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Is this Hamilton's lobbyist registry's last chance before the election?

Hamilton’s city councillors will debate again next week — possibly for the last time — whether to implement a registry that will let the public see when they meet with lobbyists.

"The clock is probably in favour of those who would not be in favour of a lobbyist registry:” Don McLean

City councillors will debate implementing a lobbyist registry next week, possibly for the last time before the October municipal election. Then it'll be up to a new council to revive it. (Terry Asma/CBC)

Hamilton’s city councillors will debate again next week — possibly for the last time — whether to implement a registry that will let the public see when they meet with lobbyists.

Councillors will vote at a general issues committee Thursday to implement a lobbyist registry, an issue that has dragged on at city hall for seven years.

It’s one of the last chances for the current council to implement the registry before the Oct. 27 municipal election, when several new people will be elected, said Don McLean, a lobbyist registry advocate and head of Citizens at City Hall (CATCH).

“The clock is probably in favour of those who would not be in favour of a lobbyist registry,” he said.

“I think that will be the way it plays out. That may be the way some people would like it to play out.”

The idea of a lobbyist registry, which exists in Toronto and Ottawa, has been ongoing for more than seven years. In 2007, city council struck an accountability and transparency subcommittee, and one of its mandates was to establish a registry.

That subcommittee presented a draft bylaw to council last year, but it wasn’t included in the city’s 2014 budget. That makes it seem like council wanted to bury it, a former subcommittee member said in April.

In June, Coun. Brian McHattie of Ward 1 brought it back with a motion to implement the registry in March 2015, which would cost up to $100,000 to implement and about $115,000 per year to operate.

The city held a 45-day comment period in June. But council still wanted to know more. It asked the city about a code of conduct for lobbyists, which staff will advise against on Thursday.

McLean worries that after the election, the issue will disappear from view. In June, council had a “shopping list” of concerns, and will likely have more on Thursday.

“The likelihood of getting a final document out of next week is probably challenged by that,” he said.

Issues such as the lobbyist registry don't automatically disappear with new councillors, McLean said. But the political will could change.

At least four council seats will change hands this fall because the incumbents aren't running. McHattie is locked in a heated race for mayor against Stoney Creek councillor Brad Clark and former mayor Fred Eisenberger, among others. 

The Hamilton Chamber of Commerce and the Flamborough and District Chamber of Commerce are both against the registry.

"The Flamborough Chamber of Commerce has significant concerns about the proposal," executive director Arend Kersten told council in an email Friday. 

"At the very least, please postpone a final decision after the October municipal election."

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