The Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) spent the day in Guelph on Friday with nearly $13 million to burn in her pocket. Two stops on her public schedule delivered money for a new green technology innovation fund, and money to help improve area tourist attractions including Guelph’s biggest and most famous park.
At Riverside Park on Friday afternoon, Helena Jaczek joined Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield, and representatives from the City of Guelph and the County of Wellington to announce $2.6 million for eight different projects in the region under the Canada Community Revitalization Fund (CCRF) and Tourism Relief Fund (TRF).
“We know that communities flourish when they have the infrastructure to promote social interaction and physical activity. Community infrastructure makes our lives better, and our communities stronger,” Jaczek said. “That’s why our government introduced the Canada Community Revitalization Fund to help communities across Canada build and improve community infrastructure projects, so that they can rebound from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The biggest share of the money for Guelph is $750,000 meant to give Riverside Park a facelift with renovations planned for park washrooms, the bandshell area and the iconic Riverside Park train ride.
“With this investment, we’ll be able to build an all-season storage facility so that we don’t have to take the train off the tracks every fall and bring it back every spring, and we’ll be able to build a loading and unloading zone for the passengers,” explained Ward 2 Councillor Rodrigo Goller. “It will definitely help us keep this attraction going for years to come so that more generations and families can share this experience with their kids and grandkids.”
Meghan Hunter, the program manager for Parks Infrastructure & Construction at the City of Guelph, said that plans are in the works to look for new programming opportunities that can take advantage of the revitalized bandshell, which hasn’t hosted any events in the last few years, and has long been in need of improvements in the name of accessibility and modernization.
“If you have been out to the site, you know that it’s not a very accessible site so there are plans to enhance the trail connectivity from the parking lot over to the site itself, as well as the addition of some ramps that will open up the ability for us to do a lot of different events, whether they be small citizen ceremonies, graduations, as well as other private bookings for events,” Hunter said.
“We’re also improving the theatre lighting and controls so that we can do some outdoor music or other performances as well,” she added. “We’re having fun with the big dreaming in the Rec and Parks areas seeing what those big event ideas could be.”
Other Guelph projects include $709,576 for upgrades to the Guelph Farmers’ Market building so that programming can happen there seven days a week, while the Guelph Hiking Trail Club received $15,000 to improve the downtown section of the Trans Canada Trail. The rest of the money is going to various projects around Wellington County.
While the day’s announcement was about improving current parks, we know from this week’s council meeting that there’s also an issue with funding for the creation of future parks. Minister Jaczek was open to the possibility of working with the City of Guelph to secure Federal funding for future parkland purchases.
“Obviously the Federal government always wants to work with provincial governments and municipal governments to the fullest extent possible,” Jaczek said. “I had the chance to make the acquaintance of your Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Guelph, and if he would like to further the conversation as to what is potentially available through the Federal government, I would certainly invite him to do so.”
Earlier on Friday, Jaczek visited Innovation Guelph on Southgate Road to deliver $10 million in funding for something called the i.d.e.a. Fund, a southwestern Ontario-focused initiative will help Canadian businesses focused on green technology and clean innovation succeed through access to capital and mentoring to commercialize innovative technologies.
“It’s clear that a healthy environment and a strong economy go hand-in-hand, and that’s why our government created the Jobs and Growth Fund,” Jaczek said. “The Jobs and Growth Fund helps local businesses and organizations become more resilient, create good jobs, and transition Canada to a greener and more inclusive economy. It’s vital that we continue on this path of building a green, inclusive and strong Canadian economy.”
The i.d.e.a. Fund will focus on companies working in the areas of agri-innovation, cleantech and advanced manufacturing in urban and rural communities, and the $10 million will support 240 businesses, create 840 new jobs and develop 135 new products, services, processes and technologies.
On top of that, regional innovation centres like Innovation Guelph will work to ensure that at least half of the businesses are owned or led by women and that 30 per cent are owned or led by Indigenous peoples, persons with disabilities, Black communities, racialized communities and members of the LGBTQ2+ community.
“We are absolutely united in our commitment to address a gap in our ecosystem as it relates to underrepresented entrepreneurs, and delivering a first of its kind program with the support of the Government of Canada through FedDev Ontario,” said Alison Crumblehulme, the CEO of Innovation Guelph. “Southwestern Ontario has a rich and diverse ecosystem of promising early-stage businesses, and they have viable solutions that can be commercialized to drive the transition to a green economy.”