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Alberta is one of Canada's provinces. Its capital is the city of Edmonton. Its most populous city and metropolitan area, Calgary, is Alberta's economic hub and is located in the southern region of the province. Other major cities and towns include Banff, Camrose, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Lloydminster, Medicine Hat, and Red Deer. See also: List of communities in Alberta.

As of 2004, the population of the province was 3,183,312 (Albertans). 81% of the population lives in urban areas and 19% is rural.

The Premier of the province is Ralph Klein. See also List of Alberta Premiers.

Alberta is named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta (1848-1939), the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. Princess Louise was also the wife of Sir John Campbell, who was the Governor General of Canada from 1878-1883. Lake Louise was also named in honour of Princess Louise.



Main article: Geography of Alberta

Alberta is in western Canada, with an area of 661,190 km² (260,000 mi²). It is bounded to the south by the United States boundary line, 49° north. Eastwards at 110° west it borders the province of Saskatchewan. At 60° north it is separated from the Northwest Territories. To the west, its border with British Columbia follows the line of peaks of the Rocky Mountains range along the Continental Divide, which runs northwesterly, until it reaches 120° west, at which point the border follows this meridian to 60° north.

With the exception of the southern section, the province may be said to be well watered. Alberta contains dozens of rivers and lakes ideal for swimming, water skiing, fishing and a full range of other water sports. There are a multitude of fresh-water lakes each less than 260 km² situated in Alberta, and two of more considerable size. These are Lake Athabasca, 7898 km², part of which is in the province of Saskatchewan, and Lesser Slave Lake, some 1550 km² in area.

As Alberta extends for 1200 km from north to south, and about 600 km wide at its greatest east-west extent, it is natural that the climate should vary considerably between parallels of 49° and 60° north and also between 110° and 120° west. It is also further influenced by the different altitudes above sea level of the different parts of the province.

Northern Alberta has many fewer frost-free days than southern Alberta, which is almost desert-like in its summer heat and lack of rain. Western Alberta is protected by the mountains, and enjoys the warmth brought by winter chinooks, while eastern Alberta is flat, dry prairie, where temperatures can range from very cool (−35°C in the winter) to very hot (+35°C in the summer). Central and southern Alberta are the most likely places in Canada to experience tornadoes because of the summer heat, and violent summer thunderstorms are common in the eastern half of the province.

Alberta's capital city, Edmonton, is located almost exactly in the centre of the province, and most of Alberta's oil is refined here. Southern Alberta, where Calgary is located, is known for its ranching, and cattle run free through the whole winter. Much of the non-forested part of Alberta is given over to either grain or dairy farming, with ranching predominantly a southern Alberta industry.

Overall, Alberta has cool winters, with a daytime average of about −10°C in the south to −24°C in the north. In the summer the temperature averages about 13°C in the Rocky Mountains and 18°C in the dry prairie to the south-east.

10 Largest Municipalities

Municipality 2004 Est. 2001 1996
Calgary(1) 933,495 878,866 768,082
Edmonton(2) 707,271 666,104 616,306
Strathcona County(2) 75,949 71,986 64,176
Red Deer 75,923 67,707 60,080
Lethbridge 72,717 67,374 63,053
Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo 67,105 41,466 35,213
St. Albert(2) 54,588 53,081 46,888
Medicine Hat 51,249 51,249 46,783
Grande Prairie 40,226 36,983 31,353
Municipality of Rocky View (1) 30,418 28,441 23,326
(1) Part of the Greater Calgary Area (CMA) - 1,037,100 (2004 Est.)
(2) Part of the Greater Edmonton Area (CMA) - 1,001,500 (2004 Est.)


Main article: Industry in Alberta

Alberta is the largest producer of conventional crude oil, synthetic crude, natural gas and gas products in the country. Two of the largest producers of petrochemicals in North America are located in central and north central Alberta. In both Red Deer and Edmonton, world class polyethylene and vinyl manufacturers produce products shipped all over the world, and Edmonton's oil refineries provide the raw materials for a large petrochemical industry to the east of Edmonton.

The Athabasca Oil Sands (previously known as the Athabasca Tar Sands) have estimated oil reserves in excess of that of the rest of the world, estimated to be 1.6 trillion barrels (254 km³). With the advancement of extraction methods, bitumen and economical synthetic crude are produced at costs nearing that of conventional crude. This technology is Alberta grown and developed. Many companies employ both conventional strip mining and non-conventional methods to extract the bitumen from the Athabasca deposit. With current technology, only 315 billion barrels (50 km³) are recoverable. Fort McMurray, one of Canada's youngest and liveliest cities, has grown up entirely because of the large multinational corporations which have taken on the task of oil production.

While Edmonton is considered the pipeline junction, manufacturing, chemical processing, research and refining centre of the province, Calgary is known for its senior and junior oil company head offices.

With concerted effort and support from the provincial government, several high-tech industries have found their birth in Alberta, notably the invention and perfection of liquid crystal display systems. With a growing economy, Alberta has several financial institutions dealing with several civil and private funds.

Agriculture and forestry

Agriculture has a significant position in the province's economy. Over 5 million cattle are residents of the province at one time or another, and Alberta beef has a healthy worldwide market. Nearly one half of all Canadian beef is produced in Alberta. Alberta is one of the prime producers of plains buffalo (bison) for the consumer market. Sheep for wool and mutton are also raised.

Wheat and canola are primary farm crops, with Alberta leading the provinces in spring wheat production, with other grains also prominent. Much of the farming is dryland farming, with fallow seasons interspersed with cultivation. Across the province, the once common grain elevator is slowly being lost as rail lines are decreased and farmers now truck the grain to central points.

Alberta is the leading beekeeping province of Canada, with some beekeepers wintering hives indoors in specially designed barns in southern Alberta, then migrating north during the summer into the Peace River valley where the season is short but the working days are long for honeybees to produce honey from clover and fireweed. Hybrid canola also requires bee pollination, and some beekeepers service this need.

The vast northern forest reserves of softwood allow Alberta to produce large quantities of lumber and plywood, and several northern Alberta plants supply North America and the Pacific Rim nations with bleached wood pulp and newsprint.


Main article: Government of Alberta

The government of Alberta is a parliamentary democracy. The legislature consists of one house -- the Legislative Assembly -- of 83 members. The government is headed by the Premier, Ralph Klein, and the city of Edmonton is Alberta's government seat. The province's revenue comes mainly from the taxation of oil, natural gas, beef, softwood lumber, and wheat, but also includes grants from the federal government primarily for infrastructure projects. Albertans are the lowest-taxed people in Canada, and Alberta is the only province in Canada without a provincial sales tax (though residents are still subject to the federal sales tax, the GST). Alberta's municipalities have their own governments which (usually) work in co-operation with the provincial government.

Alberta's politics are much more conservative than those of other Canadian provinces. Alberta has traditionally had three political parties, the Progressive Conservatives ("Conservatives" or "Tories"), the centrist Liberals, and the social democratic New Democrats. A fourth party, the strongly conservative Social Credit Party, was a power in Alberta for many decades, but fell from the political map after the Progressive Conservatives came to power in the early 1970s. Since that time, no other political party has governed Alberta.

In the 2004 provincial election, held in November, the Alberta Alliance Party, running to the right of the Conservatives, won one seat in that election.

See also: List of Alberta Premiers, List of Alberta general elections


Alberta has over 180,000 km of highways and roads, of which nearly 50,000 km are paved. The main north-south corridor, Highway 2 , enters Alberta south of Lethbridge at the Coutts border crossing. It travels northward through Lethbridge, Calgary, Red Deer, and Edmonton before dividing into two highways, one which continues northwesterly as Highway 2 into Grande Prairie and the Peace River country , and the other (Highway 63), which continues to Fort McMurray, the location of the oil sands.

Alberta has two main east-west corridors. The southern corridor, part of the Trans-Canada Highway system, enters the province near Medicine Hat, runs westward through Calgary, and leaves Alberta through Banff National Park. The northern corridor, also part of the Trans-Canada network but known alternatively as the Yellowhead Highway, runs from Lloydminster in eastern Alberta, through Edmonton, and then west to Jasper National Park and into British Columbia. On a sunny spring or fall day, one of the most scenic drives in the world is along the Icefields Parkway, which runs some 300 km between Jasper and Banff, with mountain ranges and glaciers on either side of its entire length.

Urban stretches of Alberta's major highways and freeways are often called trails. For example, Highway 2 is Deerfoot Trail as it passes through Calgary, and Calgary Trail as it leaves Edmonton southbound. Visitors from outside Alberta often find this disconcerting, accustomed as they are to the notion that a trail is an unpaved route primarily for pedestrians.

Both Calgary and Edmonton have substantial mass transit systems and both cities operate light rail vehicles.

Alberta is well-connected by air, with international airports at both Edmonton and Calgary. Calgary's airport is the larger of the two, and is also the third busiest in Canada. It is a hub airport for a significant proportion of the connecting trans-border and international flights into and out of Alberta. There are over 9000 km of operating mainline railway, and many tourists see Alberta aboard Via Rail or Rocky Mountain Railtours .


Main article: Culture of Alberta

Alberta is well known for its warm and outgoing friendliness and frontier spirit.

Summer brings many festivals to the province. Edmonton's Fringe Festival is the world's second largest after Edinburgh's. Alberta also hosts some of Canada's largest folk festivals, multicultural festivals, and heritage days (to name a few). Calgary is also home to Carifest , the second largest Caribbean festival in the nation (after Caribana in Toronto). These events highlight the province's cultural diversity and love of entertainment. Most of the major cities have several performing theatre companies who entertain in venues as diverse as the Arts Barns and the Francis Winspear Centre .

Alberta also has a large ethnic population. Both the Chinese and East Indian communities are significant. According to Statistics Canada, Alberta is home to the second highest proportion (two percent) of Francophones in western Canada (after Manitoba). Many of Alberta's French-speaking residents live in the central and northwestern regions of the province. As reported in the 2001 census, the Chinese represented nearly four percent of Alberta's population and East Indians represented better than two percent. Both Edmonton and Calgary have Chinatowns and Calgary's is Canada's third largest. Aboriginal Albertans make up approximately three percent of the population.

The major contributors to Alberta's ethnic diversity have been the European nations. Forty-four percent of Albertans are of British descent, and there are also large numbers of Germans, Ukrainians, and Scandinavians.

Both cities brag of their first-class Canadian Football League and National Hockey League teams. Soccer, rugby and lacrosse are also played professionally in Alberta.

Tourism is also important to Albertans. A million visitors come to Alberta each year just for Calgary's world-famous Stampede and for Edmonton's Klondike Days. Edmonton was the gateway to the only all-Canadian route to the Yukon gold fields, and the only route which did not require gold-seekers to travel the exhausting and dangerous Chilkoot Pass.

Visitors throng to Calgary for ten days every July for a taste of "Stampede Fever". As a celebration of Canada's own Wild West and the cattle ranching industry, the Stampede welcomes around 1.2 million people each year. Only an hour's drive from the Rocky Mountains, Calgary also makes a visit to tourist attractions like Banff National Park something which can easily be done in a day. Calgary and Banff each host nearly 5 million tourists yearly.

Alberta is an important destination for tourists who love to ski and hike; Alberta boasts several world-class ski resorts. Hunters and fishermen from around the world are able to take home impressive trophies and tall tales from their experiences in Alberta's wilderness.


Many Albertans practise some form of Christian faith; however, a wide variety of other faiths are also present, as well as many people professing no religion. Alberta has a higher percentage of evangelical Christians than other provinces.

The Mormons of Alberta reside primarily in the most southerly part of the province. There are Temples in both Cardston and Edmonton. Many descend from Mormon pioneers who emigrated from Utah around the turn of the 20th century. Alberta also has a large Hutterite population, a communal Anabaptist sect similar to the Mennonites, a significant population of Seventh-Day Adventists in and around the Lacombe area due to the presence of the Canadian University College and also many Amish.

Many people of the Hindu, Sikh, and Muslim faiths also make Alberta their home; one of the largest Sikh temples in Canada is located just outside of Edmonton.


Main article: History of Alberta

The present province of Alberta as far north as about 53° north latitude was a part of Rupert's Land from the time of the incorporation of the Hudson's Bay Company (1670). After the arrival in the North-West of the French around 1731 they settled the prairies of the west, establishing communities such as Lac La Biche and Bonnyville. Fort La Jonquière was established near what is now Calgary in (1752). The North-West Company of Montreal occupied the northern part of Alberta territory before the Hudson's Bay Company arrived from Hudson Bay to take possession of it. The first explorer of the Athabasca region was Peter Pond, who, on behalf of the North-West Company of Montreal, built Fort Athabasca on Lac La Biche in 1778. Roderick Mackenzie built Fort Chipewyan on Lake Athabasca ten years later in 1788. His cousin, Sir Alexander Mackenzie followed the North Saskatchewan River to its northernmost point near Edmonton, then setting northward on foot, trekked to the Athabasca River, which he followed to Lake Athabasca. It was there he discovered the mighty outflow river which bears his name -- the Mackenzie River -- which he followed to its outlet in the Arctic Ocean. Returning to Lake Athabasca, he followed the Peace River upstream, eventually reaching the Pacific Ocean, and so being the first white man to cross the North American continent north of Mexico.

The district of Alberta was created as part of the North-West Territories in 1882. As settlement increased, local representatives to the North-West Legislative Assembly were added. After a long campaign for autonomy, in 1905 the district of Alberta was enlarged and given provincial status.

Population of Alberta since 1901

Year Population Percentage of
Canadian Pop.
1901 73,022 1.4
1911 374,295 5.2
1921 588,454 6.7
1931 731,605 7.0
1941 796,169 6.9
1971 1,627,874 7.5
1981 2,237,724 9.2
1986 2,365,825 9.3
1991 2,545,553 9.3
1996 2,696,826 9.3
2001 2,974,807 9.9

Fauna and flora


The three climatic regions (alpine, forest, and prairie) of Alberta are home to many different species of animals. The south and central prairie was the land of the bison, its grasses providing a great pasture and breeding ground for millions of buffalo. They were virtually destroyed by early white settlers, partly for sport, partly for the warm buffalo fur, which was used to make coats, and partly as one means of destroying the culture of the native people. The white settlers felt that the best way to "civilize" the natives was to make sure that they thought and behaved like the white men, and by removing the buffalo, a critical element of native culture, thought they could do so. Since then, buffalo have made a strong comeback, and thrive on farms and in parks all over Alberta, and the native culture is also growing stronger again.

Alberta is home to many large carnivores. Among them are the grizzly and black bears, which are found in the mountains and wooded regions. Smaller carnivores of the dog and cat families include coyotes, wolves, fox, lynx, and mountain lion (cougar).

Herbivorous, or plant-eating animals, are found throughout the province. Moose and deer (both mule and white-tail varieties) are found in the wooded regions, and pronghorn antelope can be found in the prairies of southern Alberta. Bighorn sheep and mountain goats live in the Rocky Mountains. Rabbits, porcupines, skunks, squirrels, and many species of rodents and reptiles live in every corner of the province. Alberta is fortunate in that it is home to only one variety of poisonous snake, the prairie rattlesnake.

Central and northern Alberta and the region farther north is the nesting-ground of the migratory birds. Vast numbers of ducks, geese, swans, and pelicans arrive in Alberta every spring and nest on or near one of the hundreds of small lakes that dot northern Alberta. Eagles, hawks, owls, and crows are plentiful, and a huge variety of smaller seed and insect-eating birds can be found. Alberta, like other temperate regions, is home to mosquitoes, flies, wasps, and bees. Rivers and lakes are well stocked with pike, pickerel, white fish, rainbow, speckled, and brown trout, and even sturgeon. Turtles are found in some water bodies in the southern part of the province. Frogs and salamanders are a few of the amphibians that make their homes in Alberta.


In central and northern Alberta the arrival of spring brings the prairie anemone, the avens, crocuses, and other early flowers. The advancing summer introduces many flowers of the sunflower family, until in August the plains are one blaze of yellow and purple. The southern part of Alberta is covered by a short grass, very nutritive, but dries up as summer lengthens, to be replaced by hardy perennials such as the buffalo bean , fleabane, and sage. Both yellow and purple clover fill the roadways and the ditches with their beauty and aromatic scents. The trees in the parkland region of the province grow in clumps and belts on the hillsides. These are largely deciduous, typically birch, poplar, and tamarack. Many species of willow and other shrubs grow in virtually any terrain. On the north side of the North Saskatchewan River evergreen forests prevail for hundreds of thousands of square kilometres. Aspen poplar , balsam poplar (or cottonwood), and paper birch are the primary large deciduous species. Conifers include Jack pine, Rocky Mountain pine, Lodgepole pine, both white and black spruce, and the needle-shedding tamarack.

See also

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