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Sidewalk Labs hires former Toronto councillor for Quayside project

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Sidewalk Labs, the Google sister company proposing a high-tech neighbourhood on Toronto’s waterfront, has hired a former city councillor to explain and sell the vision to Torontonians.

Mary-Margaret McMahon, who retired from politics last fall after representing Beach and East York residents for eight years on council, confirmed Wednesday that on Tuesday she becomes Sidewalk Labs’s “director of community” for the controversial project slated for Queens Quay and Parliament St.

Since 2017 when Waterfront Toronto announced Manhattan-based Sidewalk Labs as its preferred partner on “Quayside,” a hyper-connected test zone for urban tech, proponents have faced tough questions over privacy, data protection, land ownership and more.

“My role is basically getting Sidewalk Labs known across the city, especially areas where they aren’t known now, and hearing people’s thoughts and concerns about the project that we’ll all know more about,” with release of a master innovation and development agreement this spring, McMahon said.

“Sidewalk needs a Toronto face — they haven’t had that 100 per cent and so I think that’s part of hiring me,” on a contract until the end of 2019, said the former environment committee chair.

Under the city’s cooling-off provision, McMahon is not allowed to lobby council members or city staff for one year from her November departure from city hall.

On council McMahon was known as a progressive ally of right-leaning Mayor John Tory, championing bike lanes, tree protections and also term limits for municipal politicians.

She joins the urban innovation arm of Google parent company Alphabet Inc. and its local workforce of about 20 people working out of an open-to-the-public office and “experimental workspace” at 307 Lake Shore Blvd. E. McMahon is among four locals being added to the mix of Canadians and Americans.

Sidewalk Labs also hired: Pino Di Mascio, a former partner at Urban Strategies, as director of planning; Ryan Guptill, a former federal Conservative political staffer, as associate focused on government relations; and Zak Abdulle, a former Toronto Community Housing program co-ordinator, Muslim Fellow in Mayor John Tory’s office and unsuccessful 2018 school trustee candidate, as project management associate.

Micah Lasher, head of Sidewalk policy and communications, said in an interview McMahon was hired for her deep commitment to the city and ability to get things done.

“If this project is successful, it will be because it drew on the insights and lived experiences of people from every neighbourhood in this city and it will generate innovation and ideas that can improve life in every neighbourhood in this city,” he said. “We hope to be part of this city’s future for a very long time to come.”

Waterfront Toronto, an agency representing the city, provincial and federal governments, has been working with Sidewalk Labs on the draft master agreement spelling out plans for data collection and retention, revenue generation, housing and development guidelines, and more.

After public consultations and any resulting changes, the document is to go to the government partners and Sidewalk Labs for final ratification. If no agreement can be reached, Waterfront Toronto is free to seek a new development partner.

Bianca Wylie, co-founder of the advocacy group Tech Reset Canada who has criticized secrecy around the Quayside process and a private company’s role in shaping city space and policies, said Wednesday that local hires should not be the firm’s priority.

“Sidewalk Labs’s priority should be defining how they will make a graceful exit from Toronto,” she said, “including how they will thank the city’s residents for the privilege and opportunity they were given to do their research and product development here over the past 15 months.”

Correction — February 14, 2019: This article was updated to reflect the fact that Micah Lasher did not move to Toronto to head Sidewalk Labs’ communications team.

David Rider is the Star’s City Hall bureau chief and a reporter covering Toronto politics. Follow him on Twitter: @dmrider



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A stunning Water Lantern Festival is coming to Montreal

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What might just be the most magical night ever is coming up for Montreal this year.

The Water Lantern Festival has announced that it will be gracing Mississauga with thousands of floating lanterns later this year, as part of a celebration that spans the entire world.

According to the festival’s official website, the event is a celebration of life with proceeds going towards charities and non-profit organizations within the area.

“Water Lantern Festival brings together individuals from all ages, backgrounds, and walks of life to join in one emotional and memorable night. At the Water Lantern Festival, we cherish these moments and will do our best to help you have a memorable experience that you’ll never forget as you witness the beauty of thousands of lanterns reflecting upon the water,” the website states.

The festival takes place throughout multiple cities around the world, with the Canadian cities of Quebec, Regina, Vancouver, Hamilton, Calgary, Ottawa, Mississauga, and, of course, Montreal taking part.

For the Calgary event, a date has been confirmed and tickets are already rolling out. Montreal shan’t be far behind, and you can click the Notify Me tab on the event’s site to be kept in the loop.

Expect an evening filled with food trucks, music, lantern designing and finally, a magical launch of the lanterns into the water as the sun goes down.

For our pals over in Calgary, their event includes a floating lantern, a commemorative drawstring bag, a marker, and a wristband. Expect something similar, if not the same, when more details float through about Montreal’s event.

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Euthanasia order on hold for Montreal dog that attacked children

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A pit bull dog that attacked four children and two adults in August 2018 in Montreal North will not be euthanized in the immediate future.

The euthanasia order has been temporarily suspended pending the appeal of a Quebec Superior Court decision.

On Tuesday, Judge Lukasz Granosik rejected a request to halt the euthanasia order issued by the Montreal North borough, which declared the animal a “dangerous dog.”

The City of Montreal has not changed its mind. This is only a delay before it proceeds with euthanizing the dog, a source told the Canadian Press.

Shotta, the one-year-old dog, was in the care of its owner’s acquaintance in August 2018. The dog attacked four children and two adults, causing serious injuries in separate incidents on the same day.

After the attacks, the dog was taken from the home and entrusted to the SPCA.

WATCH: Dog found dead in Angrignon Park

The Road to Home Rescue Support, an American shelter, asked the court if it could take in the dog. Christa Frineau, the dog’s owner, had also asked that Shotta not be euthanized.

Granosik refused to grant the request.

—With files from Global’s Kalina Laframboise

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9 Things To Do In Montreal This Friday, Saturday & Sunday

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Today’s sunny skies have me itching to make weekend plans. I absolutely cannot wait to make the most of this warmer weather. This might be the time to inflate my bike tires and dust off my running shoes…

Whether you want to brush up on your cooking skills, let loose, or fill your stomach with amazing food, there’s an event out there for you. Read on for 9 fun things you can do with friends or a fling this weekend.

TL;DR Read on for 9 fun things you can do in Montreal this weekend.

Let Yourself Go At Dress Up

Where: 185 Avenue Van Horne, Montréal.

When: Friday, March 29, 9:00 p.m.

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