Manitoba

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Manitoba, nicknamed 'the keystone Province', sits in the heart of Canada, as the eastern edge of the country's West.


Geography and population

Manitoba is approximately 2.5 times the size of the UK. To the north-east it has a coastline on Hudson's Bay, and contains Canada's only deep-water arctic port, as well as the prairies' only port, Churchill. Clockwise, it is bordered by the Province of Ontario, the US states of Minnesota and North Dakota, the Province of Saskatchewan, and the Territory of Nunavut.

Manitoba is extremely flat, but does claim a small "mountain" range in the west, stretching up from North Dakota towards Saskatchewan. This contains Baldy Mountain, the highest point in Manitoba (approximately 300m above the surrounding prairie). The capital city of Winnipeg in the south of Manitoba, at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine rivers, is approximately 220m above sea level, and Manitoba slowly slopes down the Hudson Bay coastline some 800km to the north.

Over half of Manitoba's 1.3m people live in Winnipeg. Other smaller cities in the south include Brandon, Selkirk, Morden and Steinbach. To the north, the largest city is Thompson (pop 13k). Churchill is famous for its polar bears and location on Hudson Bay, but is hard to reach; there are no roads to the coast, and the town has recently had its rail line reconnected, 18 months after it was washed out by floods.

Outside the towns and cities, Manitoba is predominantly lake and farmland. The province's centre is dominated by two vast, shallow lakes, Lakes Winnipeg (the larger) and Manitoba (the smaller, western lake). Lake Manitoba has an average depth of only 7m, while Lake Winnipeg is slightly deeper at 12m, with a small channel connecting its two basins that reaches 36m deep. Both lakes freeze over in winter, as does Hudson Bay, which denies Manitoba the moderating effect on climate that large bodies of water tend to provide.


Climate

Manitoba's climate is brutal. Winters in the north last most of the year, with nightime lows even in June averaging just 5C in Thompson. That said, summer does briefly appear, with daytime highs in double digits from May to September, and average highs in July reaching 23C.

The climate in the south is more extreme. Around Winnipeg, 'feels like' temperatures with windchill are typically -30C and below November-March, and often exceed -40 or even -50C. Spring (just as Fall) is brief, lasting only a few weeks, before the extremes reverse, and summers give hot and humid days; on average, summers get around two weeks over 30C, and annual records typically include mid 30s. Because there is so much water in the air, humidity can be extreme, with humidex ('feels like' heat) frequently exceeding 40C.

Manitoba gets around 2300 hours of sunshine annually.

Economy

Manitoba's economy is based on farming, mining, forestry, and energy. The capital city grew as a major rail hub on which North American rail lines converged, but this reduced in importance following the opening of the Panama Canal. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Manitoba was seen as the future of Canada's economy, but instead it stagnated, and its population now is only twice what it was in 1931. Income in 2016 was 90% of the national average [1]. Growth in Manitoba tends to be slow, although the Province doesn't tend to suffer from the busts that follow booms elsewhere.


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