Faculty Author Type

Current Faculty [Alexandra Flynn]

Published In

Windsor Yearbook of Access to Justice

Document Type

Working Paper

Publication Date



Toronto, Governance


In May 2020 Sidewalk Labs, the Google-affiliated ‘urban innovation’ company, announced that it was abandoning its ambition to build a ‘smart city’ on Toronto’s waterfront and thus ending its three-year relationship with Waterfront Toronto. This is thus a good time to look back and examine the whole process, with a view to drawing lessons both for the future of Canadian smart city projects and the future of public sector agencies with appointed boards. This article leaves to one side the gadgets and sensors that drew much attention to the proposed project, and instead focuses on the governance aspects, especially the role of the public ‘partner’ in the contemplated public-private partnership. We find that the multi-government agency, Waterfront Toronto, had transparency and accountability deficiencies, and failed to consistently defend the public interest from the beginning (the Request for Proposals issued in May of 2017). Because the public partner in the proposed ‘deal’ was not, as is usually the case in smart city projects, a municipal corporation, our research allows us to address an important question in administrative law, namely: what powers should administrative bodies outside of government have in crafting smart city policies?

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