Hydro One, the provincial power company, said the blackout was due to a fire at a transformer station in west Toronto. The company said firefighters were still battling the fire and said it was working to restore power.
Just after 6:00 p.m. (2200 GMT), power was beginning to be restored on parts of the system.
The outage, which brought back memories of the 2003 blackout that hit Toronto and much of the U.S. eastern seaboard, also affected power at the Fairmont Royal York hotel in downtown Toronto, where Queen Elizabeth is due to have dinner later on Monday.
The outage hit around 4:45 p.m. on the hottest day of the year so far in Toronto. By late afternoon, temperatures were still well above 30 degrees Celsius in high humidity, prompting heavy use of air conditioners.
A power outage map on the website of Toronto Hydro showed much of the western half of Toronto affected by the power outage.
The blackout darkened screens on some trading floors of downtown banks and knocked out traffic lights, prompting some people to exit their cars and direct traffic.
Transit service was disrupted on both subway and surface bus and streetcar lines, the Toronto Transit Commission said.
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