Economy of Canada: Wikis


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Economy of Canada
Currency Canadian dollar (CAD)
Fiscal year 1 April – 31 March
Trade organizations NAFTA, OECD, WTO and others
GDP $1.304 trillion (2008 est.)
GDP growth 0.4% (2008 est.)[1]
GDP per capita Nominal:$50,100 PPP:$40,090 (2008 est.)
GDP by sector agriculture (2.1%), industry (28.8%), services (69.1%) (2007 est.)
Inflation (CPI) 1.2% (2008 est.)
below poverty line
33.8% (relative) (2005) / 4.9% (absolute) (2004)
Gini index 31.5% (2004)
Labour force
by occupation
agriculture (2%), manufacturing (13%), construction (6%), services (76%), other (3%) (2006)
Unemployment 8.5% (Nov. 2009.)
Main industries transportation equipment, chemicals, processed and unprocessed minerals, food products, wood and paper products, fish products, petroleum and natural gas
Exports $440.1 billion (2007 est.)
Export goods motor vehicles and parts, industrial machinery, aircraft, telecommunications equipment, electronics, chemicals, plastics, fertilizers, wood pulp, timber, crude petroleum, natural gas, electricity, aluminium
Main export partners U.S. 78.9%, UK 2.8%, China 2.1% (2007)
Imports $394.4 billion (2007 est.)
Import goods machinery and equipment, motor vehicles and parts, electronics, crude oil, chemicals, electricity, durable consumer goods
Main import partners U.S. 54.1%, China 9.4%, Mexico 4.2% (2007)
Gross external debt $758.6 billion (2007 est.)
Public finances
Public debt $467.3 billion CAD (Federal, 2007)
Revenues $565.8 billion
Expenses $551.2 billion (2007 est.)
Economic aid $3.9 billion (donor) (2007)
Main data source: CIA World Fact Book
All values, unless otherwise stated, are in US dollars

Canada has the tenth largest economy in the world[2] (measured in US dollars at market exchange rates), is one of the world's wealthiest nations, and is a member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Group of Eight (G8). As with other developed nations, the Canadian economy is dominated by the service industry, which employs about three quarters of Canadians.[3] Canada is unusual among developed countries in the importance of the primary sector, with the logging and oil industries being two of Canada's most important. Canada also has a sizable manufacturing sector, centred in Central Canada, with the automobile industry especially important.

Canada has one of the highest levels of economic freedom in the world. Today Canada closely resembles the U.S. in its market-oriented economic system, and pattern of production.[4] As of June 2009, Canada's national unemployment rate stood at 8.6% as the effect of the world economic crisis settled in and more people looked for work. Provincial unemployment rates vary from a low of 3.6% in Alberta to a high of 15.6% in Newfoundland and Labrador; however, Newfoundland and Labrador was the only province with employment gains in June of 2009, up 2,500. At the same time, the unemployment rate edged up to 15.6% from previous lows as there were more people in the labour force.[5] According to the Forbes Global 2000 list of the world's largest companies in 2008, Canada had 69 companies in the list, ranking 5th next to France.[6] As of 2008, Canada’s total government debt burden is the lowest in the G8.

International trade makes up a large part of the Canadian economy, particularly of its natural resources. The United States is by far its largest trading partner, accounting for about 76% of exports and 65% of imports as of 2007.[7] Canada's combined exports and imports ranked 8th among all nations in 2006.[8]

Canada has considerable natural resources spread across its varied regions. In British Columbia, the forestry industry is of great importance, while the oil industry is important in Alberta and Newfoundland and Labrador. Northern Ontario is home to a wide array of mines, while the fishing industry has long been central to the character of the Atlantic provinces, though it has recently been in steep decline. Canada has mineral resources of coal, copper, iron ore, and gold.

These industries are increasingly becoming less important to the overall economy. Only some 4% of Canadians are employed in these fields, and they account for less than 6% of GDP.[citation needed] They are still paramount in many parts of the country. Many, if not most, towns in northern Canada, where agriculture is difficult, exist because of a nearby mine or source of timber. Canada is a world leader in the production of many natural resources such as gold, nickel, uranium, diamonds and lead. Several of Canada's largest companies are based in natural resource industries, such as EnCana, Cameco, Goldcorp, and Barrick Gold. The vast majority of these products are exported, mainly to the United States. There are also many secondary and service industries that are directly linked to primary ones. For instance one of Canada's largest manufacturing industries is the pulp and paper sector, which is directly linked to the logging industry.

The relatively large reliance on natural resources has several effects on the Canadian economy and Canadian society. While manufacturing and service industries are easy to standardize, natural resources vary greatly by region. This ensures that differing economic structures developed in each region of Canada, contributing to Canada's strong regionalism. At the same time the vast majority of these resources are exported, integrating Canada closely into the international economy. Howlett and Ramesh argue that the inherent instability of such industries also contributes to greater government intervention in the economy, to reduce the social impact of market changes. [9]

Such industries also raise important questions of sustainability. Despite many decades as a leading producer, there is little risk of depletion. Large discoveries continue to be made, such as the massive nickel find at Voisey's Bay. Moreover the far north remains largely undeveloped as producers await higher prices or new technologies as many operations in this region are not yet cost effective. In recent decades Canadians have become less willing to accept the environmental destruction associated with exploiting natural resources. High wages and Aboriginal land claims have also curbed expansion. Instead many Canadian companies have focused their exploration and expansion activities overseas where prices are lower and governments more accommodating. Canadian companies are increasingly playing important roles in Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Africa.

The exploitation of renewable resources have raised concerns in recent years. After decades of escalating overexploitation the cod fishery all but collapsed in the 1990s, and the Pacific salmon industry also suffered greatly. The logging industry, after many years of activism, has in recent years moved to a more sustainable model.





Nodding donkey pumping an oil well near Sarnia, Ontario

Canada is one of the few developed nations that is a net exporter of energy. Most important are the large oil and gas resources centred in Alberta and the Northern Territories, but also present in neighbouring British Columbia and Saskatchewan. The vast Athabasca Tar Sands give Canada the world's second largest reserves of oil after Saudi Arabia according to USGS. In British Columbia and Quebec, as well as Ontario, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and the Labrador region, hydroelectric power is an inexpensive and relatively environmentally friendly source of abundant energy. In part because of this, Canada is also one of the world's highest per capita consumers of energy.[10][11] Cheap energy has enabled the creation of several important industries, such as the large aluminum industry in Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia.

Historically, an important issue in Canadian politics is that while Western Canada is one of the world's richest sources of energy, the industrial heartland of Southern Ontario has fewer native sources of power. It is, however, cheaper for Alberta to ship its oil to the western United States than to eastern Canada. The eastern Canadian ports thus import significant quantities of oil from overseas, and Ontario makes significant use of nuclear power.

In times of high oil prices this means that the majority of Canada's population suffers, while the West benefits. The National Energy Policy of the early 1980s attempted to force Alberta to sell low priced oil to eastern Canada. This policy proved deeply divisive, and quickly lost its importance as oil prices collapsed in the mid-1980s. One of the most controversial sections of the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement of 1988 was a promise that Canada would never charge the United States more for energy than fellow Canadians.


A grain elevator in Alberta

Canada is also one of the world's largest suppliers of agricultural products, particularly of wheat and other grains.[12] Canada is a major exporter of agricultural products, to the United States but also to Europe and East Asia. As with all other developed nations the proportion of the population and GDP devoted to agriculture fell dramatically over the 20th century.

As with other developed nations, the Canadian agriculture industry receives significant government subsidies and supports. However, Canada has been a strong supporter of reducing market influencing subsidies through the World Trade Organization. In 2000, Canada spent approximately CDN$4.6 billion on supports for the industry. Of this, $2.32 billion was classified under the WTO designation of "green box" support, meaning it did not directly influence the market, such as money for research or disaster relief. All but $848.2 million were subsidies worth less than 5% of the value of the crops they were provided for, which is the WTO threshold. Consequently, Canada used only $848.2 million of its $4.3 billion subsidy allowance granted by the WTO.[13]


The general pattern of development for wealthy nations was a transition from a primary industry based economy to a manufacturing based one, and then to a service based economy. Canada did not follow this pattern; manufacturing has always been secondary, though certainly not unimportant. Partly because of this, Canada did not suffer as greatly from the pains of deindustrialization in the 1970s and 1980s.

Central Canada is home to branch plants to all the major American and Japanese automobile makers and many parts factories owned by Canadian firms such as Magna International and Linamar Corporation. Central Canada today produces more vehicles each year than the neighboring U.S. state of Michigan, the heart of the American automobile industry. Manufacturers have been attracted to Canada due to the highly educated population with lower labour costs than the United States. Canada's publicly funded health care system is also an important attraction, as it exempts companies from the high health insurance costs they must pay in the United States.

Much of the Canadian manufacturing industry consists of branch plants of United States firms, though there are some important domestic manufacturers, such as Bombardier Inc.. This has raised several concerns for Canadians. Branch plants provide mainly blue collar jobs, with research and executive positions confined to the United States.[citation needed]

Deindustrialization in Canada has become a serious problem, especially in Ontario (which is very dependent on the automotive industry), with foreign businesses closing plants across the board. The economic crisis is only worsening the situation, with even more plants closing (Oshawa and Windsor, Ontario being especially hard hit).

Service sector

The Toronto-Dominion Centre in Toronto

The service sector in Canada is vast and multifaceted, employing some three quarters of Canadians and accounting for over two thirds of GDP.[14] The largest employer is the retail sector, employing almost 12% of Canadians.[15] The retail industry is mainly concentrated in a relatively small number of chain stores clustered together in shopping malls. In recent years the rise of big-box stores, such as Wal-Mart (of the United States) and Future Shop (a subsidiary of the US based Best Buy), have led to fewer workers in this sector and a migration of retail jobs to the suburbs.

The second largest portion of the service sector is the business services, employing only a slightly smaller percentage of the population. This includes the financial services, real estate, and communications industries. This portion of the economy has been rapidly growing in recent years. It is largely concentrated in the major urban centres, especially Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver (see Banking in Canada).

The education and health sectors are two of Canada's largest, but both are largely under the purview of the government. The health care industry has been rapidly growing, and is the third largest in Canada. Its rapid growth has led to problems for governments who must find money to fund it.

Canada has an important high tech industry, and also an entertainment industry creating content both for local and international consumption. Tourism is of ever increasing importance, with the vast majority of international visitors coming from the United States. Though the recent strength of the Canadian Dollar has hurt this sector, other nations such as China have increased tourism to Canada.

Political issues

Regional imbalances

The Canadian economy differs greatly from region to region. Traditionally Central Canada has been the economic engine of Canada, home to more than half of its population and much of its industry. Recent years have seen rapid growth in Western Canada as trade with Asia has enriched British Columbia and oil wealth provided a major boost to Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The four Atlantic provinces, though once the centre of economic activity, underwent a major decline in the late 19th century and have traditionally been significantly poorer than the rest of Canada, especially after the recent collapse of the fishing industry. Recent years have seen some significant moves towards diversification, especially as offshore oil and gas wealth have begun to flow into the region. Quebec has also traditionally been poorer than the Canadian average although by a lesser margin than the Atlantic provinces. In more recent years Newfoundland and Labrador have started to see a change in their economy, being called the "Celtic tiger of Canada," (in a comparison to the economic transformation in Ireland); it has also been called a "mini Alberta" because of new oil and gas exploration. While many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians still emigrate to Alberta for higher-paying jobs, the provinces population has been on the rise in recent years with many people deciding to move back home.

Relations with the U.S.

Canada and the United States share a deep and common trading relationship. Canada's job market continues to perform well along with the US, reaching a 30 year low in the unemployment rate in December 2006, following 14 consecutive years of employment growth.[16] Disputes over trade tariffs, multi-lateral military action, and controversial Canadian legislation dealing with same-sex marriage, disability rights, civil rights, immigration law, and legal medical marijuana have raised tensions and cooled relations between these two countries.

Despite these differences, the United States is by far Canada's largest trading partner, with more than $1.7 billion CAD in trade per day in 2005. 81% of Canada's exports go to the United States, and 67% of Canada's imports are from the United States.[17] Trade with Canada makes up 23% of America's exports and 17% of its imports.[18] By comparison, in 2005 this was more than U.S. trade with all countries in the European Union combined,[19] and well over twice U.S. trade with all the countries of Latin America combined.[20] Just the two-way trade that crosses the Ambassador Bridge between Michigan and Ontario equals all U.S. exports to Japan. Canada's importance to the United States is not just a border-state phenomenon: Canada is the leading export market for 35 of 50 U.S. states, and is the United States' largest foreign supplier of energy.

Bilateral trade increased by 52% between 1989, when the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement (FTA) went into effect, and 1994, when the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) superseded it.[citation needed] Trade has since increased by 40%. NAFTA continues the FTA's moves toward reducing trade barriers and establishing agreed upon trade rules. It also resolves some long-standing bilateral irritants and liberalizes rules in several areas, including agriculture, services, energy, financial services, investment, and government procurement. NAFTA forms the largest trading area in the world, embracing the 405 million people of the three North American countries.

The largest component of U.S.-Canada trade is in the commodity sector.

The U.S. is Canada's largest agricultural export market, taking well over half of all Canadian food exports.[21] Similarly, Canada is the largest market for U.S. agricultural goods with nearly 20% of American food exports going to its Northern neighbor[citation needed]. Nearly two-thirds of Canada's forest products, including pulp and paper, are exported to the United States; 72% of Canada's total newsprint production also is exported to the U.S.

At $73.6 billion in 2004, U.S.-Canada trade in energy is the largest U.S. energy trading relationship, with the overwhelming majority ($66.7 billion) being exports from Canada. The primary components of U.S. energy trade with Canada are petroleum, natural gas, and electricity. Canada is the United States' largest oil supplier and the fifth-largest energy producing country in the world. Canada provides about 16% of U.S. oil imports and 14% of total U.S. consumption of natural gas. The United States and Canada's national electricity grids are linked and both countries share hydro power facilities on the Western borders.

While most of U.S.-Canada trade flows smoothly, there are occasionally bilateral trade disputes, particularly in the agricultural and cultural fields.[citation needed] Usually these issues are resolved through bilateral consultative forums or referral to World Trade Organization (WTO) or NAFTA dispute resolution.[citation needed] In May 1999, the U.S. and Canadian Governments negotiated an agreement on magazines that provides increased access for the U.S. publishing industry to the Canadian market. The United States and Canada also have resolved several major issues involving fisheries. By common agreement, the two countries submitted a Gulf of Maine boundary dispute to the International Court of Justice in 1981; both accepted the Court's 12 October 1984 ruling which demarcated the territorial sea boundary. A current issue between the United States and Canada is the ongoing softwood lumber dispute, as the U.S. alleges that Canada unfairly subsidizes its forestry industry.[citation needed]

In 1990, the United States and Canada signed a bilateral Fisheries Enforcement Agreement, which has served to deter illegal fishing activity and reduce the risk of injury during fisheries enforcement incidents. The U.S. and Canada signed a Pacific Salmon Agreement in June 1999 that settled differences over implementation of the 1985 Pacific Salmon Treaty for the next decade.[citation needed]

Canada and the United States signed an aviation agreement during Bill Clinton's visit to Canada in February 1995, and air traffic between the two countries has increased dramatically as a result. The two countries also share in operation of the St. Lawrence Seaway, connecting the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean.[22]

The U.S. is Canada's largest foreign investor and the most popular destination for Canadian foreign investments; at the end of 2007, the stock of U.S. direct investment in Canada was estimated at $293 billion while Canadian direct investment (stock) in the United States was valued at $213 billion.[23][24] U.S FDI accounts for 59.5% of total foreign direct investment in Canada while Canadian F.D.I in U.S accounts for 10% (5th largest foreign investor)[25]. US investments are primarily directed at Canada's mining and smelting industries, petroleum, chemicals, the manufacture of machinery and transportation equipment, and finance while Canadian investment in the United States is concentrated in manufacturing, wholesale trade, real estate, petroleum, finance, and insurance and other services [26]

Median household income comparison

Country Median household income national currency units Year PPP rate (OECD) Median household income (PPP)
Switzerland[27] (gross) 107,748 CHF, $99,482 2007 1.787236 $60,288
California, US[28] 55,450 USD 2007 1.00 $55,450
United States 50,233 USD 2007 1.00 $50,233
Canada [29] 53,634 CAD 2005 1.21 $44,000
Switzerland[27] (after taxes and health insurance) 75,312 CHF, $69,534 2007 1.723465 $43,698
New Zealand [30] 62,556 NZD 2007 1.54 $41,000
United Kingdom [31] 24,700 GBP 2004 0.632 $39,000
Australia[32] 53,404 AUD 2006 1.41 $38,000
Israel[33] 107,820 ILS 2006 2.90 $37,000
Ireland 35,410 EUR 2005 1.02 $35,000
United Kingdom[34]
21,892 GBP 2005 0.649 $34,000
West Virginia, US[35] US state $33,000
Hong Kong[36] 186,000 HKD 2005 5.96 $31,000
Singapore[37] 45,960 SGD 2005 1.55 $30,000

Free Trade Agreements

(source: DFAIT)

Nations that have Free Trade Agreements with Canada are in dark blue, nations in negotiations are in cyan. Canada is green.

Canada is negotiating bilateral FTAs with the following countries and trade blocs:

Canada is also involved in negotiations to create the following regional trade blocks:

See also

External links



  1. ^ "Data Finder: GDP growth (annual %)". World Bank. Retrieved March 2, 2010. 
  2. ^ "2008/2007/2008 GDP". IMF. 
  3. ^ "Actual hours worked per week by industry, seasonally adjusted crack". Statistics Canada. 
  4. ^ Central Intelligence Agency (2006-05-16). "The World Factbook: Canada". Central Intelligence Agency. Retrieved 2007-05-06. 
  5. ^ Statistics Canada (2006-08-04). "Latest release from Labour Force Survey". Statistics Canada. Retrieved 2006-08-04. 
  6. ^ forbes (2008-04-02). "Latest release". forbes. Retrieved 2006-07-01. 
  7. ^ "Imports, exports and trade balance of goods on a balance-of-payments basis, by country or country grouping". Statistics Canada. 
  8. ^ "2006 exports/imports". 
  9. ^ Howlett, Michael and M. Ramesh. Political Economy of Canada: An Introduction. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1992.
  10. ^ Environment Canada - Energy Consumption
  11. ^ Canada vs. The OECD: An Environmental Comparison
  12. ^ The Relative Position of Canada in the World Grain Market
  13. ^ Canada's Domestic Agricultural Supports and the World Trade Organization
  14. ^ CIA World Factbook - Canada
  15. ^ Wallace, Iain, A Geography of the Canadian Economy. Don Mills: Oxford University Press, 2002.
  16. ^ The Daily, Friday, January 5, 2007. Labour Force Survey
  17. ^ Imports, exports and trade balance of goods on a balance-of-payments basis, by country or country grouping
  18. ^ FTD - Statistics - Trade Highlights - Top Trading Partners
  19. ^ FTD - Statistics - Country Data - U.S. Trade Balance with European Union
  20. ^ FTD - Statistics - Country Data - U.S. Trade Balance with South and Central America
  21. ^ Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada / Agriculture et Agroalimentaire Canada
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ a b "Household income and expenditure 2007". Retrieved 2009-07-13. 
  28. ^ "California Median Household income, 2007". Retrieved 2009-06-05. 
  29. ^ "Canada median household income". Retrieved 2008-5-2. 
  30. ^ "New Zealand income survey showing median household income". Retrieved 2007-10-04. 
  31. ^ "UK parliament discussion showing median household income". Retrieved 2006-12-31. 
  32. ^ "Census QuickStats". Retrieved 2007-10-07. 
  33. ^ "israeli median household income, 2006". Retrieved 2008-01-15. 
  34. ^ "Scottish Economic Statistics 2007". Retrieved 2007-10-09. 
  35. ^ "West Virginia, Median Household Income, 2005". Retrieved 2007-03-22. 
  36. ^ "Hong Kong median household income, 2005". Retrieved 2007-01-19. 
  37. ^ "Singapore median household income, 2005". Retrieved 2007-01-19. 
  38. ^
  39. ^ There is an apparent discrepancy between the factbook's 65.4% of GDP estimate for Canada's debt in 2006 [1], and the 30.2% trumpeted by the Canadian government at [2]. Both numbers are correct. The reason is that the Canadian government uses the OECD's net financial liabilities, while the CIA World Factbook uses a different measure of financial liabilities. The OECD itself reports the gross number as 68%, and the net number as 30.2% [3]. The net number places Canada as one of the least indebted G8 countries, while the gross number is less flattering.


  • Howlett, Michael and M. Ramesh. Political Economy of Canada: An Introduction. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1992.
  • Wallace, Iain, A Geography of the Canadian Economy. Don Mills: Oxford University Press, 2002.
  •  This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the CIA World Factbook.


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