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Ontarians have been important and influential in the formation of Alberta as a province. Although many other groups have contributed to the culture and identity of Alberta, Ontarians have been one of the most formative groups with respect to the shaping of Albertan society, its politics and its industry - so much so that at one point Alberta was referred to as Rural Ontario West. 

In 1870 the Dominion of Canada purchased an area referred to as the Northwest and shortly after began to negotiate treaties with the First Nations peoples of the region with an eye to opening up their new territory to settlement and, hopefully, agricultural industry. By 1880 tens of thousands of Ontarians began migrating westward to set up homesteads. Many, indeed, became farmers but many more became prominent politicians, civil servants and journalists.   The move of Ontarians into the region was of such mass proportions that between 1881 and 1891 the white population of the Northwest skyrocketed from just over 1,000 up to 17, 000, the majority of which were Ontarians. By 1889, the Canadian Pacific Railway had completed its line from Quebec, to Ontario, across the prairies and to present-day Alberta. This provided the people of Quebec and Ontario with even more incentive to move west to take advantage of the opportunities that no-doubt were available in the developing region.

The peak of Ontarian migration occurred between 1891 and 1910 when the population of Alberta grew from approximately 25,000 to over 375,000. As the federal government pushed its National Policy to the extreme, soliciting settlers from around the world. While the arrival of migrants from Ontario did a great service to settling the west and establishing the hallmarks of civil society including a legislature, provincial policing, educational facilities and organized regional government, the experience was not without its drawbacks. For years prior to the arrival of the Ontarians the Francophone community had flourished in Alberta. The first European language to be spoken and taught in the territories was French and the Francophones had established several communities, missions and schools to administer to their needs. The onslaught of Ontarians to the region was perceived as a great threat to the Francophone way of life in the west and spawned an insecurity that would poison relations between French and English in the region for decades to come.

The 1920s witnessed the continued migration of Ontarians to Alberta once the Canadian Pacific Railway's harvester excursions began.  By 1925, nearly 55, 000 temporary workers were arriving in Alberta each fall to help with the harvest. The Depression and stock market crash that ushered in the 1930s his Alberta hard and many Ontarians moved out of the province to find work elsewhere, making the 1930s the decade that saw the fewest numbers of Ontarians residing in Alberta. The next wave of Ontarian migration to Alberta coincided with the Leduc #1 oil strike in 1947. The oil strike itself is considered one of the most important economic events in Canadian history and it brought with it renewed excitement for Alberta's economy. The oil strike kick-started the oil industry in Alberta and created jobs for skilled labour which, in turn, began once again to attract migrants from Ontario. A new wave of people from Ontario made the journey to this province that had once again brought hope of being the "promised land". This time, however, the newcomers from Ontario did not dominate the Albertan landscape as they once did. The formation of Alberta and its modern identity continues to show the influences of the liberal Anglo-Saxon Ontario culture, but now, Ontarians coming to Alberta simply add to the province's distinctive identity without dominating or directing it.

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