Celebrating an ordinary election

The more I think about it, the more I’m coming around to the opinion that yesterday’s election – and in fact the entire election campaign – was one of the most remarkable in my experience of Canadian elections, stretching back to Brian Mulroney’s first win in 1984. To be sure, the outcome wasn’t dramatic, although it will be challenging (as it always is) to make a minority Parliament work. And the campaign itself was focused on low-stakes issues, as opposed to, say, the civilization-threatening menace of the climate emergency.

But it’s the very ordinariness of the campaign that is the most telling for where Canada as a country is at the moment. As a country we are, at least institutionally, in a very good place.

Consider the following:

  • The People’s Party of Canada failed to elect a single MP. Its leader, Maxime Bernier, lost his long-held seat, driven out by dairy farmers irate about his anti-supply management stance. Unlike in the US and UK, economic self-interest defeated straight-up xenophobia. Talk about your unexpected consequences of economic protectionism. There’s a ceiling on how far xenophobia will take you in Canada.
  • For all the talk of the nastiness of this campaign, this time around there was nothing to match Stephen Harper’s 2015 proposal for a “barbaric cultural practices” snitch line.
  • For that matter, that the Conservatives elected Andrew Scheer as leader in 2017, rejecting the Trumpist Kellie Leitch, is a very good sign, since far-right populism causes its greatest damage when it takes over a political party. That didn’t happen.
  • Also (ironically) a good outcome: that Maxime Bernier was the runner-up in that 2017 race. At the time, it was not clear to anyone how anti-immigrant he would go. So that the Conservatives had a normal, libertarian conservative (as they understood him at the time) as a runner-up was also a good sign, the better news being that he lost (in part thanks to those same dairy farmers) and didn’t have the chance to take the Conservatives full Trump.
  • Dealing with the climate emergency is no longer the politically poisoned chalice it was when Stéphane Dion proposed a carbon tax in 2008. We have a national carbon tax. More reforms are almost inevitably on the way. One suspects that even the Alberta-based Conservatives will have to adapt to this reality, or risk returning to their region-locked Reform Party roots.
  • Our big media players remain mostly responsible. When your closest analogue to Fox News is a website, you’re in good shape as a country – for all our focus on social media, TV is still king if you want to influence people.

Even the divisions that the next Parliament will have to deal with are old hat for a country bound together by regional jealousies, resentments and hatred of Toronto. A resurgent Bloc Québécois looking to protect the interests of a “distinct society”? That’s kind of Quebec’s deal. “Western alienation”? Again, been there, done that. I seem to recall that we elected as Prime Minister someone who wanted to put a “firewall” around Alberta. Welcome to Confederation: These problems come with the territory.

That isn’t to say that Canada has become a post-racial paradise – Quebec’s Bill 21 remains in force; people shrugged off Justin Trudeau in blackface, and Indigenous Canadians continue to be treated horribly, and horribly unjustly – or that Canada will rise to the economic and climate challenges it faces.

My only two points are that, first, this was a very Canadian election, reflecting distinctly Canadian strengths, weaknesses and prejudices. Canada does not fit well into the narrative of a wave of global anti-democratic and far-right racist populism. Something worth thinking about, for those laser-focused on the idea of such a wave.

Second, institutionally, our democratic political and social systems are working pretty well: we are nowhere near the kinds of collapse at play in the US and the UK. This is neither something to shrug off as boring and unimportant, nor is it something to become complacent about. It’s a huge accomplishment, and one that is reinforced by every normal, boring election. It’s also a necessary condition to deal with our long-term climate, racial and economic issues.

In 2003, a bunch of us were travelling through Russia. In Kazan, a city in central Russia characterized (at least at the time) by the surreal juxtaposition in close proximity of beautifully maintained boulevards and seemingly bombed-out streets, we passed a guy selling books by the side of the road. Our friend, Mark MacKinnon, as is his wont, struck up a conversation in Russian with the bookseller, and the topic of Canada came up. The bookseller congratulated us on having just been awarded the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, and exuded glowing enthusiasm for Pierre Trudeau, whose visit to the Soviet Union had meant a great deal to people in the Soviet Union. “How are things in Canada?” he then asked.

“Nice but boring,” Mark replied.

“Ah,” he said, “I would take nice but boring.”

Canada: the boring country. May it ever be thus.

Posted in 2019 election | Tagged , ,

No longer liveblogging Sidewalk Labs’ Master Innovation and Development Plan, Bonus entry 10: Waterfront Toronto gets ready to make a choice

A couple of things stand out in Catherine McIntyre’s profile in The Logic of Waterfront Toronto Board chair Stephen Diamond. First, the headline, “The man who stood up to Sidewalk” is a bit premature. It’s certainly true and commendable that he has required Sidewalk Labs to address some of Waterfront Toronto’s concerns by October 31. However, beyond these public statements, the substantive negotiations are all happening behind the scenes. Given that the Plan Development Agreement make it difficult, if not impossible, to separate the two organizations, we’ll have to wait until October 31 to see what standing up to Sidewalk actually looks like.

So, mark the date.

However, for my money, the most important revelation in the article isn’t really about Diamond, but about Sidewalk Labs supporters. It’s best captured in the sentiments expressed by Ken Tanenbaum, Diamond’s partner at Diamond Kilmer Developments:

Tanenbaum, meanwhile, calls Sidewalk’s interest in the site “a moment.” He worries that if Waterfront, at Diamond’s direction, walks away from the deal now, the opportunity to develop Quayside and its neighbouring land—whether into a smart city or something else—will be missed. “Absent a moment, things could linger for a long time,” he says. “We could be looking out at those lands in a decade and it not being halfway close to where we might have been with Sidewalk.”

On the one hand, you have Diamond’s business partner in his land-development company expressing a strong opinion that Diamond push forward this development deal, highlighting the potential for developing neighbouring land. On the other, though, consider the substance of Tanenbaum’s argument, which is basically that if Waterfront Toronto doesn’t do this deal, then development of this area will be set back a long time.

Conspicuously absent from Tanenbaum’s rationale is whether or not Sidewalk Labs’ plan itself it actually a good, doable plan for Torontonians. (Disclosure: I have my doubts.) From this perspective, action is a justification in itself: Development for the sake of development.

This line of reasoning is depressingly prevalent among Sidewalk Labs supporters, whose main concern seems to be driven by world-class-city-envy: the fear that Sidewalk Labs might take its shiny monorail and decamp for Shelbyville, forever branding Toronto as a second-class city.

Here’s Richard Florida from last month’s Toronto Life series of Quayside opeds, in an article that otherwise consists of a character reference for Daniel L. Doctoroff and a credulous, nonsensical defence of Google/Sidewalk Labs’ privacy policies:

Think about how we’ll feel 10 years from now if Sidewalk is pushed out of Toronto and the world’s leading urban-tech innovation cluster has taken root in a city like Denver, Detroit or Pittsburgh. Is that a risk we really want to take?

For the record, the correct answer is, it depends: If Sidewalk Labs’ actual plans are terrible then turning them down isn’t even a risk; it’s simple self-defence. Florida’s argument here isn’t even an argument from authority; it’s an argument from insecurity.

Cutting your losses

The natural tendency in these situations, faced with sunk costs of time, money and institutional credibility, is to figure out a way to get the project over the finish line by any means necessary, including transformative changes that allow you to declare victory and move on. So, drastically scale back the MIDP, keep the partnership with Sidewalk Labs, and get on with life, even though actually addressing Waterfront Toronto’s concerns would require gutting the entire MIDP.

Trouble is, the fundamental flaw isn’t with the MIDP, as irresponsible and poorly thought out as it is. The problems with everything that’s happened over the past two years can be traced back to Waterfront Toronto’s original Request for Proposals. Waterfront Toronto asked a company to deliver something – a plan for a smart city – without understanding what a smart city actually is. This plan involved things that Waterfront Toronto wasn’t really set up to do, like data governance. It also managed to completely muck up the lines of accountability between government agency and vendor, making it all but impossible for Waterfront Toronto to act like an independent adjudicator of this project.

This is not a salvageable project. Arguing for it from the perspective of “we don’t want to miss a unique opportunity” is irresponsible given that this unique opportunity is a poisoned chalice.

The original RFP is and always was fatally flawed. Sidewalk Labs has not shown itself to be a trustworthy partner. Remember, for the longest time Sidewalk Labs, a Google company whose links to the world’s per-eminent data company were almost certainly the reason it booked this gig, refused to even discuss data governance, the centrepiece of any smart-city project.

Even worse for a bureaucratic perspective, these deep, irreconcilable issues mean that approving this project in any form will only continue the pain for Waterfront Toronto, in the form of civic protests (perhaps manageable) and blowback from other levels and agencies of government, upon whose turf Waterfront Toronto has found itself intruding (much more important). Friendly governments don’t last forever. Data governance is going to become increasingly important and political. Waterfront Toronto is not set up to deal with all of these problems, especially since Quayside is only one part of its actual responsibilities.

This is a terrible position for a government agency to be in, especially one that really shouldn’t be attracting this much political attention. And it will almost certainly continue so long as the Sidewalk Labs project is kept alive.

Moving forward

I have no idea which way Waterfront Toronto will jump on October 31. What I do know is that it would be wrong to see a Waterfront Toronto rejection of Sidewalk Labs as a failure, even in terms of developing the waterfront.

Here’s the thing: Toronto’s Eastern Waterfront will end up being developed, one way or the other. I also know that how it gets developed matters, and that this entire debacle actually leaves Waterfront Toronto in a much better position to fulfill its mandate.

While the last two years have been an education in how not to engage in smart-city development, they’ve also given us an incredibly important education about how to do it right. It’s taught us all about the importance of data governance in municipal infrastructure projects, and about the need to design these projects from the ground up, not from the internet up (i.e., to make tech responsive to people’s needs, not the other way around).

It’s highlighted the importance of getting actual community buy-in through actual consultations, rather than merely going through the motions. It’s even given the three levels of government a blueprint for revamping Waterfront Toronto to incorporate the capacity to address data and intellectual property governance.

These are not trivial lessons. The entire world is racing to come to terms with what it means to live in a data-driven economy and society. Everyone is trying to figure out what to do, and we’ve just had a crash course in the politics and economics of the 21st-century digital society. We need to take these lessons and run with them.

That, in the end, is the choice before the Waterfront Toronto board. It can learn from its mistakes and do better, for all Torontonians. Or it can let inertia and insecurity – development for the sake of development – carry the day.

The irony is that what looks like the easier path – just develop the damn land – would end up costing Waterfront Toronto and Toronto itself so much more in the long run.

Previous Master Innovation and Development Plan liveblog entries and relevant documents available here

Posted in Quayside | Tagged , , , , , , ,

No Longer Liveblogging Sidewalk Labs’ MIDP, Entry 46: Waterfront Toronto’s Consultation Feedback Report

A consultation summary is meaningless without recommendations. Especially if it’s the product of poorly designed consultations.

Previous Master Innovation and Development Plan liveblog entries and relevant documents available here

A former Library of Parliament colleague once related to me the story of a university professor who, when discussing a federal parliamentary committee report, pointed to the fact that she had been quoted in the report (in the context of her appearing as a witness) as evidence that the government (or at least the committee) was endorsing her views.

As researchers tasked with writing such reports, however, my colleague and I realized she had misunderstood how these reports worked. To wit: A good report should provide an accurate record of what the committee heard. I would further argue that it’s good form to try to ensure that every person and group that takes the time to appear in front of a committee is quoted or mentioned at least once in the report.

However, if you’re interested in actual substance, in what the committee wants to happen, it’s the recommendations that matter. Ideally, these should be contextualized by the evidence heard by the committee, and including testimony both for an against a position allows the committee to legitimize its position. And of course, it’s important both that parliamentarians both listen and hear their constituents, and are seen to do so.

But in terms of policy, in terms of what a committee is actually endorsing, you’ve gotta focus on the recommendations.

All this is my way of explaining why I haven’t written up Waterfront Toronto’s report on the feedback that it received on its rushed and flawed three-week July consultations. Namely, absent anything of substance regarding what Waterfront Toronto is actually going to do, they don’t really tell us much.

In terms of substance, Waterfront Toronto made its move back in June when it published its Note to Reader, laying out its fundamental problems with the MIDP. It then followed it up with its renegotiated deadlines.

Nothing in this latest report does anything to change our understanding of the Sidewalk Labs-Waterfront Toronto dynamics. We’re still watching two organizations working behind the scenes to figure out what they’re going to do.

Flawed process, flawed data

And of course there’s the basic issue that this consultation summary, despite its use of precise percentages and quotes, is the result of a fatally flawed consultation process. As I’ve noted previously, people were given three weeks, in the depths of summer, to comment on a 1,500-page report that was designed not to be read. A report that Waterfront Toronto itself admitted it did not at the time yet fully understand. A report for which the expert Digital Strategy Advisory Panel, which issued its own report a couple of weeks after public consultations closed, could only provide a preliminary analysis due to the MIDP’s complexity and layout.

(For the record, I submitted a brief to this process, in the spirit of civic engagement. I got it in just under the deadline, even though I wouldn’t finish reading the whole document for a few more days. In fairness, at that point I was pretty sure of my opinions about it.)

A flawed, rushed process can’t help but yield flawed data. Given that Waterfront Toronto is keen to get into the data-collection game, one would’ve hoped that it would’ve grasped this kinda important point.

Not that it matters much in this case. Once we have something substantive in front of us, then we can talk.

Posted in Quayside | Tagged , , , , , , ,

No Longer Liveblogging Sidewalk Labs’ MIDP, Entry 45: Federal leaders should face tough questions about Toronto’s smart-city project

My attempt, hosted at The Conversation, to summarize why the Quayside project is fundamentally flawed in terms of content and governance.

It also seems obvious to me that Quayside should be an election issue, especially since the federal government has the ability to end this nonsense, should it come under enough pressure from, say, voters. If I were an activist trying to stop this project, I would be doing my best to extract a promise from local Toronto candidates and the party leaders to:

  • veto the project via its Board appointees;
  • indicate that it will not approve the final result, given the project’s fundamental problems; and/or
  • commit to a detailed review of whatever Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto come up with after October 31.

Previous Master Innovation and Development Plan liveblog entries and relevant documents available here

Federal leaders should face tough questions about Toronto’s smart-city project

With the federal election campaign under way, it’s helpful to have a quick and easy way to evaluate our prospective leaders’ commitment to good governance and sound economic policy.

I suggest a simple question: “If elected, how would you handle the Toronto Quayside development?”

For those of you who haven’t been following the bizarre controversies surrounding what a Swedish colleague of mine has dubbed “an urban development thriller,” the Quayside drama started in October 2017.

That’s when Waterfront Toronto, the tri-governmental agency responsible for developing a portion of Toronto’s portlands, awarded a contract to a Google sister company, Sidewalk Labs, to create a smart-city development plan in a 12-acre plot of land called Quayside.

As one of those three governments, the federal government has a say in the future of this project. It appoints a third of the directors to Waterfront Toronto’s board of directors (numbering 12 in total). Waterfront Toronto has also committed to seeking approval for the project from the three levels of government. Whoever forms the next government will therefore have an important role to play in the future of this project.

While this issue affects Toronto residents directly, the parties’ approach to Quayside will prove instructive to all Canadians.

It will reveal their approach to managing a 21st century digital economy in which data governance, intellectual property and Internet of Things infrastructure are becoming increasingly important. It will also demonstrate whether they have a fundamental respect for good governance.

By both measures, the Quayside project has been a disaster from the very beginning.

Bad governance

For a young company (created in 2015) whose most impressive feature is its connection to the world’s leading data company, Sidewalk Labs has proved remarkably reluctant to discuss how they would govern data, the lifeblood of any smart city.

Waterfront Toronto, meanwhile, proved unprepared for this type of project, a conclusion backed up by a scathing Auditor General of Ontario report. In response to public pressure, Waterfront Toronto convened a part-time Digital Strategy Advisory Panel to advise it on these issues, a clear admission that it lacked the ability to handle them on its own. Early on, the panel was hit by two resignations. The auditor general reported that panel members criticized the panel for having “limited” effectiveness.

Then there’s the puzzling nature of the relationship between agency and vendor. The agreement governing their relationship gives Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto equal responsibility for developing the plan, even as Waterfront Toronto is acting as if it’s an independent evaluator of the project.

Will Fleissig, the Waterfront Toronto CEO who brought Sidewalk Labs to town, was pushed out by the Waterfront Toronto board in July 2018, according to The Logic, in part for “his oversight of a decision to allow Sidewalk Labs personnel to temporarily occupy office space in the Waterfront Toronto headquarters.”

Julie DiLorenzo, a Toronto developer and board member, resigned in July 2018 in protest of the many questionable actions by the two organizations, several of which are laid out in the aforementioned Auditor General report.

As disturbing as the governance practices surrounding Quayside have been, the substance of the actual proposal is even more problematic.

Problematic economic policy

In late June, Sidewalk Labs issued its four-volume, 1,500-page Master Innovation and Development Plan (MIDP), a Potemkin Village of a report with a physical heft that gives the illusion of thoroughness and competence while delivering neither.

The MIDP was not written to be read. It lacks an executive summary, a complete table of contents, an index and in-text hyperlinks. I’ve read travel guides that are more technologically sophisticated than what this Google company has produced.

Despite these challenges, I actually have read all 1,500 pages of this plan — I even liveblogged it.. What I found was very disappointing.

Those expecting a carefully presented, detailed development plan will instead find a document that reads for the most part as a sales pitch — that is, when it’s not playing fast and loose with its terms of reference.

Rather than focusing on the Quayside district, as required by Waterfront Toronto, Sidewalk Labs makes clear that it has designs on a much broader section of the waterfront: A 190-acre parcel that it terms the “IDEA District.”

To run what is a very tiny part of Toronto, it proposes five new public agencies without bothering to cost them out in terms of the specialized skills that would be needed to run them or their budgets. All we’re told is that user fees will pay for everything.

The promised economic benefits — which would emerge only in the very long term (20-plus years) — depend on a few key bets.

Getting Google to set up its Canadian branch headquarters to catalyze an already-existing Toronto tech sector is one of these bets. Meanwhile, a substantial amount of the plan’s promised economic and environmental benefits hinges on two unproven technologies, self-driving cars (by 2035) and mass-produced timber skyscrapers involving a Sidewalk Labs-created timber mill/factory.

All three proposals raise important policy questions requiring substantive debate; they should not be treated as pure technical matters. And the success of the latter two depend on regulatory, societal and technological changes, especially for self-driving cars, that are beyond the control of Sidewalk Labs.

On data policy, Sidewalk Labs invents a term, “urban data,” that, as York University academic Natasha Tusikov argues, provides cover for the widespread collection of personal data, including for commercial and advertising purposes.

Read more: Sidewalk Toronto’s master plan raises urgent concerns about data and privacy

Waterfront Toronto has raised several similar concerns with the Sidewalk Labs plan. In response to Waterfront Toronto’s stated concerns, the two organizations in July 2019 amended their agreement to allow Waterfront Toronto to sever its relationship with Sidewalk Labs if its concerns are not addressed by Oct. 31.

This type of public bargaining is odd given their existing close relationship.

The Oct. 31 deadline is mere days after the federal election. Candidates will certainly be tempted to decline to comment on Quayside because of the deadline. But even before the election, the Liberals suggested they’re taking a hands-off approach, and not independently reviewing Waterfront Toronto’s decision.

Planning our digital future

Given all the problems with Quayside, to say nothing of the interdependent relationship between Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto, it would be a mistake not to press candidates on the project.

It touches on crucial questions of data governance and who will write the rules of the 21st century economy that Canada is starting to grapple with. If approved, it will have an impact on economic policy-making throughout the country, and possibly the world.

Some have argued we should go along with Sidewalk Labs’ plans just because it’s a change from the status quo.

But Canada needs sound digital economic policy. Innovative urban policy is similarly urgently needed. Change for the sake of change is hardly a recipe for sound policy.

We need to get these rules right rather than sign onto a plan without fully considering its many flaws. If the federal government can’t get something like Quayside right, it doesn’t bode well for Canada’s digital future. Luckily, this election gives us a chance to see where the parties stand on these vital issues.

Posted in Quayside | Tagged , , , , , , , ,

No Longer Liveblogging Sidewalk Labs’ MIDP, Entry 44: The Digital Strategy Advisory Panel’s Preliminary Commentary and Questions on the MIDP

It really is that bad a plan. Also, it’s not a plan.

Previous Master Innovation and Development Plan liveblog entries and relevant documents available here

The Digital Strategy Advisory Panel’s Preliminary Commentary and Questions on Sidewalk Labs’ Draft Master Innovation and Development Plan (MIDP)  is a significant document. Given that Waterfront Toronto itself is directly tied to Sidewalk Labs and the MIDP through the Plan Development Agreement, protestations of Waterfront Toronto Chair Stephen Diamond notwithstanding, it is likely to be the only official and independent analysis of the MIDP that we’ll see before the new October 31 deadline for Sidewalk Labs to address some key Waterfront Toronto concerns.

And, well, judge for yourself what they thought of Sidewalk Labs’ efforts. The summary:

Panelists have raised questions or concerns about the MIDP in general (including the inaccessibility of the document and the lack of detail around many digital elements) and made specific comments around various digital innovation and digital governance-related proposals. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Overall: In many areas, the MIDP is not sufficiently specific about critical areas of its digital innovation proposals, and it does not provide a clear path for individuals, civic society, or small/startup businesses to participate from design, implementation, operations, and sustainability perspectives.

  • Digital Innovations: Further information is required to show how digital innovations – including infrastructure and launch services – will support Waterfront Toronto’s goals for Quayside. This should include a shift from “what” is proposed to “how” the proposal will accomplish the objective, and why the proposal is superior to alternatives.

  • Data Governance / Privacy: The development of overarching data governance mechanisms should be shifted to Waterfront Toronto and its government partners, while Sidewalk Labs should focus on elaborating on how it will make its own proposals for data collection, processing and use more transparent, accountable and amenable to a robust privacy protection regime.

  • Intellectual Property / Economic Development: While welcome, the current value sharing proposals are insufficient. As well, additional specific commitments should be made about enabling the growth of the local urban innovation industry. (pp. 2-3)

To which I can only add, precisely so.

In the 99-page document (two-page summary, 20-page main document, and a well-organized 73-page compendium of panelists’ comments on specific parts of the MIDP; it’s all worth reading), several themes arise continually, echoing my own reading of the report: a lack of detail in key areas, with basic issues left unconsidered; a lack of justification of several proposed technologies; a lack of consideration of the Canadian legal and policy landscape; and plenty of concern with the concept of “urban data” and the related and nebulous “Urban Data Trust.”

The DSAP’s analysis backs up my own reading of the report, that this is a seriously underbaked, poorly thought-out document. It is basically a poorly constructed reiteration of Sidewalk Labs’ original project vision. To call it a plan is to grant it a degree of thoroughness it does not possess. As I remind my students, quantity does not equal quality.

What’s more, the sense of frustration that one experiences when reading this report really comes across in the appendix’s unfiltered comments (164 in total, helpfully numbered – and with a hyperlinked table of contents! Be still my heart. It’s almost as if this report were meant to be read and understood).

Comment 8:

The MIDP gives the strong impression that it was developed with little direct involvement with the range of relevant Toronto community actors or with attention to inter-operability with existing (digital) infrastructures. …

Comment 13:

Frustrated by how over-sold this proposal on digital innovation is at times. …

Comment 14:

Volume 3 states that without the proposed Digital Network ‘standard broadband services available in Toronto’ would be the Business as Usual result. This is both incorrect and seriously misleading. …

Comment 15:

The lack of discussion of the evolution of mobile network technologies to support IOT is surprising. …

I could go on, but I have to prepare to teach in a few hours and you get the point. There are, however, two other things worth saying.

Preliminary commentary

First, the DSAP’s ability to review the MIDP was limited by both the pointless 1,500-page size of the report and the short timeline available to them. Beyond reviewing and commenting on a draft version of the Digital Innovation chapter (which doesn’t mean much given how relevant information is spread throughout the report’s 1,500 pages), they got their copy on June 24, same as the rest of us, and filed their analysis on August 18, less than two months later. While the DSAP report itself is commendable, the DSAP itself notes that the short timeline means that “the feedback in this Commentary is by necessity preliminary” (p. 6). This type of time pressure – driven by artificial deadlines – is not conducive to sound policymaking.

Whither Sidewalk Labs’ reputation?

Second, I’m not sure that Sidewalk Labs has fully grasped how badly it is screwing up, not just this job, but its future business prospects. It has been working on the Quayside project in one way or another for over two years. It obviously sees Quayside not only as a place to develop specific technologies and policies, but as its calling card for future projects. It has spent, or budgeted, $US 50 million to produce a plan for Quayside.

Two years and $US 50 million later, and this was the best it could do? A “plan” that independent analyses (mine and the DSAP’s) confirm doesn’t even include basic and obvious needed details? That suggests an almost wilful ignorance of local politics and laws? A community engagement process that has relied on paid consultants and a thinly disguised influencer campaign to build support? An inability to maintain a healthy relationship with its government partner?

Forget about Toronto and Quayside for the moment. If I’m the mayor of any city in the world, I’m looking at Sidewalk Labs – which, remember, isn’t the only company selling these types of products – and thinking, what is there in their Quayside proposal and actions that suggest that they can either deliver the goods or play well with others?

Sidewalk Labs’ fundamental problem is that, as I’ve said previously, the MIDP isn’t just a mess; it’s an obvious mess, as the DSAP report confirms. It’s right there in the writing. It is not a quality product. Its problems are fundamental, of the type that never should have seen the light of day. No matter what happens going forward, these facts are set in stone.

Knowing this, and seeing everything that’s happened, under what conditions would it make sense for any city to go into business with Sidewalk Labs?

Posted in Quayside | Tagged , , , , , , ,