Smart Cities and Sidewalk Labs: New from Mariana Valverde

October 13, 2020 by Cate MacLeod

Coming Up: Smart Cities in Canada: Digital Dreams, Corporate Designs at Ryerson's Centre for Free Expression

Tuesday November 24, 2020 4:00pm to 5:30pm

CFE Virtual Forum Series:

"Smart cities" projects use surveillance, big data processing, and interactive technologies to reshape urban life. Iqaluit, Edmonton, Guelph, Montreal, Toronto and other Canadian communities are all grappling with how to use these technologies. Join contributors to the just released Smart Cities in Canada: Digital Dreams, Corporate Designs as they explore what’s at stake.

Zoom link to event

Alexandra Flynn, Assistant Professor, Allard School of Law, UBC
Blayne Haggart, Associate Professor, Political Science, Brock University
Jennifer Raso, Assistant Professor, Faculty of Law, University of Alberta    
Mariana Valverde, Professor, Centre for Criminology & Sociolegal Studies, University of Toronto

James L. Turk, Director, Centre for Free Expression

This is a free event and no registration is required.

Where The Sidewalk Ends: The Governance Of Waterfront Toronto’s Sidewalk Labs Deal

In September, Alexandra Flynn and Mariana Valverde published "Where The Sidewalk Ends: The Governance Of Waterfront Toronto’s Sidewalk Labs Deal" in the Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice. 

Abstract: In May 2020 Sidewalk Labs, the Google-affiliated ‘urban innovation’ company, announced that it was abandoning its ambition to build a ‘smart city’ on Toronto’s waterfront and thus ending its three-year relationship with Waterfront Toronto. This is thus a good time to look back and examine the whole process, with a view to drawing lessons both for the future of Canadian smart city projects and the future of public sector agencies with appointed boards. This article leaves to one side the gadgets and sensors that drew much attention to the proposed project, and instead focuses on the governance aspects, especially the role of the public ‘partner’ in the contemplated public-private partnership. We find that the multi-government agency, Waterfront Toronto, had transparency and accountability deficiencies, and failed to consistently defend the public interest from the beginning (the Request for Proposals issued in May of 2017).  Because the public partner in the proposed ‘deal’ was not, as is usually the case in smart city projects, a municipal corporation, our research allows us to address an important question in administrative law, namely: what powers should administrative bodies outside of government have in crafting smart city policies?