Alberta on way to becoming third largest province in Canada

After having overtaken Saskatchewan in the 1930s, Alberta has been by far the most populous province on the Canadian Prairies.

British Columbia, however, holds the title for all of western Canada, but if current growth rates continue, Alberta could capture that prize, too.

The gap between the population of B.C. and Alberta peaked in 1997 when B.C. reached 3.95 million – almost 1.2 million more souls than those living in Alberta. But since that point, Alberta’s population growth has shifted into high gear. B.C.’s growth, on the other hand, has been slower.

Over the last 15 years, Alberta’s population has expanded by 37%, reaching 3.87 million in the third quarter of 2012. At the same time, B.C.’s population has grown by only 17%.

Much of Alberta’s swelling population has been driven by a hot job market (albeit interrupted temporarily during the downturn of 2009-2010). B.C.’s growth, by contrast, has been due more to international immigration, as well as demographics. Victoria and Kelowna are popular cities in which to retire.

There is no guarantee that either province will continue to grow at the same pace. B.C., for example, could see its rate pick up as more Canadian baby boomers enter retirement. And Alberta’s strong job market shows no sign of easing up. But if both provinces do continue to grow at these rates, Alberta will surpass B.C. and become the third largest province in Canada by the year 2029.

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