Ontario /ɒnˈtɛərioʊ/ is one of the ten provinces of Canada, located in east-central Canada. It is Canada's most populous province by a large margin, accounting for nearly 40% of all Canadians, and is the second largest province in total area. Ontario is fourth largest in total area when the territories of the Northwest Territories and Nunavut are included. It is home to the nation's capital city, Ottawa, and the nation's most populous city, Toronto.
Ontario is bordered by the province of Manitoba to the west, Hudson Bay and James Bay to the north, and Quebec to the east, and to the south by the U.S. states of Minnesota, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania. All but a small part of Ontario's 2,700 km (1,678 mi) border with the United States follows inland waterways: from the west at Lake of the Woods, eastward along the major rivers and lakes of the Great Lakes/Saint Lawrence River drainage system. These are the Rainy River, the Pigeon River, Lake Superior, the St. Marys River, Lake Huron, the St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, the Detroit River, Lake Erie, the Niagara River, Lake Ontario and along the St. Lawrence River from Kingston, Ontario, to the Quebec boundary just east of Cornwall, Ontario.
Ontario is sometimes conceptually divided into two regions, Northern Ontario and Southern Ontario. The great majority of Ontario's population and its arable land is located in the south. In contrast, the larger, northern part of Ontario is sparsely populated.
The province is named after Lake Ontario, a term thought to be derived from Ontarí:io, a Huron (Wyandot) word meaning "great lake", or possibly skanadario, which means "beautiful water" in the Iroquoian languages. Ontario contains about 250,000 freshwater lakes.
The province consists of three main geographical regions:
-The thinly populated Canadian Shield in the northwestern and central portions, which comprises over half the land area of Ontario. Although this area mostly does not support agriculture, it is rich in minerals and in part covered by the Central and Midwestern Canadian Shield forests, studded with lakes and rivers. Northern Ontario is subdivided into two sub-regions: Northwestern Ontario and Northeastern Ontario.
-The virtually unpopulated Hudson Bay Lowlands in the extreme north and northeast, mainly swampy and sparsely forested.
-Southern Ontario which is further sub-divided into four regions; Central Ontario (although not actually the province's geographic centre), Eastern Ontario, Golden Horseshoe and Southwestern Ontario (parts of which were formerly referred to as Western Ontario).
The Carolinian forest zone covers most of the southwestern region of the province. The temperate and fertile Great Lakes-Saint Lawrence Valley in the south is part of the Eastern Great Lakes lowland forests ecoregion where the forest has now been largely replaced by agriculture, industrial and urban development. A well-known geographic feature is Niagara Falls, part of the Niagara Escarpment. The Saint Lawrence Seaway allows navigation to and from the Atlantic Ocean as far inland as Thunder Bay in Northwestern Ontario. Northern Ontario occupies roughly 87% of the surface area of the province; conversely Southern Ontario contains 94% of the population.
The climate of Ontario varies largely from season to season and from one location to another. The climate of Ontario is affected by 3 air sources: cold, dry and polar air from the north (dominant factor during the winter months); Pacific polar air passing over the western prairies and warm, moist air from the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. The effects of these major air masses on temperature and precipitation depend mainly on latitude, proximity to major bodies of water and to a small extent, terrain relief. In general, most of Ontario's climate is classified as humid continental. Ontario has three main climatic regions.
The surrounding Great Lakes greatly influence the climate of southern Ontario. During the fall and winter months, heat stored from the lakes is released, moderating the climate near the shores of the lakes. This makes some parts of southern Ontario have milder winters than mid-continental areas at lower latitudes. Parts of Southwestern Ontario have a moderate humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification Dfa), similar to that of the inland Mid-Atlantic states and the Great Lakes portion of the Midwestern United States. The region has warm, humid summers and cold winters. Annual precipitation ranges from 750–1,000 mm (30–39 in) and is well distributed throughout the year. Most of this region lies in the lee of the Great Lakes, making for abundant snow in some areas. In December 2010, the snowbelt set a new record when it was hit by more than a metre of snow within 48 hours. Central and Eastern Ontario have a moderate humid continental climate (Köppen Dfb). This region has warm and sometimes hot summers with colder, longer winters, ample snowfall and annual precipitation similar to the rest of Southern Ontario. Precipitation in Central and Eastern Ontario varies dramatically, with the driest areas in the northwest and the wettest areas in the southeast.
Land was not legally subdivided into administrative units until a treaty had been concluded with the native peoples ceding the land. In 1788, while part of the Province of Quebec (1763–1791), southern Ontario was divided into four districts: Hesse, Lunenburg, Mecklenburg, and Nassau.
In 1792, the four districts were renamed: Hesse became the Western District, Lunenburg became the Eastern District, Mecklenburg became the Midland District, and Nassau became the Home District. Counties were created within the districts.
By 1798, there were eight districts: Eastern, Home, Johnstown, London, Midland, Newcastle, Niagara, and Western.
By 1826, there were eleven districts: Bathurst, Eastern, Gore, Home, Johnstown, London, Midland, Newcastle, Niagara, Ottawa, and Western.
By 1838, there were twenty districts: Bathurst, Brock, Colbourne, Dalhousie, Eastern, Gore, Home, Huron, Johnstown, London, Midland, Newcastle, Niagara, Ottawa, Prince Edward, Simcoe, Talbot, Victoria, Wellington, and Western.
In 1849, the districts of southern Ontario were abolished by the Province of Canada, and county governments took over certain municipal responsibilities. The Province of Canada also began creating districts in sparsely populated Northern Ontario with the establishment of Algoma District and Nipissing District in 1858.
The borders of Ontario, its new name in 1867, were provisionally expanded north and west. When the Province of Canada was formed, its borders were not entirely clear, and Ontario claimed eventually to reach all the way to the Rocky Mountains and Arctic Ocean. With Canada's acquisition of Rupert's Land, Ontario was interested in clearly defining its borders, especially since some of the new areas in which it was interested were rapidly growing. After the federal government asked Ontario to pay for construction in the new disputed area, the province asked for an elaboration on its limits, and its boundary was moved north to the 51st parallel north.
The northern and western boundaries of Ontario were in dispute after Canadian Confederation. Ontario's right to Northwestern Ontario was determined by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in 1884 and confirmed by the Canada (Ontario Boundary) Act, 1889 of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. By 1899, there were seven northern districts: Algoma, Manitoulin, Muskoka, Nipissing, Parry Sound, Rainy River, and Thunder Bay. Four more northern districts were created between 1907 and 1912: Cochrane, Kenora, Sudbury and Timiskaming.
The nationalist movement in Quebec, particularly after the election of the Parti Québécois in 1976, contributed to driving many businesses and English-speaking people out of Quebec to Ontario, and as a result Toronto surpassed Montreal as the largest city and economic centre of Canada. Depressed economic conditions in the Maritime Provinces have also resulted in de-population of those provinces in the 20th century, with heavy migration into Ontario.
Ontario has no official language, but English is considered the de facto language. Numerous French language services are available under the French Language Services Act of 1990 in designated areas where sizable francophone populations exist.
In the 2011 census, Ontario had a population of 12,851,821 living in 4,887,508 of its 5,308,785 total dwellings, a 5.7% change from its 2006 population of 12,160,282. With a land area of 908,607.67 km2 (350,815.38 sq mi), it had a population density of 14.1/km2 (36.6/sq mi) in 2011. In 2013, Statistics Canada estimated the province's population to be 13,537,994.
The percentages given below add to more than 100% because of dual responses (e.g., "French and Canadian" response generates an entry both in the category "French Canadian" and in the category "Canadian").
The majority of Ontarians are of English or other European descent including large Scottish, Irish and Italian communities. Slightly less than 5% of the population of Ontario is Franco-Ontarian that is those whose native tongue is French, although those with French ancestry account for 11% of the population. In relation to natural increase or inter-provincial migration, immigration is a huge population growth force in Ontario, as it has been over the last two centuries. More recent sources of immigrants with large or growing communities in Ontario include Caribbeans, Latin Americans, Europeans, Asians, and Africans. Most populations have settled in the larger urban centres.
Ontario is the second most diverse province in terms of visible minorities after British Columbia, with 22.8% of the population consisting of visible minorities. Aboriginal peoples make up 2% of the population, with two-thirds of them consisting of First Nations and the other third consisting of Métis. There is also a small number of Inuit in the province. The number of Aboriginal people has been increasing at rates greater than the general population of Ontario.
As of 2011, the largest religious denominations in Ontario are the Roman Catholic Church (with 31.4% of the population), the United Church of Canada (7.5%), and the Anglican Church (6.1%). 23.1% of Ontarians have no religion, making it the second largest religious grouping in the province after Roman Catholics.
The major religious groups in Ontario, as of 2011, are:
The principal language of Ontario is English, which is spoken natively by about 70% of the province's population as of the 2011 census. There is also a significant French speaking population concentrated in the central and eastern parts of the province, where under the French Language Services Act, provincial government services are required to be available in French if at least 10% of a designated area's population reports French as their native language. Immigrant languages such as Italian, Tamil, Chinese and Punjabi are also found in the province.
The North American Lexus RX is built in Cambridge. As of 2013, Ontario is the largest manufacturer of automobiles in North America.
Ontario is Canada's leading manufacturing province, accounting for 52% of the total national manufacturing shipments in 2004. Ontario's largest trading partner is the American state of Michigan. The government of Ontario posted a record C$21.3 billion ($20.7 billion) deficit for the 2009-10 fiscal year. The province’s net debt will rise to C$220 billion in 2010-11, or a record 37% of gross domestic product.
Ontario's rivers make it rich in hydroelectric energy. In 2009 Ontario Power Generation generated 70% of the electricity of the province, of which 51% is nuclear, 39% is hydroelectric and 10% is fossil fuel derived. Much of the newer power generation coming online in the last few years is natural gas or combined cycle natural gas plants. OPG is not however responsible for the transmission of power, which is under the control of Hydro One. Despite its diverse range of power options, problems related to increasing consumption, lack of energy efficiency and aging nuclear reactors, Ontario has been forced in recent years to purchase power from its neighbours Quebec and Michigan to supplement its power needs during peak consumption periods.
An abundance of natural resources, excellent transportation links to the American heartland and the inland Great Lakes making ocean access possible via container ships, have all contributed to making manufacturing the principal industry, found mainly in the Golden Horseshoe region, which is the largest industrialized area in Canada, the southern end of the region being part of the North American Rust Belt. Important products include motor vehicles, iron, steel, food, electrical appliances, machinery, chemicals, and paper. Ontario surpassed Michigan in car production, assembling 2.696 million vehicles in 2004. Ontario has Chrysler plants in Windsor and Bramalea, two GM plants in Oshawa and one in Ingersoll, a Honda assembly plant in Alliston, Ford plants in Oakville and St. Thomas and Toyota assembly plants in Cambridge and Woodstock.
However, as a result of steeply declining sales, in 2005, General Motors announced massive layoffs at production facilities across North America including two large GM plants in Oshawa and a drive train facility in St. Catharines resulting in 8,000 job losses in Ontario alone. In 2006, Ford Motor Company announced between 25,000 and 30,000 layoffs phased until 2012; Ontario was spared the worst, but job losses were announced for the St. Thomas facility and the Windsor Casting plant. However, these losses will be offset by Ford's recent announcement of a hybrid vehicle facility slated to begin production in 2007 at its Oakville plant and GM's re-introduction of the Camaro which will be produced in Oshawa. On December 4, 2008 Toyota announced the grand opening of the RAV4 plant in Woodstock, and Honda also has plans to add an engine plant at its facility in Alliston. Despite these new plants coming online, Ontario has not yet fully recovered following massive layoffs caused by the global recession; its unemployment rate was 7.3% (as of May 2013), compared to 8.7% in Jan. 2010 and roughly 6% in 2007.
Toronto, the capital of Ontario, is the centre of Canada's financial services and banking industry. Neighbouring cities are home to product distribution, IT centres, and various manufacturing industries. Canada's Federal Government is the largest single employer in the National Capital Region, which centres on the border cities of Ontario's Ottawa and Quebec's Gatineau. The information technology sector is important, particularly in the Silicon Valley North section of Ottawa, as well as the Waterloo Region, where the world headquarters of Research in Motion (the developers of the BlackBerry smartphone) is located. Providing more than 19% of the local jobs and employing more than 13% of the entire local population. Hamilton is the largest steel manufacturing city in Canada, and Sarnia is the centre for petrochemical production. Construction continues to employ more than 6½% of the province's work force as of June 2011.
Mining and the forest products industry, notably pulp and paper, are vital to the economy of Northern Ontario. More than any other region, tourism contributes heavily to the economy of Central Ontario, peaking during the summer months owing to the abundance of fresh water recreation and wilderness found there in reasonable proximity to the major urban centres. At other times of the year, hunting, skiing and snowmobiling are popular. This region has some of the most vibrant fall colour displays anywhere on the continent, and tours directed at overseas visitors are organized to see them. Tourism also plays a key role in border cities with large casinos, among them Windsor, Cornwall, Sarnia and Niagara Falls, which attract many U.S. visitors.
Once the dominant industry, agriculture occupies a small percentage of the population but still a large part of Southern Ontario's land area. As the following table shows, while the number of individual farms has steadily decreased and their overall size has shrunk at a lower rate, greater mechanization has supported increased supply to satisfy the ever increasing demands of a growing population base; this has also meant a gradual increase in the total amount of land used for growing crops.
Ontario is home to Niagara Falls, which supplies a large amount of hydroelectricity for the province. The Bruce Nuclear Generating Station, the largest nuclear power plant in the world, is also in Ontario and uses 8 CANDU reactors to generate electricity for the province.
The British North America Act 1867 section 69 stipulated "There shall be a Legislature for Ontario consisting of the Lieutenant Governor and of One House, styled the Legislative Assembly of Ontario." The assembly has 107 seats representing ridings elected in a first-past-the-post system across the province.
The legislative buildings at Queen's Park are the seat of government. Following the Westminster system, the leader of the party holding the most seats in the assembly is known as the "Premier and President of the Council" (Executive Council Act R.S.O. 1990). The Premier chooses the cabinet or Executive Council whose members are deemed ministers of the Crown.
Ontario is led by the minority government of Liberal Premier Kathleen Wynne. Since gaining power under former Premier Dalton McGuinty in 2003, the Liberal Party has been re-elected twice in the 2007 and 2011 general elections. Unlike its previous two mandates, the party only achieved a minority mandate in the 2011 general election by capturing 53 seats (as opposed to the 71 it won in 2007), with the Progressive Conservatives winning 37 and the NDP winning 17 seats. Wynne replaced McGuinty as party leader and Premier, following a leadership convention in 2013.
In the 2011 federal election in Ontario the Conservatives were elected in 73 ridings, the NDP in 22, and the Liberals in 11. The Green Party did not win a seat in Ontario.
Higher education in Ontario includes postsecondary education and skills training regulated by the Ministry of Training, Colleges, and Universities and provided by universities, colleges of applied arts and technology, and private career colleges. The current minister is Brad Duguid who assumed the role February 19, 2013 from the previous minister Glen Murray. The ministry administers laws covering 22 public universities, 24 public colleges (21 Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology (CAATs) and three Institutes of Technology and Advanced Learning (ITALs)), 17 privately funded religious universities, and over 500 private career colleges. The Canadian constitution provides each province with the responsibility for higher education and there is no corresponding national federal ministry of higher education. Within Canadian federalism the division of responsibilities and taxing powers between the Ontario and Canadian governments creates the need for cooperation to fund and deliver higher education to students. Each higher education system aims to improve participation, access, and mobility for students.
There are two central organizations that assist with the process of applying to Ontario universities and colleges: the Ontario Universities' Application Centre and Ontario College Application Service. While application services are centralized, admission and selection processes vary and are the purview of each institution independently. Admission to many Ontario postsecondary institutions can be highly competitive. Upon admission, students may get involved with regional student representation with the Canadian Federation of Students, the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations, the Ontario Undergraduate Student Alliance, or through the College Student Alliance in Ontario.