City to hear staff proposal on creation of lobbyist registry
It could be next year before Hamilton fully implements a registry to report when city councillors meet with lobbyists.
The city's accountability and transparency sub-committee has discussed implementing a registry for months. At a meeting Tuesday, staff will recommend a timeline that would see a registry in place as of January 2014.
If approved, Tuesday's report will establish a formal timeline and give cost estimates for a registry. It recommends having a bylaw that takes effect in January next year, which will allow the city to educate people about the registry.
About 30 Ontario municipalities have lobbyist registrars. Toronto will spend an estimated $1,065,400 in 2013 on its registry and has the full-time equivalent of 8.25 staff. Ottawa allocated $190,000 to its registry in 2012 and has two part-time staff.
Hamilton has a voluntary lobbyist registry. Currently, there are three names on it.
Establishing a mandatory registry doesn't seem to have been a priority for Hamilton so far, said Peter Graefe, a McMaster University political science professor. But Hamilton would benefit from one.
"There's nothing wrong with [councillors] meeting with people who have a pecuniary interest in a city decision," Graefe said. "But it happens behind closed doors, so there's a lack of transparency in the city for citizens who'd like to know who councillors are meeting with."
A registry "reduces conspiracy theories or arguments that these people have been swayed, or bought and sold," Graefe added.
One of the questions the city has been grappling with so far is how a lobbyist is defined. City staff will report on that at Tuesday's meeting too.
The meeting starts at 2 p.m. at city hall.