To serve and to lobby
City Hall Watcher #191: Lobbyist Watch for August 2022 features former cops, restaurant-free cooking apps, Ontario Place and more
Welcome to September. It’s after Labour Day, but I think you can still wear white. Don’t let the calendar dictate your fashion choices. Anyway, a new month means this issue features a fresh edition of LOBBYIST WATCH, my monthly galavant through City Hall’s Lobbyist Registry.
This month's search has uncovered stories about a cop’s new gig as a lobbyist, the continued effort to let restaurant chefs work from home, the Austrian pleasuredome planned for Ontario Place, and more.
Let’s get into it!
— Matt Elliott
Lobbyist Watch for August 2022: Sloly rolls in, Cookin heats up, Therme eyes CreateTO & more
Lobbyist Watch is City Hall Watcher’s monthly summary of activity on Toronto City Hall’s Lobbyist Registry. In August 2022, I reviewed 364 registered lobbyist communications and 191 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.
How’s this for a familiar face? On August 10, Former Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly registered to lobby City Hall. Sloly was last in the headlines in February, when he resigned from the Ottawa Police Service following criticism of his handling of the convoy protests.
Before heading to Ottawa, Sloly had a 27-year career with the Toronto Police Service, rising to the rank of Deputy Chief of Police. When Bill Blair retired as chief in 2015, Sloly was seen as a possible successor. But the reform-minded Sloly lost out on the gig to Mark Saunders, who was seen more as a champion of the status quo.
His stint in Ottawa obviously didn’t go great. He’s probably hoping his new role as a lobbyist goes better. Sloly has started a consulting firm, Sloly Solutions, to talk to governments. At Toronto City Hall, his first client is the Public Safety Council Corporation. On their behalf, Sloly wants to “discuss the possibility of expanding current City of Toronto by-laws relating to the fire code in order to improve community safety and customer service.”
He’s had no communications registered to date.
Sloly’s new business is headquartered out of a condo penthouse on Bank Street in Ottawa.
More than enough to eat at home
After making their Lobbyist Watch debut last month, lobbyists for food delivery start-up Cookin continued to stir up some communications in August. The service touts itself as “the future of food delivery” with a model that sees chefs sign up to cook food at home that is then delivered to hungry people. No restaurant required.
The service has a high-profile backer. Mark Cohon, a well-connected, wealthy person who has served as CFL Commissioner, Chair of the Board of the Ontario Science Centre and Chair of the non-profit organization responsible for putting on the Juno Awards, is serving on Cookin’s advisory board and helping with the lobbying effort.
On August 23, Cohon met with Councillor Michael Thompson, Chair of the Economic & Community Development Committee, and Keisha Francis, Thompson’s Director of Digital Media, Community and Social Development.
Also meeting with Thompson and Francis on August 23 were Cookin CEO Morley Ivers and President Michael Baruch, and Crestview Strategy’s Kema Joseph and Alex Chreston. Ivers and Baruch followed up on August 24 with a meeting with Steevan Sritharan, Legislative Affairs Advisor to Mayor John Tory.
Therme Group, the Austrian company with plans for a big spa dome at Ontario Place, kept up their lobbying effort in August. Working on Therme’s behalf, StrategyCorp’s John Perenack logged an email to CreateTO CEO Vic Gupta on August 24, requesting a meeting to discuss the plan.
The exact involvement of CreateTO, the City’s agency responsible for real estate and development, in this project remains TBD, but a City report from earlier this year confirmed the provincial government would like to acquire six acres of City-owned land (and ten acres of City-owned water) to deliver the plan. Gupta, of course, is close with Mayor John Tory, having previously served as Tory’s principal secretary and a co-chair of his 2018 election campaign.
Speaking of well-connected people, Mark Lawson, Therme’s VP of Communications & External Relations, and former Deputy Chief of Staff to Premier Doug Ford, was also doing some lobbying on the Ontario Place front. He logged a phone call to Edward Birnbaum, Tory’s Director of Legislative Affairs, on August 17.
Announcing these sorts of projects is easy. Seeing them through is hard. One of the players announced as part of the Ontario Place revitalization — adventure park operator Groupe Écorécréo — has already dropped out.
Lobbying grab bag
Lobbyist Brendan Agnew-Iler — a former staffer to Mayor David Miller — logged a meeting with Mayor John Tory on August 24 on behalf of his client ATU Local 113, the union representing TTC workers. Agnew-Iler is lobbying about TTC operations and labour relations. The TTC was designated an essential service under Mayor Rob Ford, meaning an arbitrator decides labour negotiations and legal work stoppages are not possible. The TTC’s current deal with ATU runs through March of 2024.
Lobbying on behalf of the Toronto Blue Jays and their plans to improve the fan experience at the SkyDome, Crestview Strategy’s Alex Chreston logged a phone call on August 16 with Councillor Michael Thompson.
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