With an area of 910,000 square kilometres (354,000 square miles) Ontario is Canada’s second-largest province (Quebec is the largest province at 1.5 million square kilometres). This is equivalent to an area larger than France and Spain combined.
Ontario is Canada’s most populous province with almost 13 million people (2011) and representing approximately 40% of the national population. More than 85% of the provincial population lives in urban centres, largely in cities on the shores of the Great Lakes. The largest concentration of people and cities is in the “Greater Golden Horseshoe” along the western shore of Lake Ontario, including the Greater Toronto Area, Hamilton, St. Catharines and Niagara Falls. With more than 9 million people, this area is one of the fastest growing areas in North America.
Ontario is also home to two time zones: the boundary line between the Central Time Zone and Eastern Time Zone is just west of Thunder Bay, running north from the United States border to Hudson Bay.
Ontario is Canada’s economic powerhouse generating approximately 37% of national GDP. It is also the eight largest economy in North America, and is larger than many economies internationally including those of Belgium, Sweden, Chile, Norway, Israel, and Finland.
Ontario’s diverse geographic landscape has given rise to regional concentrations of competitive industrial sectors. In Northwest and Northeast Ontario, primary industries like mining, paper, wood products and oil and gas extraction are strong. While in southwestern, Central and Eastern Ontario there is a greater mix that is largely anchored around manufacturing industry. Key sectors in this part of the province are Aerospace, Automotive, Financial Services, Food and Beverage Processing, Information and Communications Technology, and Life Sciences.
Ontario is also recognized as a global leader in innovative high technology industries. For example, Ontario has the second largest IT cluster in North America comprising approximately 19,000 innovative firms. The province also has one of the largest life sciences clusters in North America with over 1600 firms operating. Almost half of Canada’s full-time research and development (R&D) personnel are in Ontario, where more than $14 billion is spent annually on R&D (44% of national total).
In addition, Ontario (particularly the Toronto region) has developed an international reputation for television and film production, and the annual Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) is one of the largest and best attended film festivals in the world.
Ontario has one of the most educated workforces in the world with 66% of adults having completed post-secondary education (OECD 2015). This is ahead of Ireland (55%), Japan (47%), the United States (44%), the United Kingdom (42%) and Germany (36%). This, coupled with a strong educational infrastructure particularly in reading, math and science skills has given Ontario a highly skilled reliable workforce, an environment that supports innovation and a high quality of life.
POLITICS AND SOCIETY
Like other provinces and territories across Canada, Ontario has its own Parliament or Legislature with responsibility for economic development, social services, health care, education, culture and transportation. The current government led by the Premier, the Honourable Kathleen Wynne, is drawn from the Liberal Party of Ontario. The Progressive Conservative Party forms the Official Opposition, with the New Democratic Party forming the Third Party. The Liberal Party of Ontario was elected to their role in 2014 winning 58 of the 107 seats in the Legislature (54%).
The Lieutenant Governor is the viceregal representative in Canada’s provinces, representing Queen Elizabeth II, Canada’s Head of State. Ontario’s Lieutenant Governor is the Honourable Elizabeth Dowdeswell, having been appointed to the role by the Governor General in 2014.
English is Ontario’s official language, though there are several French-speaking communities across the province. French language rights have been extended to the province’s legal and educational systems. In addition, government services are provided in English and French across the province.
Ontario’s population growth has depended on immigration ever since the American Revolution sent Loyalists north to Canada. Even today, nearly half of the 250,000 people who immigrate to Canada annually choose to live in Ontario. This concentration of new immigrants to Canada in Ontario has led Toronto, in particular to being called the most multicultural city in the world by many media outlets and others across the world. Over 150 individual languages and dialects are spoken in Toronto alone according to Statistics Canada (the national statistics agency). While English is the predominant language spoken by most, others include Cantonese, Mandarin, Italian, Punjabi, Spanish, Tagalog, Urdu, Tamil, Portuguese, Persian, Arabic, Russian, Polish, Gujarati, Korean, Vietnamese, and Greek.
This strong support for multiculturalism, alongside the protections and freedoms afforded to individuals has led Ontario cities especially receiving numerous accolades for their livability. In 2015, the Economist magazine ranked Toronto as the world’s best city to live in, while Metropolis Magazine, a trade publication for the design and architecture industries named Toronto as the world’s most livable city. Furthermore, in Mercer’s 2015 Quality of Living survey, Ottawa and Toronto were ranked 15th and 16th in the world respectively, and 2nd and 3rd in North America.
Cultures from around the world thrive and are recognized in Ontario with festivals such as the Caribbean Carnival, Oktoberfest and the Canadian Aboriginal Festival celebrated annually. Whatever your nationality, culture, religion or background, all will feel welcome in Ontario.