Hamilton residents who responded to a public consultation on the proposed lobbyist registry voiced strong support for it, saying its an important transparency tool.

But  submissions to the city from those involved in day-to-day business at city hall either outright oppose the change, or have asked for changes to the draft bylaw.

The registry will be discussed at a meeting of the City's General Issues Committee on June 18 and the public's response to a recent 45-consultation have been posted online as supporting materials.

"A mandatory lobbyist registry is an important step for Hamilton to make towards increasing openness and transparency in
municipal decision-making," said Sara Mayo, whose comments were among the 37 received by the city clerk. 

A summary of the emails received shows 30 respondents supported the creation of a registry, four expressed concerns without support or not supporting it and three opposed the change.

Ward 1 resident Greg Atkinson said a registry will ensure that councillors keep their campaign promises and remain transparent.

'A mandatory lobbyist registry is an important step for Hamilton to make towards increasing openness and transparency in
municipal decision-making'
- Sara Mayo, Hamilton resident

"Special interest groups are an important part of the city fabric, and understandably their presence in meetings with our elected representatives is instrumental to many projects and initiatives that would benefit the  constituents," Atkinson said. "I have never believed that these meetings need to or should take place without the knowledge of voters."

But many of those groups regularly involved in city affairs would like to have parts of the registry clarified before any changes are permanently adopted. Two important business groups oppose the registry: The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and the Hamilton-Halton Homebuilders Association.

Design and architecture firm IBI Group, Mattamy Homes and Habitat for Humanity Hamilton were among those concerned with some of details and definition set out in a bylaw to establish the registry.

Register to lobby

General counsel for Mattamy Steve Kahansky took issue with a requirement that a person must register 15 days before any sort of lobbying occurred.

"This would be entirely unprecedented in Canada," Kahansky said. "Currently, all lobbying laws in Canada, except one, Toronto's, provide for registration after the fact."

Kahansky said the proposed deadline was not a "transparency measure. It amounts to a substantive restriction on communication with City officials."

Habitat for Humanity Hamilton CEO Robert G. McConkey asked that the City revise part of the bylaw that currently defines their organization as a lobbyist, not a non-profit, because they have paid staff.

"While we do have paid staff and in all likelihood they will be involved with these communications we also have a Board of Directors that are not paid and who are also directly involved with these communications," McConkey said.

The issue of a lobbyist registry has gone on for several years. The accountability and transparency subcommittee hammered out a draft version and disbanded late last year.

The City estimates the cost of creating the registry would be approximately $100,000.