welcome respite during the long, cold winter.
The influence of the Pacific air mass weakens in eastern Alberta, giving way to continental air masses originating in the Arctic and mid-western US. These air masses bring January mean temperatures ranging from -8° C in the south to -24° C in the north, and July mean temperatures ranging from 20° C in the south to 16° C in the north. The growing season lasts about 120 days in southern Alberta, decreasing to 60 days in the north. In the north the shorter season is offset by longer days and lower altitudes and wheat is grown as far north as the Peace River.
Alberta is Canada's foremost energy-resource province. Remaining recoverable reserves are conventional crude, 5.5 billion barrels; oil sands, 1.6 trillion barrels; and natural gas, 97 trillion ft3. Although since 1973 more oil is produced than is found each year, exploratory and development drilling as well as enhanced recovery methods have extended the life of the reserves.
Coal has even longer-term potential. About 70% of Canada's proven remaining coal reserves lie within Alberta, estimated at 34 billion t at the end of 1995. The province's remaining potential of hydroelectric energy is estimated at 1923 MW, while in 1994 there was a generating capacity of 822.8 MW.
The province possesses an estimated 2.661 million ha of land suitable for agriculture. Alberta's forests total 382 000 km2 of which the volume of productive forest is 1880.3 million m3 (softwoods) and 1200.6 million m3 (hardwoods). Traditional fur and fisheries resources of northern Alberta have declined in recent years, while recreational resources have increased in importance with population growth and urbanization. Within Alberta approximately 54 000 km2 of land are reserved as national parks, 10 000 km2 as provincial parks, recreation and wilderness areas.
The enactment of the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act (1992) began a new era in Alberta conservation. The one act encompasses the protection of air, land and water and is the consolidation of all or parts of 10 earlier acts. The aim of the act is to streamline the management of the province's resources so potential environmental problems of a proposed project may be more easily identified and mitigated, if it becomes necessary; and Alberta's natural resources are used in a sustainable manner.
Two of Alberta's 5 national parks began as wildlife sanctuaries. Elk Island (east of Edmonton) and Wood Buffalo (44 802 km2 straddling the border with the NWT) were created to help the species whose names they bear, but in both cases the most spectacular success has been in preserving the bison of the plains. A number of provincial parks and wilderness areas function as wildlife reserves, including Cypress Hills Interprovincial Park in the southeast, Sir Winston Churchill Park on Lac La Biche and Willmore Wilderness Park north of Jasper.
The trend to urbanization quickened during World War II and sharply accelerated in the postwar boom years. By 1951 the rural figure had fallen to 490 000 and the proportion to 61%. The most notable feature of urban growth is concentration in 2 metropolitan centres. In 1946, 27% of Alberta's population lived in Edmonton and Calgary; by 2001 this had increased to 80.9%. Edmonton, the provincial capital and administrative centre, had a population of 666 104 in 2001; Calgary, the petroleum and financial centre, had a population of 878 866. Calgary's immediate wholesale and retail hinterland includes all of the province south of Red Deer, plus a portion of southeastern BC. Edmonton's hinterland includes the rest of Alberta and parts of the Peace River region of northeastern BC.
Alberta's secondary urban centres have been affected by the metropolitan growth of Edmonton and Calgary. Lethbridge, Red Deer and Medicine Hat in the south have been able to preserve their trading areas only at the expense of smaller communities. St Albert, Sherwood Park, Leduc and Fort Saskatchewan are virtually satellite cities within Edmonton's orbit. Only Fort McMurray in the northeast and Grande Prairie in the northwest, because of distance and regional resource development, have escaped the direct metropolitan influences of the 2 largest cities.
The number of persons employed in Alberta in 2004 was 1 757 900. Most were employed in the service sector. The province's unemployment rate in 2001 was 4.6%. Alberta consistently has had an unemployment rate that is lower than the national rate, often the lowest in the nation. Significant trends in the provincial labour force include growth in the service-producing industries, and an expanding female participation rate (67.3% in 2004). Main industry sector employers are construction, manufacturing, trade, accommodation and food services, and health care and social assistance. The personal disposable income per capita in 2003 was $25 539, the highest of all the provinces.
Ethnicity, Language, Religion
The major ethnic groups represented in 2001 were Canadian, British, German, Chinese, Ukrainian, native peoples, Dutch, East Indian, French and Polish. Other groups include Filipino, Hungarian, Italian, Indo-Chinese, Vietnamese, Norwegian and Lebanese. The greatest diversity in population dates from the 1896-1914 wave of immigration, which drew from northern, central and eastern Europe tens of thousands of settlers speaking a variety of languages and representing many religious groups. Since the 1970s immigrants from Asia and the Middle East have been arriving in greater numbers.
The population by mother tongue in 2001 was overwhelmingly English (81% of the population). Yet other tongues persisted as earlier non-British immigration was supplemented by post-World War II arrivals. German was the mother tongue of 2.7% of the population, Ukrainian 1.2%, French 2.0%, and Chinese 2.7%.
The largest religious group in Alberta in 2001 was the Roman Catholic Church, with 756 005 members or 25.7% of the total population. Churches next in order were United with 13.5%; Anglican 5.9%; Lutheran 4.8%; major non-Christian religions (includes Buddhist, Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Jewish) 4.5%; Baptist 2.5%; Christian Orthodox 1.5%; Pentecostal 1.4%: Presbyterian 1%; Ukrainian Catholic 1%. Minor religious groups of greater prominence in Alberta than elsewhere in Canada include the Mormons with 1.7%, Mennonites 0.7% and the Hutterites 0.4%.
This diversity has affected popular attitudes and public policies in education and multiculturalism. The split between French Catholics and English Protestants in the years prior to provincehood in 1905 led to the formation of publicly funded, local separate school boards for the Catholic (or sometimes Protestant) religious minority.
In later years religious groups such as Hutterites, Mennonites and the Christian Reformed Church gained their own educational privileges, either within the framework of public education or through self-supported private schools. While English has remained the predominant language of instruction in Alberta schools, both provincial and local jurisdictions have tolerated, even encouraged, the use of French, German, Ukrainian and aboriginal languages as teaching languages.
Alberta's agricultural industry remains of major importance to the province, the nation and - in grain exports - to the world. Between 1975 and 1980 the value of farm cash receipts increased by 65% and has since increased steadily. Cereal crops - led by wheat, canola and barley - totalled $2.3 billion in receipts in 1999. Other crops, such as sugar beets, potatoes and vegetables, are also grown. Receipts from livestock and their products reached $3.9 billion in 1999. Meat and poultry processing is worth another $4.8 billion.
Around the metropolitan areas of Edmonton and Calgary, and in the corridor between the 2 cities, are dairy and poultry operations, cattle, and hog and sheep farms. Wheat and small grain farmers are located particularly in the Peace River region, the Edmonton, Camrose and Lloydminster areas, and in a belt from Red Deer southeast to the US boundary. Mixed enterprises are again found in the crescent sweeping northwest from Lethbridge to Calgary and Red Deer, then northeast to Camrose and Lloydminster, plus the counties north of Edmonton. The black and brown soils of the mixed-grass prairie and parkland regions provide the environment with the greatest potential for mixed farming. Away from this fertile crescent, especially in the southeast, lie the more specialized ranching and wheat operations, which compensate for their marginal soils with larger size. Irrigated farming, centered in Lethbridge, produces sugar beets, potatoes and vegetables.
Manufacturers in Alberta tend either to process local raw materials (petroleum, agricultural, wood or nonmetallic mineral commodities) or to engage in custom manufacture and fabrication for the resource-development and construction sectors. During the 1970s the most rapidly expanding manufacturing area was the petrochemical industry, notably ethylene at Joffre and vinyl chloride monomer, ethylene and chloralkali at Fort Saskatchewan. In 1999 manufacturing in the province produced $35.3 billion worth of products. The food and beverage industry was the largest producer ($7.8 billion) followed by chemical products and petroleum products.
Construction was one of the most important industrial activities between 1955 and the early 1980s, with the oil and gas industry accounting for a consistently large proportion of this expansion. The recessions of the mid-1980s and early 1990s, however, had a serious negative impact on the industry. The value of construction work in Alberta swings wildly from year to year depending upon how many large projects are under construction. Edmonton and Calgary, as Canada's fastest-growing cities, were the centres of commercial and residential construction during the 1970s. However, after 1982 the engineering and petroleum servicing industries, facing severe economic restraints, curtailed their expansion.
The downturn in construction was one of the primary reasons for Alberta's large increase in unemployment and resulted in a serious weakening of the province's building trades unions, as contractors seek to cut costs by hiring nonunion, lower-salaried tradesmen. This has fuelled labour unrest in the province and has forced the government's re-evaluation of the provincial labour code.
Tourism is the one of the 4 major sectors of Alberta's industrial economy, contributing $4.6 billion to the provincial economy in 1998, over half of which was spent by non-Albertans. This influx of tourists annually supports some 100 000 full-time equivalent jobs throughout the province. The spectacular scenery and year-round recreational facilities of the Rocky Mountains - particularly in Banff and Jasper national parks - draw hundreds of thousands of tourists annually from all over the world. In addition to the parks, many local attractions draw large numbers of tourists to the province, in particular the world-famous Calgary Stampede. As well, special events such as Edmonton's hosting of the Commonwealth Games in 1978 and the World University Games in 1983, and the hosting of the Winter Olympics in Calgary in 1988 draw thousands of visitors.
The total value of minerals produced in Alberta during 1997 was $26.7 billion, amounting to 53% of the Canadian total. The value of fuels, by far the major component of mineral production (over 95%), reached $26.2 billion, or 79% of total national value. Between 1975 and 1985 the crude oil produced in Alberta decreased overall, while the volume of natural gas produced annually increased. In the first half of the 1990s conventional crude oil production stabilized, natural gas production continued to increase and bitumen and synthetic crude oil were also on the rise.
The volume of coal produced in Alberta rose by 67% between 1975 and 1980 to reach 20.1 million t. Production increased through the 1980s and had stabilized around 36 million t by the mid 1990s. Coal formed the basis of Alberta's first mining endeavour, in the Lethbridge region in 1872. By the time of WWI, coal mining was a major economic activity in the Lethbridge, Crowsnest Pass and Drumheller areas. Following an initial decline in the 1920s, and a drastic loss of domestic consumers in the 1950s, Alberta's coal industry reached its lowest point in the early 1960s. Since then a slight increase in the domestic market, plus the negotiation of long-term leases to supply the Japanese steel industry and new technologies for coal-liquefaction have pumped new life into the industry.
Alberta produces limited quantities of salt, sodium sulphate and peat moss, plus a number of minerals used in the construction industry, such as limestone, sand and clay. The province is the world's largest producer of elemental sulphur from hydrocarbon sources. Small amounts of gold are mined, and the province possesses deposits of low-grade iron ore and uranium in the Lake Athabasca region which have not yet been developed.
Forests cover nearly three-quarters of Alberta, 67% of which is considered productive for forestry. The Alberta government since the late 1980s has aggressively promoted this sector of the economy so that between 1986-96 over $4 billlion was invested in numerous forestry projects. Forestry has now overtaken tourism as Alberta's third-largest primary industry, although this position is very much dependent on world prices for its products.
The industry employed 25 000 people in 2000. Total exports were valued at $2.5 billion in 1999. There are 7 pulp mills and one pulp and paper mill (Whitecourt) in the province all of which are north or west of Edmonton, except one at Calgary. Paper mills are located at Edmonton and Calgary.
The commercial fishing catch (about half of it whitefish) in Alberta's northern lakes averaged 2 million kg in the mid-1970s, with an annual value of about $800 000. In 1997-98 the catch was 2.9 million kg, with a market value of $1.9 million.
The expansion of the petroleum industry after WWII, particularly during the 1970s, produced a westward shift of financial power within Canada, with Alberta the major beneficiary. During the 1970s, Calgary consolidated its position as the major provincial financial centre and emerged as a contending national centre. In 1978 the Calgary-based Alberta Stock Exchange (ASE) had nearly 400 companies listed. By 1998 this number had grown to over 1000 companies. Most companies are small oil and gas companies but the ASE has also diversified into biotechnology. Dollar volumes traded on the exchange grew from $95 million to $1.8 billion during the same period. The Alberta Stock Exchange and Vancouver Stock Exchange merged in 1999 to create the Canadian Venture Exchange, which was eventually acquired by the Toronto Stock Exchange in 2001 as a junior equities exchange.
By 1980 Calgary housed offices of 22 foreign banks (this had dropped to 17 by 1990), and had become the third-largest head-office location for major Canadian companies, behind only Toronto and Montréal. The Alberta Treasury Branch, a provincial government holding, is now the only bank based in Alberta.
The province's financial institutions were devastated by the recession of the early 1980s. In 1985 the Canadian Commercial Bank and the Northland Bank collapsed within weeks of each other. Numerous trust and mortgage companies, beginning with Dial Mortgage in 1981 and culminating in the Principal Group in 1987, succumbed. In 1984 the Alberta government had to guarantee $2.4 billion in deposits in Alberta credit unions and in 1987 forced 8 of them to amalgamate.
While river transportation provided the communication network for the fur trade in the 18th and early 19th century, it was rail transportation that opened Alberta to extensive settlement in the late 19th century, and tied the region's economy into that of the nation. Southern Alberta is served chiefly by the CPR, central Alberta by the CNR, and northern regions by the Alberta Resources Railway, the Northern Alberta Railway and the Great Slave Railway, all subsidiaries of CNR. Central Western Railways (1986) operates freight service on 2 lines east of Red Deer. CPR and CNR lines transport virtually all of Alberta's grain crop east and west to international markets. So important are these routes to the province's economic well being that railway issues such as abandoning branch lines, the Crow's Nest Pass Agreement, and the upgrading of main lines and terminal facilities have been important political as well as economic concerns.
The importance of Alberta's highways to the movement of both people and goods has increased since the end of WWII. The most heavily travelled route is the multilane Highway 2 between Edmonton and Calgary. Important interprovincial routes include Highway 1, the Trans-Canada Highway, through Medicine Hat, Calgary and Banff; Highway 16, the Yellowhead Highway, through Lloydminster, Edmonton and Jasper; and the Mackenzie Highway running north from the Peace River country to the NWT.
Calgary is the headquarters of Greyhound Canada Transportation Co, the largest intercity bus system in Canada, and Red Arrow, an Alberta company, which has service between Fort McMurray, Edmonton, Red Deer and Calgary.
Alberta's 2 international airports are located at Calgary and Edmonton. Regular passenger service to other parts of the country and abroad is provided by major Canadian carriers.
The oil industry in Alberta began with the discovery of the Turner Valley field in 1914. However, apart from a brief flurry of activity in the late 1930s, the industry remained small until the discovery of the Leduc field in 1947, followed by the opening of the Woodbend, Redwater and Pembina fields. The more than 44 000 producing wells are distributed over most of the province.
Alberta accounts for over 50% of Canada's oil production, roughly 893 000 barrels per day. About 50% was exported to the US, 28% to other provinces, while 22% was consumed within the province.
The natural gas industry is older than oil, dating from 1883 discoveries near Medicine Hat. Alberta produces the bulk of Canada's natural gas - about 80% of the total. About half was exported to the US and one-quarter flows to elsewhere in Canada. Alberta is the third-largest supplier of natural gas in the world. Two-thirds of the world's bitumen is located in Alberta, stored in underground beds of sand (oil sands) that cover more than 141 000 km2, in 3 areas of Alberta - the Athabasca, Peace River and Cold Lake regions. The 1.6 trillion barrels of bitumen represents one of the largest known hydrocarbon accumulations in the world. As conventional production declines, the oil sands could become the future for Canada's energy security in the next century. Alberta also has vast heavy oil reserves which exhibit the same general chemical characteristics as bitumen from the oil sands.
Oil sands represent 40% of Alberta's total oil production and one-third of all oil production in Canada. While the oil sands were first developed through megaprojects such as Syncrude and Great Canadian Oil Sands (Suncor), the trend is to incremental growth. Ongoing improvements to the technology that have reduced the cost of recovery of the oil sands and federal and provincial tax breaks announced in 1996 have resulted in more than $15 billion worth of projects completed around 2000.
Since 1947 the petroleum industry has brought prosperity to both the public and private sectors, transforming Alberta from a "have-not" to a "have" province. While Edmonton became the centre for petroleum servicing, production and transmission, Calgary remained the exploration, administrative and financial centre, owing in part to its proximity to the original Turner Valley field.
Royalties from petroleum production swelled provincial coffers, allowing the Social Credit government of the 1950s and 1960s and the Conservatives of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s to keep taxes low. Yet disputes over petroleum pricing and export levels have led to acrimonious debates between Alberta and the federal government, and have fuelled strong provincial-rights and even quasi-separatist political movements. By the mid-1990s, most disputes had been resolved and Alberta's energy sector was enjoying higher world prices for its products.
Alberta has nearly 184 000 km of pipelines carrying oil (29 100 km) and natural gas (154 700 km) within the province. Another 37 400 km of pipelines moves unseparated petroleum from wellsites to collection facilities. Oil moves east through the Interprovincial Pipe Line system (completed from Alberta to Sarnia, Ont, in 1953, later to Montréal 1975-76) and west through the lines of Trans Mountain Pipe Line to the Pacific. NOVA Gas Transmission owns and operates pipelines that deliver gas to domestic and industrial consumers within Alberta and to Alberta's boundaries, where it enters interprovincial or American lines. Alberta Natural Gas and Foothills Pipe Lines moves gas through an interconnected system from southeastern BC through Alberta to US markets.
Local municipal authority is derived from the province and based on various municipal acts. Municipalities provide local services such as police and fire protection, garbage and sewage disposal, water and other utilities, road maintenance and public transportation, and parks and recreational services. Urban municipalities include cities, towns, "new towns" (with special borrowing powers), villages and "summer villages" (resort areas).
Rural authorities include municipal districts (averaging 30 townships) and counties (averaging 40 townships). The difference between these 2 forms of rural municipality lies in the responsibility for public education. In municipal districts, public school boards are discrete entities, whereas in counties the public schools are administered by a committee of the county council.
A third type of rural municipality is the improvement district - outlying areas which do not elect their own councils but are directly administered by Alberta Municipal Affairs, except for the town sites located within the 5 national parks, which are administered by the federal government.
Alberta has 6 seats in the Senate (a fixed number, constitutionally determined) and 26 seats in the House of Commons (a flexible number, subject to redistribution after each decennial census). The Liberal Party won the majority of Alberta's seats in the first 2 federal elections following provincehood, in 1908 and 1911. Conservatives won the province in the 1917 federal election, Progressives from 1921 to 1930, and Social Credit from 1935 to 1957. Beginning with John Diefenbaker's sweep of 1958, Alberta has voted overwhelmingly Conservative. The elections of 1972, 1974, 1979, 1980 and 1984 saw the Conservatives take every Alberta seat, with the popular vote ranging from 58% to 69%.
Such bloc support for the Conservatives, while the majority of Canada returned Liberal governments, had, until 1984, left Alberta MPs on the Opposition side in the House of Commons since 1963, except during the short-lived Conservative government of Alberta native Joe Clark, 1979-80, and during the 2 years 1977-79 John Horner sat as a Liberal Cabinet minister after leaving the Conservative Party. The Alberta Conservatives enjoyed unprecedented influence in the Mulroney regime in Ottawa from 1984 to 1993, as Joe Clark, Don Mazankowski, Harvie André and others held major Cabinet positions. However, the rise of the Reform Party and disaffection with federal policies such as the imposition of the GST led to a complete upheaval in the election of 1993. The Conservatives lost every seat in Alberta. The Liberals managed to win 4 seats and the fledgling Reform Party swept the remaining 22. In the following election in 1997, the Reform Party solidified its place in federal politics in Alberta winning 24 of the 26 seats. The Liberals were reduced to 2 seats.
Residents of Alberta pay among the lowest income taxes in Canada and pay no retail sales taxes. The province depends instead on various fees, rentals and royalties from oil, natural gas, coal and other mineral companies; this income once accounted for 45% (1981-82) of total government revenue, but by 1992 it had declined to about 20%. Before 1976 all revenue became part of the general budgetary fund used to finance the total range of government expenditures. Following the energy-pricing crisis of the mid-1970s, however, revenues increased dramatically and the government was faced with vast potential surpluses. The result was the creation in 1976 of the Alberta Heritage Savings Trust Fund, into which 30% (reduced to 15% in 1982 and 0% in 1987) of the nonrenewable resource revenue was set aside.
The Heritage Fund is intended primarily to earn a maximum return on equity, to provide financial resources for periods when resource income declines, to strengthen and diversify the provincial economy, and to undertake special capital projects such as health care facilities, irrigation and recreation projects, and the development of oil sands technology. Use of the fund became a key domestic issue in provincial politics in the late 1980s and 1990s as the provincial debt rose.
In July 1969 Alberta entered the federal medicare scheme and operates the universal Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan. Negotiations between the province and the medical profession over fee schedules under this plan have at times been heated, with a number of practitioners opting for "balanced billing" or "extra billing." In compliance with the Federal Health Act of 1984, this practice was stopped in 1986. Alberta has now taken "nonessential" services, such as eye exams, out of public health care. Welfare services within the province include public assistance to the aged, disabled and handicapped, with an increasing emphasis on preventive social services. Heritage Fund money has financed medical research through the $300 million endowment fund, the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research, and increased the stock of hospital beds (now however drastically reduced by the cutbacks of the Klein government).
The 2 largest capital projects are the new Walter C. Mackenzie Health Sciences Centre in Edmonton and the enlarged Alberta Children's Hospital in Calgary. There is a variety of health care institutions in the province, including large general hospitals in the major urban centres, smaller rural hospitals, auxiliary hospitals specializing in extended-care treatment, provincial mental and psychiatric hospitals and nursing homes for senior citizens. The severe cuts to health services by the Klein administration in its effort to balance the provincial budget have resulted in large layoffs and the deterioration of some aspects of the province's health care.
Alberta provincial politics is characterized by governing parties commanding huge majorities in the legislature, remaining in power for lengthy periods and then being decisively beaten and virtually eliminated by a new political force. This pattern was established by the Liberals under Alberta's first premier, Alexander C. Rutherford, who took 22 of 25 seats, with 57.5% of the popular vote, in the first provincial election in 1905. Similar Liberal victories were recorded in 1909, 1913 and 1917 under Rutherford and his successors, A.L. Sifton and Charles Stewart. The United Farmers of Alberta, fuelled by agrarian unrest at the end of WWI, swept to power in the 1921 provincial election with 38 (all rural) of 61 seats despite gaining only 28.9% of the popular vote. Under premier John Brownlee, they repeated this pattern in 1926 and 1930. But in 1935 yet another new provincial force, the Social Credit League under William Aberhart, took 56 of 63 seats with 54% of the popular vote.
Under Aberhart and his successors, Ernest Manning and Harry Strom, Social Credit governed for 36 years, not to be swept aside until the victory of Peter Lougheed and the Conservatives in 1971, with 49 of 75 seats and 46% of the popular vote. Lougheed and the Conservatives crushed all opposition in 1975, 1979 and 1982. In 1986, under Don Getty, the Conservative vote dropped to 51% and they held 61 of 83 seats. The NDP, with 29% of the vote, captured 16 seats, 11 of them in Edmonton. The Liberals took 4 seats and the Representative Party 2 seats. Getty's Conservatives won another majority in 1989 but again saw their popular vote reduced.
The 1993 provincial election produced a showdown between 2 of Alberta's popular big city mayors, former Calgary mayor Ralph Klein, who succeeded Getty as PC leader and premier, and Laurence Decore, former Edmonton mayor and new leader of a resurgent Liberal Party, who waged a campaign on fiscal responsibility and deficit reduction. Klein's Tories emerged with a 51-seat to 32-seat majority on the strength of a split in the vote between the Tory rural south and the Liberal urban north, with the NDP being eliminated from the legislature.
Klein made dramatic moves to reduce the role of government, for example, by privatizing the sale of liquor distribution and motor vehicle, birth, death and marriage registration. His policy of deficit reduction through drastic cuts to public services preserved his popularity among a majority of the voters, but the long-term effects on the health and education systems in the province were undetermined. Klein's disagreements with the federal Liberals on health care issues continued an Alberta tradition, dating back to the United Farmers of the 1920s, by which successful provincial political parties have opposed policies of the federal government, particularly on issues of taxation, natural resources and the nature of the Canadian confederation.
Public education in Alberta is a shared responsibility of the provincial government and the local public and separate school boards. Alberta led the nation in reducing public expenditures on education in 1994. In 2000-2001, 545 285 students were enrolled in grades 1-12. Over 40 000 children attend Early Childhood Services, an optional pre-grade 1 program offered jointly by the provincial government and local school board or community operators. Over 22 000 students were enrolled in private schools.
Post-secondary education is under the jurisdiction of the ministry of Alberta Learning. Provincial grants accounted for approximately 57% of funding in 1994-95 (down from 71% in 1992), the balance coming from tuition fees and other sources. The province's universities - Alberta, Calgary, Lethbridge and Athabasca - are all public, nondenominational institutions. The University of Alberta and the University of Calgary are full-service research institutions, as is the University of Lethbridge. Athabasca University is a distance education institution. Other components of the public, post-secondary sector include the Northern and Southern Alberta Institutes of Technology, in Edmonton and Calgary respectively. The colleges offer a variety of university transfer, vocational and high school upgrading courses. Amendments in 1995 to the Public Colleges and Technical Institutes Acts permit the public colleges and technical institutions to offer applied degree programs, subject to ministerial approval. In 2000-2001, there were over 120 000 students in Alberta's post-secondary institutions.
Four vocational colleges provide programs and services emphasizing the education and training of adults whose opportunities have been limited by educational, social or economic factors. They are located in Edmonton, Calgary, Lesser Slave Lake and Lac La Biche and enrolled over 12 580 full-time equivalent students in 1994-95. In addition, there are 140 licensed private vocational schools that enrolled another 12 354 students in 1994-95.
The province also provides funding to the Banff Centre, which provides a broad range of continuing education opportunities in the areas of fine arts, management studies, language training and environmental training. In 2001-2002, the total number of artist participants was about 2500 - about one-third of these students were from other provinces, and another third were international students.
Until the 1960s, visual arts in Alberta were centred in Calgary around the Provincial Institute of Technology and Art (now the Alberta College of Art), and dominated by a British-inspired school of landscape painters. From W.J. Phillips through H.G. Glyde, W.L. Stevenson and Illingworth Kerr, they painted the prairie, foothills and mountain countryside. Calgarians Maxwell Bates (also an architect) and Marion Nicol were 2 modernist exceptions.
From the 1960s into the 1980s, abstract formalist theory of the New York school dominated northern Alberta painters such as Douglas Haynes at the University of Alberta. Abstract painters Robert Scott, Terrence Keller and Graham Peacock were among the many artists supported by the Edmonton Art Gallery, which also became the national leader in presenting and developing modern metal sculptors such as Peter Hyde and Alan Reynolds. The late 1980s saw a re-emergence of figurative painting and sculpture throughout the province and a strong community of printmakers in both Edmonton and Calgary.
The leading public galleries are the Edmonton Art Gallery and the Glenbow-Alberta Institute in Calgary, with strong regional support from the Southern Alberta Art Gallery in Lethbridge and the Prairie Art Gallery in Grande Prairie.
The professional performing arts are centred in Edmonton and Calgary, with most critics giving the artistic edge to the capital city. Edmonton hosts a major summer folk festival and Jazz City, a critically acclaimed international jazz festival. The Edmonton Symphony and the Calgary Philharmonic dominate orchestral music; there are 2 opera companies, the Edmonton Opera Association and Calgary Opera Association; and a ballet company, the Alberta Ballet Company, with headquarters in Calgary.
Large professional theatre companies include the Citadel Theatre in Edmonton and Theatre Calgary. As well, Edmonton annually plays host to the Fringe theatre event, a week-long summertime festival of new and old plays at open-air venues and traditional playhouse settings. Many Alberta playwrights (including nationally acclaimed John Murrell and Sharon Pollock) have worked with Alberta Theatre Projects, a Calgary company that has encouraged local writers and indigenous themes. Each summer Edmonton also hosts The Works: A Visual Arts Celebration, which is the national pioneer of visual arts festivals.
Major facilities for the performing arts include the twin Jubilee auditoriums in Edmonton and Calgary (built for the 50th anniversary of provincehood in 1955), Edmonton's Citadel Theatre, the Timms Centre for the Arts (1995) and the Francis Winspear Centre for Music (1996), and Calgary's new civic-built Centre for the Performing Arts. The Banff Centre School for Continuing Education has emerged as a nationally and internationally renowned training centre for young professionals in the performing arts.
A number of commercially successful and critically acclaimed writers of both fiction and nonfiction are based in Alberta, including novelists Robert Kroetsch (whose works take an irreverent, surrealistic look at 20th-century Alberta life), W.O. Mitchell, and Rudy Wiebe (who has explored the ethnic diversity of prairie life). Younger talents have been encouraged by the provincial government's annual Search-for-a-New-Alberta-Novelist competition.
Nonfiction writing is dominated by regional historians who appeal to both the academic and the popular reader; these include Grant MacEwan, James Gray and Hugh Dempsey of Calgary, and James MacGregor and A.W. Cashman of Edmonton. The University of Calgary library houses one of Canada's best collections of contemporary writers' papers; Mitchell and Wiebe are represented, as well as many out-of-province writers.
Daily newspaper publishing in Alberta is dominated by chain ownership; 6 of the 9 dailies are parts of Toronto-based national chains. These are the Edmonton Journal, Calgary Herald and Medicine Hat News (Southam newspaper group); the Edmonton Sun and Calgary Sun (owned by Toronto Sun Publications); and the Lethbridge Herald (part of the Thomson newspaper empire). Bowes Publishers Ltd, a regional chain, publishes the Grande Prairie Daily Herald-Tribune and Fort McMurray Today. The Red Deer Advocate, though independent of Canadian chains, is Canada's only foreign-owned daily newspaper; it is controlled by the Liverpool Post and Echo group in Britain.
There are over 130 weekly or community newspapers serving metropolitan, suburban and rural areas of Alberta. Among the magazines published in the province is the neoconservative, provincial-rights-oriented Alberta Report. City magazines are published in Edmonton, Calgary and Lethbridge. There are also a number of trade journals serving the petroleum and other industries.
The 12 television stations in Alberta include a mixture of national and local ownership. The CBC has network stations in Calgary and 2 in Edmonton (one of which is a French-language affiliate, CBXFT). CTV has affiliated stations in Calgary, Edmonton and Lloydminster. Independent stations are CITV Edmonton and CICT-TV Calgary (owned by Western International) and CISA-TV. Most of urban Alberta is also served by cable television systems which offer additional American and local channels to subscribers.
The 38 AM and 17 FM radio stations in the province are all privately owned, except the CBC network stations in Calgary and Edmonton, the University of Alberta Students' Union station, CJSR, and CKUA, once part of the provincially owned ACCESS network that utilized both radio and television primarily for educational broadcasting.
A network of 18 provincially operated historic sites, interpretive centres and museums exists, covering a broad range of human and natural history. In addition, there are over 200 community-run museums and over 30 local archives. The lotteries-funded Alberta Historical Resources Foundation also assists local groups in heritage building preservation, historical markers, research and publishing efforts.
The major museums are the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, the Provincial Museum of Alberta in Edmonton, the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology at Drumheller and the Reynolds-Alberta Museum in Wetaskiwin. Other major heritage attractions include the Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump World Heritage Site near Fort Macleod, the Ukrainian Cultural Heritage Village east of Edmonton, Fort Edmonton Park and Heritage Park in Calgary.
Major historical archives are the Provincial Archives of Alberta in Edmonton and the Glenbow Archives in Calgary. Several large provincial heritage organizations exist that separately deal with history, museums, archaeology, genealogy, archives and the like.
The first European known to have reached present-day Alberta was Anthony Henday, an HBC employee who, accompanied by a band of Cree, travelled through the Red Deer area and likely spent the latter months of the winter near the present site of Edmonton in 1754-55. Competition between the HBC and the Montréal-based North West Company dominated the region in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
In 1778 Peter Pond, an aggressive Nor'Wester, travelled down the Athabasca River and established the first fur trading post in the province. Fort Chipewyan on Lake Athabasca was founded in 1788 and served as the jumping-off point for Alexander Mackenzie's trip down the Mackenzie River in 1789, and his journey up the Peace River and through the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific 4 years later.
The Hudson's Bay Co countered by sending Peter Fidler and David Thompson to explore and map the Athabasca and Saskatchewan rivers in the 1790s and early 1800s. The 2 companies built competing posts throughout northern and central Alberta until 1821, when the rival companies merged.
By the middle of the 19th century, Christian missionaries in search of native souls had begun to challenge the fur traders for possession of the territory. Methodist Robert Rundle in 1840 became the first resident cleric in what is now Alberta, followed 2 years later by the Roman Catholic Father Jean-Baptiste Thibault. Missionary activity peaked in the third quarter of the century, with such illustrious names as Albert Lacombe among the Catholics and the Methodist father-and-son team of George and John McDougall.
The persistent advance of the European frontier challenged the HBC's continued control over the territory. Anticipating the termination of the company's licence and curious about the suitability of the territory for general settlement, both the British and Canadian governments commissioned expeditions in 1857 to explore and report on the Prairies. Captain John Palliser headed the British expedition, while the moving spirit of the Canadian party was Henry Youle Hind, whose optimistic reports balanced the less enthusiastic findings of Palliser and ultimately influenced Britain to refuse renewal of the HBC licence.
On 23 June 1870 the Canadian government took possession of the entire HBC territory, including all of the future province of Alberta. The following year the region between the new Province of Manitoba and the Rocky Mountains was organized as the North-West Territories of Canada, with its administrative centre first at Winnipeg, then at Battleford, and finally at Regina. The Dominion Lands Policy of 1872 laid the basis for the quarter-section homestead survey. Two years later the North-West Mounted Police established their first Alberta post at Fort Macleod.
The North-West Territories Act of 1875 provided for a lieutenant-governor and legislature (first an appointed council, gradually replaced by an elected assembly). A series of treaties was subsequently signed with native groups: Treaty No 6 in 1876 covered the Cree lands of central Alberta; Treaty No 7 in 1877 brought in the Blackfoot, Sarcee and Stoney of southern Alberta; Treaty No 8 in 1899 covered most of northern Alberta (see Land Claims).
Settlement was still slow to materialize during the 1880s, despite the arrival of the CPR in Calgary in 1883 and its transcontinental completion 2 years later. By 1881 only some 1000 non-native settlers resided within the boundaries of the present province of Alberta; 10 years later it was just 17 500. The great influx of settlement at the end of the century followed the development of fast-maturing varieties of hard spring wheat, the exhaustion of good available land in the American West, the easing of the 22-year economic depression that had gripped North America, and the vigorous immigration policy of the federal government under the direction of Clifford Sifton.
From 1896 to WWI, Alberta and other parts of the Canadian Prairies were the beneficiaries of one of the most important and dramatic population migrations in modern North American history. Settlers poured onto the open prairie farmlands and into its bustling towns and cities. Many came from Ontario and other parts of eastern Canada, others from the US and Great Britain, and others from continental Europe; the great variety of linguistic and religious backgrounds imposed an indelible multicultural stamp on Alberta life. Alberta's population rose from 73 022 in 1901 to 373 943 in 1911 and 584 454 in 1921.
The creation of the province of Alberta on 1 September 1905 was the logical result of the great immigration boom, and an answer to the political campaign for autonomy that had developed in the North-West Territories. Political controversies at the time of provincehood centred on the rights of the Roman Catholic minority to publicly funded separate schools, the boundary with the new sister province of Saskatchewan (Albertans sought long 107° W but had to settle for 110°), and Edmonton's victory over Calgary for the site of the new provincial capital. While these issues left a legacy of bitterness towards perceived federal interference in local matters, none was as contentious as Ottawa's decision to retain control of crown lands and natural resources. Not until 1930 were these responsibilities transferred to provincial control.
Fortune smiled on the new province of Alberta during its first decade. Immigration accelerated; grain harvests were bountiful; new communities sprang up, and a network of railway lines rapidly expanded. Yet resentment grew among farmers, who believed that their status as independent entrepreneurs was being jeopardized by the railways, banks and grain-elevator companies. The rise of the United Farmers of Alberta as a political party, and their victory over the Liberals in the 1921 provincial election were in part a manifestation of this unrest.
Yet the UFA government had to cope with a provincial economy in the 1920s and early 1930s that was much weaker than the pre-1914 boom years. Grain prices fluctuated and the once-important coal mining industry declined. The worldwide depression of the 1930s, accompanied by prairie drought, soil drifting and grasshopper plagues, accelerated an economic decline that had begun a year earlier. The Social Credit League won the 1935 provincial election by promising to fight the Great Depression (and the perceived eastern control of Alberta's economy) with a mixture of religious fundamentalism and radical monetary theory.
The discovery of oil at Leduc in February 1947 began the process of transforming Alberta's economic base from agriculture to petroleum. The resulting exploitation of oil and natural gas resources produced an ever-accelerating flow of royalties to augment provincial revenues, brought prosperity to most segments of the population, and transformed the cities of Edmonton and Calgary into prosperous metropolitan centres. The 1973 worldwide oil-pricing crisis brought an even greater prosperity that lasted until the general economic recession of the early 1980s, the oil and grain price crashes of 1986 and the further recession of the early 1990s. The combination of increased oil revenues and radical cuts in public spending by the Klein government led to a huge budget surplus in 1996. However, the long-term effect of spending cuts on health, education and social services remained uncertain.
B.M. Barr and P.J. Smith, eds, Geographical Dimension of Settlement and Livelihood in Alberta (1983); John Barr, The Dynasty: The Rise and Fall of Social Credit in Alberta (1974); Carlo Cardarola, ed, Society and Politics in Alberta (1979); W.G. Hardy, ed,Alberta: A Natural History (1967); John Irving, The Social Credit Movement in Alberta (1959); James G. MacGregor, A History of Alberta (1981); C.B. Macpherson, Democracy in Alberta: Social Credit and the Party System (1953); W.E. Mann, Sect, Cult, and Church in Alberta (1955); University of Alberta, Atlas of Alberta (1969); Rudy Wiebe, Alberta, A Celebration.