Edmonton, Alta, incorporated as a city in 1904, population 812 201 (2011c), 730 372 (2006c). The capital of ALBERTA, the City Edmonton is located on the NORTH SASKATCHEWAN RIVER, near the geographical centre of the province.
Edmonton, Alta, incorporated as a city in 1904, population 812 201 (2011c), 730 372 (2006c). The capital of ALBERTA, the City Edmonton is located on the NORTH SASKATCHEWAN RIVER, near the geographical centre of the province. Commonly known as the "Gateway to the North," it is strategically situated on an economic divide between the highly productive farmlands of central Alberta and a vast, resource-rich northern hinterland.
|Edmonton: Statisical Summary|
|Population (City):||730 372 (2006c); 666 104 (2001c)|
|Population (CMA):||1 034 945 (2006c); 937 845 (2001c)|
|Rate of Increase (City):||9.6% (2001-2006); 8.1% (1996-2001)*|
|Rate of Increase (CMA):||10.4% (2001-2006); 8.7% (1996-2001)*|
|Rank in Canada (by CMA in 2006):||Sixth|
|Year of Incorporation (City):||1904|
|Land Area:||(City) 684.37 km2; (CMA) 9417.88 km2|
|Average Daily Temperature July:||17.5C|
|Average Daily Temperature January:||-11.7C|
|Yearly Precipitation:||476.9 mm|
|Hours of Sunshine Per Year:||2299.1|
|*Based on 2001 boundaries|
Edmonton's valley setting, with its abundance of water, timber and wildlife, has attracted settlement for several thousand years. The archaeological record is scanty, but in 1976 a large campsite containing stone tools from the Middle Prehistoric period (between 3000 and 500 BC) was discovered on a high bluff overlooking the North Saskatchewan River, likely a place where bands of seminomadic hunters and gatherers met regularly.
Europeans began to penetrate the western plains in the 18th century. Settlement followed in 1795, when the HUDSON'S BAY COMPANY (HBC) and the NORTH WEST COMPANY built the first of a series of fortified trading posts near the present city of FORT SASKATCHEWAN. After the 2 companies merged (1821), FORT EDMONTON became the dominant centre of the western fur trade. The fort was reputedly named for Edmonton, now part of London, England, the birthplace of a deputy governor of the HBC. In 1830 the fort was rebuilt for the last time, on the present site of the Alberta Legislature Building. It gradually fell into disuse after the HBC surrendered its rights to RUPERT'S LAND (1870).
Permanent settlement outside the fort did not begin until the 1870s, and even then was slow to develop. The construction of the CANADIAN PACIFIC RAILWAY through CALGARY (1883) did not help. A branch railway came north in 1891, but it terminated at Strathcona, a community on the south bank of the North Saskatchewan River. Edmonton did not receive its own transcontinental connection (Canadian Northern Railway) until 1905. By then, it had also been selected to be the capital of the newly created province of Alberta and was emerging as the natural service centre for a huge agricultural region into which settlers were then flooding.
With Strathcona, Edmonton entered a frantic boom period. When the 2 cities amalgamated (1912), their combined population was over 50 000 and may have reached 75 000 soon after, only to drop to 50 000 during World War I. For the next 25 years Edmonton's fortunes were closely linked with those of its agricultural hinterland. It grew in the good times, stagnated or declined in the bad. By 1941 it was still a small city (93 800), only the ninth largest in Canada. Its economy was built around regional wholesale trade, transportation and the processing of agricultural produce, notably meat packing. The only significant change in this period was Edmonton's new role as an air transport centre, both for trans-Canada flights and for BUSH FLYING into the North.
During World War II Edmonton began a sustained period of growth and assumed a distinctive new character: first as a strategic centre for northern military operations, including the construction of the ALASKA HIGHWAY, and later as a servicing and processing centre for the petroleum industry. It has since become the major location of oil refining and the petrochemical industry in Western Canada, and by 1981 was Canada's fifth-largest city (by CMA). It lost that position to Calgary in 2001, and together the 2 cities have completely overshadowed WINNIPEG, the historic commercial centre of the Prairie region.
Today, Edmonton and Calgary have competed more with each other than with Winnipeg for economic development. Edmonton also has to compete more directly with VANCOUVER, as it seeks to expand its influence in Pacific Rim countries, while Vancouver has intruded upon Edmonton's traditional sphere of influence in the Mackenzie Valley and western Arctic.
In the process of growth, the city of 1941 has been engulfed. The main street of Strathcona was a rare exception and is protected today as part of the Old Strathcona conservation area. Edmonton's central area, by contrast, has been rebuilt continually since the 1950s. A few noteworthy buildings have survived and several have been restored to fashionable use, but they are dwarfed by the clustered towers that now dominate the Edmonton skyline. Only a few older buildings on open riverbank sites (the Legislature Building, Government House and the Macdonald Hotel) have retained some prominence.
The river valley, which is Edmonton's outstanding natural feature, has had a profound influence. It is both a barrier, crossed by many bridges, and a magnificent amenity. High-rise apartments and elite residential areas compete along both banks for views of the river, and parks, golf courses and woodland trails stretch through the valley. Modern architecture, typified in the descending terraces of the Shaw Conference Centre, complements the valley setting. Downstream (northeast) to Fort Saskatchewan and beyond, the valley has developed over the past 50 years into the largest industrial complex in Alberta.
Fort Saskatchewan's industrial base makes it unusual; most of Edmonton's other satellites are bedroom communities for people working throughout the widespread metropolitan region. Metropolitan development came with postwar growth and led in 1950 to the establishment of the first regional planning organization in Canada. A city planning department was created at the same time and has been especially successful in ensuring that Edmonton's many new residential communities have been carefully designed.
Edmonton has not completely avoided the problems of urban sprawl that beset other Canadian cities, but in general its development has been well managed, even during periods of rapid growth. Its territory has been greatly enlarged as well, from 110 km2 in 1941 to 683.88 km2 in 2001, when it was the fourth-largest major Canadian city in area. Unfortunately, this expansion has taken place on some of Alberta's richest farmland.
From the 1940s to the early 1980s, Edmonton was one of the fastest-growing cities in Canada. Until about 1961, natural increase was high, but migration was the chief factor in the city's growth, as rural-urban migration from within Alberta and migration from Europe were both at a peak. Over the next decade, foreign migration dropped sharply and natural increase became more important, a fact reflected at the time, in the youthfulness of Edmonton's population.
The pattern changed again in the 1970s, as birthrates fell and migration increased, though the majority of migrants now came from other Canadian provinces. That largely ceased in the 1980s, and Edmonton experienced its lowest growth of modern times. Nonetheless, over the 50-year period of 1941-91, Edmonton's metropolitan population increased more than eight-fold. Since then, and especially since 1996, it has once again experienced a high rate of growth, with renewed migration both from elsewhere in Canada and from overseas.
The changing migration patterns have also affected the ethnic make-up of Edmonton's population. Although the majority is still of European origin (with people of British, German, Ukrainian and French background forming the largest groups), recent migration has brought many more people from non-European countries, especially from East and South Asia. By 2001, almost one-fifth of Edmonton's residents belonged to a visible minority. A further 5% were of Aboriginal descent, one of the largest concentrations anywhere in Canada.
Economy and Labour Force
Edmonton's economy has always been driven by resource wealth. It is the major supply and service centre for a vast territory extending from central Alberta to the Arctic Ocean. Agriculture, energy production (coal, conventional oilfields, oilsands and natural gas), forestry and, most recently, diamond mining in the Northwest Territories and Nunavut provide the staples on which Edmonton's trade and service functions are based. Processing and manufacturing have increased in importance as well, especially as Edmonton has sought to diversify its economy.
Even with these developments, Edmonton's industrial base remains heavily dependent on natural resources (eg, petroleum refining, petrochemicals, plastics, fertilizer) and the needs of resource-based industries (eg, manufacture of pipe and heavy equipment, metals fabrication), though Edmonton firms have become prominent in a variety of fields, including construction, engineering services, electricity generation, banking and retailing.
In terms of employment, Edmonton's greatest growth since 1951 has been in the tertiary or service sector. It is particularly notable as a centre for public administration (federal and provincial) and for educational and medical services of the highest calibre. In turn, these have spawned an array of high-tech industries, mainly in biotechnology and information technology, vital to the restructuring of Edmonton's economy. In the mid-1990s, military services for Western Canada were consolidated at a new "superbase" called Edmonton Garrison.
Since the 1830s Edmonton has been a major hub in the transportation network of Western Canada. As a modern rail centre, it occupies a key position in the transcontinental freight system of the Canadian National rail system, and has strong links to the CP Rail system and to VIA Rail. As a road transport centre, it has one of the most important situations in Western Canada, at the intersection of the Yellowhead Highway and Alberta's Highway 2, which leads south to Calgary and the US and north to the Alaska Highway. Edmonton also dominates the transportation system for petroleum products of all kinds, a pattern that arose from its proximity to the Leduc, REDWATER and Pembina oil fields. In the 1940s and 1950s, these were the most important oil fields in Alberta.
LEDUC is also the location of the Edmonton International Airport, opened in 1957. It caters to main-line service to Canadian, American and European cities; the original airport, near the city centre, is now restricted to charter and other non-scheduled flights. Edmonton was the first medium-sized Canadian city to construct a Light Rail Transit (LRT) system (1978). The original line has been extended several times and will eventually branch out to all the main residential districts. For now, however, most people travel around the city by private automobile and a freeway network is gradually taking shape. The first sections of a ring road encircling Edmonton have been constructed as well.
Edmonton has 2 daily newspapers, the Edmonton Journal and the Edmonton Sun, as well as 6 television stations and numerous radio stations. Together, they cover an extensive area in central and northern Alberta, while some broadcasting services reach the whole province. These include the Access Network and CKUA (both originally operated by the provincial government but now privatized) and the French-language radio and television services of CBC.
Edmonton has a small but diverse publishing industry including several book publishers and various community and trade publications.
Government and Politics
Until 1984 Edmonton had a council-commission board form of MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT, with each council serving a 3-year term. The commission board has now been replaced by an executive committee which has a rotating membership. The council comprises a mayor elected at large and 12 councillors representing 6 wards.
Candidates normally stand as independents, though party slates have occasionally achieved some success. The most notable, known as URGE (Urban Reform Group of Edmonton), originated in the citizen protest movements of the 1970s. URGE is now defunct, but it was indicative of a political pattern in which Edmonton gives the Liberal and New Democrat parties their main support in Alberta.
Edmonton has a long history of municipal ownership of utilities, going back to the 1890s. This changed radically in the 1990s, a time when government services were being privatized everywhere. First the telephone system was sold to Alberta Government Telephones (now Telus), and then the power and water utilities became EPCOR, a private company in which the city of Edmonton is sole shareholder. EPCOR now sells its services well beyond Edmonton.
Throughout its history Edmonton has generally been able to annex territory to meet its growth needs, though this has often brought it into conflict with suburban municipalities, where a quarter of the metropolitan population lives. Both REGIONAL GOVERNMENT and the unification of the metropolitan area under Edmonton's jurisdiction have been proposed at times but neither have been implemented. There are a variety of regional service agencies instead, most notably the Capital Health Authority that operates hospitals and related services throughout the metropolitan area.
The Edmonton Symphony Society, the Edmonton Opera Association and the Citadel Theatre are 3 of the largest performing arts organizations in Canada, but they are merely the most visible elements in a prolific arts scene in Edmonton. There are musical and theatrical performances for every taste, and numerous talented painters, potters, actors, directors, writers, poets, filmmakers and musicians are based in the city.
The many different ethnic groups also contribute a lively folk culture, and some 35 artistic and ethnic festivals are hosted in Edmonton every year. Among them are the Edmonton International Fringe Theatre Festival, one of the largest of its kind in the world, the Edmonton Folk Music Festival, the Jazz City International Music Festival and the Works International Visual Arts Festival. Klondike Days traces its origins back to 1879 when it began as an agricultural fair.
The chief facilities for artistic performances and displays are the Northern Alberta Jubilee Auditorium, the Edmonton Art Gallery, the Stanley A. Milner Library, the Citadel Theatre, Francis Winspear Centre for Music (1997) and the Timms Centre for the Arts (1995) of the UNIVERSITY OF ALBERTA, one of Canada's leading universities. Other major educational institutions are the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology and Grant MacEwan College. These are complemented by a range of popular facilities, including the Provincial Museum and Archives, the Muttart Conservatory, the John Janzen Nature Centre, Fort Edmonton Park and the city's science centre, Odyssium.
In sports, Edmonton professional franchises include the EDMONTON ESKIMOS of the CFL, the EDMONTON OILERS of the NHL and the Edmonton Cracker-Cats of the Northern League of baseball. The Edmonton Trappers of the Pacific Coast Baseball League played their last season in 2004.
The main facilities are Commonwealth Stadium (built for the 1978 COMMONWEALTH GAMES and expanded to 60 000 seats for the WORLD UNIVERSITY GAMES in 1983), home of the Eskimos; the Kinsmen Sports Centre (also built for the Commonwealth Games); Rexall Place, home of the Oilers; the Edmonton Northlands horse racing track and exhibition space; and Telus Field, home of the Trappers. In recent years the city has hosted a variety of international sporting events (track and field, swimming, rugby, soccer, baseball and figure skating) and it has become a regular stop on the triathlon and marathon circuits. In addition, the Canadian Finals Rodeo is held in Edmonton every year.
Bob Hesketh and Frances Swyripa Hesketh, eds, Edmonton: The Life of a City (1995); J.G. MacGregor, Edmonton: A History (1967); P.J. Smith, ed, Edmonton: The Emerging Metropolitan Pattern (1978).