Your cart is empty.
The book cover for The Master Plan. Black text on an off-white background reads: Michael Healey The Master Plan, based on the bestselling book Sideways: The City Google Couldn't Buy by Josh O'Kane. An image of a futuristic city with high-tech buildings and people walking around a courtyard.

Read an excerpt from The Master Plan

By Brandon Crone Date: December 06, 2023 Tags: Excerpts

From the critically acclaimed author of The Drawer Boy and 1979, Michael Healey is back with a new political comedy that dramatizes the outlandish true story of Google’s failed attempt to create the city of the future on Toronto’s waterfront. Based on the bestselling exposé, Sideways: The City Google Couldn't Buy by Josh O’Kane, The Master Plan masterfully exposes the hubris of big tech, the feebleness of government, and the dangers of public consultation with sharp wit and insightful commentary. After a sold-out and extended run at Crow’s Theatre, this fascinating story is definitely one for the books.

Read an amusing excerpt below.


CAM: I can’t believe I get to work on this. Three million square feet of housing, retail, and public space. The water! The chance to open up the slip, bring people to it, play with where the land ends and the lake begins.

The chance to make streets that are for people. A variety of transportation options all blended thoughtfully and human-centred. A place that’s ready for autonomous vehicles when they arrive. I know people roll their eyes at autonomous vehicles, but they’re incredibly docile. If there have to be cars in the area, let them be cars that move according to rules that make it impossible to run someone down.

Streets that are flexible—depending on time of day, sidewalks that grow or shrink, widen to become plazas, places to hang out.

          [Building exteriors, the raincoats.]

I know you think the raincoats are dumb, and maybe they are just vestigial dome bullshit. I mean, they’re just awnings that go all the way down to the sidewalk. The idea is to extend the outdoor seasons as long as possible by protecting people from the worst of the weather. Toronto has a massive system of underground tunnels in the downtown core to avoid the weather. How much nicer would it be to stay at street level?

          [Modular units being connected to a building spine. Cutaways of small units,              larger family units, light-industry units.]

But it’s the buildings that really get me going. The most successful buildings from the last century are the lofts. First industrial, then they were used for retail, then residential. That’s the kind of long-term flexibility we’re going for. Modular units created off-site and put into place means the building goes up in half the time and at two thirds the cost. Crazy Japanese mushroom insulation, safer and completely sustainable, and electricity that’s completely safe because it’s delivered along an Ethernet cable, not via copper that’s buried inside a wall, waiting to short out and start a fire.

Walls without utilities inside them mean they can be moved or removed more easily. A one-bedroom becomes a two-bedroom when you have another kid. Back to a one-bedroom when you get old and want to age in place.

          [Tall timber buildings, wooden interiors.]

And the whole thing, the whole building made of locally sourced, locally manufactured timber. The carbon in the harvested wood is put in these buildings and trapped for a hundred years. Create a supply chain of sustainable timber, from growth through manufacturing to building, and you’re taking carbon out of the atmosphere. We can make thirty-storey buildings out of wood, and those buildings are actually harder to burn down than if they were made of concrete.

          [Local power generation, with the waste and delivery facilities under the                      buildings. Then back out to the streetscape.]

The neighbourhood will generate its own geothermal power and can maybe export the excess to other neighbourhoods. Building is cheaper so the housing can be cheaper to rent or own. It’s beautiful, you can live a lifetime here, you can work here, and you know what? This is going to be the only way to make housing soon. Toronto is exploding, hundreds of thousands of people are moving here at a moment when the planet’s on fire. Our only choice is to make cities that don’t produce carbon. You guys are so lucky. You’re so smart. This place, Quayside, is going to be—it’s going to be—this is how we are going to have to do it. There’s really no other way . . .


DAVIS: Cam, are you . . . crying?

CAM: (yes he is) No.



CAM: Shut up.

VERNER: Oh! You love Quayside!

CAM: Okay, shut up.

VERNER: (this is the hottest thing she’s ever seen) You big fuckin’ baby!

CAM: Anyway. Happy to be here.


Get your copy of The Master Plan now!