Monday , June 14 2021

Government of Ontario to fire three directors of Waterfront Toronto on partnership with Sidewalk Labs



The Ontario government plans to fire the three directors nominated in the province on Waterfront Toronto's board of directors over frustrations over its governance, including addressing its proposed smart city development with Google's affiliate Sidewalk Labs.

The shots would mark the first significant intervention by public government in a widely criticized partnership with Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Google's parent company Alphabet Inc.. The Waterfront Toronto is a development agency that represents the three levels of government, each of which may indicate four board members. Time.

Board members to be fired are President Helen Burstyn, veteran investment executive Michael Nobrega – who is the acting chief executive of Waterfront Toronto and Meric Gertler, president of the University of Toronto. They were notified shortly after 9pm. Thursday, a source close to the Ontario office said, who was briefed on the plan but was not allowed to talk about the record. Burstyn confirmed late Thursday that he had received a call from Infrastructure Minister Mount McNaughton that the provincial appointments would be repealed.

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All affected council members were appointed by the former Liberal Government of Ontario. Subsequent openings will give progressive government conservatives a chance to shape their role in the agency.

The first of its kind, called Quayside, was challenged by Canadian technology leaders, including Jim Balsillie, about how he would address issues that would come with building a neighborhood with digital technology in its essence, such as data ownership, privacy opportunities, and innovation. This week, the provincial Auditor General shared these criticisms and also said that some bidders, including Sidewalk Labs, may have had an unfair advantage in winning the project, that some timelines were rushed and that the bill required more government oversight .

The source said the removal of provincial directors was a first step in addressing what the Ford administration saw as governance issues with the bill, particularly after reviewing the Auditor General's report on Waterfront Toronto. The province plans to add four new board members to be appointed later. (While the board usually has four provincial nominees, a single member, Julie Di Lorenzo, resigned this summer out of frustration with the smart city partnership with Sidewalk Labs.)

The source cited several factors from Auditor-General Bonnie Lysyk's criticisms of Waterfront Toronto, including excessive costs in previous projects; the lack of provincial supervision on the wharf project; and timelines that seemed to run. This includes the three-day chronogram the board received to review the initial agreement prior to signing.

The source added that the cabinet would use its authority to remove the nominees.

On Wednesday, Mr. McNaughton, who handles the archive for the province, promised to take "decisive action" on the bill after receiving the report from the Auditor General.

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In a telephone interview Thursday night, Burstyn said he found the Auditor General's report "fairly reasonable," and that being waived by the province was "certainly an option I was anticipating" when she saw people in other provincial positions . removed by the Ford government. She said she was grateful for the chance to develop and open up the edge to the public and wished her colleagues good luck. "I have been fortunate to be on the board of many organizations and I want to make it clear that the staff and board members of Waterfront Toronto are second to none."

Globe and Mail contacted Mr. Nobrega and Mr. Gertler for comments on Thursday, as well as Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs, but they did not respond prior to publication.

The decision to dismiss board members comes at the end of a turbulent week for Premier Doug Ford in Ontario. He was criticized for nominating a family friend as the Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner – who he said had nothing to do with it – while acquiring Avista Corp for $ 4.4 billion was blocked by Washington state regulators . , who cited Ontario's potential political interference as his reasoning.

The three-year term of office of Mrs. Burstyn and Mr. Gertler are due to expire next year, while Nobrega was appointed in April of this year. He took over as acting CEO after his predecessor, William Fleissig, resigned in July. The source said the province would not interfere with the role of Mr. Nobrega's CEO.

Mr. Nobrega took over as interim CEO at a high-risk time in the middle of planning the Quayside project; At a council meeting on Thursday morning, Mrs. Burstyn and other directors thanked her for the additional work she had taken on at various times.

The city and province have the ability to appoint an elected official to the council, although the province has never chosen a politician sitting. The government source said it was unclear whether PCs would include a politician in their new nominees.

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The dock project is dependent on a council vote on a "master plan for innovation and development" not yet completed by the end of next year. If passed, many parts of it will require approval from the three levels of government.


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