Alberta is a western province of Canada. With a population of 3,645,257 in 2011 and an estimated population of 4,145,992 as of October 1, 2014, it is Canada's fourth-most populous province and most populous of Canada's three prairie provinces. Alberta and its neighbour, Saskatchewan, were established as provinces on September 1, 1905. The current Premier of the province is Jim Prentice.
It is bounded by the provinces of British Columbia to the west and Saskatchewan to the east, the Northwest Territories to the north, and the U.S. state of Montana to the south. Alberta is one of three Canadian provinces and territories to border only a single U.S. state and is also one of only two provinces that are landlocked.
Edmonton, the capital city of Alberta, is located near the geographic centre of the province and is the primary supply and service hub for Canada's crude oil,oil sands (Athabasca oil sands) and other northern resource industries. Approximately 290 km (180 mi) south of the capital is Calgary, Alberta's largest city. Calgary and Edmonton centre Alberta's two census metropolitan areas, both of which have populations exceeding one million, while the province has16 census agglomerations. Notable tourist destinations in the province include Banff, Canmore, Drumheller, Jasper and Sylvan Lake.
Alberta, with an area of 661,848 km2 (255,500 sq mi), is the fourth largest province afterQuebec, Ontario, and British Columbia. To the south, the province borders on the 49th parallel north, separating it from the U.S. state of Montana, while on the north the 60th parallel north divides it from the Northwest Territories. To the east, the 110th meridian westseparates it from the province of Saskatchewan, while on the west its boundary with British Columbia follows the 120th meridian west south from the Northwest Territories at 60°N until it reaches the Continental Divide at the Rocky Mountains, and from that point follows the line of peaks marking the Continental Divide in a generally southeasterly direction until it reaches the Montana border at 49°N.
The province extends 1,223 km (760 mi) north to south and 660 km (410 mi) east to west at its maximum width. Its highest point is 3,747 m (12,293 ft) at the summit of Mount Columbia in the Rocky Mountains along the southwest border, while its lowest point is 152 m (499 ft) on the Slave River in Wood Buffalo National Park in the northeast.
With the exception of the semi-arid steppe of the southeastern section, the province has adequate water resources. There are numerous rivers and lakes used for swimming, fishing and a range of water sports. There are three large lakes, Lake Claire (1,436 km2 (554 sq mi)) in Wood Buffalo National Park, Lesser Slave Lake (1,168 km2 (451 sq mi)), and Lake Athabasca (7,898 square kilometres (3,049 sq mi)) which lies in both Alberta and Saskatchewan. The longest river in the province is the Athabasca River which travels 1,538 km (956 mi) from the Columbia Icefield in the Rocky Mountains to Lake Athabasca. The largest river is the Peace River with an average flow of 2161 m3/s. The Peace River originates in the Rocky Mountains of northern British Columbia and flows through northern Alberta and into the Slave River, a tributary of the Mackenzie River.
Alberta's capital city, Edmonton, is located approximately in the geographic centre of the province. It is the most northerly major city in Canada, and serves as a gateway and hub for resource development in northern Canada. The region, with its proximity to Canada's largest oil fields, has most of western Canada's oil refinery capacity.Calgary is located approximately 280 km (170 mi) south of Edmonton and 240 km (150 mi) north of Montana, surrounded by extensive ranching country. Almost 75% of the province's population lives in the Calgary–Edmonton Corridor. The land grant policy to the railroads served as a means to populate the province in its early years.
Most of the northern half of the province is boreal forest, while the Rocky Mountainsalong the southwestern boundary are largely forested (see Alberta Mountain forests and Alberta-British Columbia foothills forests). The southern quarter of the province is prairie, ranging from shortgrass prairie in the southeastern corner to mixed grass prairie in an arc to the west and north of it. The central aspen parkland region extending in a broad arc between the prairies and the forests, from Calgary, north to Edmonton, and then east to Lloydminster, contains the most fertile soil in the province and most of the population. Much of the unforested part of Alberta is given over either to grain or to dairy farming, with mixed farming more common in the north and centre, while ranching and irrigated agriculture predominate in the south.
The Alberta badlands are located in southeastern Alberta, where the Red Deer River crosses the flat prairie and farmland, and features deep canyons and striking landforms. Dinosaur Provincial Park, near Brooks, Alberta, showcases the badlands terrain, desert flora, and remnants from Alberta's past when dinosaurs roamed the then lush landscape.
As with any Canadian province, the Alberta Legislature has (almost) exclusive authority to make laws respecting education. Since 1905 the Legislature has used this capacity to continue the model of locally elected public and separate school boards which originated prior to 1905, as well as to create and/or regulate universities, colleges, technical institutions and other educational forms and institutions (public charter schools, private schools, home schooling).