Briefing

Province vows ‘decisive action’ on Waterfront Toronto

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Ontario’s auditor general Bonnie Lysyk tabled her annual report Wednesday, which included the long-awaited value-for-money audit on Waterfront Toronto.

 

The findings:

Waterfront Toronto provided information to potential bidders ahead of the Request for Proposals (RFP)—released in March 2017—but Sidewalk Labs “received more information” than other parties. “This raises the risk of an unfair and unequal advantage to all parties that would be responding to the RFP,” wrote Lysyk.

Internal Waterfront Toronto emails indicate that the board felt it was being “urged—strongly” by federal and provincial officials to approve the initial agreement with Sidewalk Labs as soon as possible.

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In June 2016, Waterfront Toronto’s chief planner emailed Sidewalk Labs’ CEO Dan Doctoroff to inform him, “My new CEO [Will Fleissig] and I are very interested in what you are doing at Google and would like to talk to you about a potential pilot in Toronto.”

Eight months before the RFP was issued, Fleissig wrote in an internal email, “Google has purportedly told other candidate communities that they want to control ALL data in this demonstration project area. Could present privacy issues and control issues.”

“This arrangement has raised significant privacy and other concerns that, in order to protect the public interest, necessitates proactive involvement and oversight by the federal, provincial and municipal governments going forward,” wrote Lysyk.

Read my colleague Sean’s full report.

 

The reaction:

“The Auditor General’s report reviewed our procurement process with respect to Quayside. On this issue, we want to be crystal clear – our RFP processes are competitive, fair, and follow best practices.” – Waterfront Toronto

“The report highlighted the board of directors was given less than a weekend to review the Sidewalk deal. We heard it shared almost no info with one of its overseers, the city. This is unacceptable, this is concerning, so I’m going to fix it.” – Monte McNaughton, Ontario Minister of Infrastructure

“We will review the Ontario Auditor General’s recommendations to ensure that our federal investments in Waterfront Toronto continue to be effectively managed and contribute to building a more prosperous, secure and inclusive Canada.” – Kate Monfette, Director of Communications, federal Office of the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities

“We have reviewed the Auditor General’s report and are committed to working with all three levels of government to be responsive to any issues of concern.” – Sidewalk Labs

Toronto Mayor John Tory did not reply to a request for comment by publication time.

 

The next steps:

  • McNaughton will be announcing “decisive action on Waterfront Toronto in the next few days.”
  • Waterfront Toronto’s board of directors is scheduled to meet tomorrow to discuss the report.
  • Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto will host their fourth public roundtable on the Quayside project this Saturday.