Alberta is a province of contrasts. Some 90% encompasses the North American interior plain with vast forested areas in the north and grasslands in the south. It is the fourth largest Canadian province at 255,000 square miles, making it roughly the same size as Texas.
It is one of only two provinces that are landlocked and despite it being in the continental interior and thus being prone to cold, long winters, Environment Canada ranks it has having the most comfortable weather, overall, in Canada. It also enjoys the most sunshine, receiving more than 2,300 hours of sun on average each year.
The British have had a strong influence on the ethnic mix of Alberta, with nearly 27% claiming English origins, Scots 20.3% and Irish nearly 17%. There are a number of other significant minorities but the Scots have had a powerful influence, especially with the naming of places such as Banff, stunningly situated in the mountains.
The economy of Alberta has many strengths, not least its powerful energy sector. Such has been the boom in this particular sector that Alberta is driving overall economic activity in Canada. It has attracted high levels of immigration (for example, since 1976-77, when records began, Alberta has a seen a net inflow of 483,600 from the rest of the country whilst Quebec has seen an outflow of 465,400.
Ontario had in inflow of around 63,000, just 13% that of Alberta and the province’s gross domestic product per capita is forecast to reach $88,000 next year, more than $35,000 higher than the rest of Canada.
With more than 60% of Canada’s conventional crude reserves and all of its heavy oil and oil sands reserves (Alberta has the third largest proven crude oil reserves in the world after Saudi Arabia and Venezuela) , the economic future for Alberta looks assured. This is also reflected in the unemployment rate of 4.5% versus that of 7.1% in the country as a whole.
Whilst Edmonton is the capital, the real driver of the economy is Calgary, situated in the plains just one hour to the east of the Rockies. A recent review of prosperity placed Calgary above Toronto based on superior growth for income and jobs as well as for lower taxes.