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Page December 7, 2018

Questions to Consider Heading Into Sidewalk Toronto’s Fourth Public Meeting Tomorrow

By Bianca Wylie and Melissa Goldstein

Since the start of the Sidewalk Toronto project, community members have been creating a running list of questions for the Sidewalk Toronto project team.  Many of them remain unanswered. 

In preparation for the fourth public meeting being held tomorrow, December 8th - details and agenda here, please take a read of the list and add your own questions, as well as your name if you’re comfortable (it's ok not to as well!).  

If you can’t make it to the meeting not to worry - the meeting will be live-streamed and several members of the forum will be there so we’ll share a summary. 

It’s been over a year since this community question document was started, and there are still hundreds of unanswered questions. Some questions have been answered inline in the document, and there may be some that we could try and fill in. If you think you have seen an answer to any of the questions in the list please flag/comment.

Sidewalk Labs, a corporation, should never have been put in charge of a democratic public consultation. It’s not what corporations do. It’s for residents and governments to have the complex types of conversations that this project demands. 

An important reason to ask questions (and ask these questions), is not just to get answers, but to raise issues with the project in a forum where other community members can hear the concerns and learn from the questions themselves. 

Whenever possible, stand up in front of the room and ask some pointed questions and provide as much context to your question as possible. Raise concerns during roundtable discussions with strangers. 

Hold Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs accountable. 

Ask the questions you want to ask, not the ones they want you to ask. Reject their framing and their focus...these engagement sessions are for us, not for them, and there are important things that we need to discuss, and those things are not heated paving stones and timber construction. 

Beyond that, the level of public education has been close to zero on issues related to data, tech, and governance. This means the consultation is grounded in a process where people are being asked opinions on things without the education required to weigh in meaningfully. 

The fact that Waterfront Toronto allowed and enabled this structure and process should never be minimized when assessing the outcomes of this process so far. 

Sidewalk Labs allocated $11M US dollars (see pg 34) to engagement and communications for the project. It's been a challenge for local residents to puncture given the strategic way the conversations have been organized to manufacture consent. This question set is one effort to push back against corporate influence on what should be a democratic undertaking. 

So again, we encourage you to take a read of the list and add your own questions. We’ll be submitting this list to Sidewalk Labs, Waterfront Toronto, Toronto’s Waterfront Secretariat, the province, and the federal government. 

Hope to see you tomorrow