Dominique Dussault, interim chief administrator for Hawkesbury, explained the Healthy Communities Initiative (HCI) to council during its February 22 session. The HCI is a $31 million program set up as part of the federal government’s action plan for dealing with the pandemic. The goal of the program is to help municipalities make better use of their “public spaces” for the benefit of residents.
“Public spaces are the glue to our communities,” stated the HCI website page. “They enable a feeling of belonging, of social cohesion, and encourage our sense of collective identity. COVID-19 has seriously constrained our access and use of these spaces in communities.”
Hawkesbury staff are reviewing what kinds of local projects might be suitable for HCI funding. During the Monday council session Councillor Antonios Tsourounakis suggested a pedestrian walkway around Confederation Park that could also serve as a cross-country ski trail during winter. Council Robert Lefebvre suggested a walking/cycling circuit path linking Boulevard du Chenail with the Main Street area.
Mayor Paula Assaly noted that the town could partner with other groups on a joint project. HCI will provide money to municipalities, non-profit groups, charities, service clubs, and other groups to support programs and projects that benefit their communities through better and safe use of public spaces, improve access for people with mobility issues, or provide “innovative digital solutions” to help people connect and provide better mental, social, and physical health.
The deadline for the first round of grant applications is March 9. A second round will begin in May.