If you want to influence government, the City of Winnipeg wants your specs

If you want to influence government, the City of Winnipeg wants your specs

Winnipeg is poised to ask anyone who seeks to influence city officials to benefit themselves, businesses or non-profit organizations to register as a lobbyist within 10 days of the interaction.

But the city has no power to force people to add their names to a lobbyist registry modelled on similar lists kept by officials in Toronto, Ottawa, most Canadian provinces and the federal government.

On Wednesday, city council's executive policy committee will consider a recommendation to create list of anyone who meets with the mayor, a city councillor or a public servant, outside of a public event or normal process, for some form of benefit for themselves, their employer or another business or non-profit organization with paid staff.

According to a report authored by city clerk Destiny Watt, the lobbyist registry is intended to compile a list of anyone seeking direct or indirect financial benefit, or changes to a program, policy or procedure. 

Government officials would be exempt from the registry. So would anybody speaking at a public meeting, simply requesting information, offering complaints or compliments or communicating with an official as part of a regular process such as filling out a permit application.

Only if an individual communicates with a governmental decision-maker to seek direct or indirect financial benefit or increased, decreased (or) changed city services, policies, practices or legislation that may lead to direct or indirect financial benefit, would they be considered as a lobbyist," Watt writes in the report. 

"If you are not paid for communicating with a governmental decision-maker, you do not represent a business or financial interest, or if you are part of a not-for-profit organization with no paid staff; you would not be considered a lobbyist. For example, a citizen calling in regards to issues with snow-clearing or waste removal would not be considered a lobbyist."

People who are considered lobbyists would be required to submit their name, their contact information and the subject matter or intended outcome of their meeting. There would be no fee to register as a lobbyist, which would be done online.

The lobbyist registry will be the responsibility of the city's new integrity commissioner, Sherri Walsh. The report to EPC suggests she may ask the province to grant the city the power to force lobbyists to comply with the request to sign the registry.

Mayor Brian Bowman announced his intention to create a lobbyist registry in December, after accusing Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt of partnering with Manitoba Heavy Construction Association president Chris Lorenc to disparage the city's budget. Both Wyatt and Lorenc denied the accusation.

This week, Bowman complained he was the subject of intense lobbying by Manitoba MLAs and members of the taxi industry over the province's ride-hailing legislation. The mayor refused to say which MLAs attempted to influence him, which parties they belong to or even whether they belonged to more than one political party.

Pending EPC approval on Wednesday, the plan to create a lobbyist registry will come before city council on April 26.