Northwestern Ontario is the region within the Canadian province of Ontario which lies north and west of Lake Superior, and west of Hudson Bay and James Bay. It includes most of subarctic Ontario. Its western boundary is the Canadian province of Manitoba, which disputed Ontario's claim to the western part of the region. Ontario's right to Northwestern Ontario was determined by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in 1884 and confirmed by the Canada (Ontario Boundary) Act, 1889 of the Parliament of the United Kingdom. In 1912, the Parliament of Canada by the Ontario Boundaries Extension Act gave jurisdiction over the District of Patricia to Ontario, thereby extending the northern boundary of the province to Hudson Bay.
Northwestern Ontario consists of the districts of Kenora, Rainy River and Thunder Bay. Major communities in the region include Thunder Bay, Kenora, Dryden, Fort Frances, Sioux Lookout, Greenstone, Red Lake, Marathon, and Atikokan. There are also several dozen First Nations in Northwestern Ontario.
Northwestern Ontario is the province's most sparsely populated region — 52 per cent of the region's entire population lives in the Thunder Bay census metropolitan area alone. Aside from the city of Thunder Bay, Kenora is the only other municipality in the entire region with a population of greater than 10,000 people.
The population of Northern Ontario had been in decline over the past decade, mainly due to a downturn in the forestry sector. Recent population growth in Kenora is likely due to growth in the Aboriginal population and the region's growing popularity as a cottage country region.
|Population of Northwestern Ontario|
|Rainy River District||21,564||-2.5%||22,109||-4.4%||23,138|
|Thunder Bay District||149,063||-1.2%||150,860||-4.3%||157,619|
Northwestern Ontarians tend to lean left politically, mainly due to the history and influence of labour unions, a growing environmental ethic, and a large Aboriginal population. At the federal level, Northwestern Ontario is represented by Conservative Greg Rickford in the Kenora District, New Democrat John Rafferty and Independent Bruce Hyer in Thunder Bay—Rainy River and Thunder Bay—Superior North respectively. Provincially, NDP Sarah Campbell represents Kenora—Rainy River while Liberals Bill Mauro and Michael Gravelle represent Thunder Bay—Atikokan and Thunder Bay—Superior North respectively.
In 2005, some residents of the region expressed dissatisfaction at the level of attention paid to the region by the provincial government. Some, most notably former Kenora mayor Dave Canfield, and Fort Frances town councillor Tannis Drysdale, have proposed the idea of the region as a whole, or parts of it, seceding from Ontario to join Manitoba, although the campaign did not attract widespread public support.