The Greater Toronto Area (GTA) is a metropolitan area in Canada. At the 2011 census, the census metropolitan area had a population of 5,583,064. The Greater Toronto Area is defined as the central city of Toronto, and the four regional municipalities that surround it: Durham, Halton, Peel, and York.
The Greater Toronto Area is different from the Census Metropolitan Area of Toronto, which covers a smaller region. As of early 21st century, the regional span of the Greater Toronto Area is sometimes extended to include the city of Hamilton, Ontario and its surrounding region, to form the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area, an urban area that has a total population ranked near the top 50 in the world.
The term Greater Toronto has been used in writing as early as the 1900s, although at the time, the term only referred to the former City of Toronto and its immediate townships and villages, which became Metropolitan Toronto in 1954 and became the current city of Toronto in 1998. The usage of the term involving the four regional municipalities came into formal use in the mid-1980s, after it was used in a widely discussed report on municipal governance restructuring in the region and was later made official as a provincial planning area. However it did not come into everyday usage until the mid- to late 1990s. In 2006, the term began to be supplanted in the field of spatial planning as provincial policy increasingly began to refer to either the “Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area” (GTHA) or the still-broader “Greater Golden Horseshoe”. The latter includes communities like Barrie, Guelph and the Niagara Region. The GTA continues, however, to be in official use elsewhere in the Government of Ontario, such as the Ministry of Finance.
The Greater Toronto Area was home to a number of First Nations groups who lived on the shore of Lake Ontario long before the first Europeans arrived in the region. At various times the Neutral, Seneca, Mohawk and Huron nations were living in the vicinity of the region. The Mississaugas arrived in the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century, driving out the occupying Iroquois. While it is unclear as to who was the first European to reach the Toronto area, there is no question that it occurred in the 17th century.
The area would later become very crucial for its series of trails and water routes that led from northern and western Canada to the Gulf of Mexico. Known as the “Toronto Passage”, it followed the Humber River, as an important overland shortcut between Lake Ontario, Lake Simcoe and the upper Great Lakes. For this reason area became a hot spot for French fur traders. The French would later establish two trading forts, Magasin Royale in the 1720s, although abandoned within the decade and Fort Rouille in the 1750s, which would later be burnt down and abandoned in 1759 by the French garrison, who were retreating from invading British forces.
The first large influx of European settlers to settle the region were the United Empire Loyalists arriving after the American Revolution, when various individuals petitioned the Crown for land in and around the Toronto area. In 1787, the British negotiated the purchase of more than a quarter million acres (1,000 km2) of land in the area of Toronto with the Mississaugas of New Credit. York County, would later be created by Governor John Graves Simcoe in 1792, which would at its largest size, comprise all of what is now Halton Region, Toronto, Peel Region, York Region and parts of the current Durham Regional Municipality. The Town of York (present day Toronto) would later be attacked by American forces in the War of 1812 in what is now known as the Battle of York, in 1813. In 1816, Wentworth County and Halton County were created from York County. York County would later serve as the setting for the beginnings of the Upper Canada Rebellion with William Lyon Mackenzie’s armed march from Holland Landing towards York Township on Yonge Street, eventually leading up to the battle at Montgomery’s Tavern. In 1851, Ontario County and Peel County were separated from York.
The idea towards a streamlined local government to control local infrastructure was made as early as 1907 by member of federal Parliament, and founder of the Toronto Globe, William Findlay Maclean, who called for the expansion of the government of the former City of Toronto in order to create a Greater Toronto. The idea for a single government municipality would not be seriously explored until the late 1940s when planners decided that the city needed to incorporate its immediate suburbs. However due to strong opposition from suburban politicians, a compromise was struck which resulted in the creation of Metropolitan Toronto. In 1953, the portion of York County south of Steeles Avenue, a concession road and township boundary, was severed from the county and incorporated as the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto. With the concession of Metro Toronto, the offices of York County were moved from Toronto to Newmarket.
Originally, the membership in Metropolitan Toronto included the former City of Toronto and five townships: East York, Etobicoke, North York, Scarborough and York; as well as seven villages and towns, which became amalgamated into their surrounding townships in 1967. The early Metro Toronto government debated over the annexation of surrounding townships of Markham, Pickering and Vaughan. The first Metro Toronto Chairman, Frederick Goldwin Gardiner planned on the conversion of these townships into boroughs of the Metro Toronto government. In 1971, the remaining areas of York County was replaced by the Ontario government with the Regional Municipality of York. In 1980, North York would be incorporated into a city, with York following suit in 1983 and Etobicoke and Scarborough in 1984, although still part of the Metropolitan Toronto Municipal Government.
In 1992, the Ontario government passed legislation requiring Metropolitan Toronto to include the rest of the Greater Toronto Area into its planning. Despite this however, there was fear that different parts of the municipal system were working against one another and because of this, Bob Rae, then the Premier of Ontario, appointed Anne Golden to head a GTA task force to govern the region’s quality of life, competitiveness and governance. During this time, the Metro Toronto government advocated to the task force the creation of a new GTA authority, which would be made up of 21 of the 30 existing municipalities in the GTA at the time. The proposal from Metro Toronto would have resulted in 15 new municipalities. The City of Mississauga argued that consolidation should only take place in such a way that the new municipalities would have a population between 400,000 to 800,000. The Town of Markham had similarly advocated municipal consolidation in York Region, although it was opposed to complete consolidation into a single municipality. Municipal consolidation faced stiff opposition however from smaller communities such as Ajax, Milton, and the borough of EastYork. The incoming government of Mike Harris would later act on the recommendation of the task force with the elimination of Metro Toronto, consolidating the remaining municipalities into the new City of Toronto. The task force’s recommendations towards a GTA-tier municipality however were not acted upon by the Harris government, as it similarly resembled the former Metro Toronto government.
The regional municipality of Halton consists of:
• The City of Burlington
• The Town of Oakville
• The Town of Milton
• The Town of Halton Hills
Peel is west of Toronto and consists of:
• The City of Brampton
• The City of Mississauga
• The City of Caledon
The York region is north of Toronto and includes:
• The City of Vaughan
• The Town of Richmond Hill
• The Town of Markham
• The Town of Aurora
• The Town of Newmarket
• The Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville
• The Town of East Gwillimbury
• The Town of Georgina
• The Township of King
Durham region of Durham includes:
• The City of Pickering
• The City of Oshawa
• The Town of Ajax
• The Town of Whitby
• The Municipality of Clarington
• The Township of Uxbridge
• The Township of Scugog
• The Township of Brock