The town is named for HMS Ajax, a Royal Navy cruiser that served in World War II. It is approximately 25 kilometres (16 mi) east of Toronto on the shores of Lake Ontario and is bordered by the City of Pickering to the west and north, and the Town of Whitby to the east.
Before the Second World War, the territory in which Ajax is situated was a rural part of the township of Pickering. The town itself was first established in 1941 when a Defence Industries Limited (D.I.L.) shell plant was constructed and a townsite grew around the plant. By 1945 the plant had filled 40 million shells; employed over 9,000 people at peak production; boasted of its own water and sewage treatment plants; a school population of over 600; 50 km (31 mi) of railroad and 50 km (31 mi) of roads. The entire D.I.L. plant site included some 12 km2 (5 sq mi). People came from all over Canada to work at D.I.L.
The burgeoning community received its name in honour of the first significant British naval victory of the war. From December 13 to December 19, 1939, a flotilla of British warships—HMS Ajax, HMS Exeter and HMS Achilles—commanded by Commodore Henry Harwood—engaged and routed the powerful German pocket battleship Admiral Graf Spee at the Battle of the River Plate, near the Uruguayan port of Montevideo in South America. Ajax was chosen as the name of this war-born community.
After the war, the University of Toronto leased much of the D.I.L. plant to house the flood of newly discharged soldiers who had enrolled as engineering students. War machines were moved out and the buildings were converted to classrooms and laboratories. By 1949, the last year of the University of Toronto, Ajax Division, some 7,000 engineering students had received their basic training there.
Following the departure of the University of Toronto, the town's growth was largely due to the vision of George W. Finley of Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation, and Ajax became a planned modern community using the wartime base for its post-war foundation.
From 1941 to 1950, Ajax had no local municipal government of its own. In 1950, as a result of a petition, the community became the Corporation of the Improvement District of Ajax with three trustees appointed by the Lieutenant-Governor in Council. By 1953, the desire for full and active participation by its citizens in an elected council and school board was strong. The Ajax Citizens' Association, formed by many civic-minded persons, presented a brief to the Ontario Municipal Board urging that the Improvement District of Ajax become the Corporation of the Town of Ajax. The Municipal Board approved this step, and on December 13, 1954, the people elected the first Town Council and the first Public School Board.
On June 22, 1973, the Ontario Legislature enacted Bill 162 to amalgamate the Town of Ajax and the Village of Pickering and annex certain portions of the Township of Pickering to the Town of Ajax, as part of the creation of the new Durham Region; this also included the remote lakeside Town of Pickering Beach. The Region and Town both officially came into being on January 1, 1974.
Today, Ajax has a busy downtown, but plans are underway to begin construction on the Ajax city center (ACC) what is now a rundown low rise industrial and commercial area in Ajax along Harwood Avenue, and Bayly street will soon become a large Urban modern area, with high rise condos, office towers, malls, squares, and mixed use areas along landscaped streets. Projects such as Pat Bayly Square are already underway.
As is true for most suburban areas in the Greater Toronto Area, Ajax has grown considerably since the 1980s. What was once a small town mostly surrounded by agricultural areas has increasingly become a bedroom community to Toronto and its environs. Many residents commute to work in Toronto or other municipalities in Durham Region.
The following is a summary of major changes in the past several decades:
- Recent rapid low density population growth. Only one greenfield area of the Town remains, located in the north western corner of the town. As the town becomes increasingly built-out, the town is attempting to increase intensity of development, particularly in the downtown area near Harwood Avenue north of Bayly. However, development in Ajax still principally consists of single-family detached houses on separate lots, and so the fundamental nature of the town seems fixed for the near future.
- The town's very auto dependent urban form, as well as that of its neighbour municipalities, has resulted in steady increases in traffic congestion with few realistic alternatives to automobile travel. There are long-term plans to widen regional roads and Highway 401, extend Highway 407, but this essentially represents status quo development. Increases in Durham Region Transit service, ongoing efforts to improve cycling and walking conditions, and the above noted intensification initiatives may alleviate this to some degree.
- Increasing multiculturalism, with many young ethnic professionals moving into the newer northern parts of Ajax.
Ajax is governed by an elected town Council consisting of a Mayor, and local Councillors representing each of the town's four wards. In addition, two Regional Councillors each represent a pair of wards. The Mayor and the Regional councillors sit on both Ajax Town Council and Durham Region Council.
The current council was elected in October 2010. The members of the council are:
Mayor: Steve Parish
Members of Council:
- Shaun Collier: Regional Councillor, Wards 1 and 2
- Colleen Jordan: Regional Councillor, Wards 3 and 4
- Marilyn Crawford: Councillor, Ward 1
- Renrick Ashby: Councillor, Ward 2
- Joanne Dies: Councillor, Ward 3
- Pat Brown: Councillor, Ward 4
In the past, Council has sat for a three-year term, but the Ontario Legislature has recently introduced legislation increasing the length of municipal council terms in Ontario to four years. The last municipal election was held on October 25, 2010. A by-election was held on March 1, 2008 to fill the Ward 2 council seat left vacant after councillor Joe Dickson was elected to the Legislature for Ajax-Pickering in the October 2007 provincial election.
|Visible minority and Aboriginal population (Canada 2006 Census)|
|Population group||Population||% of total population|
|Visible minority group
|Visible minority, n.i.e.||995||1.1%|
|Multiple visible minority||1,490||1.7%|
|Total visible minority population||32,005||35.6%|
|Multiple Aboriginal identity||0||0%|
|Total Aboriginal population||705||0.8%|
According to the 2011 Census, English is the mother tongue of 76.1% of the population, followed by Urdu (2.1%), Tagalog (Pilipino, Filipino) (2.1%), Tamil (1.9%), Persian (Farsi) (1.3%), and Arabic (1.1%).
In 1945, with the closing of D.I.L., there was no industry within the town; but in 1949, Dowty Aerospace started operations in Ajax. By 1969, major employers included Volkswagen Canada, DuPont, Paintplas, Ajax Textile, AEG Bayly Engineering and many others.
Shopping was virtually non-existent in the mid-1940s, but by 1970 major shopping centres such as Ajax Plaza, Harwood Place Mall and Clover Ridge Plaza were constructed. The 1980s saw an expansion of retail shopping malls to include Discovery Bay Plaza, Transit Square, Baywood Plaza, Westney Heights Plaza and most recently the Durham Centre at Harwood Avenue and Kingston Road.
The 1970s saw the beginning of many physical changes to the face of Ajax. New subdivisions spread over vacant land in central Ajax. The early 1980s brought extensive development to the southern part of Ajax with large, upscale housing units constructed along Lake Driveway.
The recession of the early 1980s did not stop residential development in Ajax. Westney Heights started north of Highway 2 and offered home buyers low interest rate mortgages while interest rates were then at an all-time high of 18% to 20%. Development north of Highway 2 stretched from Church Street in Pickering Village to Harwood Avenue, with the Millers Creek development south of the highway down to the edge of Highway 401.
The Ajax and Pickering General Hospital first opened in 1954 with 38 adult and children's beds. It was expanded to 50 beds in 1958 and a major expansion to 127 beds took place in 1964. The emergency and outpatient services were expanded in 1975. The large growth of population in the Town has prompted a further expansion. Approval was granted in the fall of 1990 to further expand. In 1999 the Hospital merged with Centenary Health Centre in Scarborough to become part of the Rouge Valley Health System. Construction on a $60 million expansion began in 2007, although that has been marred by the highly controversial closure of the 3 West Mental Health ward in 2008, which was originally to be part of the expansion.
Ajax is policed by the Durham Regional Police from a station in Pickering. Ambulance/emergency medical services are provided by Durham Region. Ajax Fire & Emergency Services provides firefighting services from three fire stations.
In 1973, the Town of Ajax conducted a survey of potential transit ridership in Ajax. This led to the creation of Ajax Transit with bus service beginning in 1973 under a contract with Charterways Transportation Limited, which operated service using a fleet of school buses, with heaviest ridership between the Pickering Beach area and downtown Ajax.
In the late 1970s, the town brought the operations in house and began operations on the Elm, Duffins, and Beach routes, which exist to this day. In the early 1980s, the Harwood, Westney Heights, and Village routes began service. Service on the Puckrin route began in the late 1980s.
In 2001, Ajax Transit and the neighbouring Pickering Transit were amalgamated into the Ajax Pickering Transit Authority (APTA), which operated under the joint ownership and oversight of Ajax and Pickering.
Road transportation in Ajax is dominated by Highway 401, which runs east-west through the town dividing it in half. Access to Highway 401 both east and west is available via Westney Road and Salem Road. Only four streets allow transportation from the north end of town to the south end of town by crossing over or under Highway 401. These streets are (from west to east) Church Street, Westney Road, Harwood Avenue and Salem Road. Lakeridge Road crosses the highway, but it is traditionally held to be the border between the towns of Ajax and Whitby. Notable streets that run parallel to the highway are (from north to south) Taunton Road, Rossland Road, Kingston Road (Highway 2) and Bayly Street.
Ajax is served by the Durham District School Board and the Durham Catholic District School Board. There are five high schools and several elementary schools. Two of the high schools are Catholic schools, Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School and Archbishop Denis O'Connor Catholic High School, and the other three are the public secondary schools: Ajax High School, J. Clarke Richardson Collegiate and Pickering High School.
The town is the home of two minor leagues, the Ajax Spartans Minor Baseball Association and the Ajax Knights Minor Hockey Association.
Ajax is home to several clubs: Ajax FC, Ajax United and Ajax Azzurri. The Ajax ringette association is popular. Ajax has a football team, the Ajax-Pickering Dolphins.
Ajax Cricket Club is located in the community.
Ajax is the home of the Ajax Skating Club and the Ajax Ice Waves, a synchronized skating team.
Notable people and groups
- Toya Alexis, musician, Canadian Idol finalist
- Charlotte Arnold, actress
- Jeff Beukeboom, retired NHL player
- Boi-1da, hip hop producer
- Matt Brann, musician
- Brent Burns, NHL player for the San Jose Sharks
- Brendan Canning, musician
- Munro Chambers, actor
- Candace Chapman, women's soccer player and Olympian
- Closet Monster, punk rock band
- Christian Corbet, painter, sculptor and forensic artist
- Joe Dickson, MPP and owner of Dickson Printing
- Janet Ecker, former Ontario Minister of Finance
- Akeem Foster, CFL football player
- Keith Godding, CFL football player
- Glenn Healy, former NHL goaltender
- The Johnstones, ska band
- Cory Joseph, NBA basketball player
- Rabindranath Maharaj, award-winning novelist
- Not by Choice, punk rock band
- Kim Phuc, subject of a famous photo from the Vietnam War
- John Saunders, sports journalist for ESPN and ABC
- Corey Sevier, actor
- Ken Shaw, CTV Toronto news anchor
- Snow, reggae artist, famous for his 1993 chart-topper "Informer"
- Rene Soetens, former Progressive Conservative MP
- Sum 41, punk rock band
- T-Minus, hip hop and R&B producer
- Jessica Tyler, actress
- Nigel Wilson, retired MLB player
- "Ajax, Town Ontario (Census Subdivision)". Census profile, Canada 2011 Census. Statistics Canada. 8 February 2012. Retrieved 2012-02-24.
- , Community Profiles from the 2006 Census, Statistics Canada - Census Subdivision
- , Aboriginal Population Profile from the 2006 Census, Statistics Canada - Census Subdivision
- http://www.ilindoor.com/2009/12/09/ajax-pickering-rock-moving-up-to-major-mma-connections-plus-the-links/ "Ajax-Pickering Rock moving up to the Major", ilindoor.com, Accessed 04-DEC-11
- A Town Called Ajax, Ajax Historical Board, 1995
- The Pictorial History of Ajax, 1941/1972, Ajax Historical Board, 1972
- Ajax the War Years 1939-1945, Ken Smith, Oshawa, 1989
- Past Years in Pickering, William R. Wood, Toronto, 1911
- The Village of Pickering 1800-1970, Corporation of the Village of Pickering, 1970
- The Pickering Story, William A. McKay, 1961