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Provincial Powers

The control over natural resources transferSections 91, 92, 93 and 95 of the British North America Act establish guidelines for separating federal and provincial areas of responsibility.  In the words of Sir John A. Macdonald, "All matters of general interest are to be dealt with by the general [that is, federal] legislature, while local [or provincial] legislatures will deal with matters of local interest."  "General" interests under the act included national defense, foreign policy, criminal law, and the regulation of trade and commerce, while "local" interests included health, municipal government and social services.

In theory all provinces were equal, but Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta Alberta's natural resources all entered Confederation with fewer powers than other provinces.  None of them controlled Crown lands, mines or mineral resources within their boundaries.  Instead the federal government gave grants in lieu of natural resource revenue.  At first this policy produced little opposition because it allowed the federal government to use land grants to encourage rapid immigration and settlement.  However, by World War I growing numbers of Albertans found the policy irritating and demeaning.  Ranchers and oil developers in particular argued that the province could do a better job managing its own resources.  The issue became a major source of contention, and in 1930 the federal government finally transferred its control of natural resources to the province under the Alberta Natural Resources Act.  It took 25 years to accomplish, but Alberta was a constitutional equal at last.

Ranchers in Alberta



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