Oshawa, Ontario

From Academic Kids

Oshawa Ontario Canada
Missing image

City nickname: "City in Motion"
Land Area¹145.65 km˛
Population (2001)
% change since 1996
139 051
Latitude and longitude Template:Coor d1.
Altitude:104 m
Time zone'Eastern': UTC -5(-4 DT)
Postal code:L1G, L1H, L1J, L1K, L1L
Area code:905, 289
MayorJohn Gray
MPsColin Carrie (Conservative)
Judi Longfield (Liberal)
MPPsJerry Ouellette (PC)
John O’Toole (PC)
External link: http://www.oshawa.ca
¹ According to the 2001 Statistics Canada census

Oshawa (2004 population 150,000, metropolitan population 296,298) is a city on Lake Ontario located roughly 50 kilometres east of downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It is commonly viewed as the eastern anchor of both the Greater Toronto Area and the Golden Horseshoe. It has been the largest community in the Durham Regional Municipality since well before that jurisdiction's inception in 1974, although explosive growth to the west - closer to Toronto - means that Oshawa may soon be eclipsed in size by Pickering or Whitby, Ontario. The name Oshawa originates from the Seneca natives term for "Crossing of a stream".

The automobile industry, specifically the Canadian division of General Motors, has always been Oshawa's lifeblood. Founded in 1876 as the McLaughlin Carriage Company, General Motors of Canada's headquarters and major assembly plants are located in the city. The lavish home of the carriage company's founder, Parkwood Estate, has become a backdrop favoured by Toronto film crews.

The city is also home to Windfields Farm, a thoroughbred horse breeding operation and birthplace of Canada's most famous racehorse, Northern Dancer.

Once very much a distinct community - both physically and culturally - Oshawa has been increasingly subsumed into the Greater Toronto Area by urban sprawl.



The city of Oshawa started out as a transfer point for the fur trade. Furs were loaded onto canoes by the Mississauga Indians at the Oshawa harbour and transported to the trading posts located to the west at the mouth of the Credit River.

In the late 1700s an Oshawa resident, Roger Conant, started an export business shipping salmon to the United States. His success attracted further migration into the region. A large number of the founding immigrants were United Empire Loyalists, who left the United States to live under British rule.

In 1876, Colonel Robert Samuel McLaughlin moved his carriage works to Oshawa from Enniskillen to take advantage of a thriving harbour and rail links. In 1907 the McLaughlin Carriage Company began to manufacture automobiles, and in 1915 the firm acquired the manufacturing rights to the Chevrolet brand. Within 3 years his firm and the Chevrolet Motor Car Company of Canada merged, creating General Motors of Canada.

With the weath gained in this business venture, Robert McLaughlin built one of the most stately homes in Canada, "Parkwood". The 55-room residence was built largely with depression-era labour, and designed by Toronto architect John M. Lyle. McLaughlin lived in the house for 55 years with his wife and 5 children.


The racial make-up of Oshawa is as follows:

  • White: 92.6%
  • Black: 2.2%
  • Aboriginal: 1.3%
  • South Asian: 1.3%


Oshawa is headquarters to General Motors of Canada, which has large-scale manufacturing and administrative operations in the city and employs thousands both directly and indirectly.

Large divisions of the Ontario Ministry of Finance occupy one of the few major office buildings in the city's downtown, which continues to struggle despite promising business improvement efforts. The city's southern neighbourhoods tend to be considerably poorer than its northern sections, which are rapidly expanding as Toronto commuters move in. The southern half of the city consists of industrial zones and compact housing designed for mid-20th-century industrial workers, while the northern half has a suburban feel more typical of later decades.

High wages paid to unionized GM employees have meant that these workers could enjoy a relatively high standard of living, although such jobs are scarcer today than they once were. During its post-WWII heyday, General Motors offered some of the best manufacturing jobs available in Canada and attracted thousands of workers from economically depressed areas of the country, particularly the Maritimes, rural Quebec and northern and eastern Ontario. The city was also a magnet for European immigrants in the skilled trades and boasts substantial Polish, Ukrainian, German and Russian ethnic communities.

Although the workforce at General Motors of Canada has shrunk in recent years, the company continues to make significant technology and capital investments at its sites in Oshawa. While the company's once essential role in the local economy has diminished, it remains the largest local employer. Many of its operations have been spun off to contractors. In most cases, new owners at the spun-off facilities are not bound by the collective bargaining agreements of the Canadian Auto Workers, and wages at such operations tend to be much lower than at General Motors itself.

Many commuters have been enticed to Oshawa by relatively cheap housing prices and the rapid and regular rail service into downtown Toronto provided by GO Transit. The growth of subdivisions to house Toronto commuters will likely accelerate if the long-planned Highway 407 extension is built across the city's northern tier in the next decade. The trend suggests major social changes for Oshawa, which has long had a vigorous labour union presence and largely blue collar identity. Rising property values and the emergence of land speculation associated with suburban growth have created new dynamics for the local economy. While unchecked growth was largely accepted (even embraced) by Oshawans in the 1980s and 1990s, concern over urban sprawl has emerged.

In late 2004, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority announced a plan under which the Oshawa Municipal Airport would be closed and its traffic diverted to a major new Toronto reliever airport to be constructed in Pickering. The Oshawa airport largely handles traffic related to General Motors (emergency spare parts and executives); GM has indicated that a move of its air traffic to Pickering would not affect its operations. There is also recreational aviation at the Oshawa airport that will need to be diverted. The city is considering ambitious proposals to repurpose the airport lands.


The dominant presence of General Motors (and its autoworkers) meant that Oshawa was well-known as a bastion of unionist, left-wing support during the decades following the Second World War. By the end of the 1990s, the city's changing economy and unchanging social attitudes led many voters towards the suburb-friendly Conservatives at both the provincial and federal levels. Conservative candidates have won recent provincial and federal elections, whereas in previous decades the city provided a safe NDP seat in both the federal and provincial legislatures. Oshawa produced one of the NDP's most popular federal leaders, Ed Broadbent, who represented the city in Ottawa and in the 1980s led his party to its greatest electoral successes.

The city has played an important role in Canada's labour history, including the 1937 strike against General Motors and the considerable financial support provided by the city's autoworkers to the NDP and its predecessors.

In local politics, tension has been building within the city over the construction of a new sports arena. Other issues within the city include:

-high property taxes in the newer (northern, eastern) areas of Oshawa

-the sale of public utilities

-the "rejuvenation" of the old downtown area (in which the sports arena is to be built)


  • Oshawa is home to Ontario's newest university, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, opened in 2003. The university is a successor to Durham College and is envisioned by some as having the potential to become Canada's MIT. Given the city's industrial heritage, the university's courses emphasize technology, manufacturing and engineering themes.


Oshawa remains in certain ways an urban center unto itself, adjoined by several suburbs in its Census Metropolitan Area, which is entirely contained within the Greater Toronto Area. Unlike most Toronto bedroom communities, Oshawa experienced its fastest growth (which was locally self-sustained) well before Toronto spilled over the boundaries of the now-defunct Metropolitan Toronto in the 1970s and 1980s. Its industrial base and colourful labour history also make it an unusual kind of suburb. However, Oshawa is still considered part of the Greater Toronto Area.

The city is also located between two nuclear plants, Darlington and Pickering. Nuclear safety is a high-profile local concern.

North: Scugog
West: Whitby, Toronto
Oshawa East: Clarington
South: Lake Ontario


Oshawa is home to the Oshawa Generals OHL (Ontario Hockey League) team, which is one level below the NHL.

Cultural Resources

  • Canadian Automotive Museum
  • McLaughlin Art Gallery
  • Oshawa Little Theatre

External links


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