City withdraws motion to require ratepayers to register as lobbyists

This could have been very bad news: on reading the agenda for the June 10 City Council meeting, my LPOA Co-President Geoff Kettel noted an important motion which would have significantly affected how groups like the LPOA interact with our elected municipal representatives. The motion, “Requirement to Register with the Lobbyist Registrar’s Office”, was proposed by Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly and seconded by our Councillor, John Parker. It would have required “non-profit organizations, unions and all community organizations designed to target specific City-wide issues resulting in financial impacts…… and … all grass roots campaigns, regardless of who started them” to register as lobbyists.

It read very much like an attempt to make it much more difficult for ratepayer groups (like LPOA) to meet or communicate with their Councillors. Not only are ratepayer groups non-profits, we are made up entirely of volunteers. We are voters and taxpayers, not lobbyists trying to gain some personal or business financial interest or benefit. Where does a constituent’s conversation with their Councillor end and ‘lobbying’ begin? Should every voter who is in a ratepayer group be reduced to the same status as a paid lobbyist or developer? Would ratepayer representatives have to fill out paperwork with the Lobbyist Registrar’s Office whenever contacting our Councillor? We had received no prior warning that a lobbyists’ registry of this description would be proposed at City Council, nor were ratepayer groups such as LPOA consulted as interested stakeholders.

Whatever happened to the principle of unfettered access to one’s elected representatives?

This motion was a dangerous step down a very slippery slope, which would have reduced the voices of residents like you on issues that matter to you. LPOA contacted John Parker and every other City Councillor to urge that ratepayer groups be clearly exempted from this onerous measure.

Fortunately, the motion was eventually withdrawn by Deputy Mayor Kelly on the second day of the Council meeting. No reason was given for the withdrawal. Perhaps the Mover and Seconder were encouraged to reconsider the wisdom of such a motion? It is not scheduled to come back to Council at a later date, although it still could be reintroduced, in a new or amended form. We’ll be watching.