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City needs lobbyists registry, Fielding, Vandal say

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Two senior city councillors say it’s time Winnipeg created a lobbyists registry.

Scott Fielding and Dan Vandal said keeping a public record of the professionals who deal with politicians and senior administrators and what they’re talking about is vital to ensuring public trust and accountability at city hall.

How Does a Municipal Lobbyists Registry Work?

Lobbyists must register with a civic office before contacting a politician or senior civic employee, and;

Lobbyist must state the subject matter for the meeting;

File an update after the meeting.

Lobby registry is public information.

Fielding/Vandal Motion

WHEREAS Lobbyist registries have been enacted at major Canadian cities likes Toronto, Ottawa and provincial governments across the country and world;

WHEREAS A lobbyist registry would require all lobbyists to register before they are able to contact elected or senior officials in city government as it relates to policy, procedure or major council and administrative decisions;

WHEREAS Transparency and open access to government is an important matter of public interest. Lobbying public office holders or administrators is a legitimate activity. It is desirable that public office holders and the public be able to know who is engaged in lobbying activities;

WHEREAS A system of registration of paid lobbyists should not impede free and open access to government;

WHEREAS A lobbyist registry can help to restore trust in our administrative and decision making process at city hall;

THEREFORE LET IT BE RESOLVED THAT Council ask the public service to enact a lobbyist registry, based on best practices from cities like Toronto and Ottawa and provincial governments across the country; that the registry be administered through the city auditor’s office; that an annual report comes back through council on activities and registrants, and that the City Auditor recommend penalties with violations of the new by-law:

LET IT FURTHER BE RESOLVED that public service report back in 60 days with an implementation plan

"Not that there is anything wrong with lobbying, but creating a lobbyists’ registry can help restore trust in the decision-making process at city hall," Fielding (St. James-Brooklands) said. "I expect there will be some pretty broad-based support for it."

Fielding said the registry would keep track of all contact between professionals and councillors and senior administrators, and what they’re talking about.

"Lobbying is something that takes place but having a registry is vital to transparency and openness to what’s taking place," Fielding said, adding city hall has taken a beating in the last 18 months over allegations of covert influence with politicians and administrators.

Fielding, who admits to be seriously considering running for mayor in the October civic election, will bring the motion to council, with Vandal supporting it.

Fielding said Toronto and Ottawa already have their own municipal registries, adding he’s asking other members of council to instruct the administration to look at what’s been done at other municipalities and several provincial governments and come back with an implementation plan in 60 days.

"We’re not asking (administration) to re-invent the wheel," Fielding said. "There are registries elsewhere that can be used as model."

Fielding said a lobbyists registry wouldn’t apply to a resident contacting their ward councillor, mayor or city staff.

"It would be paid lobbyists from the business community and others," he said, including groups that approach city hall with initiatives. "Citizens deserve to know who’s talking to who.

"This would provide better transparency and openness at city hall," Fielding said.

Fielding said he envisions Winnipeg’s lobbyist registry being administered by its city auditor, who would submit a report annually to council on dealings between lobbyists and politicians.

 

aldo.santin@freepress.mb.ca

 

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