Trust and Confidence Report

Hamilton’s Progress from 2000 to 2017

Image of Hamilton's Skyline

This chapter was written to address a City of Hamilton Council Motion in regards to a State of the City Comparative Study – Amalgamation to Now (June 2017).  The information will remain as first presented (January 2018).

There has been much change and progress in Hamilton between 2000 and the present. Key areas of progress are summarized here. The areas of focus are:

  • Social
  • Environmental
  • Local Economy
  • City Finances and Assessment Values

Key highlights of social progress include a significant increase in the median income between 2000 and 2015. The median income rose from approximately $23,000, to $33,000, or 43.6%. In comparison, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) rose by a lower amount during this time period (CPI increased by about 32%).

Major progress was made environmentally, with air quality significantly improving across a number of pollutants that are measured and the number of smog days was reduced. Significant improvements were also realized with Hamilton Harbour and Cootes Paradise. These improvements include a decrease in phosphorous levels, clearer water in the harbour and an increase in aquatic plant density in Cootes Paradise. The primary treatment works at the Woodward Wastewater Treatment Plan were expanded to allow for treatment of more wet weather flows.

In the local economy, the labour force has increased and the unemployment rate remains low (5.5% in both 2001 and 2016). Real GDP (adjusted for inflation) rose by 22% between 2001 and 2016. 

City Finances and Assessment Values have also seen positive trends. The City of Hamilton’s credit rating has generally had an upward trend between 2001 and 2017, rising to an AA+ rating with a stable outlook. Marketable securities have been created by over 150% between 2001 and 2016 and total assessment values have increased by 77% (adjusted for inflation) during the same time period. The average residential assessment rose 54% from $191,770 to $295,300 (both the percentage and dollar values have been adjusted for inflation).

Two challenges have been 1- the non-residential tax base has decreased from 14.4% in 2002 to 13.0% in 2016. Much of the growth attained in the non-residential property classes has been driven by institutional properties, which do not generate additional revenue for the City. 2 - The City’s net financial assets have decreased between 2001 and 2016 due to liabilities increasing at a faster rate than assets are increasing. 


Data Utilized:  Census 2001 vs 2016

In 2016, there were 536,917 people living in the city of Hamilton. This represents an increase of 46,647 (9.5%) people since 2001.

The population chart below shows the substantial shift in the age composition of residents since 2001. There has been an overall decrease in the population of children and youth under the age of 19, and a significant increase of adults over the age of 50 in Hamilton.

Source: Statistics Canada, Census 2001 and Census 2016


The median total income of residents age 15 and older in Hamilton has increased from $22,927 in 2000 to $32,917 in 2015. This represents a 43.6% increase over 15 years, while the CPI increased by 32.3% in the same time period. 

The following chart shows a shift in the proportion of residents in lower income brackets to higher income brackets between 2000 and 2015. The following are some considerations that should be taken when looking at the changes in total income over time.

  • Changes in the economy, inflation, employment wages, etc. would all have an impact on total income.
  • According to the Bank of Canada, the average annual rate of inflation between 2000 and 2015 was 1.88% per year and the CPI has increased by 32.3% over this 15-year period. This means that goods or services that costed $100 in 2000 would have costed $132.26 in 2015.
  • Minimum wage has increased by over 60.6% from $6.85/hour in 2000 to $11.00/hour in 2014 and $11.25/hour in October of 2015.
  • The composition of total income for residents in Hamilton has changed. In 2000, 77.1% of the total income of residents in Hamilton was attributed to employment income. This has decreased to 71.5% in 2015.



Air Quality
Air quality in Hamilton and across the province has improved significantly over the past 20 years with large decreases in harmful pollutants such as nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide, fine particulate matter and sulphur dioxide.

City of Hamilton staff works with the province and other interested stakeholders through a committee called Clean Air Hamilton to monitor the progress of reducing air pollution across the City of Hamilton. The City also funds programs aimed at reducing air pollution, reducing exposure to harmful pollutants, raising awareness and education through Clean Air Hamilton.

Table 1.0 below describes the percent reduction of specific pollutants that are monitored at the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change (MOECC) Hamilton’s downtown air monitoring station.

Table 1.0 Pollutant % Reduction from regression trends 2016

Downtown (29000) # Years Total % Decrease % Per Year
Total Suspended Particulate (TSP) 20 years
(1996 - 2016)
55% 2.8%
Particulate Matter 10 (PM10) 19 years
(1997 - 2016)
33% 1.7%
Particulate Matter 2.5 (PM2.5)

17 years
(1999 - 2016)

26% 1.5%
Nitrogen Dioxides (O2) 20 years
(1996 - 2016)
53% 2.6%
Sulphur Dioxides (SO2) 20 years
(1996 - 2016)
47% 2.4%
Total Reduced Sulphur (TRS)(1) 20 years
(1996 - 2016)
100%(1) 5.3%
Benzene 19 years
(1996 - 2015)(2)
87% 4.6%
Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH) 19 years
(1996 - 2015)(2)
76% 4%
1. Expressed as # hrs above 10 pbb threshold. Report as 99%. % decrease represents year-over-year.
2. Benzene and PAH not available from Stn 29000 for 2016 yet. Updated values for 2015.

Clean Air Hamilton is very proud of the dramatic improvements in air quality over the long term in Hamilton. The Chair of Clean Air Hamilton Dr. Denis Corr states in the 2016 progress report that overall Hamilton’s air quality is now about 90% better than it was in the 1970’s. Although we remain a major industrial centre, our air quality is now comparable to other Ontario cities and even better than other North American or international centres.

Smog Days
Another way to monitor air quality improvements in Hamilton is to look at the number of smog days each year. Over the past 14 years, the number of smog days has significantly decreased. Prior to 2015 the province announced smog days and smog advisories with the worst year being 2005 with 45 smog days. Although difficult to compare exactly, after 2015 the province now announces Special Air Health Advisories (SAHA) and Special Air Quality Statements (SAQS).

*2015 to 2017 Special Air Quality Statement

Since 2015, there has been no SAHA’s and only 2 SAQS in each year of 2016 and 2017 lasting less than three hours. There has been neither a SAQS nor SAHA thus far in 2017. Figure 1.0 below shows a bar graph of the number of smog advisories and smog days since 2003 and SAHA’s and SAQS since 2015.

Air Quality Health Index
Currently the Province of Ontario monitors the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) across Ontario with three locations in the city of Hamilton. For more information on the AQHI visit

There have been significant reductions in the majority of pollutants within Hamilton, with the exception of Ozone (O3). This is consistent with many cities across Ontario as ozone can travel very far distances and is known as a transboundary pollutant with much of the source coming from upwind sources located near the Ohio Valley. Although there have been significant reductions, science is evolving to better understand the potential impacts of air pollution, even at a low concentrations. For more information on Hamilton’s air quality visit

Hamilton Harbour and Cootes Paradise Improvements

Since 2000, the City with support from partners has undertaken the following projects aimed at improving Hamilton’s harbour and Cootes Paradise:

  • Four CSO tanks were constructed namely, Greenhill (Phase 2), Red Hill Superpipe, Royal/Stroud and McMaster increasing system storage capacity to mitigate sewer overflows.
  • For many years the City has implemented a bird control project aimed at keeping birds away from our public beaches, reducing the sources of E.coli in recreational areas.
  • Real Time Control (RTC) diversion structures have been installed at four locations along the Western Interceptor to reduce the quantity of wet weather flows that are discharged to the harbour.
  • Primary treatment works at the Woodward WWTP was expanded to allow for treatment of more wet weather flows at this centralized site.
  • Source of PCB’s in the Strathearne Street area have been identified and MOECC Orders issued to the landowners (this is a collaborative effort between the City and MOECC).
  • A total of 291 sewer lateral cross connections were corrected resulting in a reduction of untreated dry weather flows reaching the receiving waters.
  • Stage 1 works are almost complete implementing containment cells under the Randle Reef Project, resulting in the physical isolation of some of the most contaminated sediment in Randle Reef from the rest of the harbour.  This is a financial collaboration led by Environment Canada.

In terms of improvements made to the harbour, and considering the annual variability that one can expect from a natural system, the following observations can be made:

  • Phosphorous levels have been slowly decreasing in the harbours water over the last 17 years. 
  • The water in the harbour is clearer and one can see 1 meter deeper into the water now compared to back in 2000. 
  • The Walleye stocking program that started in 2012 is proving to be a success and fish are returning year after year. Carp numbers have generally been decreasing. Fish telemetry is showing that fish are utilizing the man-made habitat built along the near shore of the harbour. 
  • Colonial waterbird populations, including Herons, Common Terns, Caspian Terns, Herring Gulls, Ring Billed Gulls and Double-Crested Cormorants have begun to stabilize. The impact of bird populations polluting public beaches has been reduced. 
  • The density of aquatic plants in Cootes Paradise has increased over the last 10 years including recent gains in the quantity of water lily in the marsh.

Economic Development

Gross Domestic Product - GDP
Real GDP (expressed in 2007 dollars) has grown from $23,345 million in 2001 to $28,508 million in 2016. The Hamilton Census Metropolitan Area (CMA), which includes Hamilton, Burlington and Grimsby, has seen steady and consistent GDP growth over the past 15 years. Real GDP has increased by 22% during this time period.

Total Employment
Total employment has grown considerably in the Hamilton CMA over the past 15 years, with 39,000 jobs added between 2001-2016. As of November 2017, Statistics Canada shows total employment at 429,000, indicating a total increase of employment in the Hamilton CMA region of 81,000 people since 2001.

  2001 2016 Change
Employment (x1000) 347.8 387.4 Increase of 39.6

Unemployment Rate
Comparing the 2001 and 2016 unemployment totals, there is no change despite a growing labour force (individuals actively working or looking for work). When comparing to the current unemployment rate of 4.2% (November 2017), the Hamilton CMA has seen significant improvement, buoyed by growing economic opportunities and a high demand for local labour.

  2001 2016 Change
Unemployment rate (%) 5.5% 5.5% No Change

Building Permits
There has been continued growth in the building permit totals experienced in the Hamilton CMA, with the City of Hamilton contributing the majority of those totals. The City of Hamilton could approach an annual Estimated Building Permit value for 2017 that exceeds the total recorded in 2016 for the Hamilton CMA region.

The City of Hamilton has seen five consecutive years of annual estimated building permit values above $1 billion, with the highest annual total occurring in 2012.

Bankruptcies (Consumers)
Growing economic and employment opportunities coupled with decreasing interest rates and rising real estate values have all contributed to a declining number of annual Consumer Bankruptcies in the Hamilton CMA, with the 2016 figures more than 50% lower than the 2001 figures despite a larger population base.

  2001 2016 Change
Bankruptcies (Consumer) 1865 841 -1024
(55% decrease)

Bankruptcies (Business)
The story of increasing financial stability of consumers in the Hamilton CMA resulting in decreasing bankruptcy instances also applies to the situation experienced by businesses in the Hamilton CMA, but to a greater effect, with a decrease of approximately 80% seen when comparing 2001 figures to 2016 figures.

  2001 2016 Change
Bankruptcies (Business) 184 37 -147
(80% decrease)


Credit Rating
The table below shows the City’s credit rating (from Standard & Poors) based on previous year’s financials and projections for the reporting year.

1999 - 2005 2005 - 2007 2008 - 2015 2016 2017
AA AA (positive) AA (stable) AA (positive)  AA+ (stable)

Between 1999 and 2017 the City’s credit rating rose from AA (positive) to AA+ (stable). 

Marketable Securities (in Reserves)
December 31, 2001 - $372 million market value
December 31, 2016 - $928 million market value
This is an increase of 149% between 2001 and 2016.

Assessment Value Increases 2001-2016
The taxable assessment in Hamilton in 2001 was $26.2 billion and by 2016 had reached $65.2 billion (increased by $34.7 billion or 133%); when adjusted by inflation, the increase is $26.6 billion or 77%.

The average residential assessment in Hamilton during the same period has changed from $146,068 in 2001 to $295,300 in 2016 (a change of $149,232 or 102%). When adjusted by inflation, the change is $103,530 or 54%.

The City’s total assessment increases primarily during reassessments, when MPAC reviews the value of each property and updates the assessments. Assessment growth also increases the City’s assessment, primarily from new properties or expansion/changes to existing properties.

Year Taxable Assessment Average Residential Assessment
2001 $26,187 M $146,068
2016 $60,938 M $295,300
Increase in $
(Not adjusted for inflation)


$34,750 M $149,232

Increase in %
(Not adjusted for inflation)

133% 102%
(Adjusted for inflation)
$34,381 M $191,770
Change $
(Adjusted for inflation)
$26,557 M $103,530
Change %
(Adjusted for inflation)
77% 54%

Assessment Growth 2002-2016
Hamilton has experienced significant total assessment growth in the last several years, with building permits exceeding $1 billion in the last five years and reaching a record number of building permits in 2016. The following table shows the assessment growth in the City since 2002.

Year Dollar Amount Percentage
2002 $6 Million 1.3%
2003 $7 Million 1.4%
2004 $9.2 Million 1.7%
2005 $9.2 Million 1.6%
2006 $5.8 Million 1%
2007 $4.4 Million 0.8%
2008 $6.5 Million 1%
2009 $8.1 Million 1.3%
2010 $8.3 Million 1.3%
2011 $7.4 Million 1.1%
2012 $5.2 Million 0.8%
2013 $5.6 Million 0.8%
2014 $12.7 Million 1.3%
2015 $13.1 Million 1.6%
2016 $5.8 Million 0.7%

Residential and Non-Residential Assessment Proportions

As shown in the table below, most of the growth is in the residential property class and Hamilton’s share of Non-Residential Assessment has declined during the 2002 to 2016 period from 14.4% to 13.0%. Similar municipalities have a Non-Residential Assessment average of 17.2%.

This reduction can be attributed in part to the overall decline of the manufacturing industry in Ontario driven by global variables, which has left many municipalities, including Hamilton, with a reduced assessment base due to appeals, vacancies, etc.

In addition, the growth attained in the non-residential property classes is driven by institutional properties (hospitals, educational institutions) which do not translate into additional revenue for the City.

Year Residential Other
2002 85.6% 14.4%
2003 85.7% 14.3%
2004 86.5% 13.5%
2005 86.4% 13.6%
2006 87.3% 12.7%
2007 87.4% 12.6%
2008 87.4% 12.6%
2009 87.5% 12.5%
2010 86.6% 13.4%
2011 86.3% 13.7%
2012 86.4% 13.6%
2013 86.7% 13.3%
2014 87.1% 12.9%
2015 87% 13.0%
2016 87% 13.0%

City Assets
The table below shows the change in City’s assets from 2001 to 2016.

  2001 2016 $ Change % Change
Financial Assets $800 M $1,536.3 M $736.7 M 48%
Liabilities $586.4 M $1,395.1 M $808.6 M 58%
Net Financial Assets $213.2 M $141.2 M -$72 M -51%
Please note: The numbers in the above table are taken from the City’s Financial Return.

The tangible capital assets (including infrastructure assets) are not included in the above number analysis because what we recorded in 2001 is substantially different than what is recorded today. Tangible capital assets were not captured and reported until the 2009 financial year, per a change in financial reporting standards. For more information about infrastructure assets visit the City by the Numbers section of this report.