Kelowna lobbyists beware – there will be consequences if you break the rules | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

Would you like to subscribe to our newsletter?

Current Conditions Cloudy  1.9°C

Kelowna News

Kelowna lobbyists beware – there will be consequences if you break the rules

Kelowna Mayor Tom Dyas at an Oct. 4, 2022 pre-election forum.

A new lobbyist registry, currently being drafted at Kelowna city hall, will have penalties for those who don’t comply.

Council unanimously supported a proposal by Mayor Tom Dyas yesterday, Dec. 5, to have staff draft a lobbyist registry bylaw.

“There will be some teeth in there,” Dyas told “Otherwise, it’s like establishing a bylaw you won’t enforce, which is not what I want.”

Surrey is the only B.C. city with a lobbyist registry and its policy doesn't seem to have any consequences for not registering.

Dyas noted that there are other cities across the country with registries and pointed to Toronto in particular.

Toronto has a registrar who can investigate breaches in the policy and impose sanctions, starting with a one-month suspension for the first breach and up to a maximum of two years for a third breach. Fines can also be levied under the Provincial Offences Act starting at a maximum of $25,000 for the first conviction and up to $100,000 for subsequent convictions.

Dyas wouldn’t speculate on what sanctions there may be in the Kelowna bylaw because staff still have to bring language back for council approval, likely in January or February.

The registry was a campaign promise Dyas made and is being brought in so there is more transparency around council decisions.

READ MORE: Kelowna mayoral candidate promises lobbyist registry, integrity commissioner

“What I heard from our citizens was that there were great concerns that there were a number of meetings taking place on applications or proposals that individuals had put in front of, or were trying to forward, through city hall and that there were a number of meetings that took place on individual projects," Dyas said.

"There was no way of knowing whether those meetings took place, whether there was one or whether there was more than one with the same application.”

City councillors have told they had numerous meetings with the developer of the controversial highrise proposed for the former RCMP site downtown.

READ MORE: Controversial downtown Kelowna rental highrise developer painted himself into a corner

Dyas couldn't point to any one example of when the previous council may have been influenced by lobbyists.

“I can’t speak to any particular projects because there’s nothing that I have that would state one project over another,” he said.

“What I heard is that (residents) only get an opportunity to respond and state their case either with a letter or within a five-minute time frame. If there’s somebody who is potentially looking to get a project in and they’ve met 10 times or five times or whatever with a specific individual, a councillor, a senior leadership team member or something along that line, they’re feeling that’s just not fair.”

In Surrey, lobbyists have to apply to be registered and include the project they're lobbying for and who they are working for. But they only register once for each project so don't have to disclose how many meetings they had with one or more councillors. That list is published online and had about 50 registrants in its first year in 2009. For 2022, there were 244 names on the list up until Dec. 2.

“By placing registration and disclosure requirements, Surrey citizens will have access to information about persons who may attempt to influence decisions of City government through the use of paid lobbyists in relation to land use development applications,” the preamble to the policy said.

The Surrey policy said lobby means “to communicate with a public office holder in an attempt to influence a decision in relation to a development application for a development permit, a rezoning policy or an official community plan amendment.”

Kelowna councillors want the local policy to include anyone who lobbies for any reason, including organizations like neighbourhood associations, sport groups, arts groups or unions.

While city staff will take time to draft the bylaw, Dyas doesn’t want the registry to take up staff time once it’s up and running.

The Surrey policy can be seen here.

The Toronto policy can be seen here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

We welcome your comments and opinions on our stories but play nice. We won't censor or delete comments unless they contain off-topic statements or links, unnecessary vulgarity, false facts, spam or obviously fake profiles. If you have any concerns about what you see in comments, email the editor in the link above. 

News from © iNFOnews, 2022

  • Popular kelowna News
View Site in: Desktop | Mobile