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Pamphlet advertising the last best West

"Last best West" was a phrase used to market the Canadian prairies to prospective immigrants. The notion of the last best West is still a common perception of the Canadian west. The phrase was used to advertise the Canadian west abroad, and in Eastern Canada, during the heyday of western settlement from 1896 until the start of the First World War.

One of the key considerations for the government in this recruitment of settlers was the fear that Americans would stream North and settle the southern parts of what would become the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. The Canadian Government was afraid that what happened to Mexico regarding Texas and the United States could happen out in the west of Canada and worked hard to bring settlement to the area under Canadian Law.

The program was so successful that little more than nine years later the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan were formed out of enormous Northwest Territories of Canada.

Printed on pamphlets distributed in Europe, Britain and the United States, under the orders of Minister of the Interior Clifford Sifton (appointed by Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier to oversee settlement of the west), "The Last best West" was a direct comparison to the United States. While there were still vast tracts of land available in the U.S., most of the best land had been taken and the American frontier had been declared closed in 1890. Thus it could be said the land in Canada was the last region still not populated by Europeans.

The phrase was for the most part a marketing ploy. However, while the frost-free season is shorter in Canada, a less arid climate compensates for this and the Canadian prairies have long been more productive than those of the Dakotas and Wyoming. In addition, unlike the American West, the settlement of the Canadian west was well organized, with the North-West Mounted Police providing law and order.

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