December 7, 2018 1:58 am

Waterfront Toronto board members fired following deal with Google-linked company

Nov. 29: The sister company of Google unveiled more details of their Quayside neighbourhood on the city's waterfront. And despite concerns over privacy in the company's data collection, the company says it's taking the matter seriously. Matthew Bingley reports.


The chairwoman of a government organization that signed a partnership with a Google affiliated company to create a smart-city development in Toronto said she and two other appointed board members have been fired.

Waterfront Toronto chair Helen Burstyn confirmed Thursday that herself and board members Michael Nobrega and Meric Gertler have been removed from the board. She said Ontario’s minister of infrastructure called her to tell her but didn’t give reasons.

WATCH: Sidewalk Labs’ Smart City plan

A unit of Google’s parent company Alphabet is proposing to turn a rundown part of the city’s waterfront into what may be the most wired community in history.

Sidewalk Labs has partnered with a government agency known as Waterfront Toronto with plans to erect mid-rise apartments, offices, shops and a school on a 12-acre (4.9-hectare) site — a first step toward what it hopes will eventually be a 800-acre (325-hectare) development.

An audit from Ontario’s auditor general said this week the deal was rushed.

It also said there were cost overruns at the government agency on other projects.

READ MORE: Sidewalk Labs to consider suggestions from panel on Toronto smart city project

Burstyn said she has no regrets about the partnership with the Google affiliate which still requires final approval.

“We did everything right. There were lots of claims about things being too rushed. Where we saw things as being too rushed, we slowed things down,” she said.

Some Canadians are rethinking the privacy implications of giving one of the most data-hungry companies on the planet the means to wire up everything from street lights to pavement.

And some want the public to get a cut of the revenue from products developed using Canada’s largest city as an urban laboratory.

In this Aug. 15, 2018 photo, Jesse Shapins, director of public realm with Google affiliate Sidewalk Labs, takes questions at a public forum about a proposed development on Toronto’s waterfront in Toronto, Canada.

AP Photo/Rob Gillies

The concerns have intensified following a series of privacy scandals at Facebook and Google.

Complaints about the proposed development prompted Waterfront Toronto to re-do the agreement to ensure a greater role for the official agency, which represents city, provincial and federal governments. Earlier this year a prominent Toronto developer resigned from the Waterfront Toronto board over the project.

Among other things the development plans to have heated streets will melt ice and snow on contact as well as sensors that will monitor traffic and protect pedestrians.

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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