Premier Ford could sabotage Toronto waterfront plans based on Sidewalk Labs concerns

On the other hand, concerns about the nitty gritty of data governance and privacy issues have also been ramping up in recent months, with Bianca Wylie, co-founder of the policy advocacy group Tech Reset Canada, emerging as one of the leading voices raising questions about the Sidewalk Labs project.Speaking to the Financial Post, Vaughan specifically mentioned Wylie by name.“I’m nervous that they’re going to stall Waterfront Toronto and in doing so, hand over to casino operators and Doug Ford some of the most important real estate in the country, all because they don’t like Google,” Vaughan said.“It puts at risk the city’s waterfront, and that’s a 40-year project to which many of these players — Bianca included — are new to the conversation.”In response to Vaughan’s comments, a spokesman for Ontario Infrastructure Minister Monte McNaughton said the government is considering further action.“The report documented numerous concerning facts. Waterfront Toronto shared ‘almost no information about the project’ with one of its overseers. We were shocked to learn the board was given one weekend to examine the most important transaction in its history before being asked to approve it,” communications director Lee Greenberg said in an email.“We took decisive action in responding to that report, as you know, by making changes to the Board of Directors. Any discussion at this point about specific actions we may or may not take is speculative. And I won’t speculate.”In response to Vaughan’s comments, Wylie said that Toronto is facing a range of challenges, and people shouldn’t think of the Sidewalk Labs project in terms of a tradeoff between digital governance issues and urban renewal on the waterfront.“It’s critical that the response to immediate political pressures doesn’t come at the expense of due process and democratic resident engagement regarding physical and digital infrastructure,” Wylie said in an emailed statement. “Modern urban planning requires thoughtful digital governance, they’re mutually reinforcing. Toronto deserves both.” As the Sidewalk Labs smart city project on Toronto’s waterfront enters a key phase in the first half of 2019, Liberal MP Adam Vaughan is warning that data privacy concerns shouldn’t be used to undercut “momentum” for the project.Vaughan’s riding covers the Quayside district just east of the downtown core where Sidewalk Labs is proposing an ambitious urban innovation development, reimagining public space, transportation and digital systems to make the city function more effectively.But Vaughan said he’s worried that the provincial government is going to use data governance and privacy concerns as cover to “blow up” Waterfront Toronto, the federal-provincial-municipal agency mandated with revitalizing the city’s lakeshore, and the agency directly managing the Quayside development. ‘Terrifying if we get it wrong’: Sidewalk Labs needs to slow its process, advisory panel experts say Sidewalk Labs is already collecting data on Torontonians in Thorncliffe Park Ontario sacks three Waterfront Toronto board members amid Sidewalk Labs controversy “Doug Ford has been trying to sabotage Waterfront Toronto since the days he was on city council and I was on council with him,” Vaughan said.“He has never won the argument with serious city planners on his vision for the waterfront, but you know, with a couple high-tech activists and a really flimsy, poorly written auditor’s report, he’s got the cover he needs to reverse 25 years of good, solid work and 40 years of dreaming on the Toronto waterfront, and I’ll be damned if I surrender that just because you don’t like the way Google or Facebook or Twitter handles personal data.”Sidewalk Labs is owned by Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google LLC.In December, Ontario’s auditor general issued a report calling into question aspects of how Waterfront Toronto handled portions the Quayside project, and in response to the report, the provincial government sacked the three provincial representatives on the Waterfront Toronto board and vowed more rigorous oversight of the agency.At the time, Mayor John Tory said he spoke to Premier Doug Ford about concerns that the provincial government was going to “blow up” Waterfront Toronto.“I certainly was satisfied from our discussion yesterday that there’s not some broader attempt here to sort of take the waterfront corporation apart or dismantle it at all,” Tory said at the time.All of this is happening at a critical time for the Sidewalk Toronto project. In the first few months of 2019, Waterfront Toronto is expected to intensify its work developing digital governance policy, and around the end of March or the beginning of April, Sidewalk Labs is expected to publish a draft Master Innovation and Development Plan (MIDP) for public comment, before delivering a final revised version by the end of June.Members of Toronto’s tech business community have raised concerns that if the project doesn’t proceed, it will put a chill on foreign investment in Canada, and Toronto will develop a reputation as being hostile to ambitious innovation projects.It puts at risk the city’s waterfront, and that’s a 40-year project to which many of these players — Bianca (Wylie) included — are new to the conversation.Liberal MP Adam Vaughan

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