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Feb 2018 | The Smart Cities Issue

CANADA’S SMART CITIES CHALLENGE
ANDY FILLMORE, MP FOR HALIFAX

A geeky piece of Canadian politics trivia to start: In what year did Canada elect its first city planner to Parliament? Incredibly, the answer is 2015 – and yes, the honour was mine. On its surface, it’s hard to believe that prior to 2015, through all of Canada’s preceding 41 general elections, not a single city planner had been elected to our federal branch of government. Yet, if you look closer at some of the choices previous governments have made, and if you look at how those decisions have led to the state of our essential community infrastructure today, you may not be quite so surprised.

 

“Communities must be active participants in any urban design process that will impact them … Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge is premised on this simple but often overlooked idea. Officially launched in November 2017, the Smart Cities Challenge calls on Canadian communities to put forward their best ideas to solve pressing issues through the use of data and connected technologies.”

 

When I ran for Parliament in 2015, I didn’t know that no city planners had preceded me. But I did know that Canada needed leadership that understood how our cities and communities work, and what they need to not just be sustained, but to thrive. I knew we needed leadership that understood the impact that good design and well-planned cities can have on the health, vibrancy, and prosperity of our communities and their citizens.

And that’s why I ran, because I wanted to be part of a movement that would bring Canada’s cities into the modern age of sustainability and livability in a way that we might lead the world. It’s the reason I chose to become a city planner in the first place, compelled by a shared vision for Canada where our cities empower our citizens. Through the intentional engagement of our local communities, our communities will lead Canada toward its best days. This is what I learned over two decades as a city planner, and now it’s what I fight for as a Member of Parliament. Communities must be active participants in any urban design process that will impact them.

Canada’s Smart Cities Challenge is premised on this simple but often overlooked idea. Officially launched in November 2017, the Smart Cities Challenge calls on Canadian communities to put forward their best ideas to solve pressing issues through the use of data and connected technologies. It is open to all municipalities, local and regional governments, and Indigenous communities across Canada.

For city planners, the Smart Cities Challenge is music to our ears – and a unique challenge to make the most of the opportunity. It represents a concerted effort by the federal government to engage directly with communities in seeking innovative solutions to common problems that hold back our cities and their citizens. After all, who knows better?

To make this Challenge as open and citizen-driven as possible, we’re calling on communities to meaningfully engage with everyday citizens in the development of their application. We want to see partnerships between entrepreneurs, academics, advocates, and others because we believe magic happens at the intersection of diverse perspectives and a shared passion for positive change.

The very best ideas will win some serious cash to bring their ideas to life. The top prize, open to all communities who apply, is a whopping $50 million dollars. There are two prizes of $10 million for any community under 500,000 people, and one prize of $5 million for communities with populations under 30,000. An independent jury of talented Canadians with a record of leadership across a range of disciplines will choose the finalists and ultimately the winners of these prizes.

 

“We want to encourage communities to become more innovative than ever before, using data and connected technology in new ways.”


Want to be a smart city? First, you need to go back to the basics.
Register for PSD's upcoming webinar: 
BACK TO SQUARE ONE: THE IMPORTANCE OF FOUNDATIONAL DATA PRACTICES
February 22nd 1pm ET

 

 

While Indigenous communities are eligible for each of these prizes, we’re also working with Indigenous leadership to develop a competition specific to Indigenous communities. Stay tuned for that.

Given the significant investment, the federal government has ambitious goals for the Smart Cities Challenge. First, we want to create positive and lasting change for the winning communities. We want to encourage communities to become more innovative than ever before, using data and connected technology in new ways. We want communities to forge new partnerships. And then we want the winning cities to spread their amazing ideas across Canada.

Canada is not the first country to launch a competition of this nature. In fact, the Smart Cities Challenge is modelled on successful competitions like the Nordic Council of Ministers’ Nordic Built Cities Challenge and the US Department of Transportation Smart Cities Challenge.

Both of these competitions show the amazing ideas that can come forward when you crowdsource solutions to the challenges facing communities. One winner of the Nordic Built Challenge designed a proposal to implement an innovative residential neighbourhood design upon a very steep terrain. Though designed for the hillside of Faroe Islands – located in the North Atlantic between Norway and Iceland –  the proposal will surely serve as an inspiration to other communities built on steep terrains, particularly due to its focus on reducing its impact on the natural landscape, creating great views for all residents, and enhancing community interaction. 

In the US, the City of Columbus won $50 million to “reinvent mobility.” Their plan includes installing devices in cars that will allow them to communicate with each other in order to prevent collisions and avoid congestion. It also includes a plan to use camera technology to warn bus drivers of potential human-bus collisions.

Still, I’m confident Canada can do even better. I know there are Canadians in large cities and small towns from coast to coast to coast who have bold ideas that will shake things up and create lasting positive change for their communities.

If you’re that Canadian, it’s not too late to get involved. Find out if there is a project underway in your community and see how you can put your skills and passion to work.

 

ANDY FILLMORE is the Member of Parliament for Halifax and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Democratic Institutions. Prior to his election in 2015, Andy spent twenty years as urban planner and community builder in the private, public, and academic sectors. He attended Acadia University and holds graduate degrees from Harvard University and Dalhousie University. Andy grew up in Halifax, and he is a proud, unrelenting champion for his hometown in Canada’s Parliament.