Victoria councillor wants lobbyist registry for municipalities

Lobbyists who ply their trade on municipal politicians or senior staff should be required to register their activities, says Victoria Coun. Jeremy Loveday.

Loveday, who has proposed that Victoria explore establishing its own lobbyist registry, is recommending that the city back Richmond’s resolution to the Union of B.C. Municipalities calling on the province to establish a lobbyist registry for local governments.

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Loveday said support among Victoria councillors for such a registry is probably “tenuous.”

“So I think this approach of lobbying through UBCM for the creation of a lobbyist registry makes sense at this time,” he said.

Richmond’s resolution says legislation similar to the B.C. Lobbyists Registration Act, which applies to MLAs and provincial employees, is needed for local governments to promote transparency in lobbying and government decision-making.

Establishing such a registry is included for next year in Victoria council’s strategic plan.

Loveday said he pushed for Victoria establishing its own lobbyist registry after the idea was brought to him by a number of members of the public.

But initial discussions with staff and others showed municipalities might not have the authority to make compliance mandatory.

“At that point, it would be voluntary compliance,” Loveday said. “So provincial action would be needed if we wanted to institute a full lobbyist registry.”

Loveday said if Richmond’s resolution passes and the province decides to act, the city can always delay its actions. “There’s no use in reinventing the wheel, and if there is movement provincially, we can just wait for that and opt in once it’s created. It would save us time and money.”

Loveday, in his second term as a Victoria councillor, said he hasn’t seen any lobbying activities that set off alarm bells.

“But sometimes what’s hidden is most nefarious. I think as governors, we have a duty to continue to push for accountability and transparency and I see this as a step in that direction.”

The B.C. Lobbyist Registration Act requires individuals and organizations who lobby public office holders to register their lobbying in an online registry. The Office of the Registrar of Lobbyists of B.C. defines lobbyists as those who, on behalf of their employers or clients, communicate with public office holders in an attempt to influence their decisions.

“Public office holders” include MLAs, employees of government, and employees of Crown corporations, universities and health authorities.

“I also think the public would like to know which lobbyist council is meeting with and senior staff, potentially, so that the public knows what’s going on behind the scenes and how decisions are made,” Loveday said.

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