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Port Moody has 'way bigger fish to fry' than setting up a lobbyist registry: mayor

A lobbyist registry set up by Surrey in 2008 records nearly 300 entries annually.
Port Moody doesn't have the resources to establish a lobbyist registry said several councillors who voted against committing more staff time to investigate the idea further.

Setting up a lobbyist registry in Port Moody will take up too much valuable staff time and resources.

That’s the consensus of a majority of city councillors who voted against a motion by Coun. Haven Lurbiecki to have staff further investigate the logistics and costs of setting up such a registry.

Philip Lo, Port Moody’s legislative services advisor, told council’s governance and legislation committee on Tuesday, May 21, before a registry can be implemented, its parameters must be strictly defined. He said rules would have to be drawn up to determine whether it should include both paid and unpaid lobbyists, who is being lobbied and how the lobbying is occurring.

Lo said the rules would also have to consider the subject matter and types of decisions lobbyists could be trying to influence as well as identify any exemptions from those rules.

Lurbiecki, who successfully advocated for a preliminary assessment of what it would take for Port Moody to set up a lobbyist registry last November after a tour conducted by a developer and attended by several of her council colleagues in 2022 had come to light, said transparency is paramount in local government.

She said a lobbyist registry would be “a common sense measure” to achieve that.

“Good governance and transparency is in our strategic plan.”

But Coun. Diana Dilworth said establishing a list with formal procedures requires staff time and financial resources to administer that the city can’t spare.

“I don’t believe this tool is necessary,” she said. “If anyone wants to ask me who I’m meeting with, I’ll share that.”

Coun. Callan Morrison took umbrage with the possible consequences of setting up a lobbyist registry.

“It seems like we’re creating a list of enemies,” he said, adding there are already plenty of rules in place to ensure council acts transparently.

“All of our decisions are recorded in a council meeting. I would hope we’re all trying to make the best decisions.”

In a report, Lo said there’s currently no provincial legislation to guide the establishment of lobbyist registries at the municipal level. But some communities have gone ahead on their own.

He said a registry set up by Surrey in 2008 records 200-300 entries annually while Kelowna has registered five lobbyists since it started its registry in September, 2023. Both are administered by the city clerk or someone authorized by the city clerk.

Coun. Kyla Knowles said Port Moody doesn’t have the resources on hand like those larger communities.

“Do we really want to go down this road?” she said. “If we do, we’d have to go all the way.”

Lurbiecki and Couns. Samantha Agtarap and Amy Lubik voted to task staff to investigate a registry further, while Dilworth, Morrison, Knowles and Mayor Meghan Lahti voted against.

“We have way bigger fish to fry,” said Lahti.