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Article

Commodities in Canada

In commerce, commodities are interchangeable goods or services. Many natural resources in Canada are viewed as commodities. They are a major source of the country’s wealth. Examples of commodities include a barrel of crude oil, an ounce of gold, or a contract to clear snow during the winter. Commodity products often supply the production of other goods or services. Many are widely traded in futures exchanges (see Commodity Trading).

Article

International Trade

International trade is the buying and selling of goods and services between members of different countries. This exchange has been a key part of the Canadian economy since the first settlers came. Canadian settlers depended on exports of resources such as timber and grain (see Timber Trade History; Wheat). In the 20th century, Canada’s exports shifted to services, manufactured goods and commodities such as oil and metals.

Since the 1980s, Canada has signed free trade agreements with dozens of countries to increase global trade and investment.

Canada’s three biggest trading partners are the United States, the European Union and China. The United States is Canada largest trading partner by far. However, trade with China grew quickly in the 2010s, and this trend will likely continue.

Click here for definitions of key terms used in this article.

Article

Exports from Canada

Exports are goods or services that residents of one country sell to residents of another country. Since its earliest days, Canada’s economic prosperity has relied on exports to larger markets; first through its colonial ties to Britain and later due to its geographic proximity to the United States. Billions of dollars of goods and services cross Canada’s border each year. (See International Trade.) Exports make up about a third of Canada’s gross domestic product (GDP). In 2019, Canadians exported $729 billion worth of goods and services. Almost 75 per cent of Canada’s total exports go to the United States. (See Canada-US Economic Relations.) Other major markets include the European Union, China and Japan.

Article

The Great Depression in Canada

The Great Depression of the early 1930s was a worldwide social and economic shock. Few countries were affected as severely as Canada. Millions of Canadians were left unemployed, hungry and often homeless. The decade became known as the Dirty Thirties due to a crippling drought in the Prairies, as well as Canada’s dependence on raw material and farm exports. Widespread losses of jobs and savings transformed the country. The Depression triggered the birth of social welfare and the rise of populist political movements. It also led the government to take a more activist role in the economy.

(This is the full-length entry about the Great Depression in Canada. For a plain-language summary, please see Great Depression in Canada (Plain-Language Summary).)

Article

Impact of COVID-19 on Remote Work at Canadian Businesses

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many Canadians have worked from home. This shift to remote work has aimed to slow the spread of the coronavirus by reducing contact between people.

To gauge the impact of the pandemic on remote work at Canadian businesses, Statistics Canada conducted a nationwide survey in 2020. The graphs below show some of its findings. The first graph shows the percentage of businesses, in each province and the three territories, that had more than half of their workforce working remotely a) before the pandemic and b) on 29 May 2020, during the pandemic. The second graph shows the percentage of businesses which expected that more than half their workforce would continue to work remotely after COVID-19.

Article

Mercantilism

Mercantilism is an economic theory and policy practised during Canada’s colonial periods. The theory of mercantilism holds that there is a fixed amount of wealth in the world. A nation’s wealth is thus dependent on exporting (selling to other countries) more than it imports (buying from others). European nations — including France and England (later Great Britain) — used this system to their advantage from the 16th century through the mid-19th century. The purpose was to extract as much wealth as possible from the colonies without investing much into them. The Atlantic slave trade is also inextricably linked to mercantilism. (See Black Enslavement in Canada.)

Article

Unemployment Relief Camps

During the Great Depression, the federal government sanctioned the creation of a system of unemployment relief camps, where in exchange for room-and-board, single men did physically demanding labour. The government was criticized for establishing the camps rather than addressing the need for reasonable work and wages.

Article

Employment Insurance

Employment Insurance (formerly Unemployment Insurance) is a government program that provides temporary benefit payments during a period of unemployment. The Employment Insurance (EI) program also provides illness, parental and caregiving benefits for persons who are away from work due to health and family-related reasons. EI is financed by premiums paid by employers and employees. The program is overseen by the Canada Employment Insurance Commission (CEIC). In July 2021, approximately 1.5 million Canadians received EI benefits.

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Canada and the G7 (Group of Seven)

The G7, or Group of Seven, is an international group comprising the governments of the world’s largest economies: Germany, France, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and Canada. It was founded as the G6 in 1975 and became the G7 with the addition of Canada in 1976. The Group is an informal bloc; it has no treaty or constitution and no permanent offices, staff or secretariat. The leaders of the member states meet at annual summits to discuss issues of mutual concern and to coordinate actions to address them. The meeting location and the organization’s presidency rotates among the members. The European Union is also a non-enumerated member, though it never assumes the rotating presidency.

Article

Interest Rates in Canada

Interest is the price charged to borrow money. Expressed as a rate, interest is a percentage of the amount of money borrowed (the principal amount) that is to be paid for an agreed period of time. Interest can be paid by a borrower to a lender (e.g., to a bank), but it can also be paid by a bank to individuals whose money the bank uses to lend money to other borrowers. In Canada, interest rates are determined by the policy of the Bank of Canada, the demand for loans, the supply of available lending capital, interest rates in the United States, inflation rates and other economic factors. The Bank of Canada helps the Canadian government manage the economy by setting the bank rate and controlling the money supply.

Article

Unemployment in Canada

Unemployment is the unused supply of labour in the labour force. The unemployment rate measures unemployment and is expressed as a percentage of the total labour force, which is the total number of people who are 15 years of age and over who are either employed or unemployed. The unemployment rate is calculated by dividing the number of unemployed people by the number of people in the labour force. The unemployment rate is considered an economic indicator, an economic statistic that is used to interpret or understand the health of an economy. There are several types of unemployment and their causes are often debated by economists. The unemployed are not a fixed collection of individuals but an ever-changing group, most of whom might be unemployed only briefly.

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Minimum Wage

Minimum wage is the lowest wage rate that an employer is legally permitted to pay to an employee. In Canada, provinces and territories regulate minimum wage (see Provincial Government in Canada; Territorial Government in Canada). The federal government also sets a minimum wage for employees covered by Part III of the Canada Labour Code. Minimum wage policy was originally established to protect vulnerable workers from exploitation, and it continues to be used by governments to safeguard non-unionized workers (see Labour Force; Unions).