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Leduc oil strike signals western expansion

One spewing geyser of oil at Leduc, Alta., on Feb. 13, 1947, transformed the province's economy. Until the oil strike Alberta struggled as a have-not province. Leduc "blowing in" was famous and rare because Albertans had never imagined large oil reserves existed beneath the wheat. But ownership of the resource challenged by the national energy program became a political battle: East versus West, Trudeau versus Lougheed. Today, the Leduc legacy lives on with Alberta paying off its debt in 2000 and countless barrels of crude yet to be extracted.

Four years after the Leduc oil strike, Alberta's economy is flourishing. The crude beneath the wheat transforms Alberta from a have-not province to one of wealth. The Alberta government spends millions on roads, hospitals and schools, as seen in this TV documentary The Last Best West. Huge and lucrative oil reserves prompt settlement and the development of other industries. New names appear on the map: aluminum-smelting Kitimat, B.C., and nickel-mining Thompson, Man.

The West no longer relies on a colonial relationship with its more prosperous eastern neighbour.
. The Leduc strike in 1947 transformed Alberta's post-war stagnant economy. Before the discovery, entrepreneurs didn't know oil could be found below the Prairies. The province's economy relied on agriculture and the dwindling oil stocks of the Turner Valley, Canada's largest oilfield in the Calgary foothills.
. Canada depended on $206 million worth of foreign oil imports a year before 1947. In most years following the Leduc strike, Canada was a self-sufficient oil producer.

. In 1951, the Alberta government spent $20 million on transportation infrastructure to support the booming oil economy.
. Technological advancements hastened oil exploration. The process of transforming oil into kerosene for lamps - invented by Canadian doctor and geologist Abraham Gesner in 1846 - was the oil industry's first impetus.
Medium: Television
Program: Thursday Night
Broadcast Date: Oct. 2, 1969
Narrator: Allan McFee
Duration: 2:24

Last updated: September 17, 2013

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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