It’s a prosperous country that can claim the 10th-largest GDP in the world, fueled in part by its vast natural resources, sizable manufacturing base, and vibrant seafood industry.
Today, Canada is the only major nation in the western hemisphere with a parliamentary system of government (aside from a few Caribbean island nations), which it borrowed from the United Kingdom. The country is divided into 10 provinces, with 75 percent of the population concentrated in just Ontario, Quebec, and British Columbia.
The nation has managed to thrive thanks to a friendly neighbor to the south that shares military and defense interests, not to mention healthy trade and tourism. And Canada can claim one of the highest standards of living in the world.
Here are 11 surprising facts about Canada’s economy:
Canadian citizens have the second highest quality of life in the world
The World Economic Forum ranks countries by quality of life using criteria like access to medical care, sanitation, and shelter, as well as education, life expectancy, and personal freedoms.
On the WEF’s shortlist are countries like Australia, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and Sweden. But coming in second place – right behind Finland – is Canada. The country scored an 89.49 on the Forum’s scale, trailing Finland’s 90.09.
75% of all Canadian exports land in the US
The United States doesn’t just share a common border with Canada; it is also the country’s biggest trading partner – and by no small margin. Canada exports $338 billion in goods to the US, which constitutes more than 75 percent of the nation’s entire $450 billion export tally.
In contrast, Canada ships only about $12.6 billion in goods to the United Kingdom and $21.3 billion to fast-growing China.
Canada has $33.2 trillion in natural resources
If your mental picture of Canada’s natural resources is limited to a few herds of caribou on year-round snow, you are mistaken – it’s in fact the third richest nation on earth in natural resources.
The nation is home to the world’s third largest confirmed petroleum reserves, as well as industry minerals, and is rich in minerals like gypsum, limestone, rock salt and potash, coal, and uranium. It’s also the third largest exporter of timber in the world.
Canada’s oil reserves may exceed those of the Middle East
While Canada’s petroleum reserves are officially pegged at the thirds largest globally, there’s some evidence that this might be a conservative estimate. There are two factors in play here. For starters, The Saudi oil industry hasn’t revised its official reserve numbers since 1988, and in 2011 Wikileaks revealed that the actual oil reserves might be as much as 40 percent less than claimed by OPEC.
At the same time, new analysis of Alberta oilsands show that the province’s reserves may exceed Saudi by a significant margin, making it the largest crude oil reserves on the planet.
Canadians are the biggest consumer of Kraft Mac and Cheese in the world, and they eat 55% more of it than Americans do a year
Canadians love macaroni and cheese, and in particular, the Kraft brand of the cheesy pasta. Canadians eat 55% more Kraft Mac and Cheese than Americans each year, and reportedly consume 3.2 boxes a year per person, making Canada the single biggest consumer of the product on earth.
Kraft Dinner, as it’s known there, is so popular that Food Republic called it Canada’s “de facto national dish.”
Canada, with its world-leading 125,567-mile coastline, makes $4 billion a year off seafood
It’s notoriously difficult to measure the length of coastlines – because jagged, irregular coastlines behave mathematically like fractals, you get radically different results depending upon the precision with which you measure.
Nonetheless, there’s no debate that Canada has far and away the longest coastline in the world, 5 times longer than Russia and almost ten times longer than Australia. All that coastline helps Canada be the six largest seafood exporter in the world. Canada generates $4.2 billion in seafood annually, including more than $1.5 billion in lobster alone.
Canada produces 71% of all the maple syrup in the world
ancake lovers should hope that global warming doesn’t adversely affect the maple trees in northern Canada. Because though Vermont is a maple syrup powerhouse in the US, it doesn’t hold a candle to Canada, which produces 71 percent of all the maple syrup for the entire world.
91% of that comes from a single province – Quebec. It takes a lot of people to keep the maple syrup flowing, with about 12,000 jobs dedicated to the industry.
Being bilingual costs Canada about $2.4 billion per year
Thanks to its early colonial history, Canada is a bilingual nation, with about 20 percent of the population, or 7.2 million people, speaking French. Most of the nation’s French speakers are clustered in Quebec where French is the official language.
Throughout Canada, both English and French speakers have access to government servicers in the language of their choice, with bilingual signage, forms, advertisements, and more.
A 2012 study found that there’s a cost associated with accommodating both English and French throughout the country – specifically, about $2.4 billion. The Federal government shoulders about $1.5 billion of that, with the rest picked up by the various provinces.
Canadians pay half for healthcare compared to Americans
Comparing healthcare between the US and Canada is a contentious political issue, in large part because Canada has embraced a single-payer system that is opposed by many conservatives in the US. Even so, despite the perception in the US, Canadian healthcare is far from “free,” though it is markedly less expensive on average than to the south.
By most estimates, Canadians spend about $4,569 per year on healthcare; in the US, that varies from $9,086 to over $10,000.
Lower Canadian drug prices contributed to dangerous shortages of EpiPens
Drug prices are often priced lower in Canada than in the US, often due to Canadian regulations that enforce more affordable pricing, whereas the market generally sets prices in the US. This can lead to significant price differences for popular medications.
In 2018, for example, EpiPens – which deliver self-administered epinephrine injections for people with severe allergies – experienced shortages because of manufacturing problems at the single Pfizer facility where the pens were made. The US, which at the time sold EpiPens for three times the price in Canada, avoided shortages while Canada scrambled to expand its supply in face of severe shortages.
Retail goods often cost more in Canada just because Canadians are willing to pay more
Canadian consumers have long noticed that many products, like books, tires, gas, and food cost more than identical products in the US – sometimes by a little, and sometimes by a lot.
There are a lot of reasons why this happens. When the price is embedded in the product itself, like books, for example, vendors often choose a higher price to account for exchange rates and other economic factors.
But according to an investigation by HuffPost, it’s often simply because manufacturers believe Canadians will pay higher prices, simply because Canadians believe that things are always more expensive in Canada – even though there’s no logistical reason why this should be true.