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Two Vancouver councillors push to establish lobbyist registry

Andrea Reimer is one of two city councillors supporting a move to see Vancouver establish a lobbyist registry.

Deborah Baic/The Globe and Mail

Two city councillors from opposite sides of the political fence are supporting a move to see Vancouver establish a lobbyist registry.

Both George Affleck, the Non-Partisan Association councillor who pushed for a lobbyist registry two years ago, and Andrea Reimer, with the ruling Vision Vancouver party, say the public wants more information about which business or non-profit groups are meeting with councillors to try to persuade them to take action on their issues.

"The public expectation around transparency is high and justifiably so," said Ms. Reimer.

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Ms. Reimer has proposed a motion going to council Tuesday aimed at getting the province to change the law so that cities can create lobbyist registries with enforceable rules.

She's also asked that staff take a look at Surrey's voluntary lobbyist registry to see what impact it's having and how much it costs to run it.

Ms. Reimer had asked staff to look into the issue almost two years ago, in response to Mr. Affleck's motion.

But she acknowledged that recent questions about potential lobbying activity prompted her to ask what had happened with her request.

The renewed push for a lobbyist registry comes after questions raised by some people about the activities of Mayor Gregor Robertson's former chief of staff, Mike Magee.

Mr. Magee is now working as an independent consultant.

Mr. Magee has told council members that he wouldn't take on any work as a lobbyist after he left his city-hall job last September

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But he has been meeting with developers and others who do work in the city about consulting work.

It was unclear to some staff what his status was, as he occasionally dropped in to the mayor's office to provide advice and information on his old files to staff even after his official departure Sept. 30.

He is also a long-time close friend of the mayor's.

City manager Sadhu Johnston said he sent out a message to senior staff at city hall in the fall, reminding them that they were not required to provide any more information or access to Mr. Magee than to any other member of the public.

There is currently no rule that prohibits any former city staffer or politician from going to work or lobbying immediately for someone doing business with the city.

Former COPE councillor Jim Green did lobbying work for developers after being defeated in his run for mayor in 2005.

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A former deputy city manager also does consulting work for local developers.

Mr. Affleck and Ms. Reimer both acknowledged that council members get requests from and sometimes meet with many people who could be called lobbyists, from Airbnb to liquor

establishments to waste management.

"The public should be aware this is happening.

"And if there are certain lobbyists who are getting better treatment and getting to meet with the mayor more often, they should know," said Mr. Affleck.

Mr. Affleck said he thinks there are people who get preferential access to the mayor.

The NPA promised to set up a lobbyist registry during the 2014 civic election campaign.

However, it will take provincial change of legislation to create one officially for cities.

Lobbyist registries are standard for the federal governments and the provinces.

But few cities have them.

Quebec provincial law requires cities to have lobbyist registries, but most other provinces do not.

Toronto created a lobbyist registry in 2008.

That move was prompted a computer-purchasing scandal that exposed relationships between the company, city staff and councillors.

Surrey created its voluntary registry in 2008 as well, under former mayor Dianne Watts.

However, it only requires registration by people lobbying on certain issues related to real estate and development.

The 2016 registry has more than 250 entries.

But many lobbyists are registered for multiple files.

It's unknown how much it costs to manage that registry, as the work is folded into the work of the city clerk's office.

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About the Author
Urban affairs contributor

Frances Bula has written about urban issues and city politics in B.C.’s Vancouver region, covering everything from Downtown Eastside drug addiction to billion-dollar development projects, since 1994. More

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