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Alberta Online Encyclopedia

Urban Corridors

Despite significant inroads into manufacturing, communications and technology, Alberta's economy remains heavily focused on the export of natural resources. Prior to World War II, Europe and the rest of Canada were Alberta's biggest markets. However, globalization and actions such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) have opened the world to imports of Alberta wheat, beef, timber, oil and gas. Yet, 80 percent of the population now lives in urban centres, far removed from these important industries. Fewer than one in 10 people currently work in this sector. Natural resources remain central to Alberta's economy but technology has reduced the physical number of workers required to man the industry.

Cemetery near the ghost town of MitfordThe amount of capital brought into the province by resource exports has, however, allowed Alberta's population to continue to grow. In direct contrast to the rest of Canada, retail trade, healthcare and social assistance are now one of the largest employers in the western provinces. These occupations focus on the supply of day-to-day goods and services to an increasingly urban, consumer culture.

Calgary SkylineAlbertans are currently more and more defined by the urban corridors in which they live. While the province remains less urbanized than a great deal of Canada, both Edmonton and Calgary have more than doubled in size since 1966 and now account for 62.5 percent of the provincial population. Other municipal centres, such as Lethbridge, Grande Prairie and Red Deer account for an additional 17 percent. In the past, Albertans used to travel to town to go shopping or visiting. Today, many urban Albertans cherish the fact that an escape to the countryside or the Rocky Mountains is only a short drive away.

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