By Kevin Werner, News Staff
Hamilton needs to speed up the creation of a lobbyist registry so residents know who politicians have met with in the past, says Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark.
“The importance of the lobby registry is in the names,” he said. “It’s not about charges. It’s simply the people what to know who councillors are talking to.”
Hamiltonresident Christine Gibson urged politicians at their Dec. 5 government issues committee meeting to adopt a lobbyist registry, especially in light that some councillors recently met with representatives of Enbridge to talk about their pipeline through Flamborough
“It’s in your best interests,” said Gibson.
The city’s accountability and transparency committee, chaired by Ancaster councillor Lloyd Ferguson, last May met with Ontario Integrity Commissioner Lynn Morrison, andToronto’s lobbyist registrar Linda Gehrke to talk about their experiences in setting up a registry.
Ontariobecame the first province to create a lobbyist registry in 1998. Today, over 10,000 people are registered as a lobbyist. Other communities, including Ottawa and Vaughan are looking at establishing a registry.
Hamiltonhas two people who have registered as lobbyists. Former mayor Fred Eisenberger urged the creation of a lobbyist registry, but it quickly evaporated.
“I don’t know why it died,” said Clark. “We were moving ahead. I’m surprised we haven’t moved more quickly.”
Ferguson said his subcommittee will be meeting Jan. 29 to discuss the issue. It has not met since the spring.
“We want to clear the definition (of a lobbyist) up,” said Ferguson. “We have not been sitting on our hands all year.”
He added that there will be a cost to creating a new registry department, something that needs to be considered.
The provincial definition of a lobbyist is a paid person representing a company more than 20 per cent of the time.Ferguson, and a few other councillors, said the definition may have to include other community and neighbourhood organizations, who they consider lobbyists too. The provincial register has no investigative, or enforcement powers. No charges have been laid by the province, or by the Toronto lobbyist registrar. Violating the provincial act is a fine of $25,000.
Mayor Bob Bratina said a proper definition of who is a lobbyist must be created. He has held meetings with people, but when they start lobbying him, the meeting is halted.
Clarkfound it disconcerting the mayor held such a view of a lobbyist.
“It’s just striking those comments coming from someone in our situation,” he said.
Clarksaid he doesn’t meet with lobbyists, or developers, urging them to meet with staff.
“I have been invited to Edgewater Manor to meet developers,” he said. “They like to take you out.”
Stoney Creekcouncillor Brenda Johnson said she has in the past received gifts, which have then been forwarded to local food banks.
“I have no problem telling people who I’ve met with,” said Johnson.
Mountain councillor Terry Whitehead, who supports the creation of a lobbyist registry, said it will make sure residents know the people their representatives are talking to. He said councillors should meet with all people, including developers for information purposes.
“We should tell people who we are meeting with,” said Whitehead. “Lobbyist isn’t a bad word. We have an obligation to meet and find the necessary information.”