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(In Detail) (In Detail)
Motto: Ut Incepit Fidelis Sic Permanet (Loyal she began, loyal she remains)
Largest City Toronto

 - Total
 - % fresh water
4th largest
(2nd lgst prov.)

1 076 395 km²
 - Total (2001)
 - Density
Ranked 1st
11 874 400
Admittance into Confederation
 - Date
 - Order
Prov. of Canada
joined Confed.

Time zone UTC -5 & -6
Postal information
Postal abbreviation
Postal code prefix
ISO 3166-2CA-ON

 House seats
 Senate seats

PremierDalton McGuinty (Liberal)
Lieutenant GovernorJames K. Bartleman
Government of Ontario
This article describes the Canadian province. For other usages, see Ontario (disambiguation).

Ontario is the most populous of Canada's provinces. It is found in east-central Canada. Its capital is Toronto. Ottawa, the capital of Canada, is also in Ontario. Ontario has a population (2001) of 11 874 400 (Ontarians) and an area of 1 076 395 km².

Table of contents
1 Geography
2 Economy
3 Agriculture
4 History
5 Government
6 See also


See: List of Ontario counties

Ontario is bounded on the north by Hudson Bay, on the east by Quebec, on the west by Manitoba, and on the south by the American states of Minnesota, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York. Ontario's long American border is formed almost entirely by lakes and rivers, starting in Lake of the Woods and continuing to the Saint Lawrence River near Cornwall; it passes through the four Great Lakes on which Ontario has coastline, namely Lakes Superior, Huron (which includes Georgian Bay), Erie, and Ontario (for which the province is named; Ontario itself is an Iroquois word meaning "beautiful lake" or "beautiful water").

The largest city and capital of the province is Toronto, the main component of the Golden Horseshoe conurbation surrounding the western portion of Lake Ontario. The capital of Canada, Ottawa, is in the far east of the province, on the Ottawa River which forms most of the border with Quebec.

Northern Ontario is entirely upon the rugged terrain of the Canadian Shield. Ontario's highest point is the Ishpatina Ridge.

The province consists of three main geographical regions: the Canadian Shield in the western and central portions, a mainly infertile area rich in minerals and studded with lakes and rivers; the Hudson Bay Lowlands in the northeast, mainly swampy and forested; and the most populous (90%) and temperate region, the fertile Great Lakes-Saint Lawrence Valley in the southeast. Industry and agriculture are concentrated in this region, which has access by the Saint Lawrence Seaway to the Atlantic Ocean.

Increasing immigration from all parts of the world, especially to Toronto and its surroundings, are rapidly diversifying the province's ethnic makeup. About five per cent of the population of Ontario is Franco-ontarian.


The province's main industry is manufacturing, found mainly in the Golden Horseshoe region, the most industrialized area in the country. Important products include motor vehicles, iron, steel, food, electrical appliances, machinery, chemicals, and paper. The technology sector is also important, especially around Markham, Waterloo and Ottawa.

Mining, especially around Sudbury, is important in the Canadian Shield. Ontario's rivers, particularly its share of the Niagara River, make it rich in hydroelectric energy.


Grain elevator near
London, Ontario

Agriculture is also significant in dairies in the St. Lawrence River Valley, along the north shores of Lake Ontario and in south central Ontario. In southern Ontario, between Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie and on the Niagara Peninsula are sites of an important fruit and vegetable growing industry. Apples are also grown near Ottawa. At Leamington is the largest complex of greenhouses in the world, covering about 200 acres, mostly used for tomato production. In the Stratford - Kitchener area are Amish and Mennonite communities that suport themselves primarily by farming and truck gardening. Along the shore of Lake Huron and southern Georgian Bay is a major beef cattle raising area. Ontario is a major beekeeping province, with abundant nectar sources for honey production, and a need for fruit and vegetable pollination.

Massey-Ferguson Ltd. which was once one of the largest farm implement manufacturers in the world, had its beginnings in the blacksmith shop of Daniel Massey in the agricultural district around Newcastle, Ontario.


Before the arrival of the Europeans, the region was inhabited both by Algonquian (Ojibwa, Cree and Algonquin) and Iroquoian (Iroquois and Huron) tribes. The French explorer Étienne Brûlé explored part of the area in 1610-12. The English explorer Henry Hudson sailed into Hudson Bay in 1611 and claimed the area for England, but Samuel de Champlain reached Lake Huron in 1615 and French missionaries began to establish posts along the Great Lakes. French settlement was hampered by their hostilities with the Iroquois, who would ally themselves with the British.

Map of Ontario, showing CMA's and CA's
The British established trading posts on Hudson Bay in the late 17th century and began a struggle for domination of Ontario. The Treaty of Paris (1763) ended the French and Indian War by awarding nearly all of France's North American possessions (New France) to Britain. The region was annexed to Quebec in 1774. From 1783 to 1796, the United Kingdom granted United Empire Loyalists leaving the United States following the American Revolution 200 acres of land and other items with which to rebuild their lives. This measure substantially increased the population of Canada west of the Ottawa River during this period, a fact recognized by the Constitutional Act of 1791, which split Quebec into The Canadas: Upper Canada west of the Ottawa River, and Lower Canada east of it. John Graves Simcoe was appointed Upper Canada's first Governor-General in 1793.

American troops in the War of 1812 invaded Upper Canada across the Niagara River and the Detroit River but were successfully pushed back by British and Native American forces. The Americans gained control of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, however, and during the Battle of York occupied the Town of York (later named Toronto) in 1813. Not able to hold the town, the departing soldiers burned it to the ground.

After the War of 1812, many settlers from the British Isles immigrated to Upper Canada, and began to chafe against the aristocratic Family Compact that governed the region, much as the Château Clique; ruled Lower Canada. Accordingly, rebellion in favour of responsible government rose in both regions; Louis-Joseph Papineau led the Patriotes Rebellion in Lower Canada, and William Lyon Mackenzie led the Upper Canada Rebellion. For more on the rebellions of 1837, see History of Canada.

Although both rebellions were crushed, the British government sent Lord Durham to investigate the causes of the unrest. He recommended that self-government be granted and that the colonies be re-merged in an attempt to assimilate the Quebecois - the British of Upper Canada were now the majority in the Canadas. Accordingly, the two colonies were merged into the Province of Canada in 1841, with Ontario becoming known as Canada West. Parliamentary self-government was granted in 1849.

Fearful of aggression from the United States during the unrest of the American Civil War, the United Kingdom arranged with the Province of Canada, and the colonies of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island to merge under Canadian Confederation. The British North America Act took effect on July 1, 1867, establishing the Dominion of Canada and containing the provinces of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec and Ontario. The Province of Canada was divided at this point into Ontario and Quebec to parcel off the francophone minority into a single province, and thus keep Ontario anglophone, although Ontario itself maintained constitutional guarantees safeguarding the French language, including support for Catholic schools. Toronto was formally established as Ontario's provincial capital at this time.

Beginning with the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway through the Prairies to British Columbia, Ontario industry flourished. Mineral exploitation began in the early 20th century. The nationalist movement in Quebec drove many businesses out of the province to Ontario, and Toronto took over from Montreal as the largest city and economic centre of Canada.


The provincial government of Ontario sits in the legislative buildings at Queen's Park in Toronto. The Legislative Assembly is unicameral, featuring a single house with 103 seats representing ridings elected in a first-past-the-post system across the province. The Premier of Ontario is the leader of the party currently holding the most seats in Queen's Park. Though members of the Legislature are called MPPs (Members of Provincial Parliament), the house itself has not been referred to as a parliament for many years. There is no upper house.

The main provincial political parties are the Progressive Conservatives, Liberals, and New Democrats. Mike Harris's right-wing Progressive Conservatives defeated the incumbent left-wing New Democrats in 1995; his government implemented a neoconservative program of cuts to social spending and taxes (the "Common Sense Revolution") that balanced the budget but was blamed for widespread suffering and poverty, especially in Toronto. In particular, the government's critics accused his cuts to the environmental ministry of leading to the lack of oversight that caused the "Walkerton tragedy," an outbreak of E. coli due to contaminated water in Walkerton, Ontario, that caused a number of deaths and illnesses in May 2000. In a resulting inquiry, it was revealed that the government was warned that such an incident was likely to occur with the hasty privatization of water testing labs, but they ignored it. Harris stepped down in 2002 and was replaced by Ernie Eves. Eves' government was chiefly notable for stopping Harris' plan to privatize the public electricity utility, Ontario Power Generation (formerly Ontario Hydro), but not before some parts of the utility had been sold to private interests.

In the Ontario general election, 2003, Eves and the Progressive Conservatives were defeated, and Dalton McGuinty's Liberals won a majority government.

See also

Provinces and territories of Canada
Provinces: British Columbia | Alberta | Saskatchewan | Manitoba | Ontario | Quebec | New Brunswick | Prince Edward Island | Nova Scotia | Newfoundland and Labrador
Territories: Yukon | Northwest Territories | Nunavut

Census Divisions of Ontario
Counties of Ontario: Bruce | Dufferin | Elgin | Essex | Frontenac | Grey | Haliburton | Hastings | Huron | Lambton | Lanark | Leeds and Grenville | Lennox and Addington | Middlesex | Northumberland | Oxford | Perth | Peterborough | Prescott and Russell | Renfrew | Simcoe | Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry | Wellington
Regional Municipalities of Ontario: Durham | Halton | Niagara | Peel | Waterloo | York
Single Tier Municipalities of Ontario: Brant | Brantford | Chatham-Kent | Greater Sudbury | Haldimand | Hamilton | Kawartha Lakes | Norfolk | Ottawa | Prince Edward | Toronto
Districts of Ontario: Algoma | Cochrane | Kenora | Manitoulin | Muskoka | Nipissing | Parry Sound | Rainy River | Sudbury | Thunder Bay | Timiskaming