The federal government announced Thursday a new Canada Healthy Communities Initiative, which will provide $31 million to smaller-scale, community-led projects adapting local infrastructure for a post-pandemic world.
The funding will be divided among projects that address three major themes. The first is safe public space, including projects that create new or improve existing public spaces where people can gather at a safe distance from one another. Secondly, the Initiative will invest in solutions that make transit — including walking, biking, and private and public transportation — safer and more accessible in the era of COVID-19. And lastly, funding will go to digital solutions improving local infrastructure through data and connected technologies.
Those eligible for the funding include local governments, Indigenous communities, and non-profit community organizations. A non-profit organization or group of non-profits, to be selected by the federal government through an open call for applications, will distribute the funding.
“The demands placed on families and individuals by COVID-19 have exposed a real need for low-cost, locally-driven ideas to help communities adapt and thrive,” said Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities in a news release. “The Canada Healthy Communities Initiative will help breathe life into these small projects that can have a big impact as local governments, Indigenous communities and their non-profit partners rethink public spaces and how they deliver services to people. Whether it’s pop-up bike paths, community gardens, art installations or Wi-Fi hot spots, Canadians want to work, play and learn in safe, vibrant and inclusive communities.”
Small and rural communities will be a focus area for the Initiative, Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development, said in the release. “The recession of 2008 taught us much about economic recovery in small and rural communities. We are keenly aware that COVID-19 has been felt deeply in these communities. We are working with local leaders and are inspired by their resilience. We will continue to provide strategic investments like this to create healthier communities and stronger economies.”
The government is repurposing the $31 million from money allocated for a second Smart Cities Challenge, the first round of which wrapped in May of 2019, leaving a $170 million for a second challenge. The Canada Healthy Communities Initiative funding is part of a new COVID-19 Resilience Stream, announced earlier this month, of the $33-billion Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program.
It’s unclear when applications will open, but the government said it will share more details about the process soon.