Canada has always been an industrialized country since the dawn of the industrial revolution. Canada’s first factory was York Factory, established in Manitoba in 1821. Since that day hundreds of big industrial producers have joined the Canadian economy, creating jobs, wealth and new technologies as they went.
Today Canada has a host of big, international manufacturers, from mega steel mills to aircraft and train producers to household appliances and cell phone manufacturers. Industry Canada, the government agency that monitors and regulates industry in the country, estimates that manufacturing accounts for 1.4 million jobs across Canada. Manufacturing’s peak accounted for nearly 2 million employees until the Great Recession of 2008-2009, which saw overseas customers decline and nearly 600,000 production jobs in Canada lost as a result.
Today, Quebec and southern Ontario account for the majority of industrial manufacturers in Canada, although several large factories do exist in every province. Here we’ll look at some of the bigger and more influential industrial producers in Canada:
Bombardier is a homegrown Canadian manufacturer of big-ticket vehicles such as train engines, subway cars, aircraft, heavy-lift equipment and the company’s very own invention, the snowmobile. Established in 1941 in Valcourt, Quebec, as an aerospace and transportation company by Joseph-Armand Bombardier, the company invented the world-famous snowmobile and went on to produce aircraft and train engines for the federal government.
Today Bombardier is an international Fortune 500 company with headquarters in Montreal. With more than 10,000 employees and production orders for countries around the world, Bombardier is a truly successful Canadian manufacturer.
A now-defunct company, Electrohome produced and pioneered home electronics, mainly TV and home stereo sets, from 1949 until Japanese competition put them out of business in 1984. Based in Kitchener, Ontario, Electrohome was the pioneer and largest global manufacturer of the 1970’s wood-panelled television “converter” (the forerunner of the remote control).
In 1984 Electrohome was fully bought-out by Mistubishi Corporation, who continued to produce electronics under the Electrohome brand. The brand was sold to Synnex Corp in 2008.
GENERAL MOTORS DIESEL DIVISION
In 1938 General Motors opened a specialized “Diesel Division” in London, Ontario. The brand continued until massive downsizing following the financial crisis of 2008. With more than 8,000 employees and producing nearly 40% of the world’s heavy-capacity diesel engines, the GM Diesel Division counts as a major manufacturer in Canada.
Hemisphere GPS, based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, designs and produces high-end precision GPS navigation systems for nautical, agricultural and military use. Hemisphere GPS is also a major electronic systems manufacturer for the natural resource industry, creating precision surveying, GIS and precision mapping software and hardware. With just under 1,000 employees, Hemisphere GPS is a major player in the world’s GPS industry.
HEYS INTERNATIONAL LTD
Heys International is a designer and producer of travel products, including backpacks, briefcases and luggage. Based in Toronto, the company was founded in 1986 and has gone on to gain significant global market share of the travel accessory industry.
Heys has recently been a pioneer in eco-friendly travel, creating and patenting the “Ecocase”, a suitcase made from 100% post-industrial poly-carbonate. Since the Ecocase was introduced in 2008, it has gone on to sell several million units around the world and earned Heys a licensing agreement with National Geographic in 2010 to produce their “Journey” line of eco-friendly adventure luggage.
Inglis (formerly John Inglis and Company) was founded in 1913 in Guelph, Ontario as a weapons manufacturer for the British Army. The company grew significantly during the two world wars but with the onset of the post-war consumer boom switched to manufacturing home appliances. In the 1970’s the company opened a second site in Mississauga and by 1981 had a third site operating in Toronto.
With more than 4,000 employees, Inglis became an international producer of household kitchen appliances, mainly refrigerators, oven ranges and dishwashers, but also delved into microwaves and washers and dryers. In 2001 Inglis was bought by a competitor and became Whirlpool, although the company still retains all three manufacturing sites and most of its labour force.
RED PATH SUGAR
Based in Toronto, Ontario, Red Path Sugar is North America’s third largest sugar refiner and distributor. Originally founded in 1854 in Montreal, Quebec, the company relocated to Toronto during the “language wars” of the 1970’s.
Linamar is Canada’s largest auto parts manufacturer, creating and producing major components for automotive producers around the world. Nearly every GM, Ford, Honda, Toyota, VW and Hyundai vehicle sold around the world contains Linamar parts, from brackets to seat belt buckles, and from spring hooks to engine tubing. Based in Guelph and Kitchener, Ontario, Linamar was founded in 1966 by Frank Hasenfratz. Today Linamar employees nearly 2,500 people, a decline from the 3,500 it employed before the 2008 financial crisis.
We couldn’t pass up the opportunity to talk about X4 Labs, Canada’s very own “male enhancement device” producer. In 2009 the company gained international fame when they were contracted by a rich Saudi prince to create a $500,000 golden penis. Since then, sales of X4’s Penis Enlargement Device have skyrocketed, with most of its customer base in the United States and Japan.