A moment in history: Aug. 26, 1975

A moment in history: Aug. 26, 1975

· The Pulse
By Scott Lilwall

On this day in 1975, Edmonton was eyeing the land to its northwest for possible future expansion.

The former mayor, William Hawrelak, told the Edmonton Journal he had ordered a study on the possible use of a large area of land between the city and St. Albert. At the time, there was no firm plan for annexing the land, but Hawrelak said it was a good idea "to know where we're going" during discussions with the province.

Edmonton's borders swelled in the 1970s — there were five large annexations of land along the city's borders in almost all directions. But there is one notable expansion plan that very nearly came to pass, which would have seen the city swallow up one of its neighbours and greatly expand the footprint of the city.

In 1979, the city made an application to annex 1,892 square kilometres of land — a request that would have seen the city take over large sections of Parkland County, Sturgeon County and Strathcona County, as well as the entirety of St. Albert. At the time, Edmonton was about 350 square kilometres, so the city would have quintupled in size. The city argued that the plan would secure the land it would need to grow until 2020.

The idea wasn't popular in the areas facing annexation. Thousands of people voted against the proposal in plebiscites held in Sturgeon County and St. Albert, with only a handful supporting the measure. However, it was the provincial government who had the final say.

In December 1980, the board issued its decision which supported a pared-down version of Edmonton's application, which still would have seen the city double in size. Premier Peter Lougheed's cabinet eventually rejected the application, although it did approve another large annexation for the city in 1982, that didn't include St. Albert.

As both Edmonton and the surrounding communities grow in size, the issue of annexation and borders is still an important, sometimes contentious issue. At the moment, there is an ongoing annexation proposal between St. Albert and Edmonton, although this time the positions are flipped — as of March 2021, St. Albert is requesting 46 hectares of land east of the Anthony Henday. But this proposal is a bit less contentious than the 1979 battle, as Edmonton has thrown its support behind the plan.

This is based on a clipping found on Vintage Edmonton, a daily look at Edmonton's history from armchair archivist @revRecluse — follow @VintageEdmonton for daily ephemera via Twitter.