Quayside project update - October 31, 2019

Toronto began as a waterfront City. It was our point of origin. Over the years we lost our connection to the waterfront. We lost it to a railway, an elevated expressway, to complex ownership, and to inaction from governments. In recent decades, under the leadership of Waterfront Toronto, we have finally begun to revitalize and reclaim it. We are returning to our original place as a waterfront city.

Quayside represents the next important step towards waterfront revitalization. Quayside also represents an opportunity – an opportunity to build a twenty-first century neighbourhood that is truly affordable, liveable, and sustainable. It is critical that we get it right.

Today the Waterfront Toronto Board of Directors, on which I sit, agreed to take the next step to proceed with the full and formal evaluation of the revised proposal for Quayside as significant issues of concern have now been resolved. This has been a challenging and important discussion with a positive outcome. But, there is much more still to be done.

I have always said that when it comes to public land, we have an absolute right to say 'no' to proposals that are not in the public interest. But, we have a duty to work together to try to get to 'yes' on proposals that will raise the bar and set a new precedent for building affordable and sustainable neighbourhoods. While we have not yet agreed to a final proposal with Sidewalk Labs, and more work and changes are still needed, I believe we can now work together towards accomplishing these goals.

When Sidewalk Labs first presented their Master Innovation and Development Plan in June 2019, to put it simply, they asked for too much. They asked for too much land, too much control over data, and too much control over governance. Based on extensive public feedback and concerns raised by our Board, Sidewalk Labs has now agreed to significant changes. The revised Quayside proposal will go back to our original call for a partner on the 12 acres of Quayside – not 190 or 32 acres, but 12. Any future proposals for lands other than the 12 acres in Quayside would be subject to full, open and transparent processes defined and led by the City of Toronto. The revised Quayside proposal will remove their proposed Urban Data Trust and instead abide by the City of Toronto's own data governance framework. The revised proposal will remove plans for a separate governance model for the Quayside lands. And, the revised proposal will contain significant changes to ensure that the benefits from Intellectual Property and economic development will support the Canadian tech sector.

Make no mistake, these are significant changes that make taking the next step possible. Without them, we would have had a responsibility to say 'no'.

But, just as we must focus on mitigating risks, we must now scale up our work to ensure we build a truly liveable, affordable, and sustainable twenty-first century neighbourhood in Quayside.

The plan in front of us proposes to have 20% of all housing units owned by the City or the non-profit sector as affordable units in perpetuity. We must commit to working to expand the number of affordable housing units, and to deepen their affordability.

The proposal calls for a range of new sustainable designs – from advanced stormwater management to tall timber construction to fossil free heating and cooling – to tackle climate change. We must commit to delving into each and every one of these innovations to ensure they are feasible, viable, and most importantly, that they will in fact help us to confront the climate crisis.

The proposal calls for the development of a $20 million Venture Capital Fund, a $10 million investment in an Urban Innovation Institute, and a patent pledge for Canadian innovators covering hardware and software digital innovations. We must commit to working to ensure we create good, decent Canadian jobs.

The proposal includes plans for a new school, child care facility, and community hub focused on health and community services. To ensure that we build a truly liveable neighbourhood, we must ensure that these components are funded and built.  

The proposal calls for a Vision Zero design that prioritizes safety and active transportation. We must ensure that our government partners step up to pay for the Waterfront East LRT that is needed to make this design a reality.

Finally, on data and digital governance. Sidewalk Labs has agreed to work with governments, and in particular the City, as the lead governance bodies for data. That means the onus is now on us at the City, as well as on our Provincial and Federal counterparts. Done right, digital innovations can help us tackle the big issues our city and planet are facing. Done wrong, they can compromise privacy and cause harm. The City of Toronto is in the process right now of designing our own data, digital governance, and smart city policy framework. That framework will come before City Council early in the New Year. We must design a model that creates the most private smart city in the world and protects the public interest. I have confidence in the City's ability to lead this global conversation.

In my five years as a City Councillor I have been part of evaluating many large-scale proposals for the development of private and public land. There is no question that the Sidewalk Labs Quayside proposal has been the most complex, but also potentially the most beneficial, that I have been a part of. Today's Board decision is by no means the end, not even close. Over the next five months we will continue public consultations and a detailed review of the entire proposal. But, based on the significant changes, I am now optimistic that we can transform Quayside into a truly, liveable, affordable, and sustainable 21st century waterfront neighbourhood.