The Oil Boom

Oil was first discovered in Alberta in 1902, but it did not become a significant industry in the province until 1947 when huge reserves of it were discovered. Calgary quickly found itself at the centre of the ensuing oil boom. The city’s economy grew when oil prices increased with the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973. The population increased by 272,000 in the eighteen years between 1971 (403,000) and 1989 (675,000) and another 345,000 in the next eighteen years (to 1,020,000 in 2007). During these boom years, skyscrapers were constructed and the relatively low-rise downtown quickly became dense with tall buildings, a trend that continues to this day.

Calgary’s economy was so closely tied to the oil industry that the city’s boom peaked with the average annual price of oil in 1981. The subsequent drop in oil prices were cited by industry as reasons for a collapse in the oil industry and consequently the overall Calgary economy. Low oil prices prevented a full recovery until the 1990s.

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