The Long Saga of Arrested Development in Northern Ontario – by Livio Di Matteo (Northern Economist Blog – July 14, 2021)

Ontario has suffered from slowing economic growth over the course of the 20th century but nowhere in the province has the problem been as severe as in northern Ontario.

From 1990 to 2005, total employment in Ontario grew 23 percent and real per capita GDP grew by 17 percent. However, even omitting the pandemic year, going from 2005 to 2019, Ontario’s total employment grew only 15 percent while real per capita GDP grew by 8 percent.

There is a similar trend of slowing employment growth after 2005 on a regional basis but some regions – especially the north – have fared worse than others. The most alarming picture comes from a glance at the overall employment growth picture from 1990 to 2019 (we need to omit 2020 because it is the pandemic year and makes things look even worse).

As the accompanying figure shows, from 1990 to 2019, total employment in Ontario grew by 42 percent. The fastest growing regions were Kitchener-Waterloo-Barrie, Toronto/GTA and Ottawa. This triangle region has indeed become the new core of the Ontario economy with the rest of the province increasingly being relegated to more peripheral status with the peripheral nature worsening the farther out from this core.

In Ontario, being out of sight of Toronto in the end also means being out of mind. Indeed, the most distant regions from this core – Stratford-Bruce, Windsor-Sarnia and the North have done the worse. But it is only the North that has seen long-term employment decline over the course of thirty years with the Northeast shrinking by 1 percent and the Northwest by 7 percent.

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