A seemingly simple thing as a phone number surprisingly involves many factors.

Canada is part of the North American country code numbering system and is reached with the country code of 1.  The USA and the Caribbean share this numbering system.

In Ontario the 416 area code was the number out of 86 such codes that was assigned to Toronto and Greater Toronto area up to 1953.  At that time the population growth to the Niagara region had developed so much that a new 519 area code was assigned to the region west of Toronto.  It was afterwards considered long distance to call Niagara, London and such, as the area code differed.

It was not until 1993 that area code 905 was introduced to cover all other areas not part of what was known as Metropolitan Toronto. This included York Region, Durham and the Halton regions as well. 

Interestingly it then became a long distance phone call from York Region to Mississauga and this created a market for long distance plans and calling cards.

In 2001, the 416 area code was exhausted for Metropolitan Toronto and the 647 area code was added as what is known as an overlay number.  With the 647 area code you could be in Mississauga or York Region and all calls 905 or 416 were local.  This became the number to have and as people changed their 416 area codes to 647, 416 area codes became available again.  Many businesses and individuals hold 905 and 647 or 416 and 647 area codes.  Some will even subscribe to a number not in their region for their cell phone in order to economize on long distance charges.  

With the popularity of cell phones with increased availability and personal ownership for all ages from the late nineties to current, numbers became even scarcer.  Now it was not only every household and every business with a number, it was that and almost every individual with at least one number at their own disposal.

In 2006, the 289 area code was introduced to the 905 area as an overlay and in March 2013 it is projected the 365 area code will be added and the Canadian Number Administrator of the Canadian Radio and Television Commission is predicting a 742 area code to be added by 2036.  According to Dennis Carmel, spokesperson for the CRTC there may not be any area codes remaining after that and another system may have to be introduced.  

In essence the current system looks like the pictograph below.

Toronto Area Codes Graph

Phone numbers also have some interesting facts. Many are related to areas that the residence or business is located.  Often one can tell the area of the city the business or resident is based on the phone numbers first three digits.  This is due to the assignment of numbers as the neighborhoods were formed.  

Then there are dedicated businesses and purposes applied with the first three digits.  Ever wonder why all the radio stations or pizza places have the same first three digits?  Thought it was coincidence that all schools no matter what area of the city or government office no matter where the branch was somehow had the same first three digits?

  • 212, 314, 325, 326,, 327, 585 are for the Government of Ontario
  • 310 for all dispatch services like pizza!! And other fast delivery places.  This service is unique actually as there is no area code specificity.  For example 416-310-8888 will get you to the same service as 905-310-8888 and 289-310-8888 and 647-310-8888!
  • 392, 393, 394, 395, 396, 397 are all dedicated to the Toronto District School Board, the Toronto District Library, The Toronto Catholic District School Board and the Toronto Transit Commission.
  • 341 has been monopolized by Rogers
  • 978 and 946 to the University of Toronto 
  • 736 for York University 
  • 979  for Ryerson University 
  • 415 for George Brown College  
  • 338, 392 will get you to the City of Toronto 
  • 974, 955, 313, 842  is Royal Bank of Canada 
  • 307, 308, 982, 983, 944  is Toronto Dominion Bank 
  • 980 will put you through to CIBC
  • 870 and 872 are known as the ‘choke exchange’ numbers and they are dedicated to the high volume destinations such as radio station contest lines and ticket agencies. 
  • The Greater Toronto Airport Association has 776 
  • Government of Canada owns 954 and 973 
  • Fort York can be connected through 203 
  • Moss Park Armoury via 635 
  • Downsview with 633 
  • 344 will put you through to the Workmans safety Insurance Board 
  • 941 is dedicated to Sears and the Eaton Centre  
  • The hospitals Toronto General at 340 and Princess Margaret with 340.  
  • And of course last but not least 808 is for the police.  

911 of course are the only three numbers that need to be dialed for emergency services from anywhere in Toronto and the GTA.