Waterfront Toronto: Google's de facto Development Arm in Canada

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 2033 ... March 27, 2020
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Waterfront Toronto: Google’s de facto Development Arm in Canada

Thorben Wieditz

Big tech’s smart city initiatives aim at taking over governance and decision-making functions in cities around the world. While peer-to-peer platform giants like Uber and AirBnB have long been disrupting labour and housing markets, a current attempt by Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Alphabet, and sibling to Google, to develop data-driven infrastructure in Toronto not only aims to remake entire city districts, but also to subsequently privatize city governance, municipal services, land use planning, transit, housing and more. The current COVID-19 induced crisis may accelerate this trend under the banner of public health, online education and disease control, if we don’t organize appropriately.

What all the above-mentioned tech giants share is a similar playbook. They use technology to create and corner new markets by operating outside of existing rules and regulations. Uber seeks to turn as many private vehicles as possible into taxis. AirBnB aims to convert as many residential homes as possible into hotels, while Google’s smart city tech aims to collect... as much of our behavioural data as possible. These firms engage in practices that open up uncharted terrain by carving out markets for themselves as fast and furious as possible. Not surprisingly, our governments – if they are not enabling them – have to catch up and step in to protect the public from the harm caused by such laissez faire development.

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