In a Medium post announcing the death of the project, Sidewalk Labs CEO Daniel L. Doctoroff writes that the economic collapse that has resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic has made the controversial $1.3 billion plan to reprogram a portion of Toronto's post-industrial waterfront into a new smart city prototype no longer viable.
In scrapping the project, the company cited the economic upheaval caused by the coronavirus pandemic, but critics say it was a loser from the start and a failure in “surveillance capitalism.”
On Thursday, many critics of the plan suggested that opposition to the project and its diminished viability, not the pandemic, lay behind the decision by Sidewalk to quit before Waterfront Toronto made its final decision on whether to go ahead with the plan in late June.
“This is a big step back for surveillance capitalism and a victory for making technology serve society rather than capture it,” said Jim Balsillie, the former co-chief executive of BlackBerry and one of the prominent critics of the plan. “Google learned that Canadians can’t be easily bullied.”
The company seemed to undermine its cause at times. Waterfront Toronto initially asked Sidewalk to present a proposal for 12 acres as a demonstration of what it would do.