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About Ontario

Take this opportunity to learn about the Canadian province of Ontario.


The Basics

Canada’s most popular destination for immigration, Ontario is the country’s most populous province, home to over 12 million people. It is also the second-largest province in the country by land area. The province is located in central Canada.

Ontario's capital city is Toronto, whose 5.3 million people make it Canada’s largest city. Toronto is also the country’s financial center and the seat of the stock exchange. About half of the people living in Toronto were born in other countries, and the city is known to be the most multicultural city in the world. Also located in Ontario is Ottawa, the official capital of Canada, which is located in south-eastern Ontario. Other important Ontario cities include London, Thunder Bay, Hamilton, Kingston and Sudbury.

Besides being Canada’s main economic hub, Ontario is also known for its natural diversity including vast forest land, beautiful provincial parks, 4 of the 5 Great Lakes and the world-famous Niagara falls. Complementing this natural diversity is a cultural diversity that is the product of high levels of immigration combined with a society that embraces multiculturalism and tolerance. Ontario’s cities attract artists, entertainers and intellectuals from around the world, along with producing a wealth of homegrown talent. With its very high foreign-born population, Toronto provides a taste of the world within in a city.

Ontario Economy and Employment

The province of Ontario is the economic heart of Canada and as a result, all types of industries are present in the province, most notably in Toronto and other urban areas. The province is home to a strong modern service and information economy, along with a solid manufacturing base. Ottawa is the seat of government and of most federal ministries, which helps it to attract businesses as well as non-commercial organizations of an international nature.

Ontario’s main international manufacturing sector is the auto industry, where Canadian companies are among world leaders. After a period of stagnation in the industry, the past three years has seen major investments by leading manufacturers in new plants and technologies.

The province also has strong natural resource-based industries. A long established mining sector includes nickel and iron mines. The province’s vast forests support a lumber, pulp and paper industry that has adapted new sustainable practices. In addition eco-tourism is on the rise as people look to enjoy the different recreational activities that Ontario’s natural environment has to offer.

The unemployment rate in Ontario is slightly below the national average and stands at 6.6%. With an economy that is thriving and diverse, job opportunities in Ontario span the full range of professions, from agriculture to information technology. Job creation levels in the province have been strong in recent years, and are expected to continue.

Ontario Standard of Living

On average, residents of Ontario earn incomes that rank among the highest in Canada. Some of the costs of living are however also elevated, especially with respect to housing. The average income for families in Ontario is the second highest in the country at $59,700 per year. Ontario also has the second highest mandatory minimum wage at $10.25/hr. The effective provincial tax rate is 17.41%, i.e. 5th highest in Canada.

Even with a cost of living that is slightly above the Canadian average, the high incomes available in Ontario can afford a standard of living that ranks among the world’s highest. Toronto and Ottawa are perennial favourites in rankings of the world’s most livable cities, known for their cleanliness, safety and availability of services in comparison to other cities of similar size. This high standard of living has made Ontario the top destination for new immigrants to Canada. Of the over 250 000 people who come to Canada to become permanent residents each year, approximately 60% land in Ontario.

Ontario Residential Housing

Due to their continual growth and larger populations, Ontario’s major cities have some of the more expensive housing markets in Canada. It should be kept in mind however that the higher incomes in the province help to offset this higher cost, and that this trend does not apply as strongly to smaller cities in Ontario. Nonetheless, many families choose to lower their costs by living in suburban areas surrounding Ontario’s major cities.

The average price of a house in the city of Toronto is above $350,000 and above $250,000 for Ottawa. Overall, the percentage of household income taken up by ownership costs in Ontario ranges from 25-41% depending on the city and the type of dwelling involved.

Ontario Education

Ontario is home to world leading research institutions that anchor a strong publicly-funded provincial education system. For kindergarten through grade 12, children living in Ontario may enroll in public, Catholic and French immersion schools throughout the province, funded by the taxpayer and teaching curriculum designed and monitored by the Government of Ontario.  Catholic separate schools are guaranteed as a right in the Canadian constitution, to protect the historical Catholic minority. In many areas, publicly funded alternative schools are also available as an educational option for children. Ontario is also a leader in special education programs.

Until 2003, Ontario had a Grade 13 in its secondary school system. This university-preparatory year was replaced by a new province-wide standardized curriculum that includes courses geared towards students bound for university, technical or career colleges and for skilled trade apprenticeships and direct-workplace entry. The new standardized program is designed to ensure fairness and quality throughout all of the province’s schools.

Ontario's post-secondary education system consists of a network of publicly funded institutions. These institutions span a wide range of subjects and careers, with the well-renowned research universities complemented by colleges of applied arts and technology, agricultural colleges, and other unique professional programs. Ontario’s universities are among the world’s best and recognized internationally as such. Most notably, Ontario is the home of the University of Toronto, Queens University, York University and the University of Western Ontario. The average yearly tuition paid by Ontario students is $4900, slightly below the national average.

Ontario Health Care

Under Canadian Law, all provinces and territories must provide universal, publicly funded health care to all citizens and legal residents of Canada. In other words, most basic health services in Canada are offered at no direct cost to the patient. Certain procedures that are not deemed necessary (such as elective cosmetic surgery and a number of dental care procedures, for example) are generally not covered, but the list of services paid for publicly varies from province to province.

Health care in Ontario is universally available to all residents at no cost to the individual. The Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) covers the full cost of all necessary medical services for all citizens and most permanent residents in Ontario. This coverage includes doctor examinations, medical testing, emergency care, hospital care and emergency dental care. There are currently 211 hospitals across the province, ranging from community emergency facilities to specialty and research hospitals. Ontario also has eight private hospitals which provide certain elective procedures.

Ontario History

Ontario was one of the original four provinces to join together in Canadian confederation in 1867. The original name of the province was “Upper Canada” (whereas “Lower Canada” was located in what is today Quebec). The province’s name comes from Lake Ontario, which comes from the word for “great lake” in the Huron language. As one of the first areas in Canada to industrialize, Ontario is home to some of Canada’s oldest companies.

The history of Ontario has been shaped by the immigrants who arrived by boats, then trains, then planes to come build the province from the ground up. Since even before Canada was born, immigrants have been moving to Ontario to start a new life, and all Ontarians today other than the roughly 2.5% of the population who are aboriginal descend from these immigrants. As waves of people arrived from different area of the world at different times, they have left their mark on the cultural landscape of the province.

Ontario Culture

With communities that have come from all over the world to settle in Ontario, the province benefits from some of the greatest cultural diversity in the world. Yet even in larger cities like Ottawa and Toronto, Ontario is at its heart a community of communities. With thriving cultural communities, newcomers can feel right at home while they integrate into their surrounding neighbourhoods. The friendly atmosphere has earned Ontario a positive reputation worldwide.

Ontario’s cities take their rightful places on the world maps for all major cultural, academic, and sporting events. Toronto’s International Film Festival for example brings to town all of the famous figures from the film community, as the world’s top filmmakers debut their new works to Toronto’s audiences.  While the world comes to Ontario, the province does not rely on imported culture. Quite the contrary, the locally produced arts, sporting, and entertainment thrive in bustling communities.

The strength of Ontario’s culture is in its immigrant communities. The international flavour of the province’s cities bring lively events and create a multicultural environment that is well-loved by both residents and visitors. Toronto’s Caribana festival for example, the largest Caribbean culture festival of its kind in the world, began from an initiative by an immigrant community to put its culture on display and has since evolved into a city-wide celebration of all things Caribbean that attracts over 1.2 million people each year. Likewise communities all across the province contribute elements to the cultural mosaic in the province.

Ontario Demographics

At 12 million people, Ontario is by far Canada’s most populous province. Over 90% of the population lives in the southern portion of the province, within 200 km of the US border. A great deal of these people live in Toronto and its suburbs (now approaching 6 million people). In addition, the “Golden Horseshoe” that surrounds the Greater Toronto Area is home to a large percentage of the province’s population.

The largest city in Ontario is Toronto, which is also the provincial capital and the largest city in Canada. Today the census metropolitan area (CMA) that includes Toronto has reached 5.8 million residents, and is still growing. Markham, which borders the northeast portion of the city, is the fastest growing city in the country. The next largest city is Ottawa, the national capital at over 1.1 million. Other major cities include Hamilton, London and Kitchener-Waterloo in southwestern Ontario, Kingston in Eastern Ontario and Sudbury in the center of the province.

Ontario’s demographics have been shaped by centuries of immigration to produce a diverse and multicultural society. While a large percentage of Ontarians are of British or French descent, the province counts among its residents representation from every corner of the world. The Chinese population in the province is substantial and growing quickly. The province is also home to a sizable South Asian community.

As Canada provides a tolerant society where religious freedoms are protected and expression is encouraged, there is a great deal of religious diversity in the province. While Ontario is officially a secular society where approximately 20% of the residents do not identify with a religious affiliation, there are also thriving religious communities of every stripe. Catholic and Protestant are the two largest groups, alongside large Muslim, Hindu, Jewish, Buddhist, Sikh and other religions.

Ontario Immigration

Over 60% of new immigrants to Canada choose to settle in the province of Ontario. The province’s new growth today is almost entirely fuelled by immigration. Ontario has launched a pilot program for a Provincial Nomination Program (PNP), which allows the province to direct a greater portion of immigration to the province. The PNP allows Ontario to fast-track the immigration applications of individuals who have the skills that match the province’s needs.

With so many newcomers arriving in the province each year, Ontario has many non-profit groups as well as government agencies that are well-equipped to provide settlement services to new immigrants. In addition, the presence of diaspora community can be a very appealing factor to new immigrants.

Ontario Government

Canada’s government works on a federal system, with control over certain affairs belonging to the national government in Ottawa, and others under the control of the provincial governments. Ontario has its own democratically-elected parliament known as the Legislature of Ontario (also known as Queen’s Park) which can be found in the provincial capital of Toronto. While Ottawa is the national capital, it is not the capital of Ontario.

The current government of Ontario is led by the Liberal Party of Ontario, with Premier Dalton McGuinty at its head. Premier McGuinty came to power in an October 2003 election. Ontario has recently switched to a system of fixed-date elections, every four years, so it will head to the polls again in October 2007. As with any Canadian province, Ontario has wide control over its health, education and other services 

Ontario Major Cities

Toronto
Toronto has been referred to as “New York run by the Swiss”. The city has much in common with New York as it is the economic capital of the country, home to the head offices of many of the largest Canadian companies. Toronto is also a vibrant city with many cultural communities and a constant flow of events. Yet the reference to the Swiss comes from the impressive cleanliness and safety of the city, factors that help Toronto get ranked consistently among the most livable cities in the world.
In many ways however Toronto remains very unique in its own right. Often referred to as a “global city”, Toronto is home to one of the most diverse populations in the world. Over half of the city’s population are considered visible minorities. Throughout the city one can find neighbourhoods featuring pockets of immigrants from any corner of the world, from Greektown to Little Italy, from Chinatown to Little Portugal and Koreatown.

A major appeal of Toronto for immigrants remains the economic opportunities for working in Canada.  As Canada’s largest city and the 5th largest in North America, the city is home to an advanced economy that has opportunities in nearly every industry and field. Toronto receives the highest number of immigrants of any city in Canada each year, the result of which is that the city has the 2nd highest percentage of foreign-born residents in the world, second only to Miami, Florida. This diversity along with high standards of living has helped to earn the city praise and recognition on the world stage.

Ottawa
The capital of Canada, Ottawa is located in Eastern Ontario, on the border with Quebec. In fact the city is effectively connected to the Gatineau region (which includes Hull, Quebec) on the other side of the provincial border, and the city is often referred to as Ottawa-Gatineau. The nation’s capital region is home to approximately 1.15 million residents.
As the seat of the federal government, the public sector accounts for a great deal of employment in Ottawa. With the government located in the region, many national and multinational companies that work closely with government or the public sector also choose to locate major offices in Ottawa. The city is also home to a large and growing high-tech sector, which helps account for Ottawa having the highest concentration of Ph.D.’s among its residents in Canada. Ottawa is also home to two major universities, the University of Ottawa and Carleton University.
Ottawa is an important destination for immigrants to Canada. Approximately 20% of the city’s population is foreign-born. Immigrants are attracted to the city by a combination of economic opportunity, high standard of living, and friendly safe communities which make the city a great place to raise a family.

Links and Resources

Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration
Settlement Resources for Ontario
Finding a Job in Ontario
Information on Regulated Professions in Ontario
Healthcare in Ontario
Ontario’s Pilot Provincial Nomination Program

 

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