Oshawa, Ont, incorporated as a city in 1924, population 149 607 (2011c), 141 590 (2006c). The City of Oshawa is located 52 km east of Toronto on LAKE ONTARIO.

Oshawa, Ont, incorporated as a city in 1924, population 149 607 (2011c), 141 590 (2006c). The City of Oshawa is located 52 km east of Toronto on Lake Ontario. Originally called Skae's Corners, its present name is an Ojibwa term whose exact meaning is disputed, though "portage" is a common choice. In 1974 Oshawa became part of the newly formed Regional Municipality of Durham.

Its initial function as a transportation centre was based on its excellent harbour, good road connections and the Grand Trunk Railway, which in 1856 was completed from Toronto to Montréal. Manufacturing soon took precedence. Especially notable was the Oshawa Manufacturing Company, owned by Joseph Hall, who developed it into the largest producer of agricultural implements in Canada.

Oshawa: Statistical Summary
Population (City): 141 590 (2006c); 139 051 (2001c)
Population (CMA): 330 594 (2006c); 296 298 (2001c)
Rate of Increase (City): 1.8% (2001-2006); 3.5% (1996-2001)*
Rate of Increase (CMA): 11.6% (2001-2006); 10.2% (1996-2001)*
Rank in Canada (by CMA in 2006): Fourteenth
Year of Incorporation (City): 1924
Land Area: (City) 145.67 km2; (CMA) 903.29 km2
Elevation: 84 m
Average Daily Temperature July: 20.3ºC
Average Daily Temperature January: -5.3ºC
Yearly Precipitation: 877.9 mm
*Based on 2001 boundaries

The dominant manufacturer was to become McLaughlin Carriage Works, developer of the McLaughlin-Buick automobile. In 1918 the McLaughlin Motor Car Company and the Chevrolet Motor Car Company of Canada were merged into General Motors of Canada Ltd (GM) with local entrepreneur Robert S. "Colonel Sam" McLaughlin as president.

In the years that followed, GM became the dominant employer, but after several years of poor labour relations, it was the target of a major strike. GM workers certified the United Automobile Workers (UAW), an industrial union affiliated with the American-based Committee for Industrial Organization (CIO; later Congress of Industrial Organization). Much to the chagrin of Ontario's premier, Mitchell Hepburn, who hoped the UAW would lose the strike, the union, despite the use of special police, established itself as a force in Canadian labour (see also: Oshawa Strike).


The automotive industry is still the principle employer. The major issue in the industry has been that of outsourcing, the practice of ordering materials formerly produced at the GM plant from offsite suppliers which are often nonunion and pay lower wages. This was the focus of a strike at Oshawa's GM plant in 1996. The agreement reached provided a model for contracts with Chrysler and Ford. This is likely to be an ongoing issue.

Cultural Life

Oshawa is home to Durham College, part of Ontario's network of Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology. There are several museums: Canadian Automotive Museum, Oshawa Aeronautical Military and Industrial Museum and Robert Stuart Aeronautical Museum. The Oshawa Community Museum consists of 3 historic homes featuring local historical artifacts. Parkwood Estate and Gardens, the 55-room mansion which was the home of Robert Samuel McLaughlin, is a national historic site.

The Robert McLaughlin Gallery features changing exhibits of works by Canadian artists. Downtown, 9 buildings have been adorned with murals depicting Oshawa's history and multicultural diversity. Other attractions include Oshawa Trails along the Oshawa and Harmony Creek valleys, the Lake Ontario waterfront and McLaughlin Bay Wildlife Reserve. Oshawa has a symphony orchestra and numerous sports and recreational facilities.

Prominent Oshawans have included Michael Starr, Cabinet minister in the Diefenbaker government; Edward Broadbent, former federal leader of the New Democratic Party; and Donald Jackson, world figure skating champion.

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