St. Catharines (2011 population 131,400; metropolitan population 392,184) is the largest city in Canada's Niagara Region and the sixth largest urban area in Ontario, with 96.11 square kilometers of land. It lies in Southern Ontario 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 along the Niagara River. It is the northern entrance of the Welland Canal. Residents of St. Catharines are known as St. Cathariners.
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 altitude from Lake Erie to Lake Ontario.
The main access routes into and out of St. Catharines are served by two major freeways. The Queen Elizabeth Way runs east (at 15-Mile Creek) to west (at Garden City Skyway) and Highway 406 runs north (at QEW) to south (at St. David's Road). Prior to the construction of these freeways, St. Paul Street (former Highway 8, now Regional Road 81) and Hartzel Road (former Highway 58, now a city-maintained street) provided east-west and north-south access to the city.
St. Catharines is situated in an area for commerce and trade since it is located between the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) and the Fort Erie- US Border. Manufacturing is the city's dominant industry, as noted by the heraldic motto, "Industry and Liberality". General Motors of Canada, Ltd., the Canadian subsidiary of General Motors, operates two plants in the city (one plant was partially shut down in 2010) and until recently was the city's largest employer, a distinction now held by the District School Board of Niagara. TRW Automotive operates a plant in the city, though in recent years employment there has shifted from heavy industry and manufacturing to services.
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.