A fundraising event held for Rob Ford in 2011 created the appearance of "special access to the Mayor," says Lobbyist Registrar.
In June 2011, a fundraising event for Mayor Rob Ford was held at the home of the Toronto Chapter Chair of BILD. BILD stands for “Building Industry and Land Development Association,” and it’s a registered lobbyist organization for, you guessed it, the building and land development industries. The organization happened to be in the midst of lobbying the City on a number of matters related to those industries when this event occurred.
In a report dated February 11, 2014, which will be considered by council on February 19, Lobbyist Registrar Linda L. Gehrke reviewed the case and determined that various factors “placed the Mayor in an apparent conflict of interest by creating the appearance of special access to the Mayor, a special relationship or a personal obligation by the Mayor to BILD”:
- The event was held by BILD specifically for the mayor, and so that its members could meet him.
- After the fundraiser, attendees received thank-you notes that made it clear BILD had seen it as part of a larger strategy to achieve its lobbying objectives at the City, which include the signage bylaw, the Sheppard subway extension, and the elimination of the land transfer tax.
- BILD had lobbied Ford before the event and continued to do so afterward.
- BILD collected personal contributions from attendees and then passed them on to the Ford campaign.
Gehrke does not recommend that BILD be sanctioned, as “political fundraising by lobbyists is a relatively new issue,” and the organization was fully cooperative with the inquiry. She does, though, present a number of other recommendations: BILD shouldn’t lobby the mayor or his staff until the end of this term, BILD should confer with the Lobbyist Registrar before planning political fundraisers, and the organization’s lobbyists should receive some additional training in the the Lobbying By-law and the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct.
Gehrke notes, though, that this will be the second report submitted to council that finds BILD has breached the Lobbying By-law. A 2012 report found that BILD had failed to register a 2010 “Meet the Mayoral Candidates” event for its members at which it lobbied then-deputy mayor Joe Pantalone and then-councillor Rob Ford.