Sidewalk Toronto: A Consistent Pattern of Resisting Transparency

When I found out about this new Sidewalk Labs’ Advisory Council, I thought a quick email to Waterfront Toronto would clarify what was going on. Oh, yeah that thing — here’s a link to more about that council, here’s why it exists, etc. Nope.

Josh O’Kane at the Globe shared more details about it in his piece yesterday. But the most surprising part of Josh’s piece was the “no comment” from Waterfront Toronto.

The Plan Development Agreement, the second contract signed between Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto, has details about how this is all supposed to be working.

Schedule J in the PDA — COMMUNICATIONS AND GOVERNMENT RELATIONS PRINCIPLES (page 51)

Can Sidewalk Labs do its own thing? Yes. And it’s already done some of that. But it was all well publicized and on the project website.

There is no sign of this new advisory council anywhere in public that I can find (if it’s somewhere please show me), and their first meeting is in a week, on October 17th. Yet the planning and communications process agreed upon between Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto for *anything* that has to do with public engagement and communications on this project is pretty intense:

There are four things listed as led by Sidewalk Labs in the agreement. This new advisory council isn’t there. The four things are: Advisory Working Groups (six groups they set up at the beginning), a Reference Panel (post coming soon on this process), Sidewalk Talks, and 307 Lakeshore.

Is it possible that Sidewalk Labs and Waterfront Toronto decided that this special new advisory council was a good idea after the PDA was signed so they’ve added an addendum or something? Yep, totally possible. Or maybe they’re just free-styling here together? Ok - but why not be transparent about it?

Why not do this jointly with Waterfront Toronto? And why not in an open forum? Why isn’t this process at least publicized, if not public?

This new council reminded me of the language in the $11M USD comms budget (emphasis mine). “Stakeholder engagement, including private sector engagement, will seek to ensure support for the Master Innovation and Development Plan among key constituents in Toronto”. Note this is different than the public engagement section.

PDA — page 34

Whatever the story is, it looks bad even if there is nothing other than avoiding comment. Continually avoidable chaos. It’s constant.

And one quick response to Sidewalk Labs to this remark, from Josh’s piece: “the fact that our opponents find fault in even having this dialogue tells you everything you need to know. If these conversations were not happening, they would be criticizing us for that.”

Opponents. Wow. We are people seeking transparency around many things, including process, because we live in this city and care about it. It’s why we’re engaged. This isn’t a game or a conquest, or a market. This is our home.

Go to the website and click on this to get……nothing!

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