. City seeks funding
Smart Communities look to raise $5 million

Tara Kearsey
Northern News Services

Yellowknife ( May 19/00) - The Yellowknife Smart Communities Society has been slated to receive up to $5 million from the federal government, and now it just has to match the funds.

Last week the Government of Canada announced Yellowknife had been chosen as the Northern leader for Industry Canada's Smart Communities program.

Fact File

The Yellowknife Smart Communities Society has identified four communication centres for its project that will be accessible by phone, Internet or cable television:

CityNet: a network to pay city bills, share opinions on city hall issues and find out about city events;

BusinessNet: promotion of Yellowknife as a tourism destination and a place to do business, plus an E-commerce centre for local businesses;

HelpNet: providing access to social services and a co-operation tool for service groups;

LearnNet: a forum for learning about the city, updating or continuing education and showcasing local professional talents;

YkSmart City Centre: a link between the four Nets offering help to users and a place to share ideas for the Smart City network.

Deputy mayor Ben McDonald, also the project leader, says Yellowknife will receive as much as $5 million over a three-year period to help maintain its position as a leader in communications technology.

"We're hoping that this money is going to allow us to keep the North out in front. We don't want this to only be a benefit to Yellowknife, we would like it to benefit all the North," says McDonald.

He says several companies, such as NorthwesTel phone and cable, local publishers and Internet providers, the City of Yellowknife and non-profit groups such as the Elks Club and the Yellowknife Seniors Society, have all expressed interest in providing donations for the cause.

However, the funding has yet to be signed and sealed by either party.

"Our project identified $7.3 million (in potential local funding) and, assuming that all the partners go ahead, and there's no reason why they wouldn't, then it will be a total of $12.3 million (including federal dollars) spent over the three years," says McDonald.

City treasurer Glen Jarbeau says the City of Yellowknife will commit $100,000 to the project per year over the three-year period.

"We don't know if it's going to have a budget impact this year or not because the contract is not signed and we don't know when it's all going to get going," says Jarbeau.

He says council has to decide how it will fund the project, but the city's 2000 budget has a $225,000 contingency fund set aside that could be used to finance this venture. McDonald says Industry Canada will now take a closer look at the Yellowknife project proposals.

Then, the Yellowknife Smart Communities Society will secure funding with its contributors and the federal government will match the funding as it receives invoices from the contributing companies and organizations.

McDonald says this initiative could change the way people do business in Yellowknife.

"Yellowknife has a long-standing reputation as being a technological leader ... we hope to move a quantum leap forward," McDonald says.

Mayor Dave Lovell cites the Smart Communities project as a means of securing Yellowknife as a leader in communications technology for many years to come.

"We already have an edge, this is just going to allow us to maintain it and extend it," says Lovell.