Tim Hortons | Lobbying against Environment | Conundrum

INFLUENCING CITY HALL

City watchdog set to probe coffee giant over lobbying

Firm’s spokesman argues he’s on city registry

Toronto’s lobbyist watchdog is investigating whether doughnut chain Tim Hortons – battling the city over a proposed environmental ban on its coffee cups – is following city hall’s new rules as the firm tries to influence councillors.

Lobbyist registrar Linda Gehrke, who oversees the online registry that tracks meetings between lobbyists and city officials, said yesterday she will investigate why Nick Javor, Tim Hortons senior vice-president of corporate affairs, does not appear on the city’s list as a registered lobbyist.

Ms. Gehrke, who said she is exercising leniency as the registry is still getting established, said a report in The Globe and Mail on Saturday that Mr. Javor was meeting with city councillors prompted her to look into the matter: “That was my first inkling that there was lobbying going on.”

In a brief interview in a corridor of councillors’ offices yesterday, Mr. Javor said his staff had told him he was a registered lobbyist and that he would look into the problem.

Tim Hortons has also hired consultant Kim Wright of lobbying firm Sussex Strategy Group – accompanying Mr. Javor yesterday – to help make its case against plans to force the chain to switch to coffee cups that the city’s recycling system can handle and to mandate a 20-cent discount for customers with their own mugs.

Ms. Wright is listed as a registered lobbyist for Tim Hortons, but her entry on the city’s website as of yesterday afternoon did not detail with whom she has met on the doughnut chain’s behalf.

Lobbyists have three business days after a meeting to update an entry. But Ms. Wright said that last Monday, she actually submitted a list of four councillors, all members of the works committee set to debate the recycling issue tomorrow. She said she didn’t know why the registry had not updated.

Ms. Wright also said the rules were unfair, since non-profit environmental groups are exempt.

The lobbyist registrar said it was “quite possible” that the fact the website was taken down Monday and part of Tuesday for a software update was the reason Ms. Wright’s entry was not updated.

Under the city’s complex rules, the question of whether Mr. Javor needs to be registered as a lobbyist could hinge on whether he attends meetings only as Ms. Wright’s client. According to Ms. Gehrke, if Mr. Javor was actively lobbying during these meetings, he should be registered as well.

But Mr. Javor has also had at least one phone conversation with a city councillor on his own. Councillor Frank Di Giorgio (Ward 12, York South-Weston) said yesterday that he returned a call from Mr. Javor on Friday about the issue.

Mr. Javor also met with Councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker (Ward 38, Scarborough Centre) – the works committee chairman pushing for the coffee-cup changes – and Councillor Howard Moscoe (Ward 15, Eglinton-Lawrence) about a month ago, Mr. De Baeremaeker said, adding that he had assumed Mr. Javor was registered.

The new lobbyist registry website, which has been years in the making and was bogged down by delays and confusion as council slashed its budget, is the first of its kind run by a Canadian municipality. It was called for in the inquiry into the city’s MFP computer-leasing scandal. Bernie Morton, another lobbyist with Ms. Wright’s firm, actually helped city officials draft the rules.

Under the city’s lobbying rules, a representative of a corporation who tries to influence city officials without registering and properly disclosing the names of the officials being approached could face a fine of up to $25,000 if convicted for a first offence.

Meanwhile, three city councillors – Peter Milczyn (Ward 5, Etobicoke-Lakeshore), Karen Stintz (Ward 16, Eglinton-Lawrence) and Mr. Minnan-Wong – said they would push to have the works committee refer the city’s controversial packaging crackdown back to city staff in order to continue talks with the industry and draft a compromise.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20081111.wtrash11/BNStory/National/?page=rss&id=RTGAM.20081111.wtrash11

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