Trevor Dauphinee
March 2, 2018

You may have heard about some of the exciting projects, from work in advanced manufacturing, to discoveries in artificial intelligence, that were born in Ontario. When I look back at how much our communities have grown to arrive at this place, I am filled with pride at the strides we've made as a province. I'm also a history buff and when I came across some of these photos I had to share them.

Here's how some of our known—and the lesser-known—innovation hotspots have developed.


A plane flies over the new Hamilton airport in 1929
Hamilton Airport Official Opening, 1929
Source: City of Toronto Archives, Globe and Mail fonds, Fonds 1266, Item 16842.
People watch a band on stage at a music festival in Hamilton
Hamilton Music Festival
Source: Tourism Hamilton.

Hamilton has come a long way since its blue collar, industrial roots. Founded in 1816, and once primarily known as being the Steel Capital of Canada, the city of over 500,000 has matured into one that offers so much choice for its residents, including an affordable lifestyle and employment options for millennial workers. As a result, it's become a growing cultural hub with a thriving community of the arts, theatre and music. One of Hamilton's secrets is its thriving startup community - it's quietly built out one of the biggest scenes in the country that is attracting diverse talent from around the world. With the growing population of Southern Ontario spreading around Lake Ontario, and Toronto Pearson Airport's status as the biggest and busiest international airport in the country, Hamilton has stepped up its role as a transportation hub. Its airport, which opened in 1929, now links the city to destinations in North America, Europe and South America.


A black and white photo of a bus
King Street West, Kitchener, the same street of the Google offices today.
The Google offices in Waterloo
Rendering of Google offices, Waterloo
Image rendering:

Looking at Waterloo today it's difficult to imagine that it started as a farming town in 1806 whose grist mill was the economic centerpiece. Unsurprisingly, this attraction made Waterloo a social and commercial hub and continued to grow in importance over time. Cows have given way to computers as Waterloo region is widely recognized as an important technology hub in Ontario and the country. It is home to Google Canada's largest R&D office, some of the country's leading research and education institutions, and ever-growing manufacturing and technology sectors. It is also one of the most educated communities in Canada. The result: the creation of some innovative and exciting ideas such as the University of Waterloo's "future of transportation" concept Waterloop–a cross-country train line encased in underground airless tubes.


A black and white photo of Union Station
Union Station today
Source: remundo, Union Station Toronto

Toronto has a long history as a centre for commerce. In the early 1850s, multiple rail lines were built in in Toronto by the nation's leading railway builders, quickly turning the Lakeshore area into a bustling space for the arrival of goods and talent from all over the world. The Union Station we know today, which is Canada's busiest rail hub serving more than 250,000 passengers every 24 hours, has roots dating back to 1858. Torontonians are proud of the city's fast-moving lifestyle and diverse culture which has historically fueled an appetite for innovation in business as tall as the CN tour. Today, Toronto is consistently ranked as one of the world's most livable and prosperous cities. In 2017, Toronto was within the top five most livable cities according to the Economist, and within the top 10 most high-tech cities according to media giant Business Insider. Most recently, in perhaps the hottest recent news, Toronto was shortlisted in Amazon's quest for a second North American HQ.


Elgin Street in 1939
Elgin Street in 2012
View from Shopify Canadian headquarters, 150 Elgin Street (looking North), Ottawa 1939 – 2012
Source: Ottawa Past & Present

Ottawa's ever-growing technology sector continues to impress me as it grows. As one of Ontario's biggest innovation hotspots, Ottawa boasts 77,000 ICT workers and more than 1,750 technology companies, including globally recognized firms such as Shopify, one of North America's largest e-commerce platforms. Based on that success, a new government-corporate collaboration accelerator hub, Bayview Yards, was launched to help the next Shopifies scale their operations to equal international success. The city has the second highest concentration of scientists and engineers in North America and educates 130,000 people per year—20% of whom are specializing in STEM. So, while Ottawa may be home to the federal government and a phalanx of politicians on Parliament Hill, its technology sector is developing into an equally impressive match.


Bluewater bridge under construction
Bluewater Bridge being erected in 1938
Source: Sarnia Historical Society
Bluewater bridge today
Bluewater Bridge as it stands
Source: Sarnia Historical Society

Sarnia's geography is some of the most diverse and interesting in our province—and I'm not just saying that because it's where I'm from. In the early days, Sarnia saw quick economic growth due to its proximity to two major railways linking to the United States, nearby sources of oil, and the Bluewater Bridge which was opened in 1938 to provide one of the first traffic links over the St. Clair River. Notably, Sarnia was key to developing Canada's burgeoning oil industry at the time. It was home to the continent's first commercial oil well, and saw huge economic growth following its crucial role in providing petrochemicals during the Second World War. Today, Sarnia, with a relatively humble population of over 71,000, continues to punch above its weight in economic contributions. The recently-announced addition of a NOVA Chemicals polyethylene plant is just one example. Providing the community with a boost in jobs, the city with further investment, and the province with a new and innovative manufacturing service, I'm sure we will continue to see the impact of Sarnia's economy for many years to come.


The Superstack overlooking a house in Sudbury
Inco Superstack
Photographer: Louie Palu, 2007
SNOLAB in Sudbury, Ontario
SNOLAB, Sudbury
Source: SNOLAB

There was a time when Sudbury's claims to fame were the Inco smelter Superstack (the largest chimney in the Western hemisphere), and the Big Nickel roadside attraction. Today, the city and surrounding area of 160,000—the largest in Northeastern Ontario—is home to a diverse economy. From education—with two colleges (one English and one French), a university, and Canada's newest schools in medicine and architecture – to scientific research at SNOLAB, the world's second deepest underground physics laboratory, Sudbury continues to grow at a rapid pace. Additionally, greening efforts in recent decades have begun to revitalize the city's lush landscape – a staple in Northern Ontario.

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