Hamilton councillors are promising to move ahead with a registry that would see them publicly disclose every time they meet with lobbyists.
The city's accountability and transparency subcommittee, which hasn't met since May, will meet again in January and work on the registry, said Coun. Lloyd Ferguson of Ancaster, chair of the subcommittee.
“We haven't been sitting on our hands all year,” he said.
The committee has met with the province and with Toronto, which has its own lobbyist registry. One of the questions the subcommittee needs to answer is the definition of “lobbyist.”
“We need to clear that definition up so we have a very clear understanding of what it's all about,” he said.
Councillors gave the update at the prodding of Christine Gibson, a Hamilton resident who asked the general issues committee for an update.
The public should know when councillors meet with corporations such as Enbridge, she said in her presentation.
“The future health and well being of Hamilton is dependent on the partnerships the city has with large corporations like Enbridge,” she said. “What is it about your meetings with representatives from corporations like Enbridge that you feel the need to hide?”
Enbridge is seeking to reverse the flow of a pipeline that runs through Flamborough. The company said at a recent meeting that it had met with five councillors.
The accountability and transparency subcommittee will meet on Jan. 22, or Jan. 29 if it can't get enough members at the earlier meeting, Ferguson said.
Coun. Brad Clark of Stoney Creek wants to see the registry move ahead.
“This is not rocket science,” he said. “This is not something new to governance in Canada and I'm surprised it hasn't moved quicker.”
Clark repeated a previous assertion that “I do not meet with lobbyists.”
“I can tell you I have been invited to Edgewater Manor with developers. I have declined.”
Coun. Brenda Johnson, who represents Ward 11, also referenced getting gifts from third parties that have been met with a polite letter of decline. The gifts have “gone right to the food bank,” she said.
Coun. Terry Whitehead said there are various types of lobbyists. They range from Enbridge reps to poverty activists.
“We have obligation to meet with people in our neighbourhoods to get clarification,” he said. “What's wrong is we should be telling general public and taxpayers who we're meeting with. We do have to move quickly on the registry.”
In 2004 city council established a voluntary lobby registry. The list currently has just two names on it.