St. Catharines (2006 population 131,989; metropolitan population 390,317) is the largest city in the Niagara Region in southern Ontario, Canada, with 97.11 square kilometres (37.5 sq mi) of land. It lies 51 kilometres (32 mi) south of Toronto across Lake Ontario and is 19 kilometres (12 mi) inland from the international boundary with the United States of America along the Niagara River. It is the northern entrance of the Welland Canal.
St. Catharines lies on one of the main telecommunications backbones between Canada and the United States, and as a result a number of call centres operate in the city. Combined, call centres employ the largest percentage of St. Catharines residents. NuComm International, a Canadian call centre operator, is headquartered in downtown St. Catharines.
St. Catharines enjoys a unique micro-climate because of the moderating influence of Lake Ontario and Lake Erie and the sheltering effect of the Niagara Escarpment to the south. As a result, the city can record a large number of frost-free days in the winter. The summer season is pre-dominately hot and humid, with the average temperature peaking at 27°C (81°F) in July, but can feel closer to 40 °C (104 °F) with the humidex factor.
St. Catharines has one of the highest resident/representative ratios of any large city in Ontario. There are just under 7,000 people per elected municipal representative in St. Catharines, while Oshawa (a similar-sized city in Ontario) has one representative per 13,500 people. London, Ontario has one representative per 30,500 people, and Toronto has one representative per 55,000 people. There has been recent discussion regarding a modification of the city/regional council arrangement, with the possibility of reducing city council to six full-time representatives and having the six regional councillors serve on city council. While there is growing support in the business community for such an arrangement, city council has been unreceptive to such ideas.
The most defining transportation icon of St. Catharines is the Welland Canal, a ship canal that runs 43.4 kilometres (27.0 mi), passing through the city. Three of its locks are within city boundaries. The canal allows shipping vessels to traverse the 99.5 metre (326.5 ft) drop in altitute from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.
Along with the rest of Ontario, St. Catharines experienced explosive growth after World War II. St. Catharines continued to annex Grantham Township as development continued, including the large swaths of land to the north known now as "The North End". St. Catharines would also absorb Merriton and Port Dalhousie in 1961, making them part of the city. During this time, St. Catharines nearly tripled in population.