Home cooked lobbying
City Hall Watcher #186: LOBBYIST WATCH returns with a look at a homespun food delivery app, the leap from government to lobbying for an Ontario Place water park, and more
Hey there! Welcome to August. The long, cruel slide to autumn starts today. But don’t give in to seasonal despair. I’ve got a brand new edition of LOBBYIST WATCH to distract and delight you.
In this issue: home-cooked Uber Eats? Sure, okay! And would you believe one of Premier Doug Ford’s top staffers is now working — and lobbying — for the Austrian mega-spa company that was given the right to redevelop Ontario Place?
Also: facial recognition, the World Cup, union lobbying on a hotel shelter conversion, the Tesla Owners club and more!
As always, if you like City Hall Watcher, tell a pal.
— Matt Elliott
Lobbyist Watch for July 2022: Ontario Place, a new twist on food delivery apps, consultants kick at World Cup, and more
Lobbyist Watch is City Hall Watcher’s monthly summary of activity on Toronto City Hall’s Lobbyist Registry. In July 2022, I reviewed 294 registered lobbyist communications and 182 new registrations.
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.
Former Ford staffer heads to the water park
Therme Group, the Austrian company that won the right to build a new mega spa and waterpark at the redeveloped Ontario Place, has got themselves a new well-connected in-house lobbyist.
Mark Lawson, Therme Group’s VP of Communications & External Relations, logged a meeting on July 26 with Courtney Glen and Edward Birnbaum, Mayor John Tory’s Deputy Chief of Staff and Director of Legislative Affairs, respectively.
Until May 2021, Lawson worked for Premier Doug Ford’s government, serving as the premier’s deputy chief of staff from August 2019 through January 2021. He was later Chief of Staff to Minister of Finance Peter Bethlenfalvy from January 2021 to May 2021.
Lawson spent the last year working for Enthusiast Gaming, an eSports company, before signing on with Therme Group in April of this year.
In May, after starting the gig with Therme, Lawson was appointed to the Board of Directors of TVO.
Other lobbyists for Therme were also keeping busy in July. Development lobbyist — and former chief of staff to Mayor Rob Ford — Amir Remtulla also logged meetings with Glen and Birnbaum on July 26. And lobbying firm StrategyCorp is still active, with John Perenack and Aidan Grove-White logging several communications to the mayor’s office last month on Therme’s behalf.
Last week, a presentation to the Waterfront Toronto Design Review Panel revealed a new render of the Therme project. A timeline in the presentation indicates official plan amendments and zoning bylaw amendments should be coming this fall.
Cookin, a company that is seeking to “provide a more inclusive, equitable, and fair option to connect talented cooks directly with customers” has hired Crestview Strategy’s Kema Joseph to lobby about “expanding regulations pertaining to the type of food items that can be cooked, sold and/or purchased through a platform or marketplace.”
Cookin is like Skip the Dishes or Uber Eats, except instead of ordering food from, you know, restaurants licensed to prepare and serve food, customers would order meals made at home by people who sign up to cook for Cookin.
Aiming to begin offering their service later this summer, Cookin has already started recruiting Toronto chefs, offering an opportunity to “make real money” with a model that sees the cooks retain 85% of meal revenue.
There would likely be some serious regulatory barriers to this model in Toronto, with a need to figure out how these at-home chefs would fit into the DineSafe system for food safety. Will city health inspectors go into people’s homes to inspect their kitchens? (The Cookin website mentions that they can also provide commercial kitchen space to cooks, if required.)
In July, Joseph logged emails to Councillor Joe Mihevc, staff in the mayor’s office, and staff in the office of Councillor Michael Thompson, the chair of the Economic & Community Development Committee. Joseph also logged a meeting on July 27 with Fahim Kaderdina, chief of staff to City Manager Chris Murray.
Cookin CEO Morley Ivers and President Michael Baruch have also registered to lobby.
This start-up appears to have a powerful backer.
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