City of Port Alberni accepts Smart Cities Challenge

How can Port Alberni use innovation, technology to enhance quality of life?

MIKE YOUDS

SPECIAL TO THE NEWS

Odds of hitting a home run may be slim, but with millions of dollars at stake Port Alberni will step up to the plate for a federal innovation contest called the Smart Cities Challenge.

City council gave a thumbs-up Monday to entering the challenge — open to all municipalities, regional governments and Indigenous communities across the country — after hearing a report from Pat Deakin, economic development manager.

The idea is to encourage innovation to improve quality of life through the use of data and connected technology. Local governments have until April 24 to submit proposals in the hopes of winning one of four prizes totalling $65 million. Port Alberni qualifies in all three categories.

“I fully expect that almost every city in Canada, large and small, will be competing,” Deakin said. “Very few have decided what to address.”

The competition invites communities to declare their challenges and come up with solutions using so-called “smart” technologies, he explained. Some B.C. municipalities, including 11 on eastern Vancouver Island, are partnering with neighbours to make their bid.

Deakin offered a list of possible challenges — including housing, reconciliation, climate disruption, aging demographics, transportation, environment and climate change — but stressed that the City’s proposal is open to input from the community.

Community members can now register for a new online engagement platform at www.LetsConnectPA.ca and tell the city what you think should be addressed as part of the challenge. Consultation will be open until April 20, and participants will be entered to win an excursion for three with Pacific Seaplanes.

“Although the odds are about as good as winning the lottery, we are up to the challenge and we are putting a proposal forward,” said Mayor Mike Ruttan.

Finalists will receive support to develop their smart cities proposals while the four winners will be awarded with prizes ranging from $5 million to $50 million to bring their plans to life.

The Ministry of Infrastructure and Communities initiative is loosely modelled on a similar challenge issued to midsized American cities starting in 2015. That program is focused on modernizing transportation.

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