Although it is 'only' the second-largest province in Canada, Ontario still covers nearly 415,000 square miles – making it bigger than France and Spain combined.
What is less obvious is that over 16% of its surface area is water – Ontario is home to around 250,000 lakes which make up nearly one-third of the whole planet’s fresh water.
Ontario’s climate has extremes, with summers hitting over 30°c but with winters falling to -40°c. Its location, at the heart of the North American continent, drives its climate as its most southerly point is on the same latitude as Rome and its most northerly is close to that of London.
It is probably fair to say that the Province of Ontario is the main driving force behind Canada’s economy. It generates over 35% of the country’s GDP and dominates employment in industries such as technology, financial services and other highly-skilled occupations.
Whilst the services sector is the main component of the economy, making up some 76% of the economy of Ontario, the province is also regarded as a manufacturing powerhouse, aided by its close links with, and proximity to, the vast US market. It has large Auto, IT and Aerospace sectors as well as biotech and pharmaceuticals.
Ontario is also blessed with vast natural resources allowing a diversified economy to flourish. Agriculture is an important sector, where over 51,000 farms produce nearly one-quarter of all farm revenue in Canada, on more than half of the best farming land.
Forestry is also an important employer, supporting nearly 200,000 direct and indirect jobs. Some 66% of the land of Ontario is forested, totalling around 18% of all Canada’s forests and 2% of the world’s forests.
It is also an important producer metals and oil and gas though other provinces are significantly more important in this sector.
Ontario has a population of over 13.5 million of which nearly 85% live in the towns in cities, predominantly around the shores of the Great Lakes. This forms part of what has been termed as the 'Great Lakes Megalopolis', comprising a number of cities either side of the US-Canada border, and including major cities actually on the Lakes such as Toronto and Chicago in addition to well-known destinations such as Niagara Falls.
Many of the names of the towns and cities on the Canadian side will have a familiar ring to them, Cities such as London, Kingston and Windsor echo to the former colonial history and cities such as Toronto, Ottawa and Mississauga are derived from native Indian names. Indeed, Ontario is named after its eponymous lake, which itself is believed to derive from a Huron word, one of the famous tribe’s native to Ontario which also includes the Cree, Algonquin and Mohawk.
Modern Ontario has been strongly influenced by immigration. Even today, over 40% of people who moved to Canada between 2006 -2011 settled in Ontario. The 2011 National Household Survey estimated that there were over 3.6 million foreign-born individuals in Ontario, some 28.5% of the population and the highest amongst all the provinces.
The Survey also highlighted the fact that the City of Toronto continues to act as a magnet for new migrants as a whopping 76.2% of Ontario’s migrants chose to settle there between 2006-2011. The top source-countries for migrants were India and China, together accounting for nearly 30% of Ontario’s newcomers.