Toronto's lobbyist registry a first for Canadian cities

Toronto is set to become the first municipality in Canada with a lobbyist registry.

Toronto is set to become the first municipality in Canadawith a lobbyist registry.

Under a motion adopted on Tuesday night,anyone paid to lobby city hall will be required to register and disclose their lobbying activity. The city also plans to develop and enforce a code of conduct for lobbyists.

The registry is expected to be made publicly available onlineby June.

Mayor David Miller, who pushed for the registry, lauded council for being innovative.

"We are taking the first steps to a new world to ensure that when members of council are lobbied by people seeking legal change, particularly legal change that benefits them directly economically, it's disclosed to the public," he said.

Registry won't cut off regular communication

Some councillors were concerned about restrictions the new registry might place on their interaction with constituents, but the city manager dismissed those worries.

"Certainly the intent of this is not to cut off that kind of very regular communication that councillors have with their constituents, whether they're residents or small businesses or developers," said city manager Shirley Hoy about how Toronto will define a lobbyist.

Unions will also be required to register and disclose any lobbying, but are exempt when discussing city labour contracts and issues concerning health and safety.

Computer scandal prompted calls for registry

A lobbyist registry was one of the recommendations that came out of a 2005 judicial inquiry into a multimillion-dollar computer leasing scandal.

Justice Denise Bellamy investigated how a $40-million contract between the City of Toronto and MFP Financial Services ballooned to more than $100 million.

The inquiry found lobbyists had secretly dispensed favours to city officials and councillors.

The federal government and at least four provinces— Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and British Columbia— have lobbyist registries.