Breaking Barriers: RED Program Supports Ontario’s Rural Communities

Rural Canada Landscape

UPDATE: The RED Program is currently accepting applications until February 1, 2021. 

In Ontario, there are 393 official rural communities. These are off-grid, non-metro areas with small populations that frequently face challenges in accessing services, finding jobs, and maintaining strong infrastructure. Fifty-two of these rural communities have less than 100 residents, and 288 communities have between 1,000 and 24,999 residents.

The Rural Economic Development (RED) Program has committed $3.3 million in government funding towards 58 projects in Ontario that help diversify economies, retain and create jobs, and invest in regional infrastructure.

Ontario rural communities can be defined by five region types: (1) urban fringe communities, (2) agriculture communities, (3) cottage country communities, (4) the mining and mill towns of northern Ontario, and (5) Aboriginal communities. Unlike major cities located within the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), residents located in these types of rural communities need extra assistance because they have limited resources to balance their economic growth.

What is the Rural Economic Development (RED) Program?

The Rural Economic Development (RED) Program offers government funding to assist economic development projects that establish resilient rural communities in Ontario by:

  • Addressing barriers to economic development by positioning rural communities to attract and retain jobs.
  • Building community capacity and supporting economic development in Ontario’s rural communities.
  • Helping diversify and grow local economies – making economic growth more inclusive so rural Ontario continues to share in the province’s economic prosperity.

“Supporting local jobs and removing barriers to investment and economic growth in rural communities is more important than ever. As the economy reopens, our investments in the Rural Economic Development Program will have a very real impact for communities across rural Ontario.”
– Ernie Hardeman, Minister of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

Funding Streams

Economic Diversification and Competitiveness Stream:

  • Amount: Up to 50% of eligible project costs to a maximum of $150,000.
  • Eligible projects: Remove barriers to business and job growth, attract investment, attract or retain a skilled workforce, strengthen sector and regional partnerships, and diversify regional economies in rural Ontario.

Strategic Economic Infrastructure Stream:

  • Amount: Up to 30% of eligible project costs to a maximum of $250,000.
  • Eligible projects: Rehabilitation of cultural, heritage, or tourism attractions, redevelopment of vacant or under-used properties, and main street minor capital improvements.

The intake for the RED program is currently open until February 1, 2021. Please contact Mentor Works to get started on your application. 

RED Program Supporting Rural Economic Growth Projects

Through the RED program, one local group that has received funding is the Ontario Water Centre (OWC), a non-profit organization developing young leaders to unite land, water, food, and community. An investment of $150,000 supports their Young Agripreneurs Program (YAP) which provides experiences for youth interested in careers within the agriculture sector.

“Through these investments, our government is creating jobs and driving economic growth at a time when needed most in rural Ontario. By investing in today’s youth and career development through great local organizations like the Ontario Water Centre, we’re ensuring young people can stay and work in their own communities.”
– Caroline Mulroney, Minister of Transportation and Francophone Affairs and MPP for York-Simcoe

The OWC project granted funding is only one example of 58 successful projects currently receiving aid from the first intake of the revised RED program which closed in February.

More Projects Receiving RED Program Funding

Along with the OWC, many provincial organizations have started receiving funding for their projects that will enhance rural communities, create jobs, and sustain employment. A few of these projects include:

  • Nottawasaga Futures: $11,000 to develop a program for entrepreneurs and businesses to access one-on-one specialized business consulting services.
  • Township of Asphodel’s Norwood Public Library Board: $21,585 to restore the Norwood Library space as a Community Hub by installing public Wi-Fi, a community sign, lighting, trees, shrubs, shade structures, outdoor furniture, games, and more.
  • Township of Uxbridge: $100,000 to generate a downtown recovery plan to improve the overall modernization of downtown Uxbridge.

Learn About Government Funding for Economic Growth

The RED Program is currently accepting applications until February 1, 2021. 

There are also alternative government funding programs that provide grants and/or loans to assist with economic growth in the form of innovation, hiring and training, capital investment, and business expansion.

If you have a business project in mind that would benefit local or federal communities, please contact the Mentor Works team for support in the government funding process. Not sure where to start? Sign up for one of our free upcoming webinars to learn more about available programs and eligibility criteria.

Register for A Canadian Government Funding Webinar

Updated: December 14, 2020


  1. What is the help given for tourist lodges who lost 95% of there income and 95% of there employees. We can’t afford loans as we don’t have the resources to pay them back

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