Kitchener-Waterloo

Region of Waterloo, Guelph finalists for Smart City grants

​The Region of Waterloo is among five finalist municipalities vying for a $50 million grant from the federal government to use data and technology to improve the lives of Canadians.

Smart Cities Challenge narrows finalists to 20 for three multi-million dollar awards

Children enjoy the water at the splash pad in Kitchener's Victoria Park on Monday. Children and young people are at the centre of Waterloo Region's bid for the Smart Cities Challenge $50 million prize. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

The Region of Waterloo is among five finalist municipalities vying for a $50 million grant from the federal government to use data and technology to improve the lives of Canadians.

In 2017, the federal government announced a competition for communities to develop ideas around how to use tech to improve lives.

More than 200 communities applied and now, the list has been whittled down to 20 communities across three categories. Each will get a $250,000 to put together a final proposal.

Waterloo is among five communities competing for the top prize. Guelph and Wellington county's joint application is among 10 finalist communities competing in the $10-million category.

Waterloo region's pitch centres around using tech to improve the lives of young people and children.

"This is a community-based thing. This is not a regional government driven thing. It's a partnership with the area municipalities, the region, the school board, the universities, the tech community and the non-profit agencies throughout the region who work with children and youth," Waterloo Regional Chairman Ken Seiling said in an interview from Halifax on Friday, where he's attending the Big City Mayors Caucus annual meeting.

"I think it's really interesting that we sometimes equate tech with manufacturing or communications and not social services or supportive services or educational services. I think this is a great opportunity to marry the two and I can't think of a better community to do it."

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced the finalists of the Smart Cities Challenge in Halifax on Friday at the caucus.

Guelph, Wellington County make food-tech bid 

Guelph Mayor Cam Guthrie was also there to hear the news.

Their bid centres on food — particularly how tech can improve food security as well as tackle food waste problems, including inefficiencies and environmental problems.

"We have a problem with our food. We take it, we make it but then we dispose of it. It's not a good system," Guthrie said. "There is really a lot of technology that can go into this and we have a lot of partners that are coming to the table really excited to partner with us."

Guthrie said Guelph is already known as an agri-tech and agri-food hub.

"The other part, though, that's really made us stand out is that we're that urban-rural application with Wellington county and Guelph coming together," he said.

Guthrie said he's confident Guelph and Wellington county's bid will win — and while they're not competing in the same category as Waterloo region, "If they don't want the money, though, we'll take it."

Winners of the competition will be announced in spring 2019.

Guelph and Wellington County's joint application is among 10 finalist communities competing in the $10-million category. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)