SUDBURY -- Greater Sudbury could soon become one of a few Ontario cities that require lobbyists to add their names to a registry.

A staff report headed to city council Dec. 15 said at least seven other cities have such a registry.

"Those municipalities, for the most part, include the larger centres such as Toronto and Ottawa and others that are experiencing rapid and extensive development in their communities, such as Vaughan and Brampton, which would support the need to regulate lobbying through the implementation of a registry system," the report said.

Recommendations in the report are partially culled from policies in use in those communities.

So what is a lobbyist? Under the proposed bylaw for Sudbury, a lobbyist would be defined as someone who represents or is paid to lobby on behalf of a business or organization with a financial interest in a city council decision.

Those decisions could include passing or repealing a bylaw; approving or rejecting a city program or guideline; purchasing goods or services or awarding of city contracts; issuing permits or licenses; the award of a grant or financial contribution from the city; the purchase or sale of assets from or by the city; and, to arrange a meeting with a politician to discuss any of the matters listed above.

Some activites exempt

Some activities would be exempted from the lobbyist registry, including such things as talking with politicians during public meetings, requests for information, compliments, complaints and communication by non-profit groups that have no paid staff.

If passed, lobbyists would have to join the registry before communicating with public officeholders. Some communities with lobbyist registries extend the definition of public officeholders to include not only elected politicians, but city staff, members of local boards and consultants.

"There are other examples, such as in Hamilton, where a much more restricted definition of public office holder applies including only members of council, the staff of members of council and members of the executive leadership team," the report said.

The proposed bylaw for Sudbury would use the Hamilton definition.

"This approach would have the effect of reducing the training required and limit the significant administrative resources required for the ongoing administration and enforcement of the lobbyist registry by the lobbyist registrar and the clerk," the report said.

The definition of a lobbyist would include consultant lobbyists, who lobby for payment on behalf of a client; in-house lobbyists, who are employees, partners or sole proprietors and lobby on behalf of their own employer, business or other entity; and, voluntary unpaid lobbyists, who lobby without payment for the interests of an individual, business or other entity.

Exemptions include other elected politicians who lobby, municipal associations, such as the Association of Municipalities of Ontario, and members of other local boards, such as the Downtown BIA.

If the registry is approved, an accountability official would have to be appointed to oversee the registry. They would have the power to investigate complaints, with penalties ranging from removal from the list to referral of the case to police for further investigation.

"A number of municipalities that have implemented lobbyist registries have assigned the responsibilities of the lobbyist registrar to their integrity commissioners," the report said. "The role is complementary to the duties and responsibilities already overseen by an integrity commissioner."

In that case, Robert Swayze, the city's integrity commissioner, would take on that role.

"This issue has been discussed with Mr. Swayze … and he has agreed to act as the city’s lobbyist registrar should council wish to appoint him as such," the report said. "He has prior experience acting as a lobbyist registrar for other municipalities."

Councillors will decide on the registry at their Dec. 15 meeting, which begins at 6 p.m.