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Sidewalk Labs to release initial sketches of Toronto high-tech hub in July

Toronto's Eastern Waterfront is seen in this undated handout photo. It will be the site of a high-tech neighbourhood to be known as "Quayside". THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Sidewalk Labs

TORONTO – The public will have to wait until late July to see “initial sketches” of a plan for a proposed high-tech community in the city, while a more detailed proposal is set to be released in October, Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto said Thursday at a consultation meeting that offered scant new information.

And it won’t be until sometime in the new year that citizens will see the full picture being envisioned by Sidewalk Labs, which is owned by Google’s parent company Alphabet.

In October, Waterfront Toronto announced it had chosen Sidewalk Labs to present a plan to design a brand new area of the city from scratch, with innovative technologies and infrastructure that’s expected to include roads designed for driverless cars.

READ MORE: Google’s Sidewalk Labs project in Toronto raises privacy, data concerns

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Bianca Wylie, co-founder of Tech Reset Canada, said the new timetables given for releasing real details about the project will leave the public with little time to assess them.

“They’re going to have to have more public meetings or there’s no legitimacy,” Wylie said.

While the public was originally promised a year of “extensive community and stakeholder consultation,” that could be extended, said Kristina Verner, vice president of innovation, sustainability and prosperity for Waterfront Toronto.

“That one year is not written in stone, it could be a little longer than that a year, the reality is we need to take as much time as it’s going to take to make it right,” she said.

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Google firm brainchild to be built in Toronto – Oct 17, 2017

“It’s not a race to the finish, it’s a race to getting it right and, if it takes a little bit longer than what had been articulated ahead of time, there’s a commitment on both sides to make sure that time is taken to get the community’s voice to be heard and actually answer the questions that come forward as a part of the process.”

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Molly Sauter said she came away from Thursday’s event feeling no more informed about the process and called the presentation “an exercise in salesmanship.”

“They’re very slick and practised in their marketing,” said the McGill University PhD candidate. “They are selling the project, they’re not particularly interested in what people have to say about the project.

READ MORE: Google headquarters to headline Toronto’s plan for a high-tech waterfront community

“There’s no room for ‘how about you just don’t use (people’s) data, how about you just don’t collect the data?’ That’s not part of this discussion.”

Sidewalk Labs chief policy officer Rit Aggarwala told the crowd the company is “not interested in selling personal information” and will ultimately present a plan that will need to be approved by the government before proceeding.

“At the end of the day, this is all going to be a proposal,” he said. “There’s no decision we get to make.”

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