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Old 03-06-2014, 08:09 AM
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Consider this a spin-off of the thread about the relatively sparse population of the NY side of Lake Ontario. Reading that thread, I got curious and made this one. Why is the Canadian/Ontarian side of Lake Erie so lightly populated? The major cities of Buffalo, Cleveland, Toledo, and (sort of) Detroit all lie on or near the American shore of Lake Erie, whereas on the Canadian side there are zero major Canadian cities (or really any cities at all). What's up with that? It seems that there is plenty of prime real estate there, and considering how the Lake is a major route for commerce that there would be more port cities. And yet, there isn't. Why?
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Old 03-06-2014, 08:18 AM
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Canadian Provincial authorities have ALWAYS had a more "European" style of regulating growth / development. I mean even back in the "fur trapping era" the system was more like old "manor house" land grants than the freewheeling / lawless ways that American pioneers like Daniel Boone made famous...

In a lot of ways it probably makes more sense to have such pristine / desolate areas in Canada -- it is cheaper for the government to have things concentrated in bigger cities and leave large parts of the country "open".
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Old 03-06-2014, 02:28 PM
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Well, it is the southernmost area of Canada, so valuable for agriculture. London and Kitchener-Waterloo would be key agro-industrial market towns. Windsor might be a special case in terms of development. All 3 of these are in the top 20 Canadian metros.

Also port cities tend to develop with a hinterland that needs access - that hammer-like territory has much more coastline than interior hinterland. Toronto and Hamilton are obviously more advantaged as British Empire oriented trade ports for this area.

Still one might have expected a larger city to develop on the Lake Huron side, as an equivalent lakes-end-of-the-portage place to Buffalo and Cleveland - it does seem like a big stretch between Sarnia and the Soo.
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Old 03-06-2014, 04:39 PM
Location: Philaburbia
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Gee, where have I read this question before ...
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Old 03-06-2014, 07:42 PM
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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I think the North side of Lake Erie was settled later than the Golden Horseshoe and Lake Ontario's Northern shore, with the Lake Huron shore being settled even later. Also Lake Erie and the Southern part of Lake Huron are quite a bit shallower than Lake Ontario. The stretch from Kincardine to Tobermory is deeper, although I know there's still a lot of shallow beaches there, so maybe the drop off happens further from the shore.

Also the Bruce Peninsula is pretty remote and sparsely populated because there's shallow bedrock (not much soil, poor for agriculture). Tobermory's harbour has several of shipwrecks... not entirely sure why.

Owen Sound has a great natural harbour though, and was a moderately important port back in the 19th century... Port McNicoll and Penetanguishene have pretty good natural harbours too. All of these three are on the Georgian Bay.

Owen Sound: 3,369 people
Hamilton: 26,716 people
Toronto: ~90,000 people

Owen Sound: 12,559 people
Hamilton: 70,221 people
Toronto: ~350,000 people

I'm guessing most of the ships were going on the Western half of Lake Huron though, from Sarnia to Sault Ste Marie or Lake Michigan, rather than from Port Severn to Sault Ste Marie/Lake Michigan. The Trent-Severn waterway was only completely in 1920. By that time it was no longer very advantageous, only suitable for smaller boats while I think by that time most great lakes traffic was on much bigger great lakes freighters and also had competition from railroads (and starting to get competition from roads around then/soon after).

I suspect that earlier on (early 19th century) you didn't really need very deep harbours, but they would preferably be relatively large and sheltered, which was true for Hamilton and Toronto, but not the likes of Goderich, Kincardine, Port Elgin, Port Stanley, Port Dover. In the 20th century, you could just dredge out/lake fill and expand the harbours artificially, as was the case for Hamilton and Toronto. Erie has a pretty good natural harbour, Detroit and Toledo have a fair bit of space along rivers. Also Toledo and Cleveland had canals connecting to the Ohio river. Plus they had better railway connections than the little Ontario Erie/Huron ports.

I think Windsor and Sarnia could have potentially been more significant, but I guess Detroit kind of lucked out and became the dominant city for trade through that area.
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Old 03-06-2014, 08:10 PM
Location: Thunder Bay, ON
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I think it is worth asking why the inland cities like Chatham, London, Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge, Guelph and Brantford, even St Thomas and Stratford are considerably larger than most of the Lake Erie/Lake Huron ports though.

1871 Pop
Goderich: 3,954
Sarnia: 2,929
London: 18,000
Kitchener: 3,473
Brantford: 8,107
Stratford: 4,313
Leamington: 200
Dunnville: 1,452
Woodstock: 3,982

1911 Pop
Goderich: 4,522
Sarnia: 9,947
London: 46,509
Kitchener: 15,196
Brantford: 23,132
Stratford: 12,946
Leamington: 2,652
Dunnville: 2,861
Woodstock: 9,320

2011 Pop
Goderich: 7,521
Sarnia: 72,366
London: 366,151
Kitchener: 219,153
Brantford: 93,650
Stratford: 30,886
Leamington: 28,403
Dunnville: 5,789
Woodstock: 37,754

Some of these cities/towns grew rapidly, others very rapidly... except for Dunnville and Goderich which grew little. Goderich was a waterfront town, not sure what exactly the situation was for Dunnville historically. The waterfront towns like Port Elgin, Port Rowan, Port Dover, Kincardine, Southampton, Bayfield, Grand Bend are small, if not tiny. Port Maitland is barely a hamlet.

Leamington and Sarnia grew, as did Windsor and Port Colborne, all of which have access to Lake Erie, Lake Huron or the St Clair River in between.

I know Sarnia benefitted considerably from the discovery of oil nearby (first discovery of oil in Canada, one of the first in North America) and probably allowed it to experience continued growth as the importance of oil increased. Leamington's economy has largely evolved around agriculture and the Heinz Ketchup plant. The town is surrounded by tomato greenhouses. Windsor's growth was strongly tied to Detroit, and Port Colborne's to the opening of the Welland Canal/St Lawrence Seaway. However, I don't think most of the inland towns grew because of luck (ex finding oil), most of them were just regular old market towns/small industrial hub combos.

Last edited by memph; 03-06-2014 at 08:21 PM..
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Old 03-07-2014, 09:31 AM
Location: Sinking in the Great Salt Lake
13,143 posts, read 19,184,528 times
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Wouldn't these "one side hot, one side not" questions be just a matter economics and physics? A large, well established industrial center is gonna create a lot of money and fill the needs of the region for that kind of development, so someone trying to create a competing zone on the other side of the lake is doomed to failure... and nobody with any sense is gonna invest on development that isn't going to be profitable.
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