Thank you for reaching out! Happy to answer your questions about Brian's position on Sidewalk Labs.
- Are you in favour, against, or undecided regarding the Sidewalk Labs proposal for our Toronto waterfront?
While working for OPSEU, Brian helped develop the "We Own It" Campaign. At its core, the campaign was structured on the fundamental belief that the key infrastructure that makes our cities, province, and country work should be publicly owned and operated.
Charlie Angus, the NDP Critic for Ethics, submitted a report to Parliament outlining many concerns the party has with the Sidewalk Labs proposal, and on the fundamental idea of "smart cities".
In this report it states that, New Democrats recommend that:
- The Government of Canada suspend engagement with and commitment to Sidewalk Labs until a final, detailed plan is submitted to Waterfront Toronto, the City of Toronto, the Province of Ontario and the federal government.
- Any “smart city” projects in Canada begin with a public consultation of residents’ needs and desires;
- Be continuously oriented towards addressing these real needs and desires;
- Include citizen input and design as thoroughly as possible;
- Any “smart city” project ultimately cannot be deployed to serve a surveillance capitalism business model.
Brian supports the NDP position on Sidewalk Labs and will stand with fellow NDP candidates in Toronto to fight for infrastructure that is publicly owned and operated.
2. Have you had discussions with Sidewalk Labs, Google or Alphabet since 2016. How many times and on what topics?
Brian has not had any discussions with Sidewalk Labs, Google, or Alphabet at any time. If elected, Brian would work to bring all stakeholders to the table to provide the intense scrutiny a project of this magnitude deserves.
3. Do you believe it is important for our governments to protect people with strong, modern, privacy and data governance laws before a plan that proposes widespread data collection on our city streets is evaluated or approved?
Brian understands this massive scale "smart city" project to be an example of surveillance capitalism. About Sidewalk Labs, Charlie Angus, the NDP Critic for Ethics, stated “We are talking about an unprecedented extension of surveillance capitalism into the public and private spaces of Canada's largest city." Further Angus stated that, “The proponents have not done credible work of responding to the tremendous concerns raised by both international data experts and the Ontario Auditor General."
As stated above, New Democrats are recommending the Government of Canada suspend engagement and commitment to Sidewalk Labs until a final, detailed plan is submitted to Waterfront Toronto, the City of Toronto, the Province of Ontario and the federal government. And, further, that any “smart city” project ultimately cannot be deployed to serve a surveillance capitalism business model.
4. Sidewalk Labs has responded to Waterfront Toronto’s RFP for a 12-acre site with a proposal for 190 acres of publicly owned waterfront land. Do you believe it's appropriate for the agency to entertain proposals for public assets that have not been put out for bidding?
New Democrats believe that any "smart city" projects in Canada should begin with a public consultation of residents’ needs and desires. In his report, Charlie Angus shared the Auditor General's concerns that the RFP process for Sidewalk Labs was way too short, and did not involve the appropriate level of public consultation.
Brian believes in infrastructure that is publicly owned and operated. Brian also recognizes that Toronto is facing a housing crisis and that there is an urgent need to build affordable housing units. The 190 acres of publicly owned land that is set to be used by Sidewalk Labs is critical infrastructure that should not be monetized or privatized.
5. In the US, 50 state attorneys-general are attempting to break up Alphabet to reduce its market power. Do you think helping Alphabet gain a foothold in Canada makes sense in this context? Why or why not?
Brian cannot speak to the cases in the United Stated regarding Alphabet, but certainly here in Canada New Democrats are committed to holding corporations accountable. For example, New Democrats would ensure that web giants like Alphabet's parent company Google, play by the same rules as Canadian broadcasters, such as by paying taxes and contributing to Canadian content.
6. While Waterfront Toronto has the initial power to move the project forward, ultimately all three levels of government will be consulted before it finally is approved. If elected, what will you do to protect constituents’ interests and rights in relation to the Sidewalk Labs smart city project?
If elected, Brian would reiterate the NDP's recommendation that the Government of Canada suspend engagement and commitment to Sidewalk Labs. Brian would work to engage residents in a thorough consultation of the community's real needs and desires. Sidewalk Labs would be expected to submit a detailed plan to Waterfront Toronto, the City of Toronto, the Province of Ontario and the federal government. Ultimately, Brian could not support any "smart city" project that is designed to be surveillance capitalism.
Thank you again for reaching out.