Ontario government fires 3 directors after Google deal


Ontario's provincial government has fired three board members from a government organization working with a Google-affiliated company to create a smart-city development in Toronto. The move raises doubt about the development's future.

Monte McNaughton, Ontario's minister of infrastructure, said in a statement Friday that he informed the three provincial appointees he was bringing new leadership to the Waterfront Toronto board. 

Waterfront Toronto chair Helen Burstyn confirmed late Thursday that she, Michael Nobrega and Meric Gertler have been removed from the board.

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 Waterfront Toronto on 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 by 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.

Burstyn said she has no regrets about the partnership with the Google affiliate which still requires final approval by the board, which has four representatives each from the city, province and federal governments

"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.

But McNaughton said he was "shocked to learn the board was given one weekend to examine the most important transaction in its history before being asked to approve it."

He also said the board failed to properly consult with the province and the city on the project, which was heavily promoted by federal officials. He said he wouldn't "speculate on what will happen in the future" with the development.

"I can tell you that our actions will be guided by three principles: respect for taxpayer dollars, strong oversight and the protection of people's privacy," he said.

Complaints about the proposed development prompted Waterfront Toronto to re-do the agreement over the summer to ensure a greater role for the official agency. Earlier this year a prominent Toronto developer resigned from the Waterfront Toronto board over the project.

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

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


Reader Comments


Next Up in

Child abuse spikes on Saturday when report cards go home on Fridays, study finds
Child abuse spikes on Saturday when report cards go home on Fridays, study finds

University of Florida researchers are urging schools not to send student report cards home on Fridays, citing new research that child abuse cases spike when report cards are sent home at the start of the weekend. >> Read more trending news  A group led by UF researchers Melissa Bright and Randell Alexander compared a year’s worth of...
Ford builds hi-tech doghouse with noise-cancelling technology for excitable canines
Ford builds hi-tech doghouse with noise-cancelling technology for excitable canines

Dogs are often frightened by loud noises such as fireworks and gunshots because most have such sensitive hearing.  >> Read more trending news  Now the Ford Motor Co. has come up with a prototype for a so-called quiet kennel, a space where loud noises are muted allowing distressed dogs to relax. The idea was inspired by the company&rsquo...
Colorado child, wife killer Chris Watts receiving love letters from women admirers
Colorado child, wife killer Chris Watts receiving love letters from women admirers

Colorado killer Chris Watts has been inundated with lover letters from dozens of women since going to prison for the brutal murders of his two young daughters, and his wife and unborn child in August. >> Read more trending news  The letters were part of a document release by the state after a Freedom of Information Act request about ...
Giant, 40-foot waves smash West Coast, people warned to stay away
Giant, 40-foot waves smash West Coast, people warned to stay away

Giant, 30- to 40-foot waves battered parts of the West Coast from Washington State south to Los Angeles, prompting warnings and even an unheard of tweet from the National Weather Service (NWS). >> Read more trending news  “STAY WELL BACK FROM THE OCEAN OR RISK CERTAIN DEATH,” the NWS San Francisco office posted on Saturday on...
Mueller investigation: Michael Flynn under new travel restrictions, reports say
Mueller investigation: Michael Flynn under new travel restrictions, reports say

A federal judge agreed to delay sentencing for President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on Tuesday after he pleaded guilty last year to lying to the FBI. Flynn resigned from his post in the Trump administration in February 2017 after serving just 24 days in office. He pleaded guilty in December 2017 to lying to...
More Stories