From a great scale, Saskatchewan appears to be somewhat a quadrilateral. However, because of its size, the 49th parallel boundary and the 60th northern border appear curved. Additionally, the eastern boundary of the province is partially crooked rather than following a line of longitude, as correction lines were devised by surveyors prior to the homestead program (1880–1928). Saskatchewan is bounded on the west by Alberta, on the north by the Northwest Territories, on the east by Manitoba, and on the south by the U.S. states of Montana and North Dakota. Saskatchewan has the distinction of being the only Canadian province for which no borders correspond to physical geographic features. It is also one of only two provinces that are land-locked, the other being Alberta.
Saskatchewan contains two major natural regions: the Canadian Shield in the north and the Interior Plains in the south. Northern Saskatchewan is mostly covered by boreal forest except for the Lake Athabasca Sand Dunes, the largest active sand dunes in the world north of 58°, adjacent to the southern shore of Lake Athabasca. Southern Saskatchewan contains another area with sand dunes known as the "Great Sand Hills" covering over . The Cypress Hills, located in the southwestern corner of Saskatchewan and Killdeer Badlands (Grasslands National Park) are areas of the province that remained unglaciated during the last glaciation period. The province's highest point at 1,468 metres (4,816 ft) is located in the Cypress Hills. The lowest point is the shore of Lake Athabasca, at 213 metres (700 ft). The province has fourteen major drainage basins made up of various rivers and watersheds draining into the Arctic Ocean, Hudson Bay, and Gulf of Mexico.
In the 1870s, the Government of Canada formed the Northwest Territories to administer the vast territory between British Columbia and Manitoba. The government also entered into a series of numbered treaties with the indigenous peoples of the area, which serve as the basis of the relationship between First Nations, as they are called today, and the Crown.
A seminal event in the history of what was to become Western Canada was the 1874 "March West" of the federal government's new North-West Mounted Police. Despite poor equipment and lack of provisions, the men on the march persevered and established a federal presence in the new territory. Historians have argued that had this expedition been unsuccessful, then the expansionist United States would have been sorely tempted to expand into the political vacuum. And even had it not, then the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway would have been delayed or taken a different, more northerly route, stunting the early growth of towns like Brandon, Regina, Medicine Hat and Calgary — had these existed at all. Failure to construct the railway could also have forced British Columbia to join the United States.
Settlement of the province started to take off as the Canadian Pacific Railway was built in the early 1880s, and the Canadian government divided up the land by the Dominion Land Survey and gave free land to any willing settlers.
The North-West Mounted Police set up several posts and forts across Saskatchewan including Fort Walsh in the Cypress Hills, and Wood Mountain Post in south central Saskatchewan near the United States border.
In 1876, following the Battle of Little Bighorn Lakota chief Sitting Bull led several thousand of his people to Wood Mountain. Wood Mountain Reserve was founded in 1914. Many Métis people, who had not been signatories to a treaty, had moved to the Southbranch Settlement and Prince Albert district north of present-day Saskatoon following the Red River Resistance in Manitoba in 1870. In the early 1880s, the Canadian government refused to hear the Métis' grievances, which stemmed from land-use issues. Finally, in 1885, the Métis, led by Louis Riel, staged the North-West Rebellion and declared a provisional government. They were defeated by a Canadian militia brought to the Canadian prairies by the new Canadian Pacific Railway. Riel surrendered and was convicted of treason in a packed Regina courtroom. He was hanged on November 16, 1885.
The Homestead Act permitted settlers to acquire ¼ mi² of land to homestead and offered an additional quarter upon establishing a homestead. Immigration peaked in 1910, and in spite of the initial difficulties of frontier life, distance from towns, sod homes, and backbreaking labour, a prosperous agrarian society was established.
In 1913, the Saskatchewan Stock Growers Association was established as Saskatchewan's first ranchers' organization. Three objectives were laid out at the founding convention in 1913 have served as a guide: to watch over legislation; to forward the interests of the Stock Growers in every honourable and legitimate way; and to suggest to parliament legislation to meet changing conditions and requirements. Its farming equivalent, the Saskatchewan Grain Growers Association, was the dominant political force in the province until the 1920s and had close ties with the governing Liberal party.
In the late 1920s, the Ku Klux Klan imported from the U.S. and Ontario and gained brief popularity in WASP nativist circles in Saskatchewan and Alberta. The Klan, briefly allied with the provincial Conservative party because of their mutual dislike for Premier James G. "Jimmy" Gardiner and his Liberals (who ferociously fought the Klan) enjoyed about two years of prominence, then disappeared, the victim of widespread political and media opposition plus scandals involving their own funds.
In 1970, the first annual Canadian Western Agribition was held in Regina. This farm industry trade show, with a heavy emphasis on livestock, is rated as one of the five top livestock shows in North America, along with those in Houston, Denver, Louisville and Toronto.
Saskatchewan's economy is associated with agriculture; however, increasing diversification has meant that now agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting together make up only 6.8% of the province's GDP. Saskatchewan grows 45% of Canada's grain. Wheat is the most familiar crop and perhaps the one stereotypically associated with the province, but other grains like canola, flax, rye, oats, peas, lentils, canary seed, and barley are also produced. Beef cattle production in the province is only exceeded by Alberta. Mining is also a major industry in the province, with Saskatchewan being the world leader in potash and uranium exports. In the northern part of the province, forestry is significant.
Oil and natural gas production is also a very important part of Saskatchewan's economy, although the oil industry is larger. Only Alberta exceeds the province in overall oil production. Heavy crude is extracted in the Lloydminster-Kerrobert-Kindersley areas. Light crude is found in the Kindersley-Swift Current areas as well as the Weyburn-Estevan fields. Natural gas is found almost entirely in the western part of Saskatchewan, from the Primrose Lake area through Lloydminster, Unity, Kindersley, Leader, and around Maple Creek areas.
Saskatchewan's GDP in 2006 was approximately C$45.922 billion, with economic sectors breaking down in the following way:
|17.1||finance, insurance, real estate, leasing|
|11.9||education, health, social services|
|11.7||wholesale and retail trade|
|9.1||transportation, communications, utilities|
|6.8||agriculture, forestry, fishing, hunting|
Major Saskatchewan-based Crown corporations are Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI), SaskTel, SaskEnergy (the province's main supplier of natural gas), and SaskPower. Bombardier runs the NATO Flying Training Centre at 15 Wing, near Moose Jaw. Bombardier was awarded a long-term contract in the late 1990s for $2.8 billion from the federal government for the purchase of military aircraft and the running of the training facility.
|Fiscal Year||Population2||Public Debt3||Budget Surplus||GFSF Balance||Pers. Inc. Tax Revenue||Corp. Inc./Cap. Tax Revenue||Sales tax Revenue||Resource Revenue||Health Expense|
The Tabulated Data covers the previous fiscal year (e.g. 2008 covers April 1, 2007 - March 31, 2008). All data is in $1,000s.
1 These values reflect estimates made after the first quarter (April 1st - June 30th).
2 These values reflect the estimated population at the end of the previous fiscal year.
3 These values reflect the debt of the General Revenue Fund alone. It does not reflect the debt of Government Service Organizations (Health Authorities, Crop Insurance Corporation, etc.) or Government Service Enterprises (Crown Corporations).
Source: Government of Saskatchewan.
Saskatchewan has the same form of government as the other Canadian provinces with a lieutenant-governor (who is the representative of the Crown in Right of Saskatchewan), premier, and a unicameral legislature.
For many years, Saskatchewan has been one of Canada's more liberal provinces, reflecting many of its citizens' feelings of alienation from the interests of large capital. In 1944 Tommy Douglas became premier of the first avowedly socialist regional government in North America. Most of his Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) represented rural and small-town ridings. Under his Cooperative Commonwealth Federation government, Saskatchewan became the first province to have Medicare. In 1961, Douglas left provincial politics to become the first leader of the federal New Democratic Party.
Provincial politics in Saskatchewan is dominated by the New Democrats and the Saskatchewan Party. Numerous smaller political parties also run candidates in provincial elections, including the Liberal Party, the Green Party and the Progressive Conservative Party, but none is currently represented in the Legislative Assembly of Saskatchewan. After 16 years of New Democratic governments under premiers Roy Romanow and Lorne Calvert, the recent 2007 provincial election was won by the Saskatchewan Party under Brad Wall.
Federally, the province has been a stronghold of the New Democratic Party, although recent elections have been dominated by the Conservative Party. Of the 14 federal constituencies in Saskatchewan, 12 were won by members of the Conservative Party of Canada in 2006, and 13 of 14 were won by Conservatives in 2004, while the federal New Democratic Party has been shut out of the province for two consecutive elections. Since the resignation of Gary Merasty from the House of Commons, the only Liberal Member of Parliament in the province is former Finance Minister Ralph Goodale.
Politically, the province is characterized by a dramatic urban-rural split — the federal and provincial New Democratic Party dominate in the cities, while the Saskatchewan Party and the federal Conservatives are stronger in the rural parts of the province. While both Saskatoon and Regina (Saskatchewan's largest cities) are roughly twice the population of an urban riding in Canada, both are split into multiple ridings that blend them with rural communities.
The first 76 North West Territories school districts and the first Board of Education meeting formed in 1886. The pioneering boom formed ethnic bloc settlements. Communities were seeking education for their children similar to the schools of their home land. Log cabins, and dwellings were constructed for the assembly of the community, school, church, dances and meetings.
The roaring twenties and established farmers who have successfully proved up on their homesteads helped provide funding to standardize education. Text books, normal schools for formally educated teachers, school curricula, state of the art school house architectural plans, provided continuity throughout the province. English as the school language helped to provide economic stability because one community could communicate with another and goods could be traded and sold in a common language. The number of one-room school house districts across Saskatchewan totalled approximately 5,000 at the height of the one-room school house educational system in the late 1940s.
Following World War II, the transition from many one room school houses to fewer and larger consolidated modern technological town and city schools occurred as a means of ensuring technical education. School buses, highways, and family vehicles create ease and accessibility of a population shift to larger towns and cities. Combines and tractors mean that the farmer could successfully manage more than a quarter section of land, so there was a shift from family farms and subsistence crops to cash crops grown on many sections of land.
Saskatchewan's heraldic shield contains a red lion on a yellow field, reversing the conventional heraldic colours, indicating the prairie fires of this region during the pre-settlement North-West Territories.
In 2005, Saskatchewan celebrated its centennial. To honour it the Royal Canadian Mint issued a commemorative five-dollar coin depicting Canada's wheat fields as well as a circulation 25-cent coin of a similar design. Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh visited Regina, Saskatoon and Lumsden, and the Saskatchewan-reared Joni Mitchell issued an album in Saskatchewan's honour.
The Arrogant Worms song The Last Saskatchewan Pirate about a disgruntled farmer who takes up piracy on the namesake river, mentions various parts of the Province such as Saskatoon, Regina and Moose Jaw
In a Looney Tunes cartoon circa 1957 titled "Ali Baba Bunny", a character Hassan who has been charged with protecting the treasure in Ali Baba's cave forgets the pass phrase "Open Sesame" and, while trying out various words, says "Open Saskatchewan"
Popular Québécois band Les Trois Accords recorded a song in French called Saskatchewan on their first album Gros Mammouth Album. It was the third single of that album and met moderate success in French Canada.