Alberta - one of Canada's major commerce centres
Date: Monday, June 19 @ 15:55:50 PDT
Topic: Canada Provinces
Alberta is one of Canada's provinces. It became a province on September 1, 1905.
Alberta is located in western Canada. It is bounded
by the provinces of British Columbia on the west and Saskatchewan on the east, Northwest Territories on the north, and by the U.S. State of Montana on the south. Alberta is one of two provinces (the other being New Brunswick) to border a single U.S. state.
Flag of Alberta
The capital city of Alberta is Edmonton, located just south of the centre of the province. Calgary is the province's busiest transportation hub (road, air, and rail) and is one of Canada's major commerce centres. Edmonton is the transporation centre for passenger rail and access to Canada's north. According to recent population estimates, these two metropolitan areas have now both exceeded 1 million people; Calgary is slightly more populous than Edmonton. Other major but much smaller municipalities include Red Deer, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Fort McMurray, Grande Prairie, Camrose, Lloydminster, Wetaskiwin, Banff, and Jasper.
The Premier of the province is Hon. Ralph Klein, Progressive Conservative. See also List of Alberta Premiers.
Alberta is named after Princess Louise Caroline Alberta (1848-1939), the fourth daughter of Queen Victoria. 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, and covers an area of 661,190 km² (255,287 mi²). To the south, it borders the US state of Montana at a latitude of 49°N, or the 49th Parallel. To the east at a longitude of 110°W, it borders the province of Saskatchewan. At 60°N, it is bordered by 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° W, at which point the border follows this meridian to 60°N.
With the exception of the southeastern section, the province is 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 three large lakes and a multitude of smaller lakes less than 260 km² each. Part of Lake Athabasca (7898 km²) lies in the province of Saskatchewan. Lake Claire (1436 km²) lies just west of Lake Athabasca in Wood Buffalo National Park. Lesser Slave Lake (1168 km²) is northwest of Edmonton.
Because 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 the 49th and 60th parallels. It is also further influenced by its elevation since the province is a high plateau. The elevation ranges from about 1000 metres in the south (Calgary and Red Deer are both about 1000 metres) to 650 metres in the north. The presence of a wall of mountains on the west and open prairies on the east also influences the weather.
Northern Alberta is mostly covered by boreal forest and has fewer frost-free days than southern Alberta, which is often semi-arid due to the summer heat and much lower rainfall. Western Alberta is protected by the mountains, and enjoys the warmth brought by winter chinook winds, while southeastern Alberta is a generally flat, dry prairie with some hills, where temperatures are most extreme. They can range from very cold (−35°C (−31°F) or lower in the winter) to very hot (38°C (100°F) or higher in the summer). 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 southern Ontario, Central Alberta is the most likely region in Canada to experience tornadoes. 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, due to the role of orographic lifting from the nearby Rocky Mountains which enhances the updraft/downdraft cycle necessary for the formation of hail.
Overall, Alberta has cold winters, with a temperature average of about −10°C (14°F) in the south to −24°C (−12°F) in the north. In the summer, the average temperatures range from 13°C (55°F) in the Rocky Mountains to 19°C (67°F) in the dry prairie to the southeast. The northern and western parts of the province experience higher rainfall and lower evaporation rates caused by cooler summer temperatures. Alberta experiences a good amount of sunshine for its northern location; the east-central part of the province is one of the sunniest places in Canada with an average of over 2,500 hours a year.
Alberta's capital city, Edmonton, is located almost in the geographic centre of the province, and most of Alberta's oil is refined here. Southern Alberta, where Calgary is located, is known for its ranching. Much of the unforested part of Alberta is given over either to grain or to dairy farming, with ranching predominantly a southern Alberta industry.
In southeastern Alberta, where the Red Deer River traverses the flat prairie and farmland, are the Alberta badlands with deep gorges and striking landforms. Dinosaur Provincial Park, near Drumheller, Alberta, showcases the badlands terrain, desert flora, and remnants from Alberta's past when dinosaurs roamed the then lush landscape.
Alberta is one of only two Canadian provinces to have no maritime coast (the other being the neighbouring province of Saskatchewan.)
The economy of Alberta is the strongest in Canada, supported by agriculture and technology, but primarily by the burgeoning petroleum industry. The per capita GDP (nominal) is by far the highest of all provinces in Canada, at C$66,279.
The Calgary-Edmonton Corridor is the most urbanized region in the province and one of the densest in Canada. Measured from north to south, the region covers a distance of roughly 400 kilometres. In 2001, the population of the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor was nearly 2.2 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 is 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 GDP per capita in the corridor is 10 percent above average U.S. metropolitan areas and 40 percent above other Canadian cities.
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 originated and was developed in Alberta. 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.
Another factor determining the viability of oil extraction from the Tar Sands is the price of oil. In 2005, record oil prices have made it more than profitable to extract this oil, which in the past would give little profit or even a loss.
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 (unlike Edmonton, Calgary is not close to any large sources of oil).
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, 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 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, oriented strand board (OSB) and plywood, and several northern Alberta plants supply North America and the Pacific Rim nations with bleached wood pulp and newsprint.
Politics of Alberta
The government of Alberta is organized as a parliamentary democracy with a unicameral legislature and a bicameral government. Its unicameral legislature -- the Legislative Assembly -- consists of 83 members. The bicameral nature of Alberta's government is represented by locally elected municipal and school government which is not a third order of government but is separated from the (primary) provincial government.
As Canada's head of state, Queen Elizabeth II is the head of state for the Government of Alberta. Her duties in Alberta are carried out by Lieutenant Governor, Norman Kwong. The government is headed by the Premier, Ralph Klein, who is the Chief Executive Officer of the Government of Alberta.
Alberta's Legislative Building in Edmonton.As is always the case in a parliamentary system of government, the Premier is a Member of the Legislative Assembly, and he draws all the members of his 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 province's revenue comes mainly from the taxation of oil, natural gas, beef, softwood lumber, and wheat, but also includes a tax on corporate and personal income, gaming revenue, and 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 and school jurisdictions have their own governments which (usually) work in co-operation with the provincial government.
Alberta's elections tend to yield results which are much more conservative than those of other Canadian provinces. Alberta has traditionally had three political parties, the Progressive Conservatives ("Conservatives" or "Tories"), the 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 1971. Since that time, no other political party has governed Alberta. In fact, only four 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, and the currently-governing Progressive Conservative Party, from 1971 to the present.
As is the case with many western Canadian provinces, Alberta has had occasional bouts of separatist sentiment. Even during the 1980s, when these feelings were at their strongest, there has never been enough interest in secession to initiate any major movements or referenda. There are a number of groups wishing to promote the independence of Alberta in some form currently active in the province. See also: Alberta separatism.
In the 2004 provincial election, held in November, the Progressive Conservative Party was re-elected as a majority government (62 Members), the Liberal Party of Alberta was elected as the Official Opposition (16 Members), the New Democratic Party elected four Members, and the Alberta Alliance Party, running to the right of the Conservatives, won one seat.
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/or regulate universities, colleges, technical institutions and other educational forms and institutions (public charter schools, private schools, home schooling).
Alberta has over 180,000 km of highways and roads, of which nearly 50,000 km are paved. The main north-south corridor is Highway 2, which begins south of Cardston at the Carway border crossing. Highway 4, which effectively extends U.S. Interstate Highway 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 4 to Highway 2. Highway 2 travels northward through Fort Macleod, Calgary, Red Deer, and Edmonton before dividing into two highways. 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. Past Edmonton, one branch continues northwest as Highway 43 into Grande Prairie and the Peace River Country; the other (Highway 63) travels northeast to Fort McMurray, the location of the Athabasca Oil Sands. Highway 2 is supplimented by two more highways that run parallel to it: Highway 22, west of highway 2, known as "the cowboy trail," and Highway 21, east of highway 2.
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 (Highway 16), runs west from Lloydminster in eastern Alberta, through Edmonton and Jasper National Park 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, Calgary Trail as it leaves Edmonton southbound, and St. Albert Trail as it leaves Edmonton northbound toward the city of St. Albert. 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.
Edmonton, Calgary, Red Deer, Medicine Hat, and Lethbridge have substantial mass transit systems. Edmonton and Calgary also 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 fourth busiest in Canada. It is a hub airport for a significant proportion of the connecting trans-border and international flights into and out of central Canada. There are over 9000 km of operating mainline railway, and many tourists see Alberta aboard Via Rail or Rocky Mountain Railtours.
Culture of Alberta
Alberta is well known for its warm and outgoing friendliness and frontier spirit.
Whyte Avenue, Edmonton.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 Edmonton's 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 and Irish descent, and there are also large numbers of Germans, Ukrainians, and Scandinavians.
Both cities heavily support first-class Canadian Football League and National Hockey League teams. Soccer, rugby union and lacrosse are also played professionally in Alberta.
Tourism in Alberta
Stephen Avenue, Calgary.Alberta has been a tourist destination from the early days of the 20th Century, with attractions including outdoor locales for skiing, hiking and camping, shopping locales such as West Edmonton Mall, outdoor festivals, professional athletic events, international sporting competitions such as the Commonwealth Games and Olympic Games, as well as more eclectic attractions.
A million visitors come to Alberta each year just for Calgary's world-famous Stampede, a celebration of Canada's own Wild West and the cattle ranching industry, as well as Edmonton's Klondike Days (recently renamed 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.
Only an hour's drive from the Rocky Mountains, Calgary also makes a visit to tourist attractions such as 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.
Alberta has enjoyed a relatively high rate of growth in recent years, due in large part to its burgeoning economy. Between 2003 and 2004, the province saw high birthrates (on par with some larger provinces such as British Columbia), relatively high immigration, and a high rate of interprovincial migration when compared to other provinces . As of late 2005, the population of the province was 3,306,359 (Albertans). 81% of this population lives in urban areas and 19% is rural. The Calgary-Edmonton Corridor is the most urbanized area in the province and one of the densest in Canada. Many of Alberta's cities and towns have also experienced very high rates of growth in recent history.
Classiclady June 19, 2006