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In Toronto, the “Google City” project in a turbulent zone

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View of Toronto, Ontario, in October 2017. MARK BLINCH / REUTERS

On the shore of Lake Ontario in Toronto, Google City faces headwinds. Sidewalk Labs, an Alphabet subsidiary such as Google, has been developing a futuristic sensor-driven “smart city” project in the Canadian metropolis, managed by massive digital data collection and artificial intelligence systems . A development supported by the province, the city and the Canadian government, partners in Waterfront Toronto, to carry out the conversion of vast brownfields.

Article reserved for our subscribers Read also Google City Project Takes Shape in Toronto

But nothing is going on between the province and its two partners, disagreeing on this project, dubbed Quayside. The Progressive Conservative Government of Ontario, elected in June, has just sacked its three representatives on the board of directors of Waterfront Toronto, appointed by the previous Liberal-led government.

Among the three Directors who were thanked were Waterfront Toronto Chair Helen Burstyn and Executive Director Michael Nobrega. The third is University of Toronto President Meric Gertler. The fourth representative of the province, the promoter Julie di Lorenzo, had resigned in August, believing that the partnership with Google was not “In the best interest” Waterfront Toronto or Canada.

Provincial Infrastructure Minister Monte McNaughton, who spoke out against federal pressure for the project, said he wanted to give it a new direction, as doubts and criticism escalated over the terms of the deal with the project. Sidewalk Labs and data management in the future neighborhood.

Controversy over the confidentiality of data

The world of urbanism observes with a curiosity mixed with concern the development of this project, the first large-scale incursion of a digital giant in the development of a city

The situation worsened on Wednesday, December 5, when a report from the Auditor General of Ontario – the equivalent of a regional court of accounts – sharply criticized the governance of Waterfront Toronto and the agreement with the subsidiary of Alphabet, passed according to her in haste. The report asks the provincial government to “Reassess” the project. “I was shocked to discover that the board had only one week to review the largest transaction in its history before being called upon to approve it,” he said. criticized McNaughton, who warned that he “Do not speculate on what will happen in the future” to Google's proposal.

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