EDITORIAL: Make no mistake, we're lobbying for a lobbyist registry in Vaughan
Feb. 11, 2015
Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin's scathing critique of York Region’s behind closed doors “education session” at Kingbridge Conference Centre and his pointed remarks about the lack of transparency at the local level reminded us about an issue we raised during the municipal election.
We asked candidates seeking to be Vaughan’s mayor as well as those running for the three regional council seats, whether they support introducing a lobbyist registry at the city.
The response was overwhelmingly in favour of setting up a registry, which provides a public record of every paid professional who meets with senior bureaucrats and councillors and details exactly what they’re talking about.
So, who or what may be interested in lobbying our fair city, you ask?
It wasn’t that long ago when we saw an onslaught of lobbying activity for the failed casino bid.
That included representatives of construction unions, developers, casino corporations such as MGM and even the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Corporation.
It wasn’t clear or transparent as to who on council or among city staff was being lobbied by whom, when and for what purpose.
Having a lobbyist registry in place would have answered those questions, at least in part.
Of the 11 candidates polled during the last election, eight threw their unqualified support behind the idea of such a registry.
Two candidates did not respond, while longtime incumbent Regional Councillor Gino Rosati said: “To this point, I have not seen the need for a lobbyist registry. However, I would keep an open mind in the future should such a system prove to be beneficial.”
That means three of the nine people who sit on city council - Mayor Maurizio Bevilacqua, Regional Councillor Michael Di Biase and Regional Councillor Mario Ferri - all said they’re in favour of establishing a lobbyist registry.
So we’re wondering when one of these three local representatives, each of whom earned support from voters citywide, will step up and put this issue on the table?
Of course, we understand there are a number of pressing issues that require the attention of our elected officials.
On top of dealing with the slew of applications for new condo towers, there’s crippling traffic congestion, working out a lease agreement for the hospital lands and ensuring the new downtown actually lives up to the mayor’s lofty promises.
If what happened in Hamilton is any indication, it could take quite some time to develop a lobbyist registry that works for the city without being too costly for taxpayers.
We’re talking about a process that started in 2007 and took seven years to get approval. Hamilton’s lobbyist registry will only come into effect this summer.
And that will make it only the third municipality in Ontario to have a lobbyist registry. The others are Toronto and Ottawa, whose deputy city manager of operations is set to become Vaughan’s top staffer in May. How about that?
We sincerely hope council won’t wait too long to get started on something that can actually lead to the type of transparent and accountable government politicians so often trumpet, especially at election time.
After all, it’s one thing to sign an accord promising to provide transparent and accountable governance, it’s quite another to put in place concrete measures - such as a lobbyist registry - that help ensure it actually happens.