Summerside putting heads together for $5M Smart Cities Challenge

The federal government officially launched the Smart Cities challenge on Thursday and the mayor of Summerside says the city plans to apply.

'This will probably accelerate some of our thinking,' says Summerside Mayor Bill Martin

Summerside Mayor Bill Martin says winning the $5 million would have a 'significant impact' on the city. (Sarah MacMillan/CBC)

The federal government officially launched the nationwide Smart Cities challenge on Thursday and the mayor of Summerside says the city is going all in.

Under the program, communities come up with proposals to improve people's lives through the use of data and technology. At stake is a $50 million grand prize.

There's also a prize of $5 million for communities of less than 30,000 people, which Summerside qualifies for.

Mayor Bill Martin has already bet a bottle of wine with Moncton, N.B., Mayor Dawn Arnold on the outcome of the challenge.

He said $5 million would have a huge impact on the city.

"Five million dollars would represent 10 per cent of our budget, and 30 per cent of our general fund budget or even more," Martin said.

"That's very very significant. As municipalities, we're forced by law to balance our budget year in year out and it's always a challenge to do it. So if you end up with five million dollars that you're starting with, it's pretty significant."

Applications due in April

Martin noted that the city already has a number of initiatives that use technology to help the community — such as the heat for less program, as well as the use of solar energy — and the challenge will motivate the city to continue investments in renewable energy.

City of Summerside plans on applying for the federal government's Smart Cities Challenge. The reward? $5 million. (Tom Steepe/CBC)

"Rest assured we've got all kinds of plans in the renewable energy field and this will probably accelerate some of our thinking," he said.

Martin says the city formed a committee about nine months ago to start working on ideas for the Smart Cities proposal. 

The application is due in April. 

With files from Sarah MacMillan