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Toronto - Overview

The Greater Toronto Area, or GTA, refers to the City of Toronto and the regional municipalities of York, Halton, Peel and Durham. In size and wealth, Toronto leads all other cities in Canada, and is acknowledged as the cultural, educational, financial, high tech, commercial, industrial and entertainment hub of the country.

Skirting the shores of Lake Ontario, Toronto is a sprawling metropolis with 14 quiet islands shielding its harbour. The islands are a wealth of parklands and wetlands and have been consciously kept away from any kind of development. These can be accessed by ferry boats from the Toronto harbour, and no private vehicles are allowed to ply here.

The large percentage of immigrants in Toronto reflects the high degree of livability of this city. Rated on factors such as cost of living, opportunities for employment, literacy levels, life expectancy and school enrolment, Toronto ranked the 5th best place to live in the world, according to a report by the EIU in 2007.

Despite the high quality of life that Toronto offers, it is relatively less expensive than other American cities, ranking 89th according to the Mercer Human Resource Cost of Living Survey. Even when it comes to standards of education, Toronto ranks a high 7th among all North American cities for engineering courses. Torontos residents also possess more academic degrees than any of the other cities in Canada. With one of the lowest crime rates, and a comprehensive healthcare system, it is not surprising that the city is the most sought after home for migrants around the globe.

Toronto has 5.5 million residents speaking 140 languages and dialects, though English is the first and French the second language. A beautiful city with a spectacular harbourfront, Toronto is a happy blend of classic Victorian-style homes, and modern day glass towers. Some of its buildings have acquired an icon status, like the towering pin-like CN Tower, the Air Canada Centre and the Rogers Centre. Natural attractions like the Niagara Falls and the Muskoka Lakes up north are barely two hours away from the city.

Lake Ontario helps temper the extreme winters that other locations east of the Rockies experience. Fluctuations in the lakes temperatures affect weather conditions in Toronto as well, especially in the spring and the summer when the mercury sways between 25 C and 32 C. Winters are cold and snowy, hovering around -1 C, and sometimes dipping between -10 C and -30 C. Temperatures of -40 C have also been reported during December-January.

Toronto's first settlers were the fur traders, explorers and missionaries from France in 1763. They built a fort near present-day York in western Toronto at the mouth of the Humber River which links the northern lakes to Lake Ontario. The British made their entry 30 years later, and set up base at Fort York, now a living museum and a Canada National Historic site. The City Hall built in the 1890s and the St. Lawrence Hall are other historic treasures that remain landmarks within this very modern city.

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