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Economic Characteristics of Canada's Different Regions

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  • 00:01 Regional Economics: Canada
  • 00:32 Ontario and Quebec
  • 2:54 Atlantic Canada
  • 3:44 West
  • 4:45 The North
  • 5:20 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Sailus

Chris has an M.A. in history and taught university and high school history.

In this lesson, we explore the different regions of Canada and the various activities and industries that drive Canada's diverse and multifaceted economy.

Regional Economics: Canada

Just like landscapes vary (think the Rocky Mountains of the west versus the forests and coastlines of New England), so do economics. After all, when we think of cars, we tend to think of Michigan or Ohio, but if we think of corn and agriculture, our minds wander to Iowa or Nebraska.

The United States is not the only country where different regions are important to different parts of the economy; our neighbor to the north, Canada, possesses the same type of regional economic diversity. In this lesson, we'll explore the various regions of Canada and the economies that thrive in each.

Ontario and Quebec

We might as well start with the biggest first. The biggest economy in Canada is, unsurprisingly, in its most populous province: Ontario. Ontario possesses Canada's largest economy. In 1994, its gross domestic product (GDP) alone was comparable to entire countries like Belgium or Sweden! Much of this economic growth depends upon a manufacturing heartland based in southern Ontario. From Windsor in the south to Oshawa and Kingston north of Toronto, southern Ontario boasts several large, heavy manufacturing factories, with automotive companies like GM, Ford, and Toyota owning major assembly plants in the region. More recently, high tech aeronautics companies, like WESCAM, have also set up shop in the region.

Southern Ontario is home to more than just Canada's manufacturing base. Toronto, Canada's largest city and Ontario's capital, is the country's major financial center. Banks and financial institutions based in Toronto control roughly 65% of Canadian assets. Furthermore, Canada's stock market, the Toronto Stock Exchange (or TSX), is also based in the city.

While southern Ontario may be dominated by heavy manufacturing and high finance, Northern Ontario is a completely different story. Here, cities and towns are much smaller and local economies often revolve around resource extraction, especially forestry. As a whole, Ontario usually accounts for roughly 40% of Canadian GDP on its own.

The second largest provincial economy in Canada is just east of Ontario: Quebec. Quebec holds Canada's second largest city, Montréal, which also happens to be Canada's second largest financial center. Forty-five percent of economic activity in Quebec occurs in Montréal. Montréal's status is also helped by Quebec's unique language laws. Unlike in the rest of Canada, the official language in Quebec is French, and this law is militantly enforced. As a result, Quebec-based businesses and financial institutions are uniquely equipped to deal with the linguistic nuances of doing business in Quebec.

Quebec, of course, has its own manufacturing sector as well, though it's not as large as Ontario's. Moreover, Quebec's manufacturers produce different things. For example, one of Quebec's largest companies, Bombardier, is an internationally-renowned manufacturer of airplanes and locomotives.

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