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We just missed being relegated as lobbyists

This could have been very bad news:  on reading the agenda for the June 10 City Council meeting, my LPOA co-president Geoff Kettel noted an important motion which would have significantly affected how groups like the LPOA interact with our elected municipal representatives.

The motion, Requirement to Register with the Lobbyist Registrar’s Office, was proposed by Deputy Mayor Norm Kelly and seconded by our councillor, John Parker.

It would have required “non-profit organizations, unions and all community organizations designed to target specific city-wide issues resulting in financial impacts… and… all grass roots campaigns, regardless of who started them” to register as lobbyists.

It read very much like an attempt to make it much more difficult for ratepayer groups (like LPOA) to meet or communicate with their councillors.

Not only are ratepayer groups non-profits, we are made up entirely of volunteers. We are voters and taxpayers, not lobbyists trying to gain some personal or business financial interest or benefit.

Where does a constituent’s conversation with their councillor end and lobbying begin?  Should every voter who is in a ratepayer group be reduced to the same status as a paid lobbyist or developer? Would ratepayer representatives have to fill out paperwork with the Lobbyist Registrar’s Office whenever contacting our councillor?

We had received no prior warning that a lobbyists’ registry of this description would be proposed at City Council, nor were ratepayer groups such as LPOA consulted as interested stakeholders.

Whatever happened to the principle of unfettered access to one’s elected representatives?

This motion was a dangerous step down a very slippery slope, which would have reduced the voices of residents like you on issues that matter to you. LPOA contacted John Parker and every other city councillor to urge that ratepayer groups be clearly exempted from this onerous measure.

Fortunately, the motion was withdrawn by Deputy Mayor Kelly on the second day of the council meeting. No reason was given for the withdrawal. Perhaps the mover and seconder were encouraged to reconsider the wisdom of such a motion?  It is not scheduled to come back to council at a later date, although it still could be reintroduced in a new or amended form. We’ll be watching.

Meanwhile, on another front, some GOOD news. LPOA is scheduled to receive our financial settlement from SmartCentres by Canada Day, which will enable us to swing into action on several fronts: traffic planning, heritage, and assisting Bayview merchants to improve the Bayview shopping district.

Our traffic planner will take into account the impact-to-come of LRT construction along Eglinton Ave.  Our consultant is in the process of designing and suggesting ways of protecting residential Leaside’s streets from traffic diverting off Eglinton. More on that when we have more details.

There are also funds to help define, support and eventually create a Heritage Conservation District within Leaside. There have been several articles in Leaside Life by Geoff Kettel on this subject and more information will be coming as we proceed.  A statutory meeting of residents will also be held by the city, date thus far unscheduled.

As for the Bayview shopping district, we have promised to do what we can to support the merchants as they face competition from big-box store areas, which offer free parking. In comparison, Bayview’s insufficient parking spaces, costly parking rates and over-zealous enforcement are a major problem. If a Bayview BIA (Business Improvement Area) is set up, our funds will be directed in that way.

By the time most people are back from their summer holidays we should have news for you on all these fronts. The directors of the LPOA wish you all a happy and safe summer.