The name “Ontario” comes from the Iroquois word “Kanadario” which means “sparkling water”. Ontario is bordered on the south by the Great Lakes and on the north by Hudson Bay, nestled between the provinces of Quebec and Manitoba, and has an area of over a million square kilometres. Over one-sixth of its terrain, 177,390 square kilometres, is covered by rivers and lakes.
Ontario’s native Iroquois and Algonquin Indians first encountered European explorers, fur traders and missionaries in the early 1600s. By 1774, the British ruled over southern Ontario, which was then part of the British colony of Quebec. The colony was later divided and the Ontario region was renamed Upper Canada (it was higher up the St Lawrence River than Quebec or “Lower Canada”). When the Dominion of Canada was formed in 1867, it was renamed the province of Ontario.
With over 10 million people, Ontario is today the country’s most heavily populated province. Toronto is Ontario’s capital and Canada’s largest and most ethnically-diverse city. Toronto is also the country’s leading producer of manufactured goods and headquarters of a large number of Canadian companies. The “Golden Horseshoe,” the area around the western tip of Lake Ontario that connects Toronto with Hamilton and Niagara Falls, is home to the bulk of Ontario’s population. Ottawa, the national capital, has a million residents at the eastern end of Ontario, on the border with Quebec.
Mining has played an important role in the development of Ontario’s economy. Extraction of gold, nickel, copper, uranium and zinc represents a multibillion-dollar business. Rounding out Ontario’s sources of prosperity are its booming financial and tourism sectors.
Ontario is Canada’s most productive province, generating some 40 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product, with its strong manufacturing sector. Ontario’s competitive advantages include its natural resources, a large, well-educated labour force, relatively inexpensive electrical power, and proximity to key U.S. markets.
Ontario and its products are within a day’s drive of 120 million American consumers. Automobiles are Ontario’s major manufacturing industry and most important export, directly employing more than 140,000 people and providing 26 percent of Canada’s total exports.
Ontario owes its early and continued success to its bountiful natural resources. Mining is also important to Ontario’s economy, with the extraction and refinement of gold, nickel, copper, uranium and zinc a multi-billion-dollar industry. The provincial government manages 87 percent of the province’s forest lands, and licenses logging rights. The forest industry accounts for 6 percent of Ontario’s exports.
The services sector is very important to Ontario’s economy. Toronto is the world’s fourth-largest capital market, and its stock exchange is North America’s second-largest by volume and third-largest by value traded. Tourism is the province’s third-largest industry, with over $10 billion in spending, and 320,000 person-years of employment.