Updated March 8, 2004
Manufacturing and construction
Wind whips across the northern tip of Newfoundland and Labrador, lashing the grass that grows on the reconstructed sod huts at L'Anse aux Meadows, location of the first known European settlement in North America. These crude structures, built of the most common materials available, mirror the purpose of the Viking settlers who built similar structures on this site 1,000 years ago: quick shelter from the Atlantic gales. Securing and constructing shelter is an instinct that has been with us since long before the Vikings.
We've come a long way from the sod huts of Leif Ericsson and his
followers in the millennium since the Norse first set foot on that northern
shore. Although traditional materials such as wood, brick, stone and plaster
are still used, they've been supplemented and in many cases supplanted
by steel, aluminum, high-tech concrete and space-age plastics. Today,
construction plays a major role in our country's economy. In 2002, the
sector employed over 600,000 Canadians and accounted for over 5% of our
gross domestic product (GDP the value of all goods and services produced
Manufacturing, another human pursuit that dates from long before the Viking excursions to North America, employed over two million of us in 2002 and accounted for just under 17% of our GDP. Unlike the colonists at L'Anse aux Meadows, whose manufacturing output probably amounted to little more than linen textiles and ironware, Canadians today make a wide array of products, ranging from the simple—paper, soap and asphalt shingles, for example—to the more complex—aircraft parts, cars and telecommunication equipment. We also produce highly advanced programmable logic controllers to perform actions unachievable by the mere human hand or eye, equipment for use on other planets, and software to simulate the sense of touch in cyberspace.