Western Economic Diversification Canada
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About Western Canada

As Canada's regional economic development agency for Western Canada, Western Economic Diversification strives to maintain Western Canada’s competitive position by investing in projects and activities that help improve productivity and competitiveness through the development, adoption and commercialization of new technologies and business processes. The department also supports higher value-added production and access to international markets.

Abundant natural resources, thriving technology and services sectors, and low business cost make Western Canada an attractive place to do business. Its geographic proximity to Asian markets, access to inland and sea ports, and excellent transportation services to locations throughout North America has created increased efficiencies in exporting products to international markets.

An increasingly diversified business economy has created tremendous opportunities for industries in Western Canada. The natural strengths driving emerging opportunities in Western Canada are creating competitive advantages that have helped keep the economy growing.

Western Canada is a significant contributor to the overall Canadian economy. In 2011, Western Canada accounted for 34% of Canada’s real gross domestic product (GDP) by industry and 40% of Canada’s exported goods.1 Western Canada’s export activity is closely linked to the largest economy in the world, the United States, and increasingly to the large and growing economies of the Asia-Pacific. The United States is Western Canada’s closest trading partner accounting for roughly 71% of goods exported from Western Canada in 2011. In the same year, exports to the Asia-Pacific region accounted for roughly 15% of Western Canada’s total exports; a 38% increase over the past 5 years.2

In 2011, the United States and the large growing economies of the Asia-Pacific purchased close to 87% of Western Canada’s total exported product.

Economic growth in Western Canada is anchored by the natural resources sector, with resource-based goods accounting for approximately 73% of total exported products in 2011. This focus has been a benefit to the economy by providing the foundation for the creation of industry clusters in sectors such as mining, forestry, oil and gas and agriculture.

Geography

Photo illustrating the four western Canadian provinces. From west to east: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Western Canada consists of the country’s four westernmost provinces: British Columbia (BC Link 1), Alberta (AB Link 1), Saskatchewan (SK Link 1), and Manitoba (MB Link 1). It covers 2.9 million square kilometers – almost 29% of Canada’s land area – making it the seventh largest land mass in the world. It is bordered by Canada’s three territories, Yukon, Northwest Territories and Nunavut to the north; Ontario to the east; by the states of Washington, Montana, North Dakota and Minnesota to the south; and the Pacific Ocean to the west.

Approximately 10.6 million people, roughly 31% of Canadians, call Western Canada home. The majority of the population lives in urban areas, dominated by our cities, which include:

British Columbia (BC Link 2) (Provincial population 4,573,321)

  • Vancouver - 2,419,733
  • Victoria* - 360,876

Alberta (AB Link 2) (Provincial population 3,779,353)

  • Calgary - 1,265,119
  • Edmonton* - 1,196,342

Saskatchewan (SK Link 2) (Provincial population 1,057,884)

  • Saskatoon – 271,955
  • Regina* - 218,690

Manitoba (MB Link 2) (Provincial population 1,250,574)

  • Winnipeg* - 762,759

* Population of census metropolitan areas listed in order of size with capital city indicated by a star.


[1] Statistics Canada, CANSIM Tables 379-0025 and 228-0034.

[2] Industry Canada, Trade Data Online.