Direct help for bright ideas to make safer, pandemic-resilient communities

News release

Ottawa, Ontario, August 13, 2020—Healthy communities are places where Canadians have equal opportunities to be active, engaged and connected. In this extraordinary pandemic, Canadians are discovering new ways to keep residents safe and healthy and to support economic recovery.

Today, the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, announced that a new Canada Healthy Communities Initiative will help local governments and community partners as they adapt to local economic, health and social challenges.

The Canada Healthy Communities Initiative will provide up to $31 million in federal funding to support community-led solutions that respond to immediate and ongoing needs arising from COVID-19 over the next two years.

The Initiative will fund smaller-scale local projects under three main themes: creating safe and vibrant public spaces, improving mobility options, and digital solutions. The goal is to fund projects that quickly help communities, including rural and remote communities, adapt to the new reality of COVID-19.

Potential projects could include: expanding outdoor seating on our main streets, remodeling a playground to allow for proper physical distancing, building multi-modal paths that would allow bikes, scooters, and personal mobility devices to share space with pedestrians and cars, or creating digital apps to allow residents to access municipal services remotely. The possibilities are as varied as the spirit, imagination and unique needs of Canada’s communities in this extraordinary time.

Leveraging the great work not-for-profit organizations are already doing across Canada to help communities adapt to COVID-19, funding under the Initiative will be provided to a non-governmental not-for-profit organization, or group of organizations, selected through an open call-for-applications process. The recipient(s) will then work directly with municipalities, local governments, Indigenous communities and not-for-profit community partners to identify and fund homegrown solutions that can be put into place quickly to improve the lives of Canadians.

Additional details on the application process will be available soon. 


“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. 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. Canada’s infrastructure plan invests in thousands of projects, creates jobs across the country and builds stronger communities.”

The Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities.

“Communities know best what kind of projects would have the greatest impact for their residents and local economies as they respond to the unique challenges presented by COVID-19. Through the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative we will support community-driven solutions that allow Canadians to safely return to daily social and economic activities.”

Andy Fillmore, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities

“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 Honourable Maryam Monsef, Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Rural Economic Development

Quick facts

  • The funding for the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative is being repurposed from existing funding for a second Smart Cities Challenge competition to support communities in dealing with the immediate and ongoing challenges posed by COVID-19. Approximately $31 million of the remaining $170 million budget for this program has been redirected to the initiative. As this new initiative rolls out, we continue to work closely with all of the winners of the first Smart Cities Challenge as they take their winning proposals from concept to reality.

  • Like the Smart Cities Challenge, which empowers communities to identify innovative ways to improve the lives of their residents through data and connected technology, the Canada Healthy Communities Initiative is also intended to encourage community-level innovation and improvements in the quality of life for residents.

  • The Canada Healthy Communities Initiative will create opportunities for community projects through funding that will be provided to one or more non-governmental not-for-profit organizations. Organizations with existing capacity and reach can participate in an open call for applications. Intake for projects will begin only after the organization(s) is/are selected and their Canada Healthy Communities Initiative funding program is established. Municipalities, local governments, Indigenous communities and not-for-profit community partners will be eligible to apply for funding from the selected organization(s).

  • The initiative will complement other measures being taken by the Government of Canada and other orders of government by supporting projects that have clear benefits to local communities but limited opportunities for funding under other programs. 

  • To support Canada’s communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, a new COVID-19 Resilience Stream has been added to the over $33-billion Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program to help fund pandemic-resilient infrastructure. Existing program streams have also been adapted to include more eligible project categories, and some administrative requirements have been streamlined to accommodate faster approvals. 

Associated links


Chantalle Aubertin
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities

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Infrastructure Canada
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