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Coronavirus pushes Sidewalk Labs decision day back again

A decision on whether Sidewalk Labs can create a smart neighbourhood in a disused area of Toronto’s Quayside district will now be delayed until June 25.

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Artist's impression of the Sidewalk Labs development in Toronto
Artist's impression of the Sidewalk Labs development in Toronto

Waterfront Toronto has extended the deadline for a decision on whether to move ahead with Sidewalk Labs’ smart city development proposal until June due to the coronavirus pandemic.

 

The decision has been rescheduled several times. Most recently, a vote on the controversial initiative was due in March but in January it was announced this would be delayed to May to allow more time for assessment and public consultation. The decision is now scheduled for June 25.

 

"In view of the COVID-19 pandemic, today the Waterfront Toronto Board of Directors passed a motion to extend the date for a decision on moving forward with the Quayside project with Sidewalk Labs," Waterfront Toronto said on Twitter yesterday.

 

Public consultation

 

Waterfront Toronto, which was created by the governments of Canada and Ontario and the City of Toronto to oversee the Sidewalk Labs project, is also extending the deadline for its online public consultation survey to April 9. The Preliminary Human Rights Impact Assessment of Sidewalk Labs’ Draft Master Innovation and Development Plan will be delayed too.

 

Last month, a report from Waterfront Toronto’s Digital Strategy Advisory Panel (DSAP) concluded that Sidewalk Labs should justify why digital approaches to solutions have been chosen over non-digital ones.

 

The deadline for Waterfront Toronto’s online public consultation survey and the Preliminary Human Rights Impact Assessment of Sidewalk Labs’ Draft Master Innovation and Development Plan will also be delayed.

 

In November, the board of Waterfront Toronto unanimously agreed that Sidewalk Labs’ proposal to create a smart neighbourhood in a disused area of Toronto’s Quayside district could proceed to more formal evaluation and further public consultation, although several aspects were scaled back.

 

The proposed development represents a new vision for how cities can “integrate physical, digital and policy innovations to produce dramatic improvements in quality of life and generate significant economic opportunity," Dan Doctoroff, CEO, Sidewalk Labs, has claimed but the project has faced ongoing controversy. This included high-profile advisors standing down over concerns about privacy and personal data.

 

A group of citizens launched the Block Sidewalk campaign to try and stop the deal and in April 2019, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) said it was taking legal action against Waterfront Toronto and the federal, provincial and municipal governments over citizens’ rights and “surveillance” relating to the project.

 

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