Ontario is the most populous of Canada'sprovinces. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.