Alberta is located in western Canada and is one of Canada's three Prairie Provinces. It is bounded by the provinces of British Columbia to the west and Saskatchewan to the east, the Northwest Territories to the north, and the U.S. state of Montana to the south. Alberta is one of three Canadian provinces and territories to border only a single U.S. state and is also one of only two provinces that are landlocked.
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.
Alberta's capital city, Edmonton, is located approximately in 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 located approximately 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 dry 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. In the summer, continental air masses produce maximum temperatures from 32 °C (90 °F) in the mountains to 40 °C (104 °F) in southern Alberta.
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 causes 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. 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.
Satellite image of wildfires in Alberta
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 and sometimes resulting in flooding. Alberta is a sunny province. Annual bright sunshine totals range between 1900 up to just under 2600 hours per year. Northern Alberta gets about 18 hours of daylight in the summer.
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 have a semi-aridsteppe 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.
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 four climatic regions (alpine, boreal forest, parkland, 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, 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 populated with pike, walleye, whitefish, rainbow, speckled, browntrout, and sturgeon. Bull Trout, native to the province, is the 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.
Alberta has one of the greatest diversities and abundances of Late Cretaceous dinosaur fossils in the world.Taxa are represented by complete fossil skeletons, isolated material, microvertebrate remains, and even mass graves. At least 38 dinosaur type specimens are known from the province. The Foremost Formation, Oldman Formation and Dinosaur Park Formations collectively comprise the Judith River Group and are the most thoroughly studied dinosaur bearing strata in Alberta. The stratigraphy of the Judith River Group has a confusing history due partly to the use of the Montana-Alberta border as an artificial division between equivalent strata. The modern Judith River Group stratigraphy was not finalized until 1993 when Eberth and Hamblin divided the Oldman Formation in two to create the new Dinosaur Park Formation. The resulting paleontological confusion was resolved by Phil Currie who relocated old quarries dinosaurs had been found in and determined their distribution within the modern stratigraphic framework.
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 Canyonfacies. 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 Formations 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 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 Northwest Territories.
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.
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, Elbow, Highwood and Oldman 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.
Alberta's population has grown steadily for over a century.
In the 2011 census, Alberta had a population of 3,645,257 living in 1,390,275 of its 1,505,007 total dwellings, a 10.8% change from its 2006 population of 3,290,350. With a land area of 640,081.87 km2 (247,136.99 sq mi), it had a population density of 5.7/km2 (14.7/sq mi) in 2011. In 2013, Statistics Canada estimated the province's population to be 4,025,073.
Alberta has experienced a relatively high rate of growth in recent years, 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 when compared to other provinces.
Approximately 81% of the population live in urban areas and only about 19% live 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 also experienced very high rates of growth in recent history. Over the past century, Alberta's population rose from 73,022 in 1901 to 2,974,807 in 2001 and 3,290,350 according to the 2006 census.
English is the most common mother tongue of Albertans.
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 province's population. The next most common mother tongues were various Chinese languages 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 (in decreasing order) 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%); Persian 7,700 (0.24%); Portuguese 7,205 (0.22%); and Hungarian 6,770 (0.21%). (Figures shown are for the number of single language responses and the percentage of total single-language responses.)
Alberta has considerable ethnic diversity. In line with the rest of Canada, many immigrants originated from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, but large numbers also came from other parts of Europe, notably Germany, France, Ukraine and Scandinavia. 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.
As reported in the 2001 census, the Chinese represented nearly four percent of Alberta's population, and East Indians 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.
Amongst those of British origins, the Scots have had a particularly strong influence on place-names, with the names of many cities and towns including Calgary, Airdrie, Canmore, and Banff having Scottish origins.
Alberta has a large number of different religions, of which Catholicism is the most common.
Aboriginal Identity Peoples make up 5.8% of the population, about half of whom consist of North American Indians and the other half are Metis. 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 Canada 2001 Census the largest religious group was Roman Catholic, representing 25.7% of the population. Alberta had the second highest percentage of non-religious residents in Canada (after British Columbia) at 23.1% of the population. Of the remainder, 13.5% of the population identified themselves as belonging to the United Church of Canada, while 5.9% were Anglican. Lutherans made up 4.8% of the population while Baptists comprised 2.5%.
Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus live in Alberta. Muslims constituted 1.7% of the population, Sikhs 0.8% and Hindus 0.5%. Many of these are recent 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. Jews constituted 0.4% of Alberta's population. Most of Alberta's 13,000 Jews live in Calgary (7,500) and Edmonton (5,000).
Alberta's economy is one of the strongest in Canada, supported by the burgeoning petroleum industry and to a lesser extent, agriculture and technology. The per capita GDP in 2007 was by far the highest of any province in Canada at C$74,825. This was 61% higher than the national average of C$46,441 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).
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 the second freest economy amongst U.S. states and Canadian provinces. The government of Alberta has invested its earnings wisely; as of 30 September 2013, official statistics reported nearly 500 holdings.
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 and vinyl 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.
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 systems. With a growing economy, Alberta has several financial institutions dealing with civil and private funds.
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 and fireweed. Hybrid canola also requires bee pollination, and some beekeepers service this need.
According to Alberta Economic Development, Calgary and Edmonton both host over four million visitors annually. Banff, Jasper 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 international countries.
About 1.2 million people visit the of 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 Yukongold 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.
Located 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.
Locally municipal governments and school boards are elected and operate separately. Their boundaries do not necessarily coincide. Municipalities where the same body act as both local government and school board are formally referred to as "counties" in Alberta.
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 Donald Ethell. Although the lieutenant governor is technically the most powerful person in Alberta, he is in reality a figurehead whose actions are restricted by custom and constitutional convention. The government is therefore headed by the premier. The current premier is Dave Hancock who was appointed as the interim leader of the governing Progressive Conservatives on March 20, 2014. Hancock was sworn in as the 15th Premier of Alberta on March 23, 2014. 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.
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. 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.
Alberta has had occasional surges in 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 referendums. There are several currently active groups wishing to promote the independence of Alberta in some form.
The April 23, 2012 election returned the Progressive Conservative Party to government, making leader Alison Redford Alberta's first elected female premier. In the 2012 provincial election, held on April 23, 2012, the Progressive Conservative Party was re-elected as a majority government and party leader Alison Redford retained as premier with 43.9% of the vote and 61 of 87 seats (The Legislative Assembly added 4 seats, increasing the total to 87, with the 2012 election), the Wildrose Party led by Danielle Smith was elected as the Official Opposition with 34.3% of the vote and 17 members (replacing the Liberal Party), five Liberals were elected with 9.9% of the vote and four NDP members were elected with 9.8% of the vote.
Government revenue comes 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%). Albertans are the lowest-taxed people in Canada, and Alberta is the only province in Canada without a provincial sales tax (but residents are still subject to the federal sales tax, the Goods and Services Tax of 5%). It is also the only Canadian province to have a flat tax for personal income taxes, which is 10% of taxable income.
The Alberta personal income tax system maintains a progressive character by granting residents personal tax exemptions of $17,787, 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.
Alberta also privatized alcohol distribution. The privatization 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.
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.
Alberta has over 181,000 km (112,468 mi) of highways and roads, of which nearly 41,000 km (25,476 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 4 to Highway 2. Highway 2 travels northward through Fort Macleod, Calgary, Red Deer, and Edmonton.
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 (Highway 16), 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.
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 expresswaystrails and naming many of them after prominent First Nations individuals and tribes, such as Crowchild Trail, Deerfoot Trail, and Stoney Trail.
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 of it, 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.
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. Calgary's airport primarily serves the Canadian prairie provinces (Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba) for connecting flights to British Columbia, eastern Canada, 15 major US 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 10 major US airports, 3 European airports and 6 Mexican and Caribbean airports.
There are more than 9,000 km (5,592 mi) of operating mainline railway; the Canadian Pacific Railway and Canadian National Railway companies operate railway freight across the province. 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's health care budget is currently $17.1 billion during the 2013–2014 fiscal year (approximately 45% of all government spending), making it the best funded health care system per-capita in Canada. Every hour more than $1.9 million is spent on health care in the province.
The Edmonton Clinic complex, completed in 2012, provides a similar research, education, and care environment as the Mayo Clinic in the United States.
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 local health authorities. AHS also funds all ground ambulance services in the province, as well as the province-wide STARS (Shock Trauma Air Rescue Society) air ambulance service.
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).
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.
Public 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 is also a large and active private sector of post-secondary institutions, mostly Christian Universities, bringing the total number of universities to twelve, plus a DeVry University in Calgary, the only location in Canada. Students may also receive government loans and grants while attending selected private institutions. There has been some controversy in recent years 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. So far, no plan has been released by the Government of Alberta.
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.
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