Ontario (province, Canada)

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Ontario (province, Canada)

Ontario (ŏntâr´ēō), province (2001 pop. 11,410,046), 412,582 sq mi (1,068,587 sq km), E central Canada.

Land and People

Ontario, the second largest Canadian province, is the most populous and the leader in mineral, industrial, and agricultural output and in financial and other services. It is bounded on the N by Hudson Bay and James Bay; on the E by Quebec; on the S by the St. Lawrence River, lakes Ontario, Erie, Huron, and Superior, and the United States; and on the W by Manitoba. The province has three main geographic regions. Western and central portions lie on the Canadian Shield, a region of mineral-rich rock but very little arable land, covered with forests and broken by a labyrinth of rivers and lakes. In the north the Hudson Bay Lowlands border on Hudson and James bays, an area consisting mainly of marshes, swampland, and forest. In the south and east are the Great Lakes–St. Lawrence lowlands, where nine tenths of the population live and where industry and agriculture are concentrated.

The far north has subarctic conditions, while the west has a temperate climate. Around the Great Lakes the weather is moderate and summers are longer than in other parts of the province. The St. Lawrence River and seaway give Ontario access to the Atlantic. Other important rivers include those on the province's borders—the Ottawa (which forms part of the boundary with Quebec), and the St. Clair, the Detroit, and the St. Marys, all on the U.S. border. Several of the province's rivers are used to generate hydroelectric power, among them the Niagara, with its famous falls. Besides the falls, Ontario has numerous other tourist attractions, including the annual Shakespeare and classical repertory theater festival at Stratford, the annual George Bernard Shaw festival at Niagara-on-the-Lake, four national parks, the huge Algonquin Provincial Park, and numerous lake and island resorts.

With steady immigration from Italy, Germany, Portugal, the West Indies, India, and East Asia, Ontario's ethnic composition is rapidly diversifying. People of British ancestry make up about half the population, and one tenth are of French extraction. Over 80% of Ontario's residents live in urban centers. Toronto, the largest metropolitan area in Canada, is the capital; other important cities are Ottawa (the capital of Canada), Hamilton, Kitchener, London, Windsor, Thunder Bay, and St. Catharines.

Economy and Higher Education

The most important economic activity in Ontario is manufacturing, and the Toronto-Hamilton region is the most highly industrialized section of the country. The area from Oshawa around the west end of Lake Ontario to Niagara Falls is known as the "Golden Horseshoe." Major industrial products include motor vehicles and parts; iron, steel, and other metal products; foods and beverages; electrical goods; machinery; chemicals; petroleum and coal products; and paper products. Ontario has many high-technology companies, especially around Ottawa and in the "Canadian Technology Triangle" region around Waterloo-Kitchener, Guelph, and Cambridge, and its service industries are second in importance only to manufacturing.

Agriculture is also significant, with cattle, dairy products, and hogs producing the most income. Other major crops are corn, wheat, potatoes, and soybeans. On the shores of the eastern Great Lakes are orchards and tobacco plantations. In the Canadian Shield region iron ore, copper, zinc, gold, silver, and uranium are mined. The area around Sudbury is particularly rich in copper and nickel. Ontario is also a major producer of lumber and pulp and paper.

Among the province's institutions of higher education are Brock Univ., at St. Catherines; Carleton Univ. and the Univ. of Ottawa, at Ottawa; Laurentian Univ., at Sudbury; McMaster Univ., at Hamilton; Queen's Univ., at Kingston; Ryerson Univ. and the Univ. of Toronto, at Toronto; Trent Univ., at Peterboro; the Univ. of Waterloo and Wilfred Laurier Univ., at Waterloo; the Univ. of Western Ontario, at London; and York Univ., at North York.

History and Politics

Before the arrival of Europeans the Ontario region was inhabited by several Algonquian (Ojibwa, Cree, and Algonquin) and Iroquoian (Iroquois, Huron, Petun, Neutral, Erie, and Susquehannock) tribes. Étienne Brulé explored southern Ontario in 1610–12. Henry Hudson sailed into Hudson Bay in 1611 and claimed the region for England. A few years later Samuel de Champlain reached (1615) the eastern shores of Lake Huron, and French explorers, missionaries, and trappers had established posts at several points. However, settlement was long hindered by the presence of the Iroquois.

In the late 17th cent. the British established trading posts in the Hudson Bay area, and the Anglo-French struggle for control of Ontario began. The conflict was resolved by the Treaty of Paris of 1763, which gave Great Britain all of France's mainland North American territory. In 1774 the British merged Ontario with Quebec, which had a predominantly French culture. When many pro-British Loyalists migrated to Ontario after the American Revolution, the desire for institutions and a government separate from those of Quebec grew. The Constitutional Act of 1791 split Quebec into Lower Canada (present-day Quebec) and Upper Canada (present-day Ontario), with the Ottawa River as the dividing line.

During the War of 1812, Americans raided Upper Canada and burned Toronto (1813). After the war many English, Scottish, and Irish settlers came to the colony. Conflict developed between the conservative, aristocratic governing group (known as the Family Compact) and the reformers and radicals led by William Lyon Mackenzie. The radicals staged an armed uprising in 1837 but were easily suppressed. However, the rebellion occurred at the same time as a revolt in Lower Canada, and the British government dispatched Lord Durham (see Durham, John George Lambton, 1st earl of) to study the situation in the North American colonies. He recommended the reunion of the two colonies (to place the French of Quebec in a minority) and the granting of self-government.

Accordingly, Upper and Lower Canada were joined in 1841 and became known, respectively, as Canada West and Canada East. Parliamentary self-government was not granted until 1849. However, conflict between French and English made the united province unworkable, and in 1867, when the confederation of Canada was formed, Ontario and Quebec became separate provinces. With the construction of the transcontinental railroad in the 1880s, settlement increased in western Canada, and Ontario's commerce and industry flourished. The exploitation of minerals in the Canadian Shield region began in the early 20th cent. From the 1960s, many businesses that left Quebec because of agitation against anglophone economic domination there relocated around Toronto, shifting the balance of Canadian business and financial power decisively to Ontario.

The main political parties in Ontario are the Liberals, who held power during the late 19th cent. and for a few terms during the 20th cent.; the Progressive Conservatives, who governed from 1905 to 1985 (except in 1919–23 and 1934–43); and the New Democrats, a democratic socialist party, who controlled the government from 1990 to 1995. Elections in 1995 brought Michael Harris and the Progressive Conservatives to power; after four years of cuts in social spending, Harris became (1999) the first Ontario premier to secure a second term in three decades. He resigned as premier in Apr., 2002, and was succeeded by Ernie Eves.

In 2003 the Liberals, led by Dalton McGuinty, won at the polls, and formed their first provincial government since 1990. They won again in 2007 and, with a plurality, in 2011. Liberal Kathleen Wynne succeeded McGuinty as premier in 2013, becoming the first woman to lead the province and Canada's first openly gay provincial premier. In the 2014 provincial elections the Liberals won a majority of the seats.

Ontario sends 24 senators and 99 representatives to the national parliament.

Bibliography

See D. Fink, comp., Life in Upper Canada, 1781–1841 (1971); R. L. Gentilcore, ed., Ontario (1972); J. Spelt, Urban Development in South Central Ontario (1972); J. V. Wright, Ontario Prehistory (1972); C. Armstrong, The Politics of Federalism: Ontario's Relations with the Federal Government 1867–1942 (1981); K. J. Rea, The Prosperous Years: The Economic History of Ontario 1939–75 (1985); D. Peterson, Ontario (1987).

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