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Toronto Ontario names new Waterfront board members after firing directors over smart-city project

Waterfront buildings, part of a proposed redevelopment of Toronto's downtown waterfront, are seen in an undated artist rendering provided by Alphabet Inc's Sidewalk Labs unit February 15, 2019.

HANDOUT/Reuters

Ontario named four new directors to the board of Waterfront Toronto Thursday, nearly three months after Infrastructure Minister Monte McNaughton fired its previous slate.

The province fired its directors in early December after the auditor-general’s annual report raised concerns about the procurement process, governance, and timelines around Waterfront Toronto’s partnership with Google affiliate Sidewalk Labs to develop a digital-first community on the shore of Lake Ontario. The project, on a 12-acre plot of land at the foot of Parliament Street called Quayside, was first announced in October, 2017.

The new directors will have one-year terms and include three chief executives of Canadian firms and a longtime real estate investor. They include Christopher Voutsinas, a real estate investor who was most recently head of international real estate investment at SEDCO Capital. He is a past chair of Build Toronto, the municipal real estate and development agency, during Premier Doug Ford’s time as a city councillor.

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Also joining the board are Andrew MacLeod, the president and chief executive officer of Postmedia, and Kevin Sullivan, the deputy chairman and past CEO of GMP Securities LP. Both have deep connections to technology through Research in Motion, the company now known as BlackBerry: Mr. MacLeod is a former senior vice-president, and GMP took RIM public as it began its journey taking smartphones into the mainstream.

Patrick Sheils, co-president and co-CEO of Laurentian Bank Securities, will also join the board to represent Ontario. He has spent more than a quarter-century working in financial markets, including with National Bank of Canada.

The Globe and Mail first reported last week that veteran developer Stephen Diamond was set to become the next Waterfront Toronto chair. In an interview after city council approved his appointment this week, he said he hoped the public agency would take greater leadership over the smart-city project.

Waterfront Toronto is in the midst of a leadership and governance shakeup. A search is under way for a permanent CEO to replace acting chief executive Michael Nobrega, who has led the organization since last summer. Marisa Piattelli, its chief strategy officer and de facto No. 2, resigned last week. The board, meanwhile, had been half its usual size since the December firings. But it is now stabilizing after the recent appointments of Mr. Diamond, the four Ontario directors, and recent term extensions of Toronto directors Mohamed Dhanani and Susie Henderson.

“They bring a range of experience and talents to our Board,” Mr. Diamond said in an e-mailed statement. "Waterfront Toronto has built a reputation for success in large part thanks to the direction and leadership of the Board and the support of our government partners.”

They replace Helen Burstyn, former chair of Waterfront Toronto and a longtime member of charity and non-profit boards; Mr. Nobrega, the former head of Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System; and University of Toronto president Meric Gertler.

"With their wide-ranging industry experience and expertise, these four individuals will bring additional oversight and accountability to Waterfront Toronto,” Mr. McNaughton said in a news release.

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The Globe reached out to the four new directors for comment, but did not get a response before publication.

Waterfront Toronto’s next board meeting is March 21.

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