Hamilton lobbyist registry put off until 2015 at the earliest

City councillors voted to defer the registry, which lets the public see who is lobbying councillors, until the 2014 budget. That means it won't take effect until January 2015.
David Arbuckle, a citizen appointee, proposes changes to a lobbyist registry during the last meeting of the accountability and transparency sub-committee in September. The city's general issues committee voted Wednesday to defer the long-awaited registry to the 2014 budget process. (Samantha Craggs/CBC)

Some wanted to pass it right away, but city council won't deal with a new public registry of who’s lobbying council until the spring. 

And that means the registry, which has been in the works for seven years, won't take effect until January 2015 at the earliest.

Hamilton’s general issues committee voted Wednesday to refer the new registry to the budget process, which goes until April 2014. 

City staff need the time to hire a full-time staff member to handle the registry, said Janice Atwood-Petkovski, city solicitor. There will also be a period of public input, and time to build the online registry.

“We need to recruit to make sure a registrar is in place who is fully up to speed on the bylaw,” she told councillors.

Not everyone was happy with waiting. The process has dragged on long enough, said Coun. Judi Partridge of Flamborough’s Ward 15. She wanted to pass it on Wednesday.

“We need to deal with this now and we need to get on with it,” said Partridge. She was a member of the now-dissolved accountability and transparency subcommittee, which formed seven years ago to establish an integrity commission and a lobbyist registry.

“I’m not happy with the January 2015 timeline.”

Neither was Coun. Sam Merulla of Ward 4. Perception is important, Merulla said, and the public thinks this has taken too long.

“In politics, I think (perception) is very important,” he said.

The timeline will be as follows:

  • November to April: budget process
  • April/May 2014: invite the public to comment
  • June 2014: approve the bylaw at council
  • June to December 2014: recruit a registrar and staff, build the web application and train staff and council members
  • Jan. 25, 2015: registry comes into effect

The registry will cost $114,000 per year, including one full-time policy analyst at $92,000. It proposes combining the lobbyist registrar position with the integrity commissioner position for an estimated cost of $22,000.

It will also cost the city $50,000 to $100,000 to build the registry. 

City council will ratify the decision on Oct. 23.

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