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The Golden Horseshoe is a densely populated and industrialized region (or urban agglomeration) centred around the western end of Lake Ontariomarker in Southern Ontariomarker, Canadamarker, with outer boundaries stretching south to Lake Eriemarker and north to Georgian Baymarker. Most of it is also part of the Quebec City – Windsor Corridor. With a population of 8.1 million people, it makes up slightly over a quarter (25.6%) of the population of Canada and contains approximately 75% of Ontario's population, making it one of the largest population concentrations in North America. Although it is a geographically named sub-region of Southern Ontario, the Greater Golden Horseshoe is more frequently used today to describe the metropolitan regions that stretch across the area in totality.

The core of the region starts from Niagara Fallsmarker at the eastern end of the Niagara Peninsulamarker and extends west, wrapping around the western end of Lake Ontario at Hamiltonmarker and then turning northeast to its anchor city Torontomarker (on the northwestern shore of Lake Ontario), before finally terminating at Oshawamarker, just east of Toronto. The wider region spreads inland in all directions away from the Lake Ontario shoreline, southwest to Brantfordmarker, west to the Kitchener-Waterloo area, north to Barriemarker, and northeast to Peterboroughmarker. The whole region's area covers approximately 33,500 km², out of this, 7,300 km² is covered by the Greenbelt.

The phrase, "Golden Horseshoe," was first used by Westinghouse President, Herbert H. Rogge, in a speech to the Hamilton Chamber of Commerce, on January 12, 1954: The speech writer who actually penned the phrase was Charles Hunter MacBain, executive assistant to five Westinghouse presidents including Rogge.


Golden Horseshoe was used as a geographical distinction since the 1950s, but it was only on July 13, 2004 that a report from the provincial Ministry of Public Infrastructure Renewal entitled Places to Grow coined the term Greater Golden Horseshoe, extending the boundaries west to Waterloo Region, north to Barriemarker, and northeast to Peterboroughmarker. A subsequent edition released February 16, 2005, broadened the term further, adding Brant, Haldimand and Northumberland Counties. Statistics Canada defined the region first in its 2001 census as the Extended Golden Horseshoe, combining many Census Metropolitan Areas. The Greater Golden Horseshoe is officially designated in Ontario Regulation 416/905 under the Places to Grow Act.


The population of the Greater Golden Horseshoe is 8.1 million residents as of the 2006 census.

The region is projected to grow to 11.5 million people by 2031. The definition of the Golden Horseshoe as an agglomerated urban area, that is combining Census Metropolitan Areas is similar to how population counts are tabulated for Combined Statistical Area which are used in the United States to combine more than one metropolitan area, defined as an (MSA), into a larger overall urbanized area. These metropolitan areas are intrinsically linked through inter-dependence of services, trade, transportation corridors, close proximity and other factors, in this context they can also be viewed as a single region. In terms of population, the Greater Horseshoe is the 6th most populous greater urbanized area in North America, just behind the Baltimore-Washington-Northern Virginia CSA.


The economy of this region is very diverse. Toronto's stock exchange is the third largest on the continent by market capitalization (after the NYSEmarker and NASDAQ), and seventh largest in the world. Recently, five major office-dominated skyscrapers have been planned in its financial district (to go along with hundreds of condominiums).

Niagara Falls has one of the world's largest per-capita tourist economies, benefiting from millions of tourists coming to see its majestic waterfalls and shop in its numerous stores. The wine making and fruit growing industries of the Niagara Peninsulamarker produce award-winning wines which are beginning to attract attention around the world, in particular the ice wine for which the region is known.

Cities such as Hamilton, Oshawa, Oakville, Whitby and Kitchener all contain major large-scale industrial production facilities, Hamilton being steel-dominated and Oshawa being much more car-oriented. Other significant auto-production facilities also exist in Bramptonmarker, St. Catharinesmarker, Cambridgemarker and Allistonmarker. Hamilton and Toronto also have two of the largest seaports in Lake Ontariomarker. The Welland Canalmarker system handles tanker ship and recreational traffic through the Great Lakes. Large rail and truck distribution facilities are located in Toronto, Vaughan and Brampton. As of 2008, however, the manufacturing sector of this region has begun to experience a significant decline in as a result of unfavourable currency exchange rates, high energy costs, and reduced demand from the United States.


The "horseshoe" part of the region's name is derived from the characteristic horseshoe shape of the west end of Lake Ontario with Burlingtonmarker roughly positioned in the centre. The "golden" part is historically attributed to the region's wealth and prosperity, according to the Canadian Oxford Dictionary. (An alternative explanation often quoted attributes it to its bright, or "golden", appearance from space, as a result of a continuous urban stretch of nighttime lights; however, the name predates satellite imagery.)


Toronto is a world city, known for its performing arts and night life. Downtown Torontomarker is one of the largest downtowns in North America. The city is pedestrian friendly and has one of the lowest crime rates in Canada.

Toronto's Yorkvillemarker is an example of a world-class shopping district in the city. The city also is home to several notable shopping malls such as Yorkdalemarker, The Eaton Centremarker and Sherway Gardensmarker. Located in the suburbs of Toronto are Vaughan Millsmarker, and Square One in Mississaugamarker, the largest suburban shopping mall in Ontario.

Large annual cultural festivals that draw tourists and local alike include Oktoberfestmarker in Kitchenermarker and Caribana in Toronto. Toronto Pride Week culminates in the Gay Pride parade, which is one of the largest in the world.

The Niagara Region has become one of the major wine-production areas in Canada. The Golden Horseshoe contains many small towns with tourist-jammed, historic main streets, most notably the community of Niagara-on-the-Lakemarker, located at the mouth of the Niagara Rivermarker. Niagara Fallsmarker is one of the world's largest waterfalls, and attracts millions to Clifton Hillmarker, a neighbourhood featuring hundreds of souvenir stores, restaurants and skyline-changing hotels. Casinos here are also a huge draw.

The Niagara Escarpment, a world biosphere as designated by the United Nations, runs north and then east through the region cutting the Niagara Gorge at Niagara Falls. The Bruce Trail runs along the escarpment through mostly protected woodlands. Similar protection of some wooded areas exists on the Oak Ridges Moraine running west-east in the north end of the Greater Toronto Area, although development pressures continue to threaten habitat.

Hamilton has the historical reputation of being a blue-collar city; however, waterfront redevelopments and large-scale gentrification have been rapidly changing the perception of the city, although it retains a dominant industrial base. Barriemarker and Peterboroughmarker are situated close to scenic lakes, rivers and hills in the northern reaches of the Golden Horseshoe, where all-year around recreation contributes to the local economies, in addition to being major service centres.


This region is home to several universities, many of which are well known and respected throughout the world, including Brock Universitymarker, McMaster Universitymarker (ranked 4th in Canada by the Academic Ranking of World Universities), the University of Torontomarker (ranked 1st in Canada by the Academic Ranking of World Universities), University of Guelphmarker, University of Waterloomarker, Wilfrid Laurier Universitymarker, Trent Universitymarker, York Universitymarker, the Ontario College of Art & Designmarker, Georgian Collegemarker, University of Ontario Institute of Technologymarker, and Ryerson Universitymarker.The University of Toronto has three campuses: one in Downtown Toronto, one in Scarboroughmarker, and one in Mississaugamarker. Numerous other universities and colleges can be found in the region.

There is also a strong integration between the universities and hospitals in the area, particularly in Toronto and Hamilton, which have an extensive medical research core.


The Golden Horseshoe is served by an extensive network of expressways, the backbone of which is Highway 401, one of the widest and busiest expressways in the world. Regional transit is provided by GO Transit trains and buses, and by private bus operators Greyhound and Coach Canada. Local transit is provided by municipal agencies, the largest of which is the Toronto Transit Commission which operates 4 rapid transit lines and an extensive bus and streetcar network.

The primary airport of the region is Toronto Pearson International Airportmarker (Lester B. Pearson International Airport), located in Mississauga, which is the busiest in Canada, handling approximately 32.3 million passengers in 2008. Other regional airports of significance include John C.marker Munro International Airportmarker south of Hamilton, which is a major regional freight and courier location; Buttonville Airportmarker and Billy Bishop Toronto City Airportmarker in the Greater Toronto Area, both of which mostly serve regional business travellers; and Region of Waterloo International Airportmarker just east of Kitchener, serving the Region of Waterloo. On the U.S. side, Buffalo-Niagara International Airportmarker is second largest in passenger volume in the region to Pearson Airport, serving 5.5 million passengers in 2008 and is frequently used by Canadian passengers flying to American destinations.


Census Metropolitan Areas

CMAs in the Greater Golden Horseshoe with over 100,000 in population are:

  1. Toronto CMAmarker 5,113,149
  2. Hamilton CMAmarker 692,911
  3. Kitchenermarker-Waterloo CMA 451,235
  4. St. Catharinesmarker-Niagara CMA 390,317
  5. Oshawa CMAmarker 330,594
  6. Barrie CMAmarker 177,061
  7. Guelph CMAmarker 127,009
  8. Brantford CMAmarker 124,607
  9. Peterborough CMAmarker 116,570



  1. Ontario Statutes and Regulations
  2. [1]
  3. [2]
  4. Toronto 26th most dangerous city in Canada: report, CTV News, March 13 2008

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