Edmonton city councillors want lobbyist registry but have hit a roadblock

A 2013 file photo of Edmonton City Hall. Heather Loney, Global News

Edmonton City Council is trying to set up a lobbyist registry and it’s not going so well.

At Monday’s code of conduct subcommittee, councillors got hung up on trying to sort out the difference between registering professional lobbyists like lawyers representing developers, and the average, everyday citizen complaining about an issue of the day.

“We’re turning everybody into a lobbyist,” Councillor Michael Walters complained, with his statement getting support all around the table.

At public meetings where councillors go to observe feedback on initiatives like LRT projects or neighbourhood redevelopment proposals, they have all sorts of one-on-one conversations with people. That has prompted the question to be asked, should they be considered lobbyists?

“I think if it gets too complicated, it’s not going to work,” said Councillor Ben Henderson, who added that he gets approached all the time at the supermarket.

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Councillor Scott McKeen said the term lobbyist is loaded, conjuring up images of Capitol Hill in D.C., with paid lobbyists trying to amend legislation. He said he wants the rules at city hall to “allow all citizens to be able to approach their elected representatives without being deemed a lobbyist.”

He said he’s even had it happen to him in the locker-room at the gym.

The mayor’s office has a registry that council is trying to base theirs on. It was created after a campaign promise in the most recent election. Don Iveson said it is tracking anyone who stands to gain a financial benefit from decisions made at city hall.

“If you’re just a constituent with a regular everyday issue, you’re exempt. You are not a lobbyist,” Iveson said.

Members of the subcommittee voted to continue to monitor what goes on in the mayor’s office, and then base their future registry on that outcome.

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