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‘Big step forward’: Councillors set lobbyist registry in motion

In Barrie
May 10th, 2023
Barrie Mayor Alex Nuttall

From BarrieToday, April 28, 2023
By Bob Bruton

Who’s lobbying who, and for whom, could soon be very public.

Barrie councillors gave initial approval Wednesday night to create a lobbyist registry for Barrie, to ensure the public disclosure of lobbying activities and to oversee the regulation of lobbyists’ conduct.

“I’m a big believer that the only dirty lobbying that happens is the lobbying that no one talks about,” said Mayor Alex Nuttall. “If somebody wants to have a conversation with me, I hope they’re willing to put their name behind it, in writing, in front of the public.

“If they’re not going to, don’t have the conversation with me,” he added. “And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a builder, developer, a social service organization, a chamber of commerce, any of them and all of them.”

A lobbyist registry is an accessible record of persons who lobby public office holders outside of public forums.

The lobbyist registry would take effect Jan. 1, 2024 and Suzanne Craig, the city’s integrity commissioner, would be appointed Barrie’s interim lobbyist registrar until the city could appoint a permanent one. The cost to retain a lobbyist registrar would be a minimum of $10,000 annually, with an approximately $200 to $250 per hour rate for review or addressing complaints, if required.

Council could consider final approval of the lobbyist registry at its May 3 meeting.

“What we’re doing here is a big step forward … for transparency in Barrie,” Nuttall said. “There will be times where it feels difficult because you’ll get questions about what you’re lobbied about and how you were lobbied.

“That’s just all part of a proper, democratic political process taking place. It’s when we aren’t providing that information that we should be scared,” the mayor added.

Lobbying means any communication with a public office holder by an individual who is paid or who represents a business or financial interest, with the goal of trying to influence any legislative action including, but not limited, to development, introduction, passage, defeat, amendment or repeal of a bylaw, motion, resolution or the outcome of a decision on any matter before city council, a committee of council, or a ward councillor or city staff member acting under delegated authority.

Holders of public office include members of council, officers or employees of the municipality, members of local boards, advisory committees, and the integrity commissioner.

Lobbying doesn’t include communications in public forums such as council and committee meetings, public open houses, neighbourhood meetings, etc.

The onus for registering lobbying activity rests with the person lobbying the public office holder, not the office holder.

The registry is required to be available for public inspection, and the city’s registry would be made available on Barrie’s website.

Lobbyists would be required to register with the municipality to report their communication/lobbying activities, no later than 10 days after the communication/lobbying has taken place with a public office holder.

Those who are registering as a lobbyist must have their profile approved by the registrar. The city would develop an online tool for the lobbyist registry submissions.

The penalty for a first breach of the regulations would ban the lobbyist from communicating with public office holders for 30 days. A second beach would ban the lobbyist from communicating with public office holders for 90 days and the penalty for a third breach would be determined by the lobbyist registrar.

The Municipal Act authorizes a municipality to establish lobbyist registries and appoint a lobbyist registrar. Toronto is the only municipality required by provincial legislation to have a registry; it is optional for other municipalities.

Read the article here

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