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Medicine Hat Today (1981-2008)

Medicine Hat City Hall

In 1981, Medicine Hat was looking towards a bright future. Its petrochemical industry was continuing to expand. The city was buying additional gas fields and a heavy oil pilot project was being built at Suffield. In addition, Alberta Gas Chemicals built a 130 million dollar methanol unit in the city. Many existing industries were expanding and increasing their output. The commercial scene was equally prosperous, with the development of the first Canadian Tire Store in southeastern Alberta, a 20 million dollar shopping mall, and a 1 million dollar waterslide. Civic projects included a new air terminal, a bridge, a large addition to the General Hospital, an electric power plant, and a new city hall, which opened in 1983. From 1980 to 1981, the population rose to 40,000, a 5.9% increase.

However, the bubble would soon burst. The National Energy Program, introduced in 1980 by the Federal Liberals, scared away investment in Alberta's petrochemical industries and introduced punitive taxation that harmed Medicine Hat enterprises that were largely dependant on cheap natural gas. Oil, natural gas, and agricultural prices collapsed because of recessionary pressures, further devastating Medicine Hat's primary industries. Interest rates skyrocketed while stock values plummeted, punishing the financial markets. Drought once again returned to the area. Property foreclosures and unemployment reemerged. Some of the city's vital employers, like the Medicine Hat Maple Leaf Mills and the Western Co-operative Fertilizers (formerly Northwest Nitro-Chemicals) closed down permanently. The economy and the population of Medicine Hat stagnated throughout the decade.

Since the 1990s, Medicine has been growing rapidly. In 1991, the city had a population of 43,625, which grew to 56,997 by 2006. Much of this growth came between 2001 and 2006, when the population increased by 11.2%. Medicine Hat remains the natural gas capital of Alberta, and it has the distinction of owning its own gas utilities and power generation plant. Medicine Hat also prides itself on being one of the cheapest places in Alberta to live. Low taxes continue to draw major industries, particularly in the oil and gas sector. In addition, the Canadian Forces Base at Suffield, 50 kilometres northwest of the city, is a major contributor to the local economy. Because of this economic growth, Medicine Hat has been rapidly developing infrastructure such as roads and water lines, to accommodate expansion at its western and southern edges.

Medicine Hat has recently gained two important attractions. In 1985, the Medicine Hat Clay Industries district became a National Historic Site. It is now a living, working museum centering on Medalta Potteries and the Hycroft China Factory Complexes. More recently, in 2005, the Esplanade Arts and Heritage Centre opened, a state of the art facility featuring an art gallery, museum, archives, discovery centre, and two performing arts theatres.

The City of Medicine Hat is served by the Medicine Hat Real Estate Board, made up of 130 REALTORS® from Medicine Hat, Dunmore, Seven Persons, Redcliff, and Irvine.


Gould, Ed. Medicine Hat: All Hell for a Basement. Medicine Hat: City of Medicine Hat, 1981.

Jones, David C., L.J. Roy Wilson, and Donny White. The Weather Factory: A Pictorial History of Medicine Hat. Saskatoon: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1988.

Medicine Hat: Our Unforgettable History, 1885-2005. Medicine Hat News.

Medicine Hat. Wikipedia. Retrieved December 19, 2008.

Medicine Hat Real Estate Board. MHREB. Retrieved December 19, 2008.

Medicine Hat, the Gas City. Medicine Hat: Business. Retrieved December 19, 2008.

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