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Postwar Boom in Alberta

In the postwar years, Alberta was transformed by oil. Because of oil production in southern Alberta's Turner Valley Oilfield, Alberta was the second-largest oil producer for the Commonwealth during the war. But this was only the beginning of Alberta's oil industry.

After the war, Alberta's oil production skyrocketed with the discovery of the high-yielding Leduc oilfield in 1947 and the Redwater field in 1948. Alberta's social, economic, and political destiny in the postwar years was highly influenced by the oil boom. The staggering economic growth caused by the discovery of oil attracted American immigrants and Canadians from other provinces. This provided much needed labour for Alberta's growing industrial and natural resource development and the associated and subsidiary trades. This in turn fuelled the construction of houses, roads, office buildings and other infrastructure. Service industries also expanded to accommodate the growing population. Alberta was no longer solely dependent on wheat and cattle

Calgary benefited the most from the oil boom. Nearly half of its citizens worked directly or indirectly for the oil industry. Most of the industry's headquarters, from multi-national corporations to small businesses, were located there. Calgary began to overtake Edmonton as the industrial centre of Alberta. Calgary grew rapidly as skyscrapers, suburbs, and shopping centres were built through the city. Population growth both in Edmonton and Calgary exacerbated housing shortages; veterans were returning and buying houses for their new families, while non-Albertans were immigrating to the province in hopes of benefiting from the hot economy. Not only did the cities benefit from the boom, but new towns were also founded across rural Alberta. These included Devon, Redwater, Drayton Valley, and High Level.

While economic and social change swept across postwar Alberta, provincial politics remained rather stable. The Social Credit party continued to govern the province, gaining a landslide victory in August 1944 under Premier Aberhart's successor Ernest Manning. Premier Manning, the longest serving premier of Alberta, governed from 1943 to 1968.

The Social Credit Party, under Manning's leadership, developed close ties withthe business community. The government encouraged the growth of private enterprise, particularly in the oil and natural gas industries. Premier Manning made education, health, and infrastructure priorities for his government. Despite his laissez-faire leanings, in 1946, his government began offering free medical and hospital care for seniors. Highways were built throughout the province, and Edmonton's airports were expanded in the hope of making Alberta's capital an accessible and international city.

The Second World War lifted Alberta out of a long economic depression, and Alberta's economic growth continued after the war. In the postwar years, this young western province started to gain national and international recognition. With a growing population and a wealth of resources, industrious postwar Alberta truly began to modernize and this was most evident in the province's urban centres.

References

Foran, Maxwell. Trails & Trials: Markets and Land Use in the Alberta Cattle Industry, 1881-1948. Calgary: University of Calgary Press, 2003.

The University of Calgary. “Calgary in Transition: 1947–1970.” (accessed November, 2007)

Hanson, Eric J. Financial History of Alberta, 1905–1950. PhD Thesis, Clark University, 1952.

Legislative Assembly of Alberta. “The Honourable Ernest C. Manning, 1943–68.” (accessed November, 2007)


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