Saturday, 11 January 2014


Ontario, southernmost province of Canada. Ontario is the second largest of Canada’s ten provinces in area and the largest in terms of population. Commonly called the Heartland Province, Ontario is the center of Canada’s industry, population, and agriculture. Its farmers and producers have access to excellent transportation facilities, especially the St. Lawrence Seaway, which connects Lake Superior in the west to the Atlantic Ocean and is a vital trade link. Toronto, on Lake Ontario, is the province’s capital and Canada’s most populous city. The city of Ottawa, the capital of Canada, is also situated in Ontario.
Modern Ontario has its roots in the British colony of Upper Canada, which was created from the British province of Québec by the Constitutional Act of 1791. The area was named Upper Canada because its boundaries lay along the upper reaches of the Ottawa River; the name Lower Canada was given to the part of the British province of Québec that until being conquered by the British in 1763 had been the heart of New France, the French colony in North America. Upper Canada and Lower Canada were joined from 1841 to 1867 into a single administrative unit within the British Empire called the United Province of Canada. Upper Canada became known as Canada West, and Lower Canada became known as Canada East. In 1867, under the name Ontario, the territory became one of the founding provinces of the Dominion of Canada. Ontario’s name is derived from the language of one of the indigenous groups who first inhabited the region. It is frequently thought to come from the Iroquoian word for “handsome lake,” although it is more likely from the Huron for “large lake.”
Ontario makes up a little more than 10 percent of Canada’s total area. It is bordered by the province of Québec in the east and the province of Manitoba in the west. Its southern boundary is formed by the St. Lawrence River, four of the five Great Lakes—Lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron, and Superior—and the state of Minnesota in the United States. To the north it borders on Hudson and James bays, which link to both the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. The province comprises 1,076,395 sq km (415,598 sq mi), of which 158,654 sq km (61,257 sq mi) are inland water. From its easternmost point at the border with Québec to its westernmost point at the border with Manitoba, Ontario stretches 1,628 km (1,012 mi). The distance between its southernmost point, Pelee Island in Lake Erie, and its northernmost, at Hudson Bay, is 1,685 km (1,047 mi).
A Natural Regions
The Ontario landmass traces its origins to the last ice age, which ended some 10,000 years ago. The province’s topography is mainly a result of the effects of glacial action. When the glaciers retreated at the end of the ice age, they carved out valleys that became lakes, and left soil deposits that became hills and ridges. Ontario can be divided into three major natural regions: the Canadian Shield (also known as the Laurentian Plateau), which cuts a wide swath across the center of the province; the Hudson Bay Lowlands to the north; and the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Lowlands, which form the southernmost region.
The Canadian Shield is part of a huge area of water, forest, and Precambrian igneous rock—mostly granite—that occupies 50 percent of Canada’s total land area. It stretches in a great crescent from the Labrador coast, through Québec and Ontario, into the Prairie provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, and then northwards to the Arctic Ocean. An extension of the shield called the Frontenac Axis penetrates the lowlands of southern Ontario to the St. Lawrence River, where it forms the rocky Thousand Islands.
The Canadian Shield makes up approximately half the land area of Ontario. Its poor soils and rough terrain have discouraged farming and extensive settlement, although several areas of clay deposits—the beds of ancient glacial lakes—are suitable for raising crops and for grazing. The region is a rich mineral storehouse and produces, among other metals, much of Canada’s copper, lead, nickel, zinc, and uranium. The Canadian Shield’s forests yield a variety of trees, particularly those used for making pulp and paper. In addition, the region’s lakes, rivers, and wooded hills attract vacationers year-round. Ontario’s highest point is in the Canadian Shield near Lake Timiskaming: Ishpatina Ridge (693 m/2,274 ft).
The Hudson Bay Lowlands in the north sit atop sedimentary rocks, mainly limestone, and dip gently northward from the Canadian Shield toward the shore of Hudson Bay. The lowlands are flat, poorly drained, and characterized by areas of swampy bogs called muskeg. In the far north of the region is a small belt of permafrost, land that is continually frozen. The rocks of the Hudson Bay Lowlands are the remains of the great beds that once covered the Canadian Shield. The beds of the lowlands remained because they were less subject to erosion than those at higher elevations. Sizeable areas of trees, commonly black spruce and larch (also called tamarack), give way to isolated stands and then stunted growths further northwards.
The third physical region of Ontario is the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence Lowlands, home to most of the province’s population, agriculture, and industry. Sedimentary deposits underlie the soils of this region. The Frontenac Axis divides the region into two parts: the St. Lawrence Lowlands, which are located southeast of the city of Ottawa, and the Great Lakes Lowlands, which lie to the west. Scientists believe that a considerable area in the lower Ottawa Valley, on the province’s eastern border, was once covered by the Champlain Sea, an arm of water reaching in from the Atlantic Ocean. Clay beds of marine origin were deposited in this region. Also, sand plains formed as deltas where the Ottawa River entered the Champlain Sea. These regions are now agricultural areas.
The most notable topographical feature of the Great Lakes Lowlands is the Niagara Escarpment, a high ridge of limestone cliffs that runs about 400 km (250 mi), north from Niagara Falls through the Bruce Peninsula to the Manitoulin Islands in Lake Huron. Niagara Falls and the gorge below it are the result of the Niagara River, which empties from Lake Erie into Lake Ontario, cutting slowly through the ridge. The escarpment cradles much rich fruit-growing land near the cities of St. Catherines and Niagara Falls. Otherwise the topography of the Great Lakes Lowlands is a rolling plain once thickly carpeted with forests and now given over to agricultural, domestic, and industrial use. Glacial deposits called moraines occur in several belts that run roughly parallel to Lakes Huron and Ontario. Along the shorelines of these lakes are clay lands and beach deposits formed when even larger glacial lakes existed. The rich soils and fundamentally level lands, coupled with easy access from water routes, attracted early agricultural settlement in the area. The region now contains many of Ontario’s largest cities, including the capital, Toronto.
B Rivers and Lakes
Approximately 6 percent of Ontario’s area is inland water. There are at least 250,000 lakes within the province’s borders, most of them located within the Canadian Shield and many of them inaccessible except by air. The Great Lakes, which straddle Ontario’s border with the United States, are the province’s largest bodies of water, and they link it with interior parts of North America. The St. Lawrence Seaway connects these lakes to the Atlantic Ocean, providing Ontario with a navigable outlet to the sea. The large lakes of Nipigon, Nipissing, Simcoe, and Lac Seul are entirely within Ontario’s borders. Other substantial bodies of water are shared with neighboring provinces and states. Ontario shares Lake of the Woods, in the southwestern corner of the province, with Manitoba and Minnesota; Lake Saint Clair with Michigan near Detroit; and the broad Ottawa River, which forms about half of Ontario’s border, with the neighboring province of Québec.
Rivers and, in some cases, canals connect these lakes. Many rivers are broken by rapids and waterfalls due to Ontario’s rocky landscape; in accessible areas, these streams are often tapped for hydroelectric power. However, many of the larger rivers are navigable, and together with the Great Lakes they provided the routes that governed Ontario’s initial settlement and development. The province’s most important river is the St. Lawrence. Its route was much improved and enlarged by dredging and canal building in the mid-20th century. This enabled large ocean-going vessels to reach Great Lake ports (see St. Lawrence Seaway). The Ottawa River was an important early route to the interior for fur traders and timber merchants. The Niagara River, because of its falls, is a great center of hydroelectric power as well as an international tourist attraction. Additional important power plants are also found on the Rainy River in western Ontario and the Moose and Abitibi river system of the northeast. Water from streams and wells is also used for irrigation purposes in the drier southwestern portion of the province.
C Coastline
Ontario’s freshwater coastline along the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes water chain, which generally forms the border with the United States, stretches for a distance of 3,900 km (2,400 mi). The saltwater coastline along Hudson Bay and its extension, James Bay, is nearly 1,130 km (700 mi) in length. Ontario’s only saltwater port is the small town of Moosonee, which is located at the mouth of the Moose River 25 km (16 mi) from James Bay and is linked by a railway line to southern communities.
D Climate
Ontario’s size and its location in the northern interior of North America mean that the province’s climate is marked by strong seasonal variations in temperature. Westerly winds prevail, and coming from the Great Lakes, give southern, populous Ontario, a milder climate than the north, where cold winds blow from the Arctic and from the Prairie provinces. The average July temperature at Point Pelee on Lake Erie is 23°C (74°F), while on the Hudson Bay shore it is about 14°C (57°F). The January mean temperature varies even more, from –4°C (24°F) at Point Pelee to –24°C (-12°F) at Hudson Bay. The average frost-free period is 170 days in the farming areas near Windsor and Leamington in the southwest, 100 days along the southern edge of the Canadian Shield, and less than 60 days along the edge of Hudson Bay. Bodies of water absorb temperature changes more slowly than land does, and the Great Lakes, by retaining the summer warmth, prolong the growing season in neighboring portions of southern Ontario.
Southern Ontario receives 750 mm (30 in) of precipitation annually, and it is one-half that amount in the area around Hudson Bay. There is more precipitation during the warmer months. Snowfall in winter is general throughout Ontario. Severe winter storms are not uncommon, although certain areas get more snow because of the so-called lake effect, the local effect of westerly winds blowing from the Great Lakes. Toronto, the capital, has much less precipitation since it is in a partial rain shadow caused by the Niagara Escarpment. Not surprisingly, the more moderate climate of southern Ontario, coupled with its longer growing season and rich soils, has been instrumental in the concentration of population in that area.
E Plant and Animal Life
Forests cover 74 percent of Ontario. In the south are remnants of a once-large deciduous forest containing trees of many species, especially maple, elm, beech, and oak. The southern margin of the Canadian Shield supports a transitional forest that contains a mixture of deciduous and coniferous trees. Species found there include maple, beech, walnut, elm, pine, spruce, larch (also known as tamarack), and fir. In the heart of the Canadian Shield is a dense cover of conifers called the boreal, or northern, forest. The main species there include black spruce, white spruce, jack pine, and balsam fir. Along the northern edge of the Canadian Shield and in the Hudson Bay Lowlands tree growth is stunted and the forest thins. Near the shore of Hudson Bay, trees give way to tundra, a treeless region that supports only mosses, lichens, and low shrubs.
Shrubs, grasses, and wildflowers of great variety grow throughout the province, particularly asters and trillium, Ontario’s official flower emblem. Varieties of berries and roots are also common, especially wild blueberry bushes. Bordering the shores of Lakes Erie and Ontario are the remnants of the so-called Carolinian forest, the northern edge of a large deciduous forest in North America. Encroachment and felling have almost entirely destroyed this forest in Ontario. The warmer climate in the area allows the survival of species that are familiar farther south in the United States, such as the shag bark hickory, the honey locust, and the Kentucky coffee tree. There have been extensive private and public efforts to recognize and preserve these distinctive woodlands.
Ontario supports a diversity of animal life. Moose, black bear, polar bear, deer, and wolves are common in northern Ontario, the part of the province north of Lake Nipissing. Smaller mammals found throughout the province include skunks, squirrels, weasels, porcupines, rabbits, raccoons, muskrat, beavers, otters, and foxes. Ruffled grouse, ducks, and geese are common birds, as are hawks, owls, woodpeckers, blue jays, cardinals, great blue herons, sparrows, robins, and finches. Ontario’s lakes and rivers contain bass, muskellunge, pike, pickerel, walleye, coho salmon, and trout. Whitefish, herring, trout, pickerel, and eels live in the Great Lakes. Reptiles and amphibians include the garter snake, Massasauga rattlesnake, and various turtles and frogs.
F Natural Resources
Ontario has a large variety of natural resources. The province has plentiful forests, a large range of extractable minerals, extensive water resources, abundant wildlife, and excellent soils. The forest has always been a mainstay for the inhabitants of Ontario. For the original First Nations peoples, the forest provided fuel, food, raw materials for garments and housing, and even spiritual guidance. European settlers saw the forest as the home of valuable fur-bearing animals. Later, in the 19th century, Ontario’s forests became central to the timber trade, one of the province’s primary industries. Today, 88 percent of Ontario’s forestlands are owned by the provincial government, which issues timber licenses and also governs other related activities such as recreation and tourism.
Although Ontario’s mineral resources, which include copper, lead, nickel, zinc, and uranium, are primarily located in the Canadian Shield, some do exist in the south. For example, oil and natural gas can be found in southwestern Ontario, and in fact North America’s first commercial oil well was drilled at Oil Springs, near Sarnia, in 1858. Other non-metallic minerals from these areas include lime, gypsum, and salt. Many of the mineral discoveries in the shield were made when the transcontinental railways were carved through the area in the 19th century.
Water remains a central resource, as it has since the first human settlements in Ontario. Early on it provided a transportation route to the interior and a link with the outside world. Even today, water routes are still the cheapest way to move bulk exports such as grains, minerals such as iron ore, and even newsprint. Hydroelectric power has been generated on Ontario’s swift-moving rivers and streams since the 19th century, and it remains essential for domestic and manufacturing purposes. Much of the growth of the industrial regions of southern Ontario was due to the availability of hydroelectric power from the Niagara River. Ontario has virtually no domestic coal and has to import it, but at the turn of the 19th century it was common to call hydroelectric power “white coal.”
Although the fur trade has not been economically important in Ontario for more than a century, the province’s wildlife contributes to its cultural life and economy. Some First Nations groups derive their basic livelihood from trapping and fishing, as do other northern Ontarians. Although there are quotas, First Nations have treaty rights that permit more extensive use.
Ontario’s rich soils were one of the earliest attractions for European settlers. The southern lowlands with their well-watered black loam and fertile clays, coupled with a mild climate, encouraged settlement and development. Today these soils are endangered not only by natural processes such as erosion, but also by acidification and urban sprawl.
G Conservation
Contemporary Ontario, like most modern industrial states, faces many environmental challenges. Some of the areas of concern in the province include preservation of natural areas of wilderness and wetlands; protection of endangered species; conservation of farmland and natural resources; and control of pollution, particularly smog and acid rain. The Ontario and Canadian governments share responsibilities for these issues and claim much success in addressing them. Independent assessments agree progress has been made in several areas, including deacidification, but they argue that initiatives lack overall aims. Ontario has extensive recycling programs and a program for regulating automobile emissions.
Ontario has the largest and most diversified economy of any Canadian province. It is a major manufacturing and agricultural center and has one of the highest incomes per capita of any province. Ontario’s economic success is based on advantages such as its plentiful natural resources, cheap power, a skilled and well-educated workforce, and convenient transportation links to markets elsewhere in Canada, the United States, and overseas.
In 2006 Ontario’s gross domestic product (GDP) was C$557.8 billion, or two-fifths of the Canadian total; by comparison the figure in 1990-1991 was C$280.6 billion. Per capita income in Ontario in 2001 was C$35,185, and the distribution of GDP among economic sectors was 2 percent primary (extractive industries such as mining, fishing, and forestry), 32 percent secondary (manufacturing and construction activity), and 66 percent service (including information services, real estate, and banking and financial services).
In the late 19th century Ontario’s agricultural economy began to diversify with the development of commercial and manufacturing industries. These growth areas were greatly enhanced by the concurrent development of hydroelectric power and the exploitation of the mineral wealth of Ontario’s massive portion of the Canadian Shield. A growing population provided a capable labor force and a large domestic market for goods and services. This was expanded by the growth of trade with overseas countries, other Canadian provinces, and most importantly the United States.
Roughly speaking, Ontario can be divided into three economic regions. The north is the storehouse for the province’s mineral wealth and the center of extractive industries. The south and especially the southwest is an agricultural region. Heavy industry and manufacturing were traditionally clustered near Windsor on the Detroit River and in the area near the western edge of Lake Ontario. However, the ease of modern transportation has changed this concentration, and manufacturing and assembly plants are now located throughout the southern reaches of the province.
A Employment and Labor
The Ontario labor force contains 6.9 million people and makes up two-fifths of the total Canadian workforce. It is highly diversified, highly skilled, and well educated. About 25 percent of Ontario’s workforce is employed in government, education, health care, the arts, culture, and recreation; 25 percent in manufacturing and construction; and almost 15 percent in wholesale and retail trade. Also, 11 percent of Ontario’s workforce is employed in managerial, business, finance, and administrative positions; about 3 percent in primary activities such as fishing, agriculture, and mining; and the remainder in trades, transport, scientific and technical positions, food and accommodation services, and other occupations. English is the working language of most businesses in Ontario, with French as the next most important language. However, more than 50 other major languages are spoken, which gives Ontario advantages in international business dealings. The unemployment rate for 2006 in Ontario was 6.5 percent, compared to the Canadian average of 7 percent.
B Economic Sectors
Ontario is Canada’s richest province. It leads the nation in manufacturing, producing more than half of Canada’s manufactured goods and four-fifths of the country’s exports. The economy, however, is both balanced and diversified, with agriculture, forestry, and mining making important contributions. Knowledge-intensive industries are among the fastest-growing in the economy and the financial and service sectors are robust.
B1 Agriculture
Ontario is a major producer of corn, lamb, fruit, soybeans, nursery plants and flowers, poultry, eggs, and vegetables. Production of beef cattle, hogs, winter wheat, and general dairy products (especially cheese) are also significant.
About one quarter of Canada’s farms are located in Ontario. In 2006 there were 57,211 farms, compared with 68,630 in 1991. The average farm size was 94 hectares (232 acres). About 90 percent of the farmland in Ontario is in the southern part of the province.
In its early history, Ontario was a region of general farming, mostly on a near-subsistence level. Wheat began to be planted as a cash crop in the 1820s, with much of it being exported to Britain (and later to the United States and other parts of Europe). Since that time, because of urbanization, industrialization, and the opening of western Canada as a grain-growing region, southern Ontario has developed a more diversified agriculture. Now, mixed farming (the combination of crop cultivation and livestock raising), coupled with strong local specializations and marketing, prevail in the area.
The growth of urban centers in Ontario led to the concentration of dairy farming nearby. There are two major dairy-farming regions in the province. One is in the broad belt of land from Oshawa, which is near Toronto, to London, which is the most populous part of the province. The other area is in the St. Lawrence Lowlands between Ottawa and Cornwall. Ontario’s cheese plants are the chief outlet for the milk produced, and much of Canada’s cheese production is concentrated in these lowlands.
Fruit is grown in several areas along the shores of the Great Lakes. The two most important of these areas are the Niagara fruit belt, between Hamilton and the Niagara River, and the lakeshore fruit and vegetable belt, between Hamilton and Toronto. The Niagara belt specializes in cherries, pears, peaches, grapes, and plums. Wineries are also concentrated there. The lakeshore belt produces mainly apples and berries and a variety of truck crops (see Truck Farming) for nearby cities. These two zones are threatened by the increasing development of residential suburbs, and there is concern for their future as agricultural regions. A region of less intense specialization stretches from Toronto along Lake Ontario to the Kingston area. Here apples and cannery crops such as sweet corn, tomatoes, and peas are important.
Tobacco is grown commercially from near Windsor to Cobourg on Lake Ontario but is most concentrated in the sandy soils north of Lake Erie, in the Saint Thomas–Tillsonburg-Simcoe area. Most of the Canadian domestic tobacco crop is produced there.
In Essex and Kent counties, in the extreme southwest, farming centers on the growing of corn, sugar beets, tobacco, cannery crops, and fresh fruits and vegetables. The warm waters of Lake Erie affect the climate of the surrounding area, making it well suited for growing grapes. As such, Point Pelee and Pelee Island, located on the lake, are known for their wineries. Tomatoes are grown in greenhouses that are under contract to juice-producing plants in Leamington and Chatham. Sugar refineries are found in Chatham and Wallaceburg. Some of the best agricultural lands in this area have been developed through the drainage of marshland.
Between the regions of specialized agriculture and the margins of the Canadian Shield is a zone of general farming and livestock production. Cattle, dairy products, and hogs are the main sources of farm income. Corn and soybeans are important cash crops. Hay, clover, and alfalfa take up the largest part of the cropland in this zone, although canola (rapeseed) is also important. The reclaimed Holland Marsh between Toronto and Lake Simcoe and the Thedford Marsh northeast of Sarnia are devoted to a variety of vegetables (the former serving the large Toronto market nearby), while grain and clover seed are produced in the Ottawa Valley in the Renfrew area. Apples are grown commercially east of Owen Sound along Nottawasaga Bay.
In the Canadian Shield area of northern Ontario, farming is scattered in small patches. There are few full-time farmers in the north. The majority of farms are located in the several clay belts within the shield. The frost-free season is short and unreliable, and rain tends to occur in late summer during the harvest period. In such an area, the choice of crops is limited mainly to hay, potatoes, and root crops.
B2 Fur Production
The fur trade was the economic magnet that first drew Europeans to Ontario, but it is now of only marginal importance to the economy of the province. Still, Ontario remains one of the largest fur producers in Canada. Beaver, raccoon, muskrat, otter, and marten are the leading animals trapped. Fur gathering is largely confined to northern areas, but some southern swamp and marsh areas yield muskrat. Fur farming is also important in Ontario, accounting for three-fifths of the value of all furs produced in the province. Mink, fox, and chinchillas are raised on fur farms.
B3 Forestry and Fishing
Forests cover 683,000 sq km (264,000 sq mi) of Ontario, or 74 percent of the province. Forestry and timber exports have been central to Ontario’s development since the early 19th century, when the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815) cut off British timber supplies in northern Europe. By the mid-19th century, growing American and Canadian needs had added to the demand for Ontario’s timber. The development of the pulp and paper industry in the 20th century spurred growth in Ontario’s forest economy. By 1996, 90,000 people were employed in the industry, producing wood products and pulp and paper and related materials.
About one-half of Ontario’s forest stock is in softwoods that grow in the north, about one-third is mixed forest, and the rest is hardwoods from the south. Spruce, pine, and fir are the leading commercial softwoods. Poplar, birch, and maple are the main commercial hardwoods. Traditionally, the lumber industry was centered in the upper Ottawa Valley, but now sawmills stretch along the southern margin of the Canadian Shield and near the Minnesota border. Wood pulp is the main forestry product, with pulp and paper mills found near power sites all across the shield. There are pulp mills along the northern shore of Lake Superior at Marathon, Terrace Bay, and Nipigon, and another one at Smooth Rock Falls, in eastern Ontario. Paper is made in several areas near the western end of Lake Superior. In western Ontario there are also mills at Fort Frances, Dryden, and Kenora; Kapuskasing and Iroquois Falls are producers in the eastern part of the forest zone.
Ontario’s fishing activity can be divided into commercial fishing and recreational or sport fishing. Although fishing was an important economic activity in the 19th century, the commercial catch is relatively small today. Overfishing, pollution, habitat destruction, and the introduction of predators have greatly reduced catches, although stocks began to revive in the 1990s. A large part of Canada’s freshwater catch comes from Ontario. Lake Erie is the principal fishing area, producing about half of the value of the catch. Perch, smelt, and pickerel are the leading commercial fishes in Lake Erie. Whitefish are taken in Lake Superior, Lake Huron, and Georgian Bay. The major species of fishes caught during recreational fishing are perch, smelt, walleye, and smallmouth bass. Aquaculture, or fish farming, is a growing industry in Ontario. Rainbow trout are the most popular fish at fish farms.
B4 Mining
Ontario ranks first in Canada for mining, and almost 50,000 Ontarians are employed in the mining industry. Metals mined in the ore-rich Canadian Shield include gold, nickel, copper, zinc, and cobalt. Silver and platinum are also important.
The mining districts of the Canadian Shield were discovered when work crews penetrated the region while building the transcontinental railway. The large copper deposits of the Sudbury region were first discovered in 1883, and several years later the copper ores were found to contain nickel as well. Sudbury is now one of the world’s most important producers of nickel, and the region also mines gold, silver, cobalt, and platinum.
Gold occurs widely throughout northern Ontario and has been mined since the mid-19th century. One-half of Canada’s gold production comes from Ontario. Iron ore is mined in the Lake Superior region. Ontario is also a major source of magnesium, which is worked on the southeastern margins of the Canadian Shield.
Southern Ontario leads Canada in the production of salt and construction materials such as clay, sand, and gravel. Some gypsum is obtained from the Niagara Escarpment south of Hamilton. Petroleum and natural gas have long been produced south of Lake Huron, and were at one time centered on the aptly named town of Petrolia. There are offshore gas wells along the western edges of Lake Erie.
B5 Manufacturing
Ontario’s chief economic activity, by a wide margin, is manufacturing. Ontario typically accounts for over one-half of Canada’s national manufacturing output. The manufacturing sector contributed 24 percent of Ontario’s GDP in 1997, and 18 percent of Ontario’s labor force (or over one million people) were employed in some aspect of manufacturing in 2004.
Many factors have contributed to Ontario’s industrial development. The Great Lakes waterway made it convenient to combine iron ore from the Lake Superior region with coal from Pennsylvania in order to produce iron and steel in Ontario. There were excellent natural resources, including minerals, forests, and streams for waterpower. A relatively large population and a skilled labor force also played a part. Proximity to centers of population in the United States provided a convenient export market. However, in the 20th century it was foreign investment in Ontario, particularly by American sources, and the establishment of branch factories, again largely by U.S. businesses, that increased Ontario’s industrial output. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which removed tariffs on imports and exports in Mexico, Canada, and the United States beginning in 1994, also benefited the province’s economy.
Most of Ontario’s manufacturing is concentrated within or near the so-called Golden Horseshoe, which extends around the western end of Lake Ontario from Oshawa through Toronto and Hamilton to the Niagara River. Toronto and its sprawling suburbs form the principal industrial center, and account for almost half of Ontario’s manufacturing establishments. Industries in the Toronto area include food processing and manufacturing machine tools, rubber goods, motor vehicle parts, heavy electrical machinery, agricultural implements, soaps and washing compounds, telecommunications and computer equipment, metal products, furniture, and fixtures.
The chief industry of Ontario is the manufacture of motor vehicles, other transportation equipment, and parts for these machines. Manufacturing is centered at Windsor, Saint Thomas, St. Catharines, Alliston, Oakville, and near Ingersoll, although many component plants exist in the Toronto-Hamilton area. The industry has expanded greatly since the creation of the Canada-United States Automotive Products Agreement (Autopact) of 1965, which removed Canadian import tariffs on cars as long as automakers produced as many cars in Canada as they sold in Canada.
Food and beverage production is varied and widely scattered. Kitchener, an industrial city west of Toronto, has meat-packing plants. Leamington, in the far west near Lake Erie, has canneries. Distilleries and breweries, with a growing number of small, specialist microbreweries, are scattered throughout the more populous parts of southern Ontario. Wineries are chiefly in the Niagara River region. Thunder Bay, with enormous grain storage facilities, also mills flour.
Ontario’s mineral resources are the basis for steelworks at Hamilton and Sault Sainte Marie and metal refineries at Port Colborne and Sudbury. Its timber resources are processed at pulp and paper mills in Thunder Bay and Kenora. Other industries include the manufacture of petroleum products and petrochemicals at Sarnia, textiles and fabricated metals at Brantford and Cambridge, plastic and rubber products at Kitchener, farm implements at St. Catharines, and high-tech and computer goods (including software) in Ottawa and its suburbs and in the Toronto region.
B6 Services
Services account for more than 70 percent of jobs in present-day Ontario, and almost 4 million people work in service industries. The major service fields in the province are wholesale and retail trade, health care and other social assistance, professional or technical occupations, education, and lodging and food services.
Ontario is a trading economy. Its chief exports are motor vehicles and parts, machinery and mechanical appliances, electrical machinery, non-ferrous metals and related products, and pulp and paper. The top five imports are motor vehicles and parts, machinery and mechanical appliances, electrical machinery, non-ferrous metals and allied products, and scientific, professional, and photographic equipment. Ontario’s largest trading partner within Canada is the province of Québec. Externally the province’s largest trading partner is the United States, receiving the vast majority of Ontario’s total exports. Major international markets outside of the United States include the United Kingdom and Germany.
Tourism is also of major importance in Ontario, and the province has the largest tourist industry in Canada. Most international visitors to Ontario come from the United States (over 30 million in 1997).
C Infrastructure
Ontario’s infrastructure includes modern multilane highways, international airports, railways, and canals. The province also has an up-to-date and efficient telecommunications network.
C1 Energy
Ontario’s longstanding public utility, Ontario Hydro, was restructured by the Electricity Act of 1988. The new company, Ontario Power Generation (OPG), currently supplies about 85 percent of all electricity used in Ontario. Its mandate is to reduce its share of power production to 35 percent by 2009, as part of an effort to create a more competitive electricity market. In 2000 Ontario had a total production of 149 million megawatts.
Most hydroelectric sources in the province have already been tapped, and although nuclear power generation has been an attractive alternative since the 1960s, support has declined due to concern over safety issues and the safe removal of nuclear waste. Natural gas is the chief fuel used for residential, commercial, and industrial heating in Ontario. It is largely imported from western Canada and provides more energy to Ontario than either electricity or oil. Oil is refined in Ontario and provides energy principally for transportation. Ontario plants produce enough refined petroleum not only to meet provincial needs but also to export small amounts to other provinces and to the United States.
C2 Transportation
Water routes were the original modes of transportation in Ontario. Gradually, a network of roads and railways was developed and eventually air transport made even remote northern outposts accessible. The major water link to the outside world is the 295-km (183-mi) long St. Lawrence Seaway, which permits ocean-going vessels into the Great Lakes. Principal ports in Ontario include Thunder Bay, Hamilton, and Toronto, although container traffic offloaded elsewhere and transported by road and rail has greatly diminished the shipping importance of the capital.
Air services run scheduled flights into 60 airports throughout the province. Lester B. Pearson Airport in Toronto is Canada’s busiest airport, serving 23 million passengers annually. A project to renovate and expand the airport was begun in the 1990s. Ontario has an extensive railway system that transports passengers and freight. About 13,351 km (8,296 mi) of railroad track lace the province. VIA Rail offers intercity passenger services and the Government of Ontario GO Transit provides commuter trains and buses in the Golden Horseshoe area. Toronto has a modern subway and rapid transit system. An extensive network of paved roads and highways, covering some 72,000 km (45,000 mi), crosses the province. The 14-lane section of Highway 401 running through Toronto is one of the most traveled superhighways in North America.
C3 Communications
Ontario is Canada’s English-speaking communications hub. There are more than 40 daily newspapers published in the province, primarily in English, but also in French, Italian, and Chinese. More than 300 weeklies are also published, as are hundreds of regional and special interest papers. The leading newspapers are the Toronto-based Globe and Mail and National Post, both of which are distributed nationally, and the Toronto Star, Canada’s largest paper. Other prominent papers are The Citizen (Ottawa), The Spectator (Hamilton), and The London Free Press (London). Toronto is also the center for the magazine industry in Canada.
Ontario also forms the nexus of English radio and television services in Canada. The government-owned Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) is headquartered in Ottawa, the national capital, and has extensive radio and television production facilities in principal cities throughout the province. Toronto is home to a number of other national and regional television networks including the CTV network, CanWest Global, and CityTV. A large group of specialized cable channels, some of which broadcast in a variety of languages, are also located in the city. The Ontario provincial government operates an educational television network from Toronto. Additionally there are upwards of 200 private television and radio stations in the province that serve a large variety of communal needs and interests.
Ontario’s telecommunications network, private and public, is extensive. A full range of voice and data services are available, with extensive use of wireless services, including cellular telephones. Use of satellites for communication and broadcasting is widespread, and computer technology and the Internet are basic tools for homes and businesses.
More than one-third of Canada’s population lives in Ontario. According to the 2001 national census, the population of the province was 11,410,046, an increase of 13 percent over the 1991 figure of 10,084,885. Growth since the 1970s has been due not only to natural increase but also to immigration—most new immigrants to Canada settle in Ontario.
In the early days of European settlement of the province most people lived on farms. Rural population reached its peak in about 1880. Since that time it has generally decreased while the towns and cities have expanded rapidly. By 1911 more Ontarians lived in towns and cities than in the countryside. In 2001 urban residents were 85 percent of the population.
The average population density in 2006 was 14 persons per sq km (36 per sq mi). This is somewhat misleading because 90 percent of the people in Ontario live in less than 10 percent of the land area, all of it in the south. Vast areas of the Canadian Shield are unoccupied. The most densely settled areas are the Golden Horseshoe, the Windsor area in the southwest, and the Ottawa area in the east.
A Population Patterns
Among the earliest colonists in the Ontario region were about 6,000 United Empire Loyalists. These people had been loyal to the British during the American Revolution (1775-1783) and had fled to Canada after the United States became independent. The settlers established themselves along waterways—particularly the St. Lawrence River near Kingston, in Prince Edward County on Lake Ontario, and further westward at Niagara. Some mixed with the scattered remnants of the French population who remained in the area, especially in the Detroit-Windsor region in the west (Ontario was once part of the French colony of New France). German-speaking settlers, largely from Pennsylvania, established themselves in the area west of what is now Toronto. Most of the immigrants, however, were transplanted Americans, and, after the War of 1812, settlers from the British Isles. Indeed, until after World War II, Ontario was essentially British in composition. That changed with a huge influx of immigrants from war-ravaged Europe in the late 1940s, the 1950s, and the 1960s. Since the 1970s immigrants have come from Latin America and also increasingly from Asia. The latter groups have almost entirely settled in the cities, especially in cosmopolitan Toronto.
B Principal Cities
The five largest cities of Ontario are in the southern portion of the province. Their populations as of the 2001 census were: Toronto, the provincial capital, with 2,503,281 people; Mississauga, an industrial center, with 668,549; Hamilton, a port and manufacturing city, with 504,559; Ottawa, the national capital, with 812,129; and London, a regional commercial center, with 352,395. Other large cities in southern Ontario include Windsor, an important Canadian port of entry; and Kitchener, a service and manufacturing city. Two principal northern centers are Sudbury, a mining city; and Thunder Bay, a shipping and grain-handling center.
Toronto is the center of the largest urban area in Canada. In 2006 what is called the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) had a population of 5.4 million, amounting to two-fifths of the population of Ontario and one-seventh of the population of Canada.
In the mid-1990s the provincial government launched a radical administrative reorganization and amalgamation of the province’s cities in order to reduce costs and eliminate redundancies. When the City of Toronto, a metropolitan federation since 1953, was restructured in 1998, its old internal city and borough structure was collapsed and replaced by what came to be known as a megacity. Similar slimming initiatives are being undertaken in Hamilton and Ottawa. All have met with considerable local opposition.
C Ethnic Groups and Languages
Ontario is the major immigration portal for Canada, and as such has become a multilingual and multicultural mixing bowl. Fifty-four percent of immigrants settled in the province in 1998. Evidence of this multiethnic blend can be seen easily in cosmopolitan Toronto and in other large cities. More than 60 different cultures find a home in contemporary Ontario, each retaining and maintaining its own traditions and languages. Community centers, newspapers, churches, restaurants, and shopping centers support and are supported by various ethnic groups and organizations. Of those identifying themselves with a single ethnic group in the 2001 census, 28 percent claimed a general European heritage (other than British or French), 18 percent were British, and 23 percent identified themselves as Canadian, people who may be of any ethnic group. Other important groups are East and Southeast Asians, representing 11 percent of the population; South Asians, 7 percent; and French, 3 percent. First Nations, or aboriginal peoples in the province, accounted for 2 percent of inhabitants. A multiple ethnic background was claimed by 39 percent of the population.
English is the first language of 80 percent of Ontarians, and 12 percent speak English and French–Canada’s other official language. Ontario is not an officially bilingual province, although due to the presence of the federal government services in French are widespread. Ontario’s French-speaking community is the largest in the country outside of Québec. Many young Ontarian students attend either bilingual or French immersion schools for part of their education.
First Nations peoples in Ontario fall under two main language groups. The Cree, located primarily in the north of the province, and the Ojibwa and Algonquin, who live throughout Ontario, speak Algonquian. The Iroquois and Huron, who chiefly reside in eastern and southern Ontario, speak Iroquoian.
D Religion
The majority of religious Ontarians have traditionally belonged to one of three churches. The Roman Catholic Church is the largest, with many members from the French-, Italian-, Portuguese- and Spanish-speaking communities. The United Church of Canada is a union of Methodists and Presbyterians dating back to the 1920s. The Anglican Church was traditionally the church of the British elite. Other major denominations are Presbyterians who chose not to be part of the United Church, Baptists, Lutherans, Jews, Greek Orthodox Catholics, and, increasingly, Muslims and Hindus.
E Social Issues
In the 19th century religious strife between Catholics and Protestants was common in Ontario and frequently resulted in violence. Ontarians, who were primarily British and Protestant, often discriminated against immigrants, be they Slavs, Germans, or Irish Catholics. The British majority frequently directed animosity toward French Canadians as well. This animosity was sometimes backed up by laws restricting French Canadians from access to benefits such as state-supported education. Similar restrictions were directed towards blacks and indigenous peoples in the mid-19th century, and federal laws restricting immigration from Asia were enacted in the 20th century.
Considering its huge multiethnic, multilingual, and multicultural mix, contemporary Ontario is a surprisingly tolerant society. Cultural clashes between North American values and those brought from far-off homelands are inevitable, but they appear to be private and familial issues rather than public ones. Also, since early settlers often made their homes on lands that were occupied by indigenous peoples, resentments linger between these peoples and principally those of European descent regarding land claims issues and the interpretation of ancient treaty rights. In addition, as is the case everywhere, immigrant groups bring to Ontario their own prejudices and problems which can become manifested within the province.
A common social issue at the beginning of the 21st century, and one which affects all ethnic groups in Ontario, is the persistent problem of poverty in a rich society. Government cutbacks in social welfare spending in the 1990s dramatized the issue and sparked a lively debate as to whether the poor should be helped by the state or given the ability to help themselves.
A Education
School attendance in Ontario is compulsory for children aged 6 through 16. There are two publicly financed school systems in the province: one without religious affiliation, and a separate Roman Catholic system. Schools in both systems are subject to the same regulations and are supervised by the provincial Ministry of Education.
Ontario’s educational system was reorganized in the late 20th century. It was originally designed in the mid-19th century by educational pioneer Egerton Ryerson and was based on British models. While that basic system, which became the model for many other provincial educational systems in Canada, continues to exist, it began undergoing several important changes in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Formerly, Ontario provided 13 years of free primary and secondary education. Grade 13, a final year in high school, had originally been designed to provide an extra year of schooling at a time when a relatively small number of students continued beyond high school. This system was phased out by 2002, and the more common four-year secondary school became universal in Ontario.
Additional restructuring at the elementary and secondary levels was intended to introduce more centralized structures and universal testing. The aim was for a more comprehensive educational system in which each year is solidly based on previously acquired knowledge. The new curriculum also includes a Grade 10 literacy test that students must pass in order to receive a high school diploma.
As of 2006 there were 4,886 elementary and secondary schools throughout Ontario. Secondary education is offered at collegiate institutes, high schools, vocational schools, and technical and commercial high schools. There are also many private schools in Ontario. Most of Ontario’s 2.1 million students study in English; 100,000 study in French.
Leading public institutions of higher education in Ontario include the University of Toronto; Queen’s University at Kingston; and the University of Western Ontario, in London. Also important are the University of Waterloo, which is known for computer science research; the University of Guelph, which contains Ontario Agricultural College and the Ontario Veterinary College; McMaster University in Hamilton, which has a well-known medical school. Regional universities such as Lakehead University in Thunder Bay are important to the province. Bilingual institutions such as the University of Ottawa, offer courses in both English and French and are also important. The Royal Military College of Canada at Kingston, attended by officer-cadets of both sexes, also offers bilingual instruction. There are also a number of private universities and colleges that are largely supported by religious denominations.
B Libraries and Museums
Public libraries in Ontario grew from the establishment of school-district libraries and so-called mechanic’s institutes. Mechanic’s institutes were libraries sponsored by industries and trade groups that offered collections designed to improve the skills of factory workers, clerks, and apprentices. Ontario was the site of the first state-supported library in Canada, the Toronto Public Library, which was established in 1884. The province also greatly benefited from the generosity of American steel magnate Andrew Carnegie. From 1881 to his death in 1919, Carnegie donated millions of dollars to English-speaking countries worldwide for the construction of library buildings. In many Ontario towns and cities the Carnegie Library forms an important architectural ornament and a focus of social life. Canada’s largest public reference library is the Toronto Reference Library, part of the Toronto Public Library system. The University of Toronto has the country’s largest academic library. The National Library and the National Archives, a depository for public records, are in Ottawa. A copy of every publication released in Canada must be deposited in the National Library.
Many of Canada’s largest museums and galleries are located in Ontario. The two largest art collections are at the National Gallery of Canada, in Ottawa, and the Art Gallery of Ontario, in Toronto. The National Gallery is one of a number of important museums in Ottawa, which is also home to the National Museum of Science and Technology, the Canadian War Museum, and the National Aviation Museum. The massive Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto is a center for scholarship and public education, and has extensive collections of Asian and Egyptian art and artifacts. An associated museum, the Sigmund Samuel Gallery, focuses on the collection of Canadiana. Toronto is also home to the George R. Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, the Bata Shoe Museum, and the Museum for Textiles, all of which reflect specialized interests within the city. Other prominent galleries in Ontario can be found on many university campuses throughout the province, such as the McIntosh Gallery at the University of Western Ontario, in London, or the Agnes Etherington Art Center at Queen’s University, in Kingston. Important collections also exist in public galleries in Hamilton and Windsor. The Ontario Science Center in Toronto and Science North in Sudbury are innovative hands-on museums where visitors are encouraged to participate in displays.
C Arts
In the 19th century cultural activities in Ontario were mostly derived from European and particularly British models. Early Ontarian artists and writers largely followed international trends while attempting to give them a regional significance by focusing on local themes and topics. After World War I (1914-1918), more distinctively Canadian styles began to appear. At the vanguard of this change was the Toronto-based Group of Seven, who looked to the Canadian landscape, especially rocky northern Ontario, as a source of inspiration for their work. Since that time, Ontario’s history and its social and physical landscapes have inspired the work of many of Ontario’s artistic creators. Well-known artists include David Milne and Harold Town, musicians such as Healey Willan, and writers such as Robertson Davies, Alice Munro, and Margaret Atwood.
Through the Ontario Arts Council, Ontario’s government commits about C$25 million annually to the support of individual artists and artistic endeavors. Other initiatives like the Arts Endowment Fund match funds raised by arts groups. The Ontario Film Development Corporation helps support a lively and growing documentary and feature film industry in the province.
Toronto is the third-largest theater center in the English-speaking world after New York and London, and has many important performance houses. Other major cultural institutions are the National Ballet of Canada, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir, and Tafelmusik, all located in that city. Ottawa, as the national capital, is also a cultural performance center and home to organizations such as the National Arts Center Orchestra.
Ontario’s most important scenic and recreational attraction is its water. The province is home to some 250,000 lakes and is threaded by thousands of rivers and streams. Four of the Great Lakes—Lake Superior, Lake Huron, Lake Erie, and Lake Ontario—and their extensive shorelines provide a natural playground. Lake Simcoe, the Muskoka lakes, and other easily accessible lakes north of Toronto have also long been popular vacation centers. Facilities for camping and recreation have been developed along the routes of major highways. Ontario shares with New York one of the greatest scenic attractions in North America, Niagara Falls, where the water of the Niagara River plunges some 57 m (187 ft) at Horseshoe Falls, on the Canadian side of the river.
A National and Provincial Parks
Ontario has six national parks. Point Pelee National Park has 20 km (12 mi) of sandy beaches on Lake Erie, and is a prominent bird migration area. St. Lawrence Islands National Park, Canada’s smallest national park, consists of all or parts of 21 of the scenic Thousand Islands in the St. Lawrence River, about 90 islets, and a narrow strip on the mainland. Georgian Bay Islands National Park, located on Georgian Bay, an inlet of Lake Huron, is complemented by the offshore Fathom Five National Marine Park, Canada’s first national marine park. The marine park includes Flowerpot Island, with its unusual rock formations, and a stretch of lake bottom noted for marine life and shipwrecks. Pukaskwa National Park, on Lake Superior near Marathon, is in the rocky wilderness of the Canadian Shield. Bruce Peninsula National Park is on Lake Huron.
Ontario has 272 provincial parks, which are divided into six types: recreation, historic, wilderness, natural environment, waterway, and nature reserves. In total they cover more than 70,000 sq km (27,000 sq mi) and many are open year-round. Activities and facilities exist for varied activities such as birding, dog sledding, mountain biking, fishing, hunting, canoeing, and camping. The largest, oldest, and best-known provincial park is Algonquin Park. Set in a vast scenic wilderness tract about 280 km (170 mi) north of Toronto, the park was established in 1893 and covers 7,725 sq km (2,983 sq mi).
B Other Places to Visit
Ontario is home to many historic sites and places of interest. Among the province’s attractions are the Alexander Graham Bell Homestead in Brantford, which is the home of Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone; Black Creek Pioneer Village in Toronto, which depicts the development of a 19th-century Canadian farming community; Southwold Earthworks National Historic Site, which commemorates a 16th-century aboriginal village, near Saint Thomas; and Moose Factory, which was the first post of the Hudson’s Bay Company, near Moosonee. Other important sites are the Martyr’s Shrine near Midland, a church erected in honor of martyred 17th-century missionaries; the recreated village of Sainte-Marie among the Hurons, originally a French Jesuit mission, adjacent to the Martyr’s Shrine; and Casa Loma, a European-style castle that houses a museum, in Toronto.
C Sports, Recreation, and Annual Events
Ontario’s many varied parks, forests, and shorelines, as well as its numerous lakes and rivers provide excellent opportunities for many outdoor recreational activities. Sports are also popular in the province, including baseball, soccer, basketball, hockey, and track and field. Professional sports exist at various levels in communities throughout the province. The Toronto Maple Leafs of the National Hockey League, the Toronto Blue Jays baseball team of the American League, and the Toronto Raptors of the National Basketball Association all play in Toronto. The Toronto Argonauts and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats of the Canadian Football League also play in the province. The Ottawa Senators are a National Hockey League franchise in that city. The Hockey Hall of Fame is in Toronto, and the Canadian Football Hall of Fame is in Hamilton.
Many of Canada’s most significant cultural events occur in Ontario. These include the annual Stratford Festival, in Stratford, which runs from May through November and features productions of plays by William Shakespeare. The festival also offers concerts, contemporary drama, musicals, and other productions. The Shaw Festival, which features the works of Irish-born playwright George Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries, is held annually at Niagara-on-the-Lake, and it runs from April through November. In addition, annual events such as the Canadian National Exhibition, the largest annual fair in North America, and the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair are held in Toronto’s Exhibition Park, in August and November respectively. International crews compete in the Royal Canadian Henley, a summer rowing regatta at Port Dalhousie. Other summer events include Caribana, a Caribbean costume and music festival held every August in Toronto; Highland Games at Fergus, with traditional Scottish games; and the Six Nations Native Pageant at Brantford. Winter carnivals, spring and summer festivals, and fall fairs are common throughout the province.
Ontario is one of ten constituent provinces of the federation of Canada. The British North America Act of 1867 (now known as the Constitution Act, 1867) divided government powers between federal and provincial levels, with some amount of overlap. The federal government has responsibility for foreign affairs, immigration, indirect taxation, criminal justice, defense, and commerce. The provinces control health, education, civil justice, social services, and direct taxation. Both Canada and Ontario have parliamentary systems of government based on the British model. At the federal level, Ontario sends 106 members to Ottawa’s House of Commons, and the province is represented in the Canadian Senate by 22 senators. Members of Commons are elected whereas Senators are appointed by the governor-general on the advice of the prime minister. All Canadian citizens over the age of 18 are eligible to vote.
A Provincial Government Organization
A1 Lieutenant Governor
As in all Canadian provinces, the official head of government in Ontario is the federally appointed lieutenant governor. The lieutenant governor is the representative of the British monarch in the province, and he or she signs bills into law, has ceremonial duties, and reads the Speech from the Throne—the government’s agenda—at the beginning of each legislative session.
A2 Premier and Cabinet
Although the lieutenant governor is the head of state in Ontario, as in other provinces, real political power rests with the leader of the political party that has a majority in the provincial legislature. This individual is known as the premier. The executive council, or cabinet, consists of the premier and his or her ministers, who head one or more departments of the government. Members of the cabinet, like the premier, are all elected members of the provincial legislature, and they are selected for their posts by him or her. The premier and the cabinet remain in power as long as they maintain the support of a majority in the legislature. This system is called responsible government.
A3 Provincial Legislature
Ontario has a unicameral (single-chamber) legislature. Provincial legislators are elected to five-year terms of office. They are known as Members of Provincial Parliament. The 107 members of Ontario’s legislature are elected from the same ridings (constituencies) as Ontario’s representatives in the federal House of Commons. After an election, the lieutenant governor calls on the leader of the political party with the most elected members to become premier and form the government. Legislators who are of political parties that do not form the government are known as members of the opposition, and their parties are called opposition parties. The opposition party possessing the largest number of seats in the legislature is called the official opposition.
B Judiciary
Ontario has several levels of courts. The Court of Appeal for Ontario is the province’s highest court, and hears only appeals from the lower courts. The Superior Court of Justice (formerly the General Division) hears all important civil and criminal actions. Justices of the Court of Appeal and the Superior Court of Justice are appointed by the federal governor-general on the advice of the federal cabinet. Below the Superior Court is the Ontario Court of Justice (formerly the Provincial Division), the judges of which are appointed by Ontario’s lieutenant governor on the advice of the provincial cabinet. This court hears provincial criminal and family cases. The Ontario Court of Justice Small Claims Court handles minor civil actions. There are various levels of federal courts in Ontario as well. Responsibility for the administration of provincial justice lies with the office of the attorney general.
C Political Parties
There are three major political parties in Ontario—the Conservative Party, to the right of the political spectrum; the Liberal Party, which occupies a centrist position; and the New Democratic Party (NDP), a left-wing political group. After the 1999 elections, the Progressive Conservatives (now called Conservatives), who gained a majority in the 1995 elections, remained in power in the province, with the Liberal Party making up the Official Opposition.
D Social Services
According to the Canadian Constitution, health care and many other social services fall principally under the jurisdiction of the provinces. By the mid-1990s Ontario’s massive social welfare programs—especially those regarding health under OHIP (the Ontario Health Insurance Plan), Ontario’s medicare scheme—had swollen to a huge size with a comparable state expenditure. Ontario still maintains a universal public health care system and social safety network, although these systems were in a state of transition in the early 21st century. In the 1990s the provincial government began a series of cost-cutting measures that was part of an overall plan to streamline the administration of social services. These actions were in part determined by the view that less government and fewer politicians were desirable, and that the private sector could deliver a range of social services more efficiently. To this end, the government established the Ontario Health Services Restructuring Commission to examine and make recommendations on these issues. Their reports argued for the closure of many local hospitals and the amalgamation of others. The government also reduced welfare payments, instigated a vigorous system of review and examination for fraud, and introduced a workfare scheme—where welfare recipients work for a certain number of hours a week to receive benefits—for the province.
A Early Inhabitants, Contacts, and Rivalries
In the early 1600s about 60,000 people lived in what is today Ontario. In the north were the Algonquian peoples, wandering hunter-gatherers. In the south were a large group of Iroquoian peoples who were skilled farmers. The largest numbers were part of what was known as the Huron confederacy, comprising between 10,000 and 30,000 people living in perhaps two dozen villages, some well fortified. The Huron grew maize (corn), beans, and squash, and supplemented their farming by hunting and fishing. A smaller group called the Tobacco Nation lived to the west, and a third group, the Neutral Nation, lived to the south along the north shore of Lake Erie. The French named the group the Neutral Nation because the band did not take part in the endemic warfare that existed between the Huron and the powerful group to the south, the so-called Five Nations Iroquois.
It was into this setting that Europeans first came. The first to arrive in Ontario is thought to have been Étienne Brûlé, a member of an expedition led by French explorer Samuel de Champlain, in 1610. Champlain himself investigated the area three years later and spent the winter of 1615 with the Huron in their main settlement. By the time of his departure shortly thereafter, the French and Huron were allies and trading partners. The Europeans wanted furs, which the Huron supplied in exchange for European cloth, kettles, steel knives, and other manufactured goods.
The French profited greatly from this relationship. The Huron taught them much about living in and traveling through the dense forests, as well as other survival skills such as snowshoeing and the use of herbal medicines. The Huron served as excellent middlemen in the trade, and they quickly became dependent on the European tools, clothing, and weapons they received. In addition to goods for trade, Europeans also brought to the area diseases to which the Huron had no resistance, such as measles and scarlet fever. Within 30 years, half the Huron population had died from these diseases.
By the 1640s French traders and Jesuit missionaries were well established in the Huron villages to the south of Georgian Bay, an arm of Lake Huron. The trading post at Sainte-Marie among the Hurons was the center of their missionary activity. Rivalries between the Huron and the Five Nations Iroquois to the south were further stoked by commercial competition in the fur trade: In the same way that the Huron acted as middlemen to the French, the Five Nations were allied with the Dutch traders out of Albany, in what is today the state of New York. These rivalries increased until the well-organized, heavily armed Five Nations began an assault on the Huron homeland. French missionaries were martyred and many Huron killed; by 1650 the Jesuits had abandoned their Christian initiative and the Huron, too, had left the area to their conquerors, either retreating with the French towards the St. Lawrence River or moving further north and west. Within a few years other Huron had been forced to leave, and the Five Nations were supreme in southern Ontario.
This did not stop the French from continuing their trade, however, and soon after they had another rival—this time to the north. The Hudson’s Bay Company had been organized by the English in 1670 and within a couple of years English traders were active at their post, Moose Factory, near James Bay. Shortly thereafter they displaced the Dutch traders to the south as well, catching the French in the jaws of a vise that would grow more powerful as time went on. By the mid-18th century the French grip was becoming tenuous. Moreover, their base of operations along the St. Lawrence was tiny in comparison with the growing English colonies of the Atlantic seaboard that were relentlessly reaching inland to conquer more territory. The final great clash came with the French and Indian War (1754-1763). The French were defeated, and by the terms of the Treaty of Paris in 1763, control of New France—the French possessions in North America, including what would become Ontario—passed to the British.
B The British Colony
The British reconstituted the heart of New France into the colony of Québec. In 1774 the Québec Act added the land between the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, the area of present-day southern Ontario, to the colony, extending its borders westward over the mantle of Lake Ontario.
The American Revolution (1775-1783) effectively created two countries out of the British North American colonies–the United States and what would become Canada. The aftermath of the American Revolution saw the influx into western Québec of several thousand United Empire Loyalists, Americans who remained loyal to Britain. They were awarded generous land grants and help in settlement. Some moved into the area between Kingston and Cornwall, others to the peninsula now called Prince Edward County, still more to the Niagara region, and others to Detroit, where they mingled with the old French settlers. Some indigenous populations were loyal to the British as well, with the largest group led by Mohawk chief Joseph Brant, who accepted a substantial land grant in the Grand River Valley. The area that would become Ontario now had a small, and vocal, English-speaking population. As this population grew, a movement developed among the new arrivals for a government of their own, as the restrictive, pro-French Québec Act did not suit the English-speaking colonists.
B1 Creation of Upper Canada
This government came with the Constitutional Act of 1791. This act divided Québec along the spine of the Ottawa River into Upper Canada and Lower Canada, with Upper Canada forming the southern part of what is today Ontario. The British gave each of the colonies a colonial government consisting of an appointed lieutenant governor, an appointed executive council, an appointed upper chamber—the legislative council—and an elected house of assembly.
The first lieutenant governor of Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe, was a career soldier and former member of the British Parliament. He was determined to make Upper Canada a model colony, one which would cause what he called a “renewal of empire” by making Americans see the mistakes of their revolt and return to the fold. This naive belief may have been in part propaganda, but Simcoe did set the pattern for a bold, new government, and got the bureaucratic machinery off to a strong start. Among his more important achievements were the establishment of trial-by-jury and an initiative to end slavery—the first of its kind in British jurisdictions. He also gave away a lot of land, principally to opportunistic American settlers who claimed to be pro-British.
The first capital of the colony was Newark (now Niagara-on-the-Lake). Soon it was shifted to the harbor of York (present-day Toronto). York was considered safer in the event of an American invasion, which worsening relations between Britain and the United States made progressively more likely. War finally came in 1812.
B2 The War of 1812 and Its Aftermath
Of the British North American colonies, Upper Canada most strongly felt the effects of the War of 1812. Although the colony escaped conquest, Americans invaded the Niagara River region during the Battle of Queenston Heights and caused extensive damage in Windsor, the Thames River Valley, and York, which they burned in 1813. The morale of the Upper Canadians, which was low at the onset of the war, was raised and hardened by success in the field and by the vigorous leadership of British commanders, especially Sir Isaac Brock. The war was not prosecuted wholeheartedly by the United States. The end came with not much achieved, except a desire for it not to happen again.
After the war, settlement was slammed shut to Americans, and Upper Canada began to receive a flow of British immigration. These immigrants cleared forests, built towns and roads, and farmed the rich land. Exported lumber and wheat from Ontario found a ready market in Britain and later in the United States. Two great canals were built: The first was the 200-km (124-mi) Rideau Canal built by British army engineers to link Bytown (present-day Ottawa) with Kingston. It was a military triumph and its 47 locks meant that vessels could travel safely from Montréal all the way to Lake Ontario. The second was a peaceful project: the 44-km (27-mi) Welland Ship Canal, which circumvented Niagara Falls and became a successful trade link for Americans and Canadians alike.
By the early 1830s residents of Lower and Upper Canada had become discontent with the strict nature of British colonial rule. Radicals demanding reform rose against the colonial government in the Rebellions of 1837. The affair was well organized in Lower Canada, and considerable military force was needed to stamp it out. In Upper Canada, however, the radicals had much less support and the rebellion was easily suppressed. Rebellion brought the colonial situation to the notice of the British government, which sent an investigator, John George Lambton, the earl of Durham, to examine the nature of the complaints. In his report he proposed the unification of Lower and Upper Canada, in order to minimize the political influence of the French-speaking population in Lower Canada. He also recommended the establishment of responsible government, with an executive consisting of a premier and a cabinet commanding the support of a majority in the legislature, as in Britain.
B3 The United Province and the Confederation Movement
The Act of Union of 1840, which took effect in 1841, united Upper and Lower Canada into a single administrative entity, the United Province of Canada. This new union did not prosper. Legislation was difficult to balance between Canada East (formerly Lower Canada), which was predominately Catholic and French, and Canada West (formerly Upper Canada), which was predominately Protestant and English. Moreover, as population growth in the western section outpaced that of the east, western politicians began to call for parliamentary representation based on population, which would give them more power in the union.
In response to these sectional tensions, the Confederation movement—a movement toward a federal union of the provinces of British North America—began to take hold. Under this system, each of the provinces would have a separate government, and the federal government would manage areas of common interest. The provinces also moved toward union because of external factors and problems of defense, chiefly the threat of an American invasion at the close of the American Civil War (1861-1865) and the British desire to have the colony assume more of its own military expenditures. In 1867 the British Parliament passed the British North America Act. Under this statute, the three provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Canada were reorganized as the four provinces of the Dominion of Canada. In this process, the former province of Canada was again divided. Canada East recovered its name of Québec, and Canada West was named Ontario. Toronto became the capital of Ontario, and Ottawa was established as the capital of the Dominion of Canada. Ontario’s John A. Macdonald became the first prime minister of Canada; in Ontario the first premier was John Sandfield Macdonald. The two men were unrelated except in their desire to make the new system work.
C The Province of Ontario
What was the new province of Ontario like? The population was about 1.5 million, of whom more than half were native-born, with the rest coming from the British Isles and especially Ireland. Toronto, the capital, had a population of almost 50,000, and other cities such as Hamilton and Kingston had about 20,000 and 14,000 people respectively. Most people lived in the countryside on farms that were focused on mixed farming (the raising of both crops and livestock), dairying, cheese making, and growing fruit. Railways were built to augment the canals and lake traffic, telegraph wires were increasingly common, and daily newspapers were a reality. In addition, there was an oil boom in the southwest, and the beginnings of industrialization were found in pockets of Toronto, Hamilton, and London.
The government of John Sandfield Macdonald was more of a caretaker than anything else. The first stable, long-lasting government came with the election of the provincial Liberal Party in 1871, first under the leadership of Edward Blake, and then under the stewardship of Oliver Mowat for more than two decades. Mowat’s government was the first of a trend in Ontario political history: long single-party reigns. Mowat increased agricultural development, made farming a profitable business, and established the Ontario Agricultural College. At the same time, he did not neglect commercial and industrial interests either, supporting a Bureau of Industries to aid development.
Mowat was very influential in the area of federal-provincial relations and he assisted in reshaping the powers of the provinces. In Ottawa John A. Macdonald considered the provinces to be something akin to mere municipalities. Mowat attacked this principle and won legal decisions that strengthened provincial powers at the expense of federal ones. His major achievement was the ruling that provincial legislatures were sovereign, not subordinate, according to the limits of their powers as defined in the British North America Act. This province-building, as it came to be known, saw Ontario’s jurisdictional powers grow at the same time as its territory was being increased westward to the Manitoba border.
After Mowat left office in 1896, the power of the Liberals gradually declined. In 1905 the Conservative Party, under James Pliny Whitney, took office, marking the beginning of another long governmental regime that would last until 1919. Whitney recognized that Ontario was rapidly becoming more urban than rural and that a new urban and industrialized middle class had different needs than the old agrarian electorate. His policies were designed to attract this new group. Whitney increased the extraction of northern Ontario’s mineral wealth, which had been revealed by railway construction in the 1880s, and supported manufacturing. He also backed the creation of public utilities and a workmen’s compensation act.
C1 World War I
World War I (1914-1918) was a turning point for Ontario in many ways. As the most populous province of Canada, it contributed almost 10 percent of its population to the Allied Powers—nearly 250,000 out of a population of 2.5 million. Of that total 68,000 became casualties (listed among the dead, wounded, or missing). The war created a great demand for labor, with much of that demand being met by women. They surprised others and themselves with their capacity to take on heavy “male” work and do it as well or better, and the lesson was permanent. The war also became the occasion for Ontario women to gain suffrage. The province became an arsenal, producing munitions on a great scale for the Allied war effort; it also became a granary, and “Soldiers of the Soil” campaigns saw young people signing up to help tend the crops. The war made big business bigger, and profits soared as the cost of living went up. However, profits fell just as quickly when the war ended, and returning soldiers faced an economic recession.
C2 The Interwar Period
In 1919 something of a reactionary revolution occurred in Ontario politics. A farm lobby group, the United Farmers of Ontario, together with a mixed group of labor candidates, astonished the country by squeezing a close victory at the polls. The government that resulted had virtually no experience, but they were honest and enthusiastic, and as they passed useful and needed social legislation the countryside brightened once more. What caused their downfall was a commitment to moral uplift, embodied by a support for prohibition. Modern, urban Ontarians were not interested, and in the election of 1923 they returned the Conservatives to power under G. Howard Ferguson.
Although the province continued to grow, the major economic and social factor of the postwar years was the Great Depression of the 1930s. The government of George S. Henry, Ferguson’s successor, simply did not know what to do. It came under attack from two sources: the newly emergent, socialist Co-operative Commonwealth Federation (CCF) and a revitalized Liberal Party. In 1934 the Liberals swept into power, and Mitchell Hepburn, a self-proclaimed “friend of the little person,” became premier. However, he turned out to be a Conservative in Liberal clothing and was no particular friend of the little person, especially if that person was a unionized worker. In Hepburn’s view strikes were a threat to law and order, and higher wages would upset the economy. He also engaged in a bitter feud with his fellow-Liberal federal government in Ottawa. This conflict became serious as the world stumbled into World War II in 1939, and Hepburn’s stance was portrayed as a threat to national unity. By 1942 his time was past, and Ontario, in mid-war, faced another election, which was a turning point.
D Modern Ontario
Under the new name of the Progressive Conservative Party, the Conservatives plotted their 1943 victory like a military campaign. Their competition was the CCF and not the Liberals, who were, and would remain for some time, a spent force. The Progressive Conservatives remained in power for a remarkable 42-year span. The reasons for the Progressive Conservatives’ success were clear and said much of the Ontario political culture. First, they had an attractive blueprint for the future: the 22-point program. It called for winning the war and maintaining British links, but it promised much social welfare and foreshadowed the creation of a welfare state. Medical protection, better pensions, a provincial housing corporation, more independence for utilities, municipal tax reforms, and a revamping of education and labor laws were among the highlights. Most of the program was implemented at a slow and steady pace.
All of the Conservative agenda was accomplished against a background where popular votes were normally split closely three ways, which meant that the Conservatives had to be masters of getting out their vote–and they were. The other necessary ingredient for Conservative triumphs was prosperity, and after the close of World War II, prosperity was abundant among the victorious Allies. This was especially true in places like Canada, which had been in the war overseas but had not been subjected to warfare at home.
The industrial expansion of the war had made Canada much more of a major player in world economics and politics. Ontario basked in this newfound role. Between the late 1940s and the 1960s, the population of the province almost doubled, reaching 7.5 million in 1970. Much of the increase was natural, but a large part came from a huge influx of European immigrants keen to find a new home. They brought their skills, talents, and labor. Manufacturing boomed and the minerals of the Canadian Shield continued to fuel that boom, as did new pipelines bringing oil and gas to expanding Ontario refineries. Nuclear power began to take its place beside huge hydroelectric projects, and Ontario’s exports expanded rapidly. At the same time, the Conservatives, under the leadership of Leslie Frost and then John Robarts, worked to increase economic ties between Ontario and the United States. Some of the more dramatic examples of this are the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959 and the Autopact of 1965, which removed Canadian import tariffs on cars as long as automakers produced as many cars in Canada as they sold in Canada.
E Recent Developments
The Conservatives were finally voted out of office in 1985, victims of overconfidence and old age. Like many Ontario elections, it was a close race, but this time the Liberals joined forces with the New Democratic Party (NDP), the successor to the CCF, to form a minority government and topple the Conservatives. David Peterson, the Liberal leader, became the new premier and introduced progressive social legislation such as rent review and a pay equity program.
Peterson’s government easily won reelection in 1987, despite critics’ comments that he was increasingly acting similar to the Conservatives he had replaced. Like the Conservatives, Peterson was a friend to the federal government. His popularity began to decline, however, and his decision to call for an early election in 1990 was a poor one. The electorate saw his government as arrogant and detached, one that cared for itself more than working and middle-class citizens. Besides, Ontario, Canada, and the world were tumbling into a major recession, and David Peterson became an early political victim. The Conservatives were too disorganized by their earlier defeat to profit, and so, for the first time in Ontario’s history, the socialist NDP took power under their youthful leader, Bob Rae. The old three-way balance had been broken in 1985 and the NDP was now seen as a viable alternative rather than as a protest group.
The NDP’s timing was as unfortunate as that of the Liberals. Rae’s heavily politicized government swung wildly, first embracing and rewarding socialists, then shifting to the right and fumbling in an effort to embrace the business community. The costs of government were eventually seen as too high, and attempts were made to retrench without destroying the structure of the welfare state. In 1995 the party suffered defeat, with few accomplishments. The replacement was a revitalized Progressive Conservative Party, which called for a “Common Sense Revolution.”
It was largely the Progressive Conservatives who built the great Ontario welfare state; it was also the Progressive Conservatives who began to tear it down, or at least to change it radically. As in 1943, the Conservatives had a strong, clear agenda, but this time it was to undercut the welfare state they had built originally and focus on less government and fewer politicians. The new agenda was part of a global trend, and the government busily set about privatizing corporations, amalgamating cities, reducing school boards, chopping government grants, and even reducing the number of politicians, both at the provincial and municipal levels.
Protests and massive demonstrations over this agenda came from the left, but the middle-class electorate liked the Conservative’s agenda, although this enthusiasm of the middle class was masked by the return of general prosperity to the economy in the mid- and late 1990s. A good economy boded well for the Conservatives, who claimed that economic success was a result of their programs, especially tax cuts. They were reelected in 1999. As the economy declined in the early 21st century, the Liberal Party gained in popularity. Promising change, the Liberals took power in the 2003 elections and won reelection in 2007. In the 2007 elections the Liberals captured 71 seats in the 107-seat provincial parliament. It was the first time in 70 years that the Liberals had won consecutive elections in Ontario.

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