List supposed to make government more accountable
After years of delays in implementing a lobbyist registry at Toronto city hall, it finally goes online today.
The registry — the first for any Canadian municipality — is supposed to make government more open and transparent. Anyone can log on to the main city website and see which lobbyists are talking, e-mailing or meeting with councillors or senior staff on a particular subject.
It was one of the key recommendations by Madam Justice Denise Bellamy after the $17-million inquiry into the MFP leasing scandal, where it was revealed lobbyists seeking a computer leasing contract wined and dined staffers and politicians.
Even though the recommendation was made more than two years ago, the registry — with five staffers — is only going into effect now. There were delays over who would be required to register and approving the $711,000 annual budget for the office.
"It’s finally coming to fruition," said Coun. Peter Milczyn. "This is something that the public has wanted for a long time. It’s good. It’s about time."
"There are too many exemptions," said Coun. Case Ootes, who opposes letting union officials off the hook. "Our biggest cost is labour costs. If a union is lobbying, why shouldn’t it be known that they are talking to someone?"
Both Milczyn and Ootes believe this registry would not necessarily prevent a scandal like MFP, where the $43 million leasing contract ended up costing more than twice that. Milczyn added just because a lobbyist is registered, it doesn’t prevent undue influence on a councillor or staffer.