Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index


(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 national 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.


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 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).

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.

See List of communities in Ontario.

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 10% of the population of Ontario is French-Canadian (Franco-Ontariens).


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

Agriculture is also significant in the St. Lawrence River Valley, and 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.


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 Brűlé 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.

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 now called Ontario was annexed to Quebec in 1774. The Constitutional Act of 1791 split Quebec into The Canadas: Upper Canada west of the Ottawa River, and Lower Canada east of it.

American troops in the War of 1812 burned Toronto in 1813. After the war, 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, Canada, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia negotiated to merge under Canadian Confederation in 1867. Conflict between the two parts of the Province of Canada caused them to split and join Confederation as separate provinces, Ontario and Quebec.

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 main provincial political parties are the Progressive Conservatives, Liberals, and New Democrats. Mike Harris's right-wing Progressive Conservatives defeated the left-wing New Democrats in 1995; his government implemented a neoliberal 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 has been 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