Ontario is rich in natural resources – from forests and minerals in the north to fertile farmland in the south. Although some of these resources are exported as raw materials, Ontario has a large manufacturing industry that converts them into products for Canadian and international consumers. For example, trees harvested from forestry are shipped to paper mills in Ontario, mined ore is shipped to smelters and refineries in the provinces, and agricultural products are shipped to food processing plants in Ontario.
In 2018, goods accounted for 23.2 percent of Ontario’s GDP, and 12.4 percent of that came from manufacturing, according to the Ontario Treasury. According to Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CME), manufacturers directly employed more than 770,000 workers in Ontario in 2017, supporting nearly 25 percent of all employment in the province when the indirect impacts are factored in.
Manufacturing in Ontario includes food and beverage processing, machinery, plastic and rubber products, paper products and printing, transportation equipment, and more.
The best ready-to-eat export category includes products such as bread, cookies, and pastries that are exported to the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea, Chile, and Thailand. Plastic is exported to the United States, Mexico, China, India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Germany, and others. Ontario’s main export of machinery, gasoline engines, goes to the United States, Ivory Coast, Belarus, Nigeria, Latvia, Japan, Mexico, Malaysia and Sweden.
Ontario’s largest export is automobiles and parts. According to Statistics Canada, the volume of automobiles and parts traded in 2019 was CAD 69,678,270,922 trillion. The largest export of motor vehicles in 2019 was to 107 different countries including the United States, China, Mexico, Belgium, Albania, the United Arab Emirates, Germany, Poland, Libya and Jordan.
According to the Canadian government, the automotive industry in Canada directly employs more than 125,000 people and is one of Canada’s largest manufacturing sectors. Five automotive companies in Canada make light vehicles – cars, vans, and trucks. While automotive research and development and automotive suppliers can be found across Canada, all eight automotive assembly plants are located in Ontario. With eight assembly plants, it’s no surprise that Ontario’s largest export is automobiles and parts.
There are auto assembly plants in Brampton, Windsor, Oakville, Ingersoll, Alliston,
Cambridge, Oshawa and Woodstock.
The Alliston assembly plant opened in 1986 and celebrated the construction of the nine millionth car in January 2020. The automotive group that owns the Oshawa plant announced that it will convert the plant into an auto parts manufacturer and research test bed for autonomous and electric vehicles, as well as other innovations, in 2020.
With automobile manufacturing being an important part of the Ontario economy, the provincial government outlined a plan in its 2019 budget to help the automobile industry thrive. The government plans to leverage Ontario’s automotive and information and communications technology expertise to make the province a global leader in automotive innovation.
The manufacturing industry in Ontario brings together two important parts of the Ontario culture: the search for innovation; and the value of local produce. Products made in Ontario, or Canada in general, are valued by Ontario consumers because they represent the local population, local jobs, and the local economy.
As in agriculture, it is important for Ontario consumers to know where and how a product was made. Ontario manufacturers pride themselves on making high quality products, often using local materials. For consumers in Ontario, local produce means quality, trustworthiness, and pride in the province. Ontario residents pride themselves on their bustling cities and the surrounding natural landscape. These two different sides of the province are united in the manufacturing industry, which transforms the resources the land offers into products that will allow Ontario to move forward in the future.
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