Ottawa lobbyist registry raises questions

Ottawa councillors Katherine Hobbs and Scott Moffatt are contesting a proposed registry that lists community volunteers, residents who deal with councillors as lobbyists.

Two Ottawa councillors are contesting a proposed registry that keeps tabs on all unpaid community volunteers or charities that meet with councillors or senior city staff.

Kitchisippi ward councillor Katherine Hobbs said the city's new lobbyist registry, which is expected to be in place by the end of March 2012, does not clearly separate traditional lobbyists and residents who might complain about slow snow removal.

Scott Moffatt is one of the Ottawa city councillors with questions about the city's new lobbyist registry. (CBC)

Both those groups would have to put their name on the registry if they meet councillors but there is some worry that will deter citizens from coming forward when they have concerns.

"What really worries me is that I don't want a constituent to feel that they can't have a private meeting with their councillor without having to make it public," said Hobbs.

"They'd have to go register. Frankly, I feel that's inhibiting." 

Registry separates types of lobbyists

The proposed registry does distinguish between traditional lobbyists and community members, which is why Hobbs welcomes some sort of organized list.

Rideau-Goulbourn councillor Scott Moffatt welcomes the registry as well but he also has his resignations.

Moffatt, whose ward includes many farmers, does not want to label his residents as lobbyists. Many farmers need help getting city approval to sever their land.

"If someone asks for a severance, are they lobbying me?" Moffatt asked, "Because they do stand to make a profit from the severance, technically that could be construed as lobbying but it could also just be a part of my job."

City staff said it would hire an integrity commissioner to enforce the rules of the registry, which Hobbs, Moffatt and some other councillors hope will be clear and easy to understand.


With files from the CBC's Laurie Fagan