The federal government announced a new grant program in November 2017 called the Smart Cities Challenge, which will provide four municipalities with up to $50 million in funding to implement an initiative that improves the lives of residents through the innovative use of technology.
“A team of staff including our City manager, director of corporate services, manager of information technology and our communications team leader have met several times over the last few months to assess the City’s readiness to participate in the Smart Cities Challenge,” said Leona Esau, City of Airdrie intergovernmental liaison.
Municipalities applying for the grant are encouraged to partner with non-profit, private and public organizations.
At the Feb. 20 Airdrie City council meeting, council unanimously approved a request from staff to submit an application in partnership with the Airdrie and Area Health Benefits Co-operative (AAHBC).
“After reviewing several internal City projects, it was concluded the work the AAHBC is undertaking to make Airdrie the healthiest community in Canada was by far the furthest advanced and had the greatest likelihood of success given the challenge criteria and the fact that the Government of Canada is really looking for that big idea,” Esau said.
Airdrie’s proposal would focus on the digital infrastructure needed to bring the aims of the AAHBC to fruition.
Esau said staff will begin working with the AAHBC on the initial grant application.
“This work will outline the scope of the project, potential partners, will flesh out the technology requirements and, of course, the measurable outcomes, which is one of the key components of the Smart Cities Challenge,” she said.
One $50 million, two $10 million and one $5 million prize are available. Esau said the City has yet to determine in which category it will apply.
Applications are due April 24. Five finalists in each of the four grant categories will be chosen during the summer and given $250,000 to complete a comprehensive proposal, which is due in early 2019.
Winners will be announced in spring 2019 and will have up to five years to implement the winning technological solutions.
Coun. Ron Chapman asked if the City would be expected to put up the money, should it be one of the winning applications, or if the funding would be immediately forthcoming from the federal government.
Esau said the City would be expected to sign an agreement with the government, which would outline how the money would be spent, but the City would receive the funds in full to implement the initiative.
AAHBC CEO Bruce Graham said the organization was pleased the City had picked it to partner with on this application.
“Thank you to City administration for thinking of us, first off, and secondly for the time and effort they’ve put in putting this first proposal or initiative together,” he said.
“We think this is a very compelling project, not just for Airdrie but for any community in Canada and we’re very pleased to work with the City administration to move forward on the application process.”
According to Esau, once the application is completed, a special website will be developed where residents can view it online.
“This touches on almost every aspect of our community – that’s what’s so exciting about this proposal,” she said.