2017 Presentation to House of Commons' Standing Committee
On February 16, 2017, two Alberta Smart City Alliance (Alliance) officials offered their perspective on Smart City challenges and opportunities before the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure, and Communities.
The Standing Committee, with a mandate that includes the consideration of a range of issues affecting productivity and quality of life in Canadian communities, is currently conducting a study related to Infrastructure and Smart Communities. The Standing Committee consists of 10 members of Parliament from the Liberal Party of Canada, Conservative Party of Canada, and New Democratic Party of Canada.
The Alliance was specifically invited to provide expert testimony in support of this review. The Alliance was one of only a few organizations across Canada to address the Standing Committee and respond to questions. The Alliance is regularly contacted to participate in Smart City policy discussions, events, pilot projects, and economic missions.
To best represent its perspectives, the Alliance selected City of St. Albert Councillor Cathy Heron, St. Albert’s City Council lead on Smart Cities, and Travis Peter, St. Albert’s Smart City and Innovation Manager. The cost to attend the Committee hearings, including transportation, accommodation, and meals, was funded completely by the Government of Canada.
“We were honoured to be invited to present to the Standing Committee, and to present recommendations on behalf of the Alberta Smart City Alliance and its members across the province,” says Councillor Cathy Heron. “We are also thrilled that St. Albert continues to be recognized as a national Smart City leader, and that the Alberta Smart City Alliance continues to deliver on its potential.”
Councillor Heron and Travis Peter are nationally recognized in a Smart City context. Councillor Heron has spoken at numerous forums on St. Albert’s successes, served as the City Council representative to St. Albert’s former Smart City Steering Committee, and is also one of the founding signatories of the Alliance. Travis Peter is a regular contributor to national and international Smart City conversations, has been the lead for St. Albert’s Smart City initiative from its inception, and currently directs the Alliance’s strategic activities and outreach.
In her opening statement to the Committee, Councillor Heron focused on current opportunities and challenges related to Smart City implementations across Alberta, and examples of successful municipal initiatives. Three key recommendations were also provided, relating to:
- Amendments to Canada’s digital strategy to reference borderless connectivity, digital economy requirements, and various Smart City components;
- Incentivization of regional Smart City strategies and multi-sector participation; and
- Long-term and dedicated funding to support infrastructure, research, and test beds
“This opportunity is further evidence of the value that we can provide to these policy discussions, and of the amazing economic and other Smart City advantages that are being cultivated by St. Albert and other communities across our province,” adds Councillor Heron. “The rising interest of the federal government in Smart Cities is also very encouraging, and we believe it is important that future policies and programs be developed with a focus on collaboration and flexibility for different sizes and types of communities. From our perspective, St. Albert’s approach and experience is particularly relevant here and we were pleased to share that within our testimony as well.”
During the question period, the majority of Standing Committee questions were addressed to the Alliance. Questions focused on opportunities to better engage small and mid-size communities, alignment of national and localized strategies, and the roles of different sectors in taking tangible steps forward. Members also commented on the impressive progress that St. Albert and its Alliance partners had made to date, and their appreciation for the new insights they gained from the presentation.
The Standing Committee expects to provide written recommendations to various federal Ministers following its review. Councillor Heron and Travis Peter were also invited to continue to support this and other future reviews. This type of collaboration is consistent with the goals of the Alliance, in addition to the recommendations within St. Albert’s Smart City Master Plan.