What Are The Biggest Industries In Canada?

An oil refinery in Burnaby, British Columbia.
An oil refinery in Burnaby, British Columbia.

Canada has one of the world’s most stable economies, ranking 10th globally regarding GDP size. Similar to other developed countries, the service industry is a significant driver in Canada's economy. However, the economy is unique compared to other developed countries because of the importance placed on the primary sector which includes activities such as logging, fishing, and mining. The manufacturing industry is also highly developed, ranking among the global leaders in the manufacture of various products including aircraft, automobiles, and software development. Mining and exploitation of natural resources is also a significant contributor to the GDP with a value estimated at $33.2 trillion in 2016. Canada is reputed as an energy powerhouse due to its abundance of natural resources coupled with its relatively small population.


The service industry in Canada is diverse and accounts for close to 70% of the GDP. The retail sector is a huge employer with more than 12% of Canadians working in this part of the service industry. Ranking second in this industry is the business services sector which includes real estate, financial services, and communications. There has been a significant growth in this sector of the economy over the past few years primarily because of increased demand. Education and healthcare are two of Canada’s largest sectors but are both predominantly under government influence. Healthcare has experienced significant growth over the past decade and is currently the third largest sector in the country. Tourism also ranks as a vital component of the Canadian service industry. The fastest-growing aspect of Canada’s tourism sector is casino gaming which as of 2001 had employed 41,000 people and was churning out $5 billion for the government annually.


Canada is ranked at the top of the global leader of energy production and exports some of the energy that they create. The net energy products exports in the country accounted for about 2.9% of the GDP in 2009. Canada holds vast oil and gas reserves that are concentrated in the Northern Territories, Alberta, and British Columbia. The oil sands of Athabasca put Canada at third in size of global oil reserves after Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. Hydroelectric power is a common and inexpensive source of energy in the country. The availability of cheap energy has enabled the growth and development of several crucial industries such as the aluminum industries in Quebec and British Columbia.


Manufacturing is one of the critical pillars of the economies of developed nations. Generally, the development path for wealthy countries has always been a transition from an economy driven by primary industries such as agriculture to one that is based on manufacturing which then translates into a service-based economy. Canada has a vibrant service industry and also has very vibrant primary and manufacturing industries supporting the service industry. Manufacturing accounts for more than 10% of the Canadian GDP with manufacturers exporting more than $350 billion worth of goods and services every year. The manufacturing industry in Canada has created about 1.7 million full-time and well-paying jobs nationwide. Among the biggest players in this industry are aircraft and automobile manufacturers with Central Canada hosting branches of major Japanese and American automobile manufacturers. Canada is currently the fourth largest automobile exporter by value exporting more than $48.8 billion worth of vehicles in 2016 alone.


Canada is a major supplier of agricultural products especially wheat and other grain products. Asian markets and the US are the major importers of Canadian grain produce. The agriculture sector in Canada receives significant support and subsidies from the government. Forestry is also a healthy contributor to Canada’s economy. Forests cover about 42% of the land acreage in Canada making for the vibrant forestry industry. Canada ranks second among the largest exports of forestry products. The agricultural sector provides 2% of the population with stable and well-paying jobs. Over the span of the 20th century, Canada saw a decline in the proportion of the population that is devoted to agricultural activities, but this industry remains vital to the GDP of the country.


Mining has been one of the primary industries in Canada from as early as the 16th century. The government heavily funds prospecting and mineral exploration, but there is a considerable proportion of foreign companies actively participating in the Canadian mining industry. Essential mineral products exploited in Canada include precious metals such as platinum, gold, and silver, base metals like nickel, copper, iron, lead, and zinc, diamonds as well as industrial minerals such as potash, limestone, and gypsum. Canada holds significant reserves of energy minerals including uranium and coal. Despite the heavy criticism against the environmental impact of the mining industry, Canada remains one of the leading mining nations and is identified as a center of mining expertise and finance globally.


Canada has the world’s longest coastline which has encouraged the growth of the fishing industry. The number of commercial fish harvesters working the length of Canada’s coastline is approximated to be in the tune of 45,000. A majority of fishing activities take place off the Atlantic coast of the country from Nunavut down to the American border. There is also a considerable amount of fishing activities in the British Columbian waters which are fertile breeding grounds for various species of fish and other seafood. The Great Lakes also experience a good amount of fish harvesting. Altogether, the fishing industry provides more than 120,000 Canadians with jobs and is an economic staple for roughly 1,500 communities in both coastal and rural Canada. The annual contribution of fishing to the economy is estimated at $3.8 billion.

The Growth of Canada’s Industries

Canada’s economic stability owes significantly to the government support the industries receive as well as legislation including free trade agreements with some of the world’s biggest economies. The trade partnerships Canada has with the European Union, Mexico, Japan, China, and the US have seen the growth of Canadian industries. There is also an almost seamless interaction of industries within the country owing to the advanced infrastructure which has facilitated easy transport of goods countrywide. Canadian industries have benefited from the hefty investment in research and development which has promoted technological development in Canadian industries and their considerable growth.


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