Alberta is the 6th largest province by area, being approximately 660,000 square kilometers,
and the 4th most populous, being home to 4,067,175 people.
Alberta's capital is Edmonton
, while Calgary
is its largest city
The two are Alberta's largest census metropolitan areas
(CMAs) and both exceed 1 million people.
More than half of Albertans live in either Edmonton or Calgary, which contributes to continuing the rivalry between the two cities
. The province also has one other CMA, Lethbridge
, and 15 census agglomerations
While the vast majority of Albertans are city dwellers, the identity of the province is mainly rooted in a rural lifestyle (rodeos
, country music
Before becoming part of Canada, Alberta was home to several First Nations
and was a territory used by fur traders
of the Hudson's Bay Company
. The lands that would become Alberta were acquired by Canada as part of the NWT on July 15, 1870.
On September 1, 1905, Alberta was separated from the NWT as a result of the Alberta Act
and designated the 8th province of Canada.
From the late 1800s to early 1900s, many immigrants arrived, the biggest wave of which was pushed by Wilfrid Laurier
, to prevent the prairies from being annexed by Americans
. Massive oil resources were discovered in Alberta in 1947.
A topographic map of Alberta, showing cities, towns, municipal district (county) and rural municipality borders, and natural features.
Alberta, with an area of 661,848 km2
(255,500 sq mi), is the fourth-largest province after Quebec
, Ontario and British Columbia
The province extends 1,223 km (760 mi) north to south and 660 km (410 mi) east to west at its maximum width. Its highest point is 3,747 m (12,293 ft) at the summit of Mount Columbia
in the Rocky Mountains along the southwest border while its lowest point is 152 m (499 ft) on the Slave River
in Wood Buffalo National Park
in the northeast.
With the exception of the semi-arid steppe
of the south-eastern section, the province has adequate water resources
. There are numerous rivers
used for swimming, fishing and a range of water sports. There are three large lakes, Lake Claire
(554 sq mi)) in Wood Buffalo National Park
, Lesser Slave Lake
(451 sq mi)), and Lake Athabasca
(7,898 square kilometres (3,049 sq mi)) which lies in both Alberta and Saskatchewan. The longest river in the province is the Athabasca River
which travels 1,538 km (956 mi) from the Columbia Icefield
in the Rocky Mountains to Lake Athabasca.
The largest river is the Peace River
with an average flow of 2161 m3
/s. The Peace River originates in the Rocky Mountains of northern British Columbia and flows through northern Alberta and into the Slave River
, a tributary of the Mackenzie River
Alberta's capital city, Edmonton, is located at about the geographic centre of the province. It is the most northerly major city in Canada, and serves as a gateway and hub for resource development in northern Canada. The region, with its proximity to Canada's largest oil fields, has most of western Canada's oil refinery capacity. Calgary is about 280 km (170 mi) south of Edmonton and 240 km (150 mi) north of Montana, surrounded by extensive ranching country. Almost 75% of the province's population lives in the Calgary–Edmonton Corridor
. The land grant policy to the railroads served as a means to populate the province in its early years.
The Alberta badlands
are located in southeastern Alberta, where the Red Deer River
crosses the flat prairie and farmland, and features deep canyons and striking landforms. Dinosaur Provincial Park
, near Brooks, Alberta
, showcases the badlands terrain, desert flora, and remnants from Alberta's past when dinosaurs roamed the then lush landscape.
Alberta has a humid continental climate
with warm summers and cold winters. The province is open to cold arctic weather systems from the north, which often produce extremely cold conditions in winter. As the fronts between the air masses shift north and south across Alberta, the temperature can change rapidly. Arctic air masses in the winter produce extreme minimum temperatures varying from −54 °C (−65 °F) in northern Alberta to −46 °C (−51 °F) in southern Alberta, although temperatures at these extremes are rare.
In the summer, continental air masses have produced record maximum temperatures from 32 °C (90 °F) in the mountains to over 40 °C (104 °F) in southeastern Alberta.
Alberta is a sunny province. Annual bright sunshine totals range between 1,900 up to just under 2,600 hours per year. Northern Alberta gets about 18 hours of daylight in the summer.
Alberta extends for over 1,200 km (750 mi) from north to south; its climate, therefore, varies considerably. Average high temperatures in January range from 0 °C (32 °F) in the southwest to −24 °C (−11 °F) in the far north. The climate is also influenced by the presence of the Rocky Mountains to the southwest, which disrupt the flow of the prevailing westerly winds
and cause them to drop most of their moisture on the western slopes of the mountain ranges before reaching the province, casting a rain shadow
over much of Alberta. The northerly location and isolation from the weather systems of the Pacific Ocean cause Alberta to have a dry climate with little moderation from the ocean. Annual precipitation ranges from 300 mm (12 in) in the southeast to 450 mm (18 in) in the north, except in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains where total precipitation including snowfall can reach 600 mm (24 in) annually.
There was a big drought in 2002
in Alberta and other places across the Northern USA.
The province is the namesake of the Alberta clipper
, a type of intense, fast-moving winter storm that generally forms over or near the province and pushed with great speed by the continental polar jetstream
descends over the rest of Southern Canada and the northern tier of the United States.
In the summer, the average daytime temperatures range from around 21 °C (70 °F) in the Rocky Mountain valleys and far north, up to around 28 °C (82 °F) in the dry prairie of the southeast. The northern and western parts of the province experience higher rainfall and lower evaporation rates caused by cooler summer temperatures. The south and east-central portions are prone to drought-like conditions sometimes persisting for several years, although even these areas can receive heavy precipitation, sometimes resulting in flooding.
In southwestern Alberta, the cold winters are frequently interrupted by warm, dry chinook winds
blowing from the mountains, which can propel temperatures upward from frigid conditions to well above the freezing point in a very short period. During one chinook recorded at Pincher Creek
, temperatures soared from −19 to 22 °C (−2.2 to 72 °F) in just one hour.
The region around Lethbridge has the most chinooks, averaging 30 to 35 chinook days per year. Calgary has a 56% chance of a white Christmas
, while Edmonton has an 86% chance.
Northern Alberta is mostly covered by boreal forest
and has a subarctic climate
. The agricultural area of southern Alberta has a semi-arid steppe
climate because the annual precipitation is less than the water that evaporates or is used by plants
. The southeastern corner of Alberta, part of the Palliser Triangle
, experiences greater summer heat and lower rainfall than the rest of the province, and as a result suffers frequent crop yield
problems and occasional severe droughts. Western Alberta is protected by the mountains and enjoys the mild temperatures brought by winter chinook winds
. Central and parts of northwestern Alberta in the Peace River region are largely aspen parkland, a biome
transitional between prairie to the south and boreal forest to the north.
After Saskatchewan, Alberta experiences the most tornadoes
in Canada with an average of 15 verified per year.
Thunderstorms, some of them severe, are frequent in the summer, especially in central and southern Alberta. The region surrounding the Calgary–Edmonton Corridor
is notable for having the highest frequency of hail
in Canada, which is caused by orographic lifting
from the nearby Rocky Mountains, enhancing the updraft/downdraft cycle necessary for the formation of hail.
Climate averages for communities in Alberta
The wild rose
is the provincial flower of Alberta.
In central and northern Alberta the arrival of spring is marked by the early flowering of the prairie crocus anemone
; this member of the buttercup family has been recorded flowering as early as March, though April is the usual month for the general population.
Other prairie flora known to flower early are the golden bean
and wild rose
Members of the sunflower
family blossom on the prairie in the summer months between July and September.
The southern and east central parts of Alberta are covered by short prairie grass,
which dries up as summer lengthens, to be replaced by hardy perennials such as the prairie coneflower, fleabane
, and sage
. Both yellow and white sweet clover
can be found throughout the southern and central areas of the province.
The trees in the parkland region of the province grow in clumps and belts on the hillsides. These are largely deciduous
, typically aspen
, and willow
. 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 thousands of square kilometres. Aspen poplar
, balsam poplar
(or in some parts 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 deciduous conifer tamarack
The four climatic regions (alpine
, boreal forest
, and prairie
) of Alberta are home to many different species of animals. The south and central prairie was the land of the bison
, commonly known as buffalo, its grasses providing pasture and breeding ground for millions of buffalo. The buffalo population was decimated during early settlement, but since then buffalo have made a comeback, living on farms and in parks all over Alberta.
Central and northern Alberta and the region farther north is the nesting ground of many migratory birds. Vast numbers of ducks, geese
arrive in Alberta every spring and nest on or near one of the hundreds of small lakes that dot northern Alberta. Eagles
, 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
, and bees. Rivers and lakes are populated with pike
, brown trout
, and sturgeon
. Bull trout
, native to the province, is Alberta's provincial fish. 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.
Alberta is the only province in Canada—as well as one of the few places in the world—that is free of Norwegian rats
Since the early 1950s, the Government of Alberta
has operated a rat-control program, which has been so successful that only isolated instances of wild rat sightings are reported, usually of rats arriving in the province aboard trucks or by rail. In 2006, Alberta Agriculture reported zero findings of wild rats; the only rat interceptions have been domesticated rats that have been seized from their owners. It is illegal for individual Albertans to own or keep Norwegian rats of any description; the animals can only be kept in the province by zoos, universities and colleges, and recognized research institutions. In 2009, several rats were found and captured, in small pockets in southern Alberta,
putting Alberta's rat-free status in jeopardy. A colony of rats were subsequently found in a landfill near Medicine Hat in 2012 and again in 2014.
Dinosaur-bearing strata are distributed widely throughout Alberta.
The Dinosaur Provincial Park area contains outcrops of the Dinosaur Park Formation and Oldman Formation. In the central and southern regions of Alberta are intermittent Scollard Formation
outcrops. In the Drumheller
Valley and Edmonton
regions there are exposed Horseshoe Canyon facies
. Other formations
have been recorded as well, like the Milk River
and Foremost Formations. However, these latter two have a lower diversity of documented dinosaurs, primarily due to their lower total fossil quantity and neglect from collectors who are hindered by the isolation and scarcity of exposed outcrops. Their dinosaur fossils are primarily teeth recovered from microvertebrate fossil sites. Additional geologic formations that have produced only few fossils are the Belly River Group
and St. Mary River Formations
of the southwest and the northwestern Wapiti Formation
. The Wapiti Formation contains two Pachyrhinosaurus
bone beds that break its general trend of low productivity, however. The Bearpaw Formation
represents strata deposited during a marine transgression
. Dinosaurs are known from this formation, but represent specimens washed out to sea or reworked from older sediments
The Athabasca River and the rivers north of it were not in HBC territory because they drained into the Arctic Ocean instead of Hudson Bay, and they were prime habitat for fur-bearing animals. The first European explorer of the Athabasca region was Peter Pond
, who learned of the Methye Portage
, which allowed travel from southern rivers into the rivers north of Rupert's Land. Fur traders formed the North West Company
(NWC) of Montreal
to compete with the HBC in 1779. The NWC occupied the northern part of Alberta territory. Peter Pond 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 he became the first European to cross the North American continent north of Mexico.
Fur trade expanded in the north, but bloody battles occurred between the rival HBC and NWC, and in 1821 the British government forced them to merge to stop the hostilities.
The amalgamated Hudson's Bay Company dominated trade in Alberta until 1870, when the newly formed Canadian Government
purchased Rupert's Land. Northern Alberta was included in the North-Western Territory
until 1870, when it and Rupert's land became Canada's North-West Territories
First Nations negotiated treaties with the Crown in which the Crown gained title to the land that would later become Alberta, and the Crown committed to ongoing support of the First Nations and guaranteed their hunting and fishing rights. The most significant treaties for Alberta are Treaty 6
(1876), Treaty 7
(1877) and Treaty 8
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, with the election of Alexander Cameron Rutherford
as the first premier. Less than a decade later, the First World War
presented special challenges to the new province as an extraordinary number of volunteers left relatively few workers to maintain services and production. Over 50% of Alberta's doctors volunteered for service overseas.
On June 21, 2013, during the 2013 Alberta floods
Alberta experienced heavy rainfall that triggered catastrophic flooding throughout much of the southern half of the province along the Bow
rivers and tributaries. A dozen municipalities in Southern Alberta declared local states of emergency on June 21 as water levels rose and numerous communities were placed under evacuation orders.
In 2016, a wildfire
resulted in the largest fire evacuation of residents in Alberta's history, as more than 80,000 people were ordered to evacuate.
Population density of Alberta
The 2016 census
reported Alberta had a population of 4,067,175 living in 1,527,678 of its 1,654,129 total dwellings, an 11.6% change from its 2011 population of 3,645,257. With a land area of 640,330.46 km2
(247,232.97 sq mi), it had a population density of 6.4/km2
(16.5/sq mi) in 2016. Statistics Canada
estimated the province to have a population of 4,436,258 in Q1 of 2021.
Since 2000, Alberta's population has experienced a relatively high rate of growth, mainly because of its burgeoning economy. Between 2003 and 2004, the province had high birthrates (on par with some larger provinces such as British Columbia), relatively high immigration, and a high rate of interprovincial migration
compared to other provinces.
In 2016, Alberta continued to have the youngest population among the provinces with a median age of 36.7 years, compared with the national median of 41.2 years. Also in 2016, Alberta had the smallest proportion of seniors (12.3%) among the provinces and one of the highest population shares of children (19.2%), further contributing to Alberta's young and growing population.
About 81% of the population lives in urban areas and only about 19% in rural areas. The Calgary–Edmonton Corridor
is the most urbanized area in the province and is one of the most densely populated areas of Canada.
Many of Alberta's cities and towns have experienced very high rates of growth in recent history.[when?]
Alberta's population rose from 73,022 in 1901
to 3,290,350 according to the 2006 census
According to the 2016 census
, Alberta has 779,155 residents (19.2%) between the ages of 0-14, 2,787,805 residents (68.5%) between the ages of 15–64, and 500,215 residents (12.3%) aged 65 and over.
English is the most common mother tongue, with 2,991,485 native speakers.
This is followed by Tagalog
, with 99,035 speakers, German, with 80,050 speakers, French, with 72,150 native speakers, and hindi, with 68,695 speakers.
253,460 residents identify as Aboriginal
, including 136,585 as First Nations
, 114,370 as Métis
, and 2,500 as Inuit
There are also 933,165 residents who identify as a visible minority, including 230,930 South Asian people, 166,195 Filipinos, and 158,200 Chinese respondents.
1,769,500 residents hold a postsecondary certificate, diploma or degree, 895,885 residents have obtained a secondary (high) school diploma or equivalency certificate, and 540,665 residents do not have any certificate, diploma or degree.
The 2006 census found that English, with 2,576,670 native speakers, was the most common mother tongue of Albertans, representing 79.99% of the population. The next most common mother tongues were Chinese with 97,275 native speakers (3.02%), followed by German with 84,505 native speakers (2.62%) and French with 61,225 (1.90%).
Other mother tongues include: Punjabi
, with 36,320 native speakers (1.13%); Tagalog
, with 29,740 (0.92%); Ukrainian
, with 29,455 (0.91%); Spanish, with 29,125 (0.90%); Polish
, with 21,990 (0.68%); Arabic
, with 20,495 (0.64%); Dutch
, with 19,980 (0.62%); and Vietnamese
, with 19,350 (0.60%). The most common aboriginal language is Cree
17,215 (0.53%). Other common mother tongues include Italian with 13,095 speakers (0.41%); Urdu
with 11,275 (0.35%); and Korean
with 10,845 (0.33%); then Hindi
8,985 (0.28%); Farsi
7,700 (0.24%); Portuguese
7,205 (0.22%); and Hungarian
Alberta has considerable ethnic diversity. In line with the rest of Canada, many are descended from immigrants of Western European nations, notably England
, but large numbers later came from other regions of Europe, notably Germany
According to Statistics Canada, Alberta is home to the second-highest proportion (two percent) of Francophones
in western Canada (after Manitoba
). Despite this, relatively few Albertans claim French as their mother tongue. Many of Alberta's French-speaking residents
live in the central and northwestern regions of the province, after migration from other areas of Canada or descending from Métis. As reported in the 2001 census, the Chinese represented nearly four percent of Alberta's population, and South Asians represented more than two percent. Both Edmonton and Calgary have historic Chinatowns
, and Calgary has Canada's third-largest Chinese community. The Chinese presence began with workers employed in the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1880s. Aboriginal Albertans
make up approximately three percent of the population.
In the 2006 Canadian census
, the most commonly reported ethnic origins among Albertans were: 885,825 English (27.2%); 679,705 German (20.9%); 667,405 Canadian (20.5%); 661,265 Scottish (20.3%); 539,160 Irish (16.6%); 388,210 French (11.9%); 332,180 Ukrainian (10.2%); 172,910 Dutch
(5.3%); 170,935 Polish
(5.2%); 169,355 North American Indian
(5.2%); 144,585 Norwegian
(4.4%); and 137,600 Chinese
(4.2%). (Each person could choose as many ethnicities as were applicable.)
Amongst those of British heritage, the Scots have had a particularly strong influence on place-names, with the names of many cities and towns including Calgary, Airdrie
, and Banff having Scottish
Alberta is the third most diverse province in terms of visible minorities
after British Columbia and Ontario
with 13.9% of the population consisting of visible minorities in 2006.
Over one third of the populations of Calgary and Edmonton belong to a visible minority group.
Aboriginal Identity Peoples made up 5.8% of the population in 2006, about half of whom consist of First Nations and the other half are Métis
. There are also small number of Inuit
people in Alberta.
The number of Aboriginal Identity Peoples have been increasing at a rate greater than the population of Alberta.
As of the 2011 National Household Survey
, the largest religious group was Roman Catholic, representing 24.3% of the population. Alberta had the second-highest percentage of non-religious
residents among the provinces (after British Columbia) at 31.6% of the population. Of the remainder, 7.5% of the population identified themselves as belonging to the United Church of Canada
, while 3.9% were Anglican
made up 3.3% of the population while Baptists
The remainder belonged to a wide variety of different religious affiliations, none of which constituted more than 2% of the population.
Members of LDS Church
are mostly concentrated in the extreme south of the province. Alberta has a population of Hutterites
, a communal Anabaptist
sect similar to the Mennonites
, and has a significant population of Seventh-day Adventists
. Alberta is home to several Byzantine Rite
Churches as part of the legacy of Eastern European immigration, including the Ukrainian Catholic Eparchy of Edmonton
, and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Canada
's Western Diocese
which is based in Edmonton. Muslims made up 3.2% of the population, Sikhs 1.5%, Buddhists 1.2%, and Hindus 1.0%. Many of these are immigrants, but others have roots that go back to the first settlers of the prairies. Canada's oldest mosque, the Al-Rashid Mosque
, is located in Edmonton,
whereas Calgary is home to Canada's largest mosque, the Baitun Nur Mosque
Alberta is also home to a growing Jewish population of about 15,400 people who constituted 0.3% of Alberta's population. Most of Alberta's Jews live in the metropolitan areas of Calgary (8,200) and Edmonton (5,500).
Distribution of cities in Alberta
Largest metro areas and municipalities by population as of 2016
Petroleum resources in Alberta
Alberta's economy was one of the strongest in the world, supported by the burgeoning petroleum industry and to a lesser extent, agriculture and technology. In 2013, Alberta's per capita GDP exceeded that of the United States, Norway, or Switzerland,
and was the highest of any province in Canada at CA$84,390. This was 56% higher than the national average of CA$53,870 and more than twice that of some of the Atlantic provinces.
In 2006, the deviation from the national average was the largest for any province in Canadian history
According to the 2006 census,
the median annual family income after taxes was $70,986 in Alberta (compared to $60,270 in Canada as a whole). In 2014, Alberta had the second-largest economy in Canada after Ontario, with a GDP exceeding CA$376 billion.
The GDP of the province calculated at basic prices rose by 4.6% in 2017 to $327.4 billion, which was the largest increase recorded in Canada, and it ended two consecutive years of decreases.
The Calgary-Edmonton Corridor is the most urbanized region in the province and one of the densest in Canada. The region covers a distance of roughly 400 kilometres north to south. In 2001, the population of the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor was 2.15 million (72% of Alberta's population).
It is also one of the fastest-growing regions in the country. A 2003 study by TD Bank Financial Group
found the corridor to be the only Canadian urban centre to amass a U.S. level of wealth while maintaining a Canadian style quality of life
, offering universal health care
benefits. The study found that GDP per capita in the corridor was 10% above average U.S. metropolitan areas and 40% above other Canadian cities
at that time.
The Fraser Institute
states that Alberta also has very high levels of economic freedom
and rates Alberta as the freest economy in Canada,
and second-freest economy amongst U.S. states and Canadian provinces.
In 2014, Merchandise exports totalled US$121.4 billion. Energy revenues totalled $111.7 billion and Energy resource exports totalled $90.8 billion. Farm Cash receipts from agricultural products totalled $12.9 billion. Shipments of forest products totalled $5.4 billion while exports were $2.7 billion. Manufacturing sales totalled $79.4 billion, and Alberta's ICT industries generated over $13 billion in revenue. In total, Alberta's 2014 GDP amassed $364.5 billion in 2007 dollars, or $414.3 billion in 2015 dollars. In 2015, Alberta's GDP grew despite low oil prices; however, it was unstable with growth rates as high 4.4% and as low as 0.2%. Should the GDP remain at an average of 2.2% for the last two-quarters of 2015, Alberta's GDP should exceed $430 billion by the end of 2015.
However, RBC Economics research predicts Alberta's real GDP growth to only average 0.6% for the last two-quarters of 2015. This estimate predicts a real GDP growth of only 1.4% for 2015. A positive is the predicted 10.8% growth in Nominal GDP, and possibly above 11% in 2016.
Agriculture and forestry
Cows in Rocky View
. Nearly one-half of Canadian beef is produced in Alberta.
Agriculture has a significant position in the province's economy. The province has over three million head of cattle,
and Alberta beef has a healthy worldwide market. Nearly one half of all Canadian beef is produced in Alberta. Alberta is one of the top 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; other grains
are also prominent. Much of the farming is dryland farming, often with fallow seasons interspersed with cultivation. Continuous cropping (in which there is no fallow season) is gradually becoming a more common mode of production because of increased profits and a reduction of soil erosion. Across the province, the once common grain elevator
is slowly being lost as rail lines are decreasing; farmers typically 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
canola also requires bee pollination, and some beekeepers service this need.
Alberta is the largest producer of conventional crude oil
, synthetic crude
, natural gas and gas products in Canada. Alberta is the world's second-largest exporter of natural gas and the fourth-largest producer.
Two of the largest producers of petrochemicals
in North America are located in central and north-central Alberta. In both Red Deer and Edmonton, polyethylene
manufacturers produce products that are shipped all over the world. Edmonton's oil refineries
provide the raw materials for a large petrochemical industry
to the east of Edmonton.
Another factor determining the viability of oil extraction from the oil sands is the price of oil. The oil price increases since 2003
have made it profitable to extract this oil, which in the past would give little profit or even a loss. By mid-2014, however, rising costs and stabilizing oil prices were threatening the economic viability of some projects. An example of this was the shelving of the Joslyn north project in the Athabasca region in May 2014.
With concerted effort and support from the provincial government, several high-tech industries have found their birth in Alberta, notably patents related to interactive liquid-crystal display
With a growing economy, Alberta has several financial institutions dealing with civil and private funds.
Alberta has been a tourist destination from the early days of the twentieth century, with attractions including outdoor locales for skiing, hiking and camping, shopping locales such as West Edmonton Mall
, Calgary Stampede
, outdoor festivals, professional athletic events, international sporting competitions such as the Commonwealth Games
and Olympic Games, as well as more eclectic attractions. According to Alberta Economic Development, Calgary and Edmonton both host over four million visitors annually. Banff
and the Rocky Mountains
are visited by about three million people per year.
Alberta tourism relies heavily on Southern Ontario
tourists, as well as tourists from other parts of Canada, the United States, and many other countries.
There are also natural attractions like Elk Island National Park
, Wood Buffalo National Park
, and the Columbia Icefield
. Alberta's Rockies
include well-known tourist destinations Banff National Park
and Jasper National Park
. The two mountain parks are connected by the scenic Icefields Parkway
. Banff is located 128 km (80 mi) west of Calgary on Highway 1
, and Jasper is located 366 km (227 mi) west of Edmonton on Yellowhead Highway
. Five of Canada's fourteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites
are located within the province: Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks
, Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park
, Wood Buffalo National Park, Dinosaur Provincial Park
and Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump
. A number of these areas hold ski resorts, most notably Sunshine Village
, Lake Louise
, Marmot Basin
About 1.2 million people visit the Calgary Stampede,
a celebration of Canada's own Wild West and the cattle ranching industry. About 700,000 people enjoy Edmonton's K-Days
(formerly Klondike Days and Capital EX).
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
Another tourist destination that draws more than 650,000 visitors each year is the Drumheller Valley, located northeast of Calgary. Drumheller
, "Dinosaur Capital of The World", offers the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Palaeontology
. Drumheller also had a rich mining history being one of Western Canada's largest coal producers during the war years. Another attraction in east-central Alberta is Alberta Prairie Railway Excursions
, a popular tourist attraction operated out of Stettler
, that offers train excursions into the prairie and caters to tens of thousands of visitors every year.
Government and politics
The Government of Alberta is organized as a parliamentary
democracy with a unicameral legislature. Its unicameral
legislature—the Legislative Assembly
—consists of 87 members elected first past the post
(FPTP) from single-member constituencies.
Locally municipal governments and school boards are elected and operate separately. Their boundaries do not necessarily coincide.
As Queen of Canada
, Elizabeth II
is the head of state for the Government of Alberta. Her duties in Alberta are carried out by Lieutenant Governor Salma Lakhani
The Queen and lieutenant governor are figureheads whose actions are highly restricted by custom and constitutional convention
. The lieutenant governor handles numerous honorific duties in the name of the Queen. The government is headed by the premier
. The premier is normally a member of the Legislative Assembly, and draws all the members of the Cabinet from among the members of the Legislative Assembly. The City of Edmonton is the seat of the provincial government—the capital of Alberta. The premier is Jason Kenney
, sworn in on April 30, 2019.
Alberta's elections have tended to yield much more conservative outcomes than those of other Canadian provinces. Since the 1960s, Alberta has had three main political parties, the Progressive Conservatives ("Conservatives" or "Tories"), the Liberals
, and the social democratic New Democrats. The Wildrose Party
, a more conservative party formed in early 2008, gained much support in the 2012 election
and became the official opposition
, a role it held until 2017 when it was dissolved and succeeded by the new United Conservative Party
created by the merger of Wildrose and the Progressive Conservatives. 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 1971.
For 44 years the Progressive Conservatives governed Alberta. They lost the 2015 election
to the NDP (which formed their own government for the first time in provincial history, breaking almost 80 consecutive years of right-wing rule),
suggesting at the time a possible shift to the left in the province, also indicated by the election of progressive mayors in both of Alberta's major cities.
Since becoming a province in 1905, Alberta has seen only five changes of government—only six parties have governed Alberta: the Liberals, from 1905 to 1921; the United Farmers of Alberta
, from 1921 to 1935; the Social Credit Party, from 1935 to 1971; the Progressive Conservative Party, from 1971 to 2015; from 2015 to 2019, the Alberta New Democratic Party; and from 2019, the United Conservative Party, with the most recent transfer of power
being the first time in provincial history that an incumbent government was not returned to a second term.
The province is divided into 10 types of local governments
– urban municipalities (including cities
and summer villages
), specialized municipalities, rural municipalities (including municipal districts
(often named as counties
), improvement districts, and special areas), Métis settlements, and Indian reserves. All types of municipalities are governed by local residents and were incorporated under various provincial acts, with the exception of improvement districts (governed by either the provincial or federal government), and Indian reserves (governed by local First Nations
people under federal jurisdiction).
Policing in the province of Alberta upon its creation was the responsibility of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police
. In 1917, due to pressures of World War I
, the Alberta Provincial Police
was created. This organization policed the province until it was disbanded as a Great Depression
-era cost-cutting measure in 1932. It was at that time the now renamed Royal Canadian Mounted Police
resumed policing of the province, specifically RCMP "K" Division. With the advent of the Alberta Sheriffs Branch
, the distribution of duties of law enforcement in Alberta has been evolving as certain aspects, such as traffic enforcement, mobile surveillance and the close protection of the Premier of Alberta have been transferred to the Sheriffs. In 2006, Alberta formed the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams
(ALERT) to combat organized crime and the serious offences that accompany it. ALERT is made up of members of the RCMP, Sheriffs Branch and various major municipal police forces in Alberta.
According to Alberta's 2009 budget, government revenue in that year came mainly from royalties on non-renewable natural resources (30.4%), personal income taxes (22.3%), corporate and other taxes (19.6%), and grants from the federal government
primarily for infrastructure projects (9.8%).
In 2014, Alberta received $6.1 billion in bitumen royalties. With the drop in the price of oil in 2015 it was down to $1.4 billion. In 2016, Alberta received "about $837 million in royalty payments from oil sands Royalty Projects".
According to the 2018–21 fiscal plan, the two top sources of revenue in 2016 were personal income tax at $10, 763 million and federal transfers of $7,976 million with total resource revenue at $3,097 million.:45
Alberta is the only province in Canada without a provincial sales tax
. Alberta residents are still subject to the federal sales tax, the Goods and Services Tax
From 2001-2016, Alberta was the only Canadian province to have a flat tax
of 10% of taxable income, which was introduced by then-Premier, Ralph Klein
, as part of the Alberta Tax Advantage, which also included a zero-percent tax on income below a "generous personal exemption".
In 2016, under then-Premier Rachel Notley
, while most Albertans continued to pay the 10-per-cent income tax rate, new tax brackets 12-per-cent, 14-per-cent, and 15-per-cent for those with higher incomes ($128,145 annually or more) were introduced.
Alberta's personal income tax system maintained a progressive character
by continuing to grant residents personal tax exemptions of $18,451,
in addition to a variety of tax deductions for persons with disabilities, students, and the aged.
Alberta's municipalities and school jurisdictions have their own governments who usually work in co-operation with the provincial government. By 2018, most Albertans continued to pay the 10-per-cent income tax rate.
According to a March 2015 Statistics Canada
report, the median household income in Alberta in 2014 was about $100,000, which is 23 per cent higher than the Canadian national average.
Based on Statistic Canada reports, low income Albertans, who earn less than $25,000 and those in the high-income bracket earning $150,000 or more, are the lowest-taxed people in Canada.
Those in the middle income brackets representing those that earn about $25,000 to $75,000[Notes 1]
pay more in provincial taxes than residents in British Columbia and Ontario.
In terms of income tax, Alberta is the "best province" for those with a low income because there is no provincial income tax for those who earn $18,915 or less.
Even with the 2016 progressive tax brackets up to 15%, Albertans who have the highest incomes, those with a $150,000 annual income or more—about 178,000 people in 2015, pay the least in taxes in Canada.
— About 1.9 million Albertans earned between $25,000 and $150,000 in 2015.
Alberta also privatized alcohol distribution. By 2010, privatization had increased outlets from 304 stores to 1,726; 1,300 jobs to 4,000 jobs; and 3,325 products to 16,495 products.
Tax revenue also increased from $400 million to $700 million.
In 2017/18 Alberta collected about $2.4 billion in education property taxes from municipalities.
Albertan municipalities raise a significant portion of their income through levying property taxes.
The value of assessed property in Alberta was approximately $727 billion in 2011.
Most real property is assessed according to its market value.
The exceptions to market value assessment are farmland, railways, machinery & equipment and linear property, all of which is assessed by regulated rates.
Depending on the property type, property owners may appeal a property assessment to their municipal 'Local Assessment Review Board', 'Composite Assessment Review Board,' or the Alberta Municipal Government Board.
Summer brings many festivals to the province of Alberta, especially in Edmonton. The Edmonton Fringe Festival
is the world's second-largest after the Edinburgh Festival
. Both Calgary and Edmonton host a number of annual festivals and events, including folk music festivals. The city's "heritage days" festival sees the participation of over 70 ethnic groups. Edmonton's Churchill Square
is home to a large number of the festivals, including the large Taste of Edmonton & The Works Art & Design Festival
throughout the summer months.
The City of Calgary is also famous for its Stampede, dubbed "The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth". The Stampede is Canada's biggest rodeo festival and features various races and competitions, such as calf roping
and bull riding
. In line with the western tradition of rodeo are the cultural artisans that reside and create unique Alberta western heritage crafts.
In 2019 the then Minister of Culture and Tourism Ricardo Miranda
announced the Alberta Artist in Residence program in conjunction with the province's first Month of the Artist
to celebrate the arts and the value they bring to the province, both socially and economically,
The Artist is selected each year via a public and competitive process is expected to do community outreach and attend events to promote the arts throughout the province. The award comes with $60,000 funding which includes travel and materials costs.
On January 31, 2019 Lauren Crazybull
named Alberta's 1st Artist in Residence.
Alberta is the first province to launch an Artist in Residence program in Canada.
As with any Canadian province, the Alberta Legislature has (almost) exclusive authority to make laws respecting education. Since 1905 the Legislature has used this capacity to continue the model of locally elected public and separate school boards which originated prior to 1905, as well as to create and regulate universities, colleges, technical institutions and other educational forms and institutions (public charter schools, private schools, home schooling).
Elementary and secondary
There are forty-two public school jurisdictions in Alberta, and seventeen operating separate school jurisdictions. Sixteen of the operating separate school jurisdictions have a Catholic electorate, and one (St. Albert
) has a Protestant electorate. In addition, one Protestant separate school district, Glen Avon, survives as a ward of the St. Paul Education Region. The City of Lloydminster straddles the Alberta/Saskatchewan border, and both the public and separate school systems in that city are counted in the above numbers: both of them operate according to Saskatchewan law.
For many years the provincial government has funded the greater part of the cost of providing K–12 education. Prior to 1994 public and separate school boards in Alberta had the legislative authority to levy a local tax on property as a supplementary support for local education. In 1994 the government of the province eliminated this right for public school boards, but not for separate school boards. Since 1994 there has continued to be a tax on property in support of K–12 education; the difference is that the mill rate is now set by the provincial government, the money is collected by the local municipal authority and remitted to the provincial government. The relevant legislation requires that all the money raised by this property tax must go to the support of K–12 education provided by school boards. The provincial government pools the property tax funds from across the province and distributes them, according to a formula, to public and separate school jurisdictions and Francophone authorities.
and separate school boards, charter schools, and private schools all follow the Program of Studies and the curriculum approved by the provincial department of education (Alberta Education). Homeschool
tutors may choose to follow the Program of Studies or develop their own Program of Studies. Public and separate schools, charter schools, and approved private schools all employ teachers who are certificated by Alberta Education, they administer Provincial Achievement Tests and Diploma Examinations set by Alberta Education, and they may grant high school graduation certificates endorsed by Alberta Education.
There are also many private post-secondary institutions, mostly Christian Universities
, bringing the total number of universities to 12. Students may also receive government loans and grants while attending selected private institutions. There was some controversy in 2005 over the rising cost of post-secondary education for students (as opposed to taxpayers). In 2005, Premier Ralph Klein
made a promise that he would freeze tuition and look into ways of reducing schooling costs.
Alberta's health care budget was $22.5 billion during the 2018–2019 fiscal year (approximately 45% of all government spending), making it the best-funded health-care system per-capita in Canada.
Every hour the province spends more than $2.5 million, (or $60 million per day), to maintain and improve health care in the province.
Notable health, education, research, and resources facilities in Alberta, all of which are located within Calgary or Edmonton. Health centres in Calgary include:
Health centres in Edmonton include:
All public health care services funded by the Government of Alberta are delivered operationally by Alberta Health Services. AHS is the province's single health authority, established on July 1, 2008, which replaced nine regional health authorities. AHS also funds all ground ambulance services in the province, as well as the province-wide Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society
(STARS) air ambulance service.
Alberta is well-connected by air, with international airports
in both Calgary and Edmonton. Calgary International Airport
and Edmonton International Airport
are the fourth- and fifth-busiest in Canada
, respectively. Calgary's airport is a hub for WestJet Airlines
and a regional hub for Air Canada
, primarily serving the prairie provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) for connecting flights to British Columbia, eastern Canada, 15 major U.S. centres, nine European airports, one Asian airport and four destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean
Edmonton's airport acts as a hub for the Canadian north and has connections to all major Canadian airports as well as airports in the United States, Europe, Mexico, and the Caribbean .
Calgary, Edmonton, Red Deer, Medicine Hat, and Lethbridge have substantial public transit
systems. In addition to buses, Calgary and Edmonton operate light rail transit
(LRT) systems. Edmonton LRT
, which is underground in the downtown core and on the surface outside the CBD, was the first of the modern generation of light rail systems to be built in North America, while the Calgary C-Train
has one of the highest number of daily riders of any LRT system in North America.
There are more than 9,000 km (5,600 mi) of operating mainline railway in Alberta. The vast majority of this trackage is owned by the Canadian Pacific Railway
and Canadian National Railway
companies, which operate railway freight
across the province. Additional railfreight service in the province is provided by two shortline railways: the Battle River Railway
and Forty Mile Rail
. Passenger trains include Via Rail
's Canadian (Toronto–Vancouver) or Jasper–Prince Rupert trains, which use the CN mainline and pass through Jasper National Park and parallel the Yellowhead Highway during at least part of their routes. The Rocky Mountaineer
operates two sections: one from Vancouver to Banff and Calgary over CP tracks, and a section that travels over CN tracks to Jasper.
Alberta has over 181,000 km (112,000 mi) of highways and roads, of which nearly 41,000 km (25,000 mi) are paved.
The main north–south corridor is Highway 2
, which begins south of Cardston
at the Carway
border crossing and is part of the CANAMEX Corridor
. Highway 4
, which effectively extends Interstate 15
into Alberta and is the busiest U.S. gateway to the province, begins at the Coutts
border crossing and ends at Lethbridge. Highway 3
joins Lethbridge to Fort Macleod
and links Highway 2 to Highway 4. Highway 2 travels north through Fort Macleod, Calgary, Red Deer, and Edmonton.
Highway 1 (The TransCanada Highway) at Alberta Highway 22 (Cowboy Trail).
North of Edmonton, the highway continues to Athabasca
, then northwesterly along the south shore of Lesser Slave Lake
into High Prairie
, north to Peace River
, west to Fairview
and finally south to Grande Prairie
, where it ends at an interchange with Highway 43
The section of Highway 2 between Calgary and Edmonton has been named the Queen Elizabeth II Highway to commemorate the visit of the monarch in 2005.
Highway 2 is supplemented by two more highways that run parallel to it: Highway 22
, west of Highway 2, known as Cowboy Trail
, and Highway 21
, east of Highway 2. Highway 43 travels northwest into Grande Prairie and the Peace River Country
; Highway 63
travels northeast to Fort McMurray, the location of the Athabasca 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 and known as the Yellowhead Highway
), runs west from Lloydminster in eastern Alberta, through Edmonton and Jasper National Park
into British Columbia.
One of the most scenic drives is along the Icefields Parkway
, which runs for 228 km (142 mi) between Jasper and Lake Louise, with mountain ranges and glaciers on either side of its entire length. A third corridor stretches across southern Alberta; Highway 3
runs between Crowsnest Pass and Medicine Hat through Lethbridge and forms the eastern portion of the Crowsnest Highway
Another major corridor through central Alberta is Highway 11
(also known as the David Thompson
Highway), which runs east from the Saskatchewan River Crossing
in Banff National Park through Rocky Mountain House
and Red Deer
, connecting with Highway 12
20 km (12 mi) west of Stettler
. The highway connects many of the smaller towns in central Alberta with Calgary and Edmonton, as it crosses Highway 2 just west of Red Deer.
Urban stretches of Alberta's major highways and freeways are often called trails
. For example, Highway 2, the main north–south highway in the province, is called Deerfoot Trail
as it passes through Calgary but becomes Calgary Trail
(for southbound traffic) and Gateway Boulevard
(for northbound traffic) as it enters Edmonton and then turns into St. Albert Trail as it leaves Edmonton for the City of St. Albert
. Calgary, in particular, has a tradition of calling its largest urban expressways trails
and naming many of them after prominent First Nations
individuals and tribes, such as Crowchild Trail
, Deerfoot Trail, and Stoney Trail
Alberta has relationships with many provinces, states, and other entities worldwide.
- Gangwon-do, South Korea (1974)
- Hokkaido, Japan (1980)
- Heilongjiang, China (1981)
- Montana, United States (1985)
- Tyumen, Russia (1992)
- Khanty–Mansi, Russia (1995)
- Yamalo-Nenets, Russia (1997)
- Jalisco, Mexico (1999)
- Alaska, United States (2002)
- Saxony, Germany (2002)
- Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine (2004)
- Lviv, Ukraine (2005)
- California, United States (1997)
- Guangdong, China (2017)
According to a 2018 CBC article, Albertans whose annual income is less than $25,000 pay the least income tax in Canada; those that earn about $50,000 "pay more than both Ontarians and British Columbians". Residents of British Columbia who earn about $75,000 pay $1,200 less in provincial taxes than those in Alberta. Albertans who earn about $100,000, "pay less than Ontarians but still more than people in B.C." Alberta taxpayers who earn $250,000 a year or more, pay $4,000 less in provincial taxes than someone with a similar income in B.C. and "about $18,000 less than in Quebec."
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- Berry, Susan; Jack Brink (2004). Aboriginal Cultures in Alberta: Five Hundred Generations. Provincial Museum of Alberta. ISBN 0-7785-2852-9. Retrieved October 21, 2012. Alberta.
- Cavanaugh, Catherine Anne; Michael Payne; Donald Wetherell; Catherine Cavanaugh (2006). Alberta formed, Alberta transformed, Volume 1. University of Alberta Press. ISBN 1-55238-194-3. Retrieved October 21, 2012.
- Connors, Richard; Law, John M. (2005). Forging Alberta's constitutional framework. University of Alberta – Centre for Constitutional Studies. ISBN 0-88864-457-4. Retrieved October 21, 2012.
- Holt, Faye Reineberg (2009). Alberta: A History in Photographs. Heritage House ; Lancaster : Gazelle. ISBN 978-1-894974-87-5. Retrieved October 21, 2012.
- Melnyk, George (1999). The literary history of Alberta. University of Alberta Press. ISBN 0-88864-296-2. Retrieved October 21, 2012. Alberta.
- Taylor, Alison (2001). The politics of educational reform in Alberta. University of Toronto Press. ISBN 0-8020-4813-7. Retrieved October 21, 2012. Alberta.
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