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Ontario government fires three directors after Google deal

The Associated Press
Ontario government fires three directors after Google deal

TORONTO — 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 Dec. 6 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.

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 site — a first step toward what it hopes will eventually be a 800-acre development.

An audit from Ontario’s auditor general said 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.

“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. 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.

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