City committee approves lobbyist registry
Ottawa city councillors approved the creation of a lobbyist registry at a special joint committee meeting Friday.
If council gives the plan the green light next week, Ottawa will become just the second municipality in the province to require lobbyists to record their meetings with city officials.
Ottawa's lobbyist registry sets out to clearly distinguish between lobbying — for example, a developer who meets with a councillor to discuss a planning approval — and advocacy, such as the president of a neighbourhood group who meets with a councillor to discuss improvements to a park.
The thinking is that while lobbying has money at stake, advocacy is in it for broader community benefit.
During the meeting, city lawyers said the registry would not include fines because they would be difficult to pursue and enforce.
Mayor Jim Watson said the goal is greater transparency.
'A nasty piece of work'
"These businesses, who are conducting legitimate businesses, should have no fear about the public or the media knowing who they're going in to see, and I think that's fair in a democratic society," Watson said in advance of the meeting.
Greater Ottawa Home Builders Association executive director John Herbert had called the proposed registry "a nasty piece of work" and said it requires the lobbyist, but not the city official, to register, which he says unfairly penalizes ordinary businesspeople.
"The private businesspeople are there trying to conduct the affairs of their business. It is by and large the community associations that are going to be there doing the lobbying, but they're not going to be described as lobbyists," said Herbert.
The joint committee is also set to discuss the creation of an integrity commissioner post on Friday.
The integrity commissioner would have the authority to bar lobbyists who don't register from meeting with city officials.