There was a high degree of sensitivity demonstrated about the propriety of Hamilton Councillors meeting with lobbyists during a recent meeting between the General issues Committee and Ken Hall of Enbridge pipelines. Enbridge wishes to reverse the flow of a pipeline running through Hamilton in order to supply western crude oil to eastern refineries. The project has created concerns in light of a pipeline spill in Michigan that contaminated a creek near Kalamazoo. Several public groups appeared and made presentations opposed to the Enbridge plan.
During the debate there was discussion of whether or not members of council had met prior to the meeting with Mr. Hall. Mr. Hall revealed that he had offered to meet with all councillors and had actually met with 5 of them. Coun. Brad Clark specifically asked to be recorded as having not met with Hall, saying “I don’t meet with lobbyists.” Several other councilors seemed to agree that it would have been improper to meet with Mr Hall before the meeting.
What some members seemed to miss is that when he filled out his form to be a delegation to council, Mr. Hall quite rightly ticked off the box that says “I am NOT a lobbyist.” Mr Hall, as an employee of Enbridge is NOT a lobbyist–he is a PROPONENT. A proponent of a project has as much right to meet with Councillors and staff as does Sue McMaster the head of COPE who earlier appeared to speak against the Niagara to GTA Corridor, or the Environmental Defense League who spoke against the pipeline. It is incumbent on members of council to make fully informed decisions. Part of that obligation involves being willing to sit down with all sides of any given issue to gain the fullest possible understanding of the facts. And by the way, listening to a real live paid lobbyist is OK too as long as that lobbyist has openly declared their relationship with their client. If councillors do not trust themselves to meet with parties who are promoting or opposing issues or projects, they should not be offering themselves for office, because that is part of the job.