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Collage of peopleThe 1990s were a period of tremendous change. Seemingly overnight, a global environment emerged through trade liberalization, international mobility and communications, and technological advancement. It is in this global environment that western Canadians must learn to live and grow. But to do so, we first need to know who we are and where we stand on the national and international stage. What are the West's current economic and demographic strengths? What are our weaknesses? What can we learn from recent social and economic trends that will help us to plan the course ahead?

Just what is the West?

To begin to address these questions we first must agree on what it means to be a western Canadian. In many cases, the West is an identity that has shifting and even elusive boundaries-sometimes it expands to include the northern territories, and sometimes it contracts to embrace only individual provinces. For our purposes, however, the West will be defined as the provinces of Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia.

The West of today is not the same as that of years gone by. It is a region of great economic and political importance to the national community with strong urban centres and a diversified economy. The population has also changed, infused with a variety of ethnic backgrounds, cultures and skill sets, and an array of generational perspectives and priorities.
Excerpts reprinted from Robert Roach and Loleen Berdahl, State of the West: Western Canadian Demographic and Economic Trends (Calgary: Canada West Foundation: 2001), with permission from the Canada West Foundation.
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