Covid-19, Google, and the future of Toronto's Waterfront

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A Socialist Project e-bulletin ... No. 2077 ... April 30, 2020

Covid-19, Google, and the future of Toronto’s Waterfront

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Waterfront Toronto is a tri-government agency with a mandate to re-develop the waterfront. In its search for a ‘funding and development’ partner it has been effectively captured by Google’s digital urbanism agenda and the potential revenue stream from the development, use and sale of ‘smart city’ technologies. Sidewalk Labs is a Google sister company with grandiose plans to develop hundreds of acres of Toronto’s waterfront to which it has no title. The land, data, and power grab behind this ‘Googleopolis’ has met with growing opposition. In response to that criticism, Waterfront Toronto has scaled back the plan to the original twelve acre site known as Quayside, essentially as the preliminary staging ground for the wider vision Google still wants to pursue. A number of Sidewalk Labs digital innovations and urban space proposals would lay the groundwork for future waterfront development that would begin with Quayside.

The proposals were packaged and presented for a round of public input which ended on April 9,... 2020. Waterfront Toronto’s Board of Directors is scheduled to make a final decision on the project by June 25, 2020. For further background on Google’s plans see the earlier Bullet "Ten Reasons to Say No."

In February 2020, Waterfront Toronto announced a second round of public consultations on Waterfront Toronto’s Master Innovation and Development plan (MIDP) evaluation and the development plans for Quayside. Waterfront Toronto has published a Discussion Guide and has issued the report of the Quayside Evaluation Committee and it has identified 144 Sidewalk Labs initiatives that it proposes to include in the new Innovation Plan for Quayside. This is our response to the request for public input. But we draft it in the midst of a COVID 19 pandemic that has disrupted normal life, presents unprecedented challenges to our healthcare system and whose far-reaching fallout in social and economic terms is only now beginning to be glimpsed.

The post-COVID city will need to be different in some fundamental respects than what existed before the crisis. The Coronavirus is focusing attention on social inequities in a most dramatic way. At the same time, we see that government can act deliberately and decisively when there is a will to do so.

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