Block Sidewalk was started by a group of about 30 Torontonians who care deeply about the city and its future. What we all share is a belief that democracy is not for sale. That group includes: Nasma Ahmed, Sam Burton, April Dunford, Jennifer Evans, JJ Fueser, Milan Gokhale, Melissa Goldstein, Javier Moreno, Saadia Muzaffar, Ana Serrano, Mariana Valverde, Thorben Wieditz, David Murakami Wood, and Bianca Wylie.
The campaign has brought together a broad range of people with diverse interests and connections to this project: people from the tech sector, entrepreneurs and business people, social justice advocates, people interested in urban planning and development, community activists, environmentalists, people interested in city building and governance, academics and researchers, and so on.
What has brought us together over the past year and a half is a wide-ranging and ever-increasing list of concerns about the project, not to mention growing frustration with a public engagement process that is unable to address these concerns effectively, given that it is led by and paid for by the company hoping to win “the big contract.”
Torontonians should be in charge of deciding our future. These decisions should be made together through fair, democratic, inclusive, transparent and accountable processes. That the public interest isn’t and can’t be served when decisions are made in secret, in back rooms, behind closed doors, and without public input. That since the day Waterfront Toronto issued the Request For Proposals that ultimately brought us Sidewalk Labs, Torontonians have not led the planning for Quayside and the Port Lands: instead we have been misled. Block Sidewalk is about taking back control of our city and its future. It's about all of us. It’s about democracy.
Canadians recently committed 1.2 billion dollars to the development of the Port Lands. Government is the catalyst for Quayside.
The RFP was not structured well. It should be broken down into some of its component parts for market fairness and to get the best value for residents. Fairness is vital to public sector procurements.
No one in Toronto asked for a smart neighbourhood or a test-bed. If residents want one, they should use a democratic process to set the rules and make sure policies are in place prior to moving ahead.
Toronto’s tech sector is booming, and will continue to do so with or without Sidewalk Labs. Economic development policy and how to manage its impacts on residents is for the city to decide, not Alphabet Inc.
It’s a low stakes decision to stop the process. There can be a review, lessons learned, and a series of new tenders.
Make tall timber and other low-carbon features a requirement on the next go. The ideas aren’t proprietary and Waterfront Toronto can get the jobs and industry off the ground if they want to.
Urban planning is something that happens between Torontonians and the City, focused on the public interest.
Development should benefit the people of Toronto and should respond to the needs of Torontonians as expressed by Torontonians.
Development should prioritize city needs first, not the needs and interests of a private corporation.