If lamp posts could talk
City Hall Watcher #152: Lobbyist Watch for November 2021 featuring big bingo, talking street furniture, the island airport and the return of a familiar face
Hello hello. It’s a new month, so today I bring you a new edition of Lobbyist Watch, City Hall Watcher’s monthly summary of lobbying activity at Toronto City Hall.
This issue has everything: airlines, tech companies, a Brave Little Toaster joke, wistful nostalgia for the halcyon days of the 2010-2014 Council term, and more.
Before we dive in, a quick sales pitch: ‘tis the season. If you’re looking for a good holiday gift idea, a subscription to City Hall Watcher makes a very fine stocking stuffer. It’s the gift that keeps giving.
You can also, of course, buy a subscription for yourself or your corporate team. With group subscriptions, one person can manage things for others, with the ability to add and change email addresses as people come and go. It’s pretty neat.
Your subscriptions help support independent journalism. It’s a very cool and good thing to do.
A quick note on the upcoming publishing schedule: you will receive regular issues on Monday, December 13 and Monday, December 20. On the week of December 27, stay tuned for a special THE YEAR IN CHARTS retrospective which will arrive on a date TBD because time ceases to exist in the week between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
In January, I’ll be taking a break from writing this newsletter to figure out how the hell to be a parent to a small human being. But do not worry: the newsletter will continue with issues guest-written by some very smart and talented people.
Lots to look forward to in 2022. Hope you come along for the ride.
— Matt Elliott
Lobbyist Watch for November 2021: the new island airline, talking street furniture, an undercover boss returns & more
Lobbyist Watch is my monthly summary of activity on Toronto City Hall’s lobbyist registry. For this November 2021 edition, I pored over 903 lobbyist communications and 386 new registrations. Here’s the most interesting bits of what I found.
Disclaimer: Toronto’s Lobbyist Registry requires lobbyists to register and record all communications they have with politicians and staff, but it does not require them to provide much detail about the extent of those communications. As a result, a meeting noted below could be a long conversation with some deal-making, or it could be a passing chat of no real consequence.
Tory takes a flyer
John Thomas, the CEO of Connect Airlines, met with Mayor John Tory on November 1.
Thomas Scott Brownrigg, a senior advisor for Connect, and Courtney Glen, Tory’s deputy chief of staff, were also in attendance in the meeting conducted virtually over WebEx.
Connect, a new airline planning to start service at Billy Bishop Island Airport , had initially planned to launch their service this fall, but a presentation from Gene Cabral, Executive Vice President of PortsToronto, delivered to last week’s meeting of the Economic & Community Development Committee indicated that the launch plan has been pushed back into early 2022.
A story by James Pearson on SimpleFlying.com indicates that Connect will target U.S. business travellers and that “Connect’s strategic position will likely mean relatively high fares.” They initially plan to fly to Philadelphia and Chicago O’Hare with plans to add other routes.
Look who’s talking now
Hello Lamp Post, a London, UK-based tech company, has registered to pitch their technology that allows people “to interact with objects in their everyday surroundings.”
In simple terms, their tech lets people send text messages to inanimate objects like lamp posts. Those objects will then reply, asking questions like, “What would you change about this area?” They’ll then continue to engage you in conversation for as long as you care to stand there talking to a lamp.
I am not making any of this up.
It brings to mind the Brave Little Toaster, and how before I saw that movie I had no qualms about getting rid of old stuff. But, after the movie, suddenly these hunks of junk were anthropomorphized and I was holding back tears while contemplating a broken video game controller. I am a bit concerned this whole thing could make me feel empathy for lamp posts, is what I am trying to say.
But technology marches on, like it or not, and this particular tech product appears to be drawing some real interest. Hello Lamp Post CEO Tiernan Mines logged a meeting on November 9 with Councillor Michael Thompson and a staffer in the Economic Development division.
Hello Lamp Post’s registration indicates they have received lots of government funding, including from the UK Government, the City of Sydney and several other municipal governments. It’s not clear yet whether they might be angling for some government funding here.
Happiness is lobbying for bingo
Delta Bingo, a company that operates several bingo halls in Canada and the United States, hired Sussex Strategy Group in November to lobby about a report that would have disallowed bingo halls as a permitted use in the city’s lands zoned for employment.
It was a major lobbying effort, with Sussex lobbyists Paul Pellegrini, Jamie Besner, Angela Drennan, Tristan Downe-Dewdney and Lauren Goethel all logging bingo-related lobbying communications as they executed a multi-card strategy.