City Hall Watcher #30: Hot Lobbyist Watch summer

In this issue: Blue Jays Prez Mark Shapiro makes Lobbyist Watch debut, Uber and Lyft lobbyists surge ahead of Council vote, Purolator wants eCargo bikes & more!

Hey there. Welcome to the milestone 30th issue of City Hall Watcher. This newsletter celebrates milestones with FREE issues, so you’re getting this for zero dollars.

This issue includes my monthly LOBBYIST WATCH feature, where I take a look at what lobbyists were up to at Toronto City Hall.

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Lobbyist Watch is compiled through extensive digging through the Toronto Lobbyist Registry.

Disclaimers: The Lobbyist Registry records interactions between registered lobbyists and politicians/staff, but it doesn’t provide any information about the nature of those interactions. A meeting recorded in the Registry could be limited to a brief conversation while passing in the hallway, or it could be a full-blown sitdown with an awkward ice-breaker activity and a very boring PowerPoint presentation with lots of 3D pie charts.

Lobbyist Watch is not meant to be comprehensive summary of all lobbying activity — there are hundreds of interactions each month — but merely the highlights.

Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro registers as a lobbyist, meets with Councillor Joe Cressy about future of Rogers Centre

Canada Lands Company

A celebrity sighting in the Lobbyist Registry: Toronto Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro has registered to lobby on “future plans for the Rogers Centre, the surrounding area, and City’s leasehold interest in the subject site.”

Along with Rogers Chairman Edward Rogers and other higher-ups from the Rogers and Blue Jays organizations, Shapiro logged a meeting with Councillor Joe Cressy on July 10 to discuss the future of the ballpark.

Also recording a meeting with Cressy on the same subject on the same day: reps from Brookfield Property Group, one of the world’s largest property developers, and Amir Remtulla, lobbyist extraordinaire and former chief of staff to Mayor Rob Ford.

The Rogers Centre is one of the older ballparks in Major League Baseball. Since he took the Blue Jays President gig, Shapiro has put an emphasis on improving the stadium experience, but hasn’t been very forthcoming with details.

There are a bunch of proposals for large-scale construction projects near the Dome, including a $3.5 billion Oxford Properties project and the City’s Rail Deck Park plan.

Thermal spa company still has sights set on Ontario Place

Therme Erding, where people spontaneously hold hands and stand in the shape of a heart

Lobbying firm StrategyCorp continues to work on behalf of Therme Group, advocating for their proposal for Ontario Place. Therme builds and operates giant domed spa complexes. They’re big in Europe.

In July, lobbyist Aidan Grove-White met with Courtney Glen in John Tory’s office on July 18 and continued to reach out to Joe Cressy’s office.

Therme has also hired Amir Remtulla. You’re going to see his name a few more times in this newsletter.

RideShare companies hail a lot of lobbying ahead of Council vote

On July 16, Council voted 22-1 to adopt revised regulations for taxis and Private Transportation Companies (PTCs) like Uber and Lyft. The debate included a surprise motion by Councillor Gord Perks that would have, if successful, effectively banned PTCs from operating in Toronto. It failed 6-17.

As you’d expect, there was a whole whack of lobbying in the lead-up to the debate. This was the most-lobbied issue in July by a wide margin.

Kim Wright of Wright Strategies was busy on behalf of Uber Canada. She logged 45 entries in the Registry, including meetings with several councillors and staff in the mayor’s office.

But she fell just a tiny bit short of beating Crestview Strategy’s Kate Moseley-Williams, who logged 46 lobbyist interactions on behalf of Lyft Canada. A photo finish.

On the taxi industry side, Kristine Hubbard of Beck Taxi was active, logging 28 communications to several councillors on July 15 — the day before the vote.

Sidewalk Toronto lobbying on fire

It was a relatively quiet month on the lobbying front for Sidewalk Toronto.

Sidewalk staffers Habon Ali, Keira Webster and Pino Di Mascio recorded a meeting with the Director of the Waterfront Secretariat and other city planning staff on July 11 Prem Ramaswami met with IT staff from various city divisions and departments on July 22.

More interesting is a new lobbying registration for CHM Fire Consultants. They’re working on Sidewalk’s behalf to communicate “about fire testing procedures and licenses, specifically procedures and licenses related to demonstration burns.” Dr. Steven Craft of CHM has been emailing and calling staff from Toronto Fire and Toronto Building. It’s unclear what — if anything — Sidewalk is looking to burn.

Purolator wants to use electric cargo bikes for deliveries

Newswire

Way back in 2017, UPS Canada announced a pilot project to use cargo bikes for deliveries on York University campus. Earlier this year, Council approved the use of cargo bikes as maintenance vehicles as a pilot project in Allan Gardens.

Now Purolator seems to want in on the cargo bike action.

Lobbyists with the shipping company met with staff from Transportation Services to express their desire for “changes from the City of Toronto of its by-laws and other regulations to allow for e-Cargo bikes.” Though the earlier moves toward embracing cargo bikes were well-received, adding electricity could cause some controversy — especially if the idea is that these vehicles will be able to use bike lanes.

Canada Running Series hires lobbying firm to talk up Toronto waterfront marathon

Following some in-house lobbying by Race Director Alan Brookes earlier this year, Canada Running Series has hired Sutherland Corporation to lobby on the subject of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, held every fall. On July 9, Sutherland lobbyists met with Councillor Brad Bradford.

Last year, the Economic Development Committee requested a report on strengthening running tourism in Toronto. The report is due sometime this year.

Familiar faces

  • Former Deputy City Manager John Livey has registered as a lobbyist with his firm JWLIVEY INC. He left City Hall in April 2018. Livey logged meetings with Paula Fletcher and Affordable Housing staff on July 2, to discuss a development at 838-844 Broadview.

  • TTC board member Alan Heisey is lobbying on behalf of the Westin Prince Hotel’s redevelopment plan for 900 York Mills. Loyalist Public Affairs is also very active on this file.

  • Former councillor and mayoral candidate Joe Pantalone met with Joe Cressy on July 2, to discuss a development at 111-127 Strachan. He’s also working on a Plazacorp application for 400 King West and a Centrecourt development at 254 Adelaide West.

  • Former MPP and ex-councillor Peter Milczyn was active on Dunpar’s application for 4195 Dundas West and a Concord Adex plan for 82 Queen’s Wharf Road.

  • Isaac Ransom was once a comms staffer for Mayor Rob Ford. Now he’s at Hill & Knowlton Strategies, lobbying on behalf of Nespresso. In July, he met with Councillor Gary Crawford and Vince Gasparro to talk about packaging and recycling.

  • Former chief of staff to Mayor Rob Ford Amir Remtulla is lobbying on behalf of Park Indigo, a company that offers app-based parking at various lots, emailing Vincent Gasparro in Tory’s office on July 3. Remtulla is also lobbying on behalf of — deep breath — a Minto development at 295 Jarvis, a Gairloch development at 2639 Dundas West, a ShipLake development at 2450 Victoria Park, a CentreCourt development at 411 Church Street, a Starlight development at 1255 Birchmount, a TAS development at 385 The West Mall, a Tusk development at 28 Bathurst and a Lifetime development at 2360-2376 Yonge Street. He’s also on the Rogers Centre file and is working the giant spa dome angle for Therme at Ontario Place. A very, very busy lobbyist.

Tech 4 sale

  • They won a contract to provide Toronto with photo radar equipment last month, but Redflex Traffic Systems isn’t stopping there. They’re pitching to use their equipment to catch the jerks who drive past open streetcar doors. Redflex reps met with TTC managers on the topic of a “streetcar photo enforcement program” on July 9.

  • GRIP Idle Management Inc, an Ancaster-based company selling a product that reduces “idling & emissions” levels sent an email to TTC staff on July 3. They were also lobbying both TTC and Fleet Services earlier this year.

  • Mastercard Canada lobbyists are pitching people at City Hall on how their company might “support Smart Cities initiatives with respect to payments, innovation and data.” In-house lobbyists met with staff from the Economic Development and Culture division on July 5. Mastercard also did some lobbying on the Digital Main Street initiative.

  • Rideshare company Autzu continues to work the lobbying beat to win permission to bid on contracted Wheel-Trans services for the TTC.  Autzu’s Michael Aziz met with staff from the offices of Jennifer McKelvie, Denzil Minnan-Wong and Brad Bradford in July — all members of the TTC board.

  • Safe Buildings Tech Inc. lobbyists are pitching their app that collects a “building's essential and emergency information electronically, allowing for rapid access to the building's critical information.” They were in communication with Toronto Fire. 

  • Not content to let Google have all the fun, Blackberry lobbyists met with IT staff on July 23.

  • Shaw Communications recorded a whopping 37 interactions in July, with staff and councillors. They’re “looking to expand network coverage in the City, praticularly in areas without wireless networks.”

Lobbying grab bag

  • The Young People’s Theatre is looking for new digs. They’ve hired Pathway Group to win capital funding support for a new theatre. Lobbyist Jim Burnett met with Gary Crawford, a longtime advocate for the arts, on July 9.

  • Enterprise Carshare has hired Cousel Public Affairs to “engage in discussions pertaining to the CarShare pilot program, and the free-floating CarShare policy” and “modernize zoning for carsharing.” Counsel’s Stephenaie Gawur logged a call with Stephen Holyday on July 3, and follow-ups via email later in the month. Holyday has been one of Council’s fiercest opponents of the kind of free-floating carsharing formerly provided by Car2go and currently provided by Communauto. The city’s current rules recently required Communauto to stop offering service in part of downtown.

  • Rory MacLeod, SVP of Development for Cadillac Fairview, recorded a meeting with Courtney Glen, Edward Birnbaum and Luke Robertson in Tory’s office on July 25. The lobbying registration says he was there to talk about “Regional Express Rail/Smart Track.”

  • Terracap Management has hired Brown & Cohen to lobby about creating an “east-west cycling link over the GO Barrie Line.” It’s part of redevelopment plans for the Dufferin Bentworth gateway. They’ve reached out to councillors Mike Colle and Frances Nunziata, and ran a grassroots communication campaign to all councillors between July 16 and July 30.

  • The Toronto Wholesale Produce Association has hired Rubicon Strategy to lobby on “building relationships with the City of Toronto as so it effects the Ontario Food Terminal.” Rubicon consultant Christine Simundson met with Stephen Holyday on July 5.

The curious case of Club Coffee

Midway through the July Council meeting, Councillor Michael Ford raised some eyebrows when he introduced a motion about “diverting coffee pods from landfills.” He said his last-minute addition to the agenda was urgent because “inaction on this issue will potentially lead to hundreds of lost jobs in Etobicoke.”

Ford’s motion called for a report to be written in time for December “on a design for a potential pilot project to permit compostable/biodegradable coffee pods to be processed in the City’s Green Bin Program.” Councillor Gord Perks took issue with the urgency rationale and successfully got councillors to instead refer the whole matter to the General Manager of Solid Waste for further consideration.

Lobbying records for North Etobicoke-based Club Coffee give some clues to what motivated the whole thing. In late June, Club Coffee hired StrategyCorp to lobby on the subject of “achieving approval of client’s products as compostable in Toronto’s green bin program.” StrategyCorp’s Aidan Grove-White was subsequently in communication with staff in Ford’s office on July 11, July 15, July 16 and July 17. In-house lobbyists for Club Coffee were also in communication with Ford’s team.

Perks’ motion to refer Ford’s motion came on July 18. The final vote was 14-3 in favour of referral. Ford wasn’t in the chamber for the vote, so was marked absent.


Lobbyist Watch will return next month. To make sure you get it, join hundreds of other subscribers to City Hall Watcher for $5 a month or $50 a year.


In other news


The week at Toronto City Hall

MONDAY: It was Simcoe Day! Or the Civic Holiday! Or Natal Day! Or Terry Fox Day! Or… Saskatchewan Day? British Columbia Day? New Brunswick Day? Some notable provinces need to get more creative with their holiday naming. Pick up the effort.

TUESDAY: No meetings scheduled.

WEDNESDAY: The Board of Governors for Exhibition Place meet to consider a new collective agreement with LiUNA Local 506. They’ve been without a contract since March 31, 2018.

Also, the Bid Award Panel will convene to award various contracts to successful bidders, including a $389,206 contract for snack food for Toronto schools and community centres. Hope the deal includes some Fruit Roll-Ups. Those were fun.

THURSDAY: No meetings scheduled. But there is a TransformTO consultation at Scarborough Civic Centre at 6:30 p.m. You can register here.

FRIDAY: No meetings scheduled.


City Hall Watcher #30

A very special dedication this week: this one is for Ayla Saskia Elliott, born August 1 to my brother Chris and his wife Melissa. Born both two weeks early and three days late, which is one hell of a trick. No pressure, kid, but you’ll have two major tasks in life. The first will be to listen to your parents. The second: invent some sort of gizmo to solve climate change.

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Next week: a look at climate change and parking minimums. It’ll come to your Inbox Monday by 5 p.m. See you then.