Named for Queen Victoria's consort, Prince Albert was founded in 1866 as a Presbyterian mission. Its character changed dramatically with the selection of a route through the valley of the North Saskatchewan for the proposed transcontinental railway.
Prince Albert, Sask, incorporated as a city in 1904, population 35 129 (2011c), 34 127 (2006c). The City of Prince Albert is located on the south shore of the North Saskatchewan River near the geographical centre of the province 141 km north of Saskatoon. Saskatchewan's "Gateway to the North," Prince Albert has the open prairie to the south and lakes and forests to the north. Saskatchewan's third largest city, Prince Albert is governed by a mayor and 8 councillors.
Named for Queen Victoria's consort, Prince Albert was founded in 1866 as a Presbyterian mission. Its character changed dramatically with the selection of a route through the valley of the North Saskatchewan for the proposed transcontinental railway. Prince Albert grew rapidly, but the boom collapsed when the Canadian Pacific Railway adopted a more southerly route.
After the turn of the century Prince Albert embarked on a scheme to harness nearby La Colle Falls, in the confident expectation that inexpensive electric power would attract industry. These dreams were never to be realized, however, and the project brought Prince Albert to the verge of bankruptcy.
For 4 decades the city marked time, but resource development and the growth of tourism at Prince Albert National Park and the many lakes north of the city have revived its economy since 1945. Some of the richest deposits of gold and uranium in North America have been identified to the north and numerous mining companies are now using Prince Albert as a supply and service base.
The majority of the population is native born, and most inhabitants are of either British or Aboriginal ancestry. People of French, Ukrainian and German ancestry form sizable groups as well. The largest religious denominations are Roman Catholic, United Church, Anglican, Lutheran and Presbyterian.
A pulp and paper mill is one of the largest employers in Prince Albert and district. The city has established itself as the key health, education, retail and commercial service centre for central and northern Saskatchewan, catering to the agricultural, forestry, tourism and mining industries. It is the southern gateway to Prince Albert National Park. Prince Albert is also well-known in western Canada for its penal institutions. A federal penitentiary, men's and women's correctional facilities, and a young offenders' institution harbour more than 700 prisoners.
Prince Albert is served by an airport, a branch of CN, over 20 transport companies and one bus line.
The northernmost campuses of the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology and First Nations University of Canada are located in Prince Albert. The E.A. Rawlinson Centre for the Arts (2003), the city's most important cultural institution, houses an art gallery and theatre. The Prince Albert Arts Centre occupies the former town hall and opera house (1893, designated national historic site 1984). The Prince Albert Historical Society operates 3 museums, Diefenbaker House and a number of other sites of historical interest. The city is served by one community cable company, an English-language TV station, 3 radio stations and a daily newspaper, the Prince Albert Daily Herald. The city has a junior hockey team, the Raiders.
Three prime ministers have represented Prince Albert in the House of Commons: Wilfrid Laurier, Mackenzie King and John Diefenbaker. Laurier won the Saskatchewan riding (today's Prince Albert) in 1896 but only held the seat for a very short period of time: 18 days. On 11 July 1896, he vacated that seat, choosing instead to sit in Québec East, where he had also won.
King and Diefenbaker managed to hold onto the position for considerably longer. After losing his North York constituency in Ontario, King was subsequently elected in a by-election in Prince Albert, after the riding's Member of Parliament (MP), Charles McDonald, created a vacancy by resigning. King held the post from 1926 until 1945. Diefenbaker served as Prince Albert's MP from 1953 until 1979. Of the 3 prime ministers, he was the only one who was a long-term resident of Prince Albert.
G.W.D. Abrams, Prince Albert: The First Century, 1866-1966 (1966); Brock V. Silversides, Gateway to the North: A Pictorial History of Prince Albert (1989).