Quebec is bounded on the N by Hudson Strait and Ungava Bay, on the E by the Labrador area of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, on the S by New Brunswick and the United States, and on the W by Ontario, James Bay, and Hudson Bay. Quebec is Canada’s largest province; it is three times the size of France and seven times the size of Great Britain. The Canadian (or Laurentian) Shield underlies the northern nine tenths of the province, which is relatively unexplored and uninhabited; the region has been planed by glacial action into a pattern of rounded hills (including the Laurentian Mts.), swiftly flowing rivers, and numerous lakes and bogs. Dense forests cover much of the land, and the region is rich in minerals.
South of the Canadian Shield lies the great St. Lawrence River. On both sides of the river south of Quebec city are lowlands that are the centers of agriculture, commerce, and industry. Quebec city and Trois Rivières are on the north bank of the river, and Montreal, the leading industrial center of Canada, occupies an island where the Ottawa River joins the St. Lawrence. Another industrial center is the region of Jonquière and Chicoutimi, on the Saguenay River north of Quebec city. In the southeast are the Appalachian Highlands, which run parallel to the St. Lawrence. The Gaspé Peninsula, on the south of the St. Lawrence, extends into the Gulf of St. Lawrence.
Quebec’s climate is generally temperate, with variations among the regions. Tourism is important throughout the province during the summer season, and in the winter the Laurentian Mts. attract skiers. The Eastern Townships (Estrie) region, near the New York and Vermont borders, has many fashionable lake and country resorts. Quebec has vast waterpower resources—Hydro-Quebec is the largest producer of electricity in Canada.
The massive James Bay Project, whose first phases exploited the flow of La Grande and nearby rivers, was dealt a severe blow in 1992, when the New York State Power Authority refused to sign a purchase contract; the proposed development of the Great Whale River was held up by opposition from the Cree who live in and claim the area. Further work on the entire project was suspended in 1994, but a 2002 agreement with the Cree allowed completion of the La Grande complex.
The city of Quebec is the capital. Montreal is the largest city; other important centers are Verdun, Laval, Trois Rivières, Gatineau, Sherbrooke, and Hull.