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Vancouver’s unclear rules on lobbying raise questions as ex-chief of staff looks for work

February 16th, 2017 · 3 Comments

Gregor Robertson’s former chief of staff, Mike Magee, has told any number of councillors that he has no plans to do any lobbying work for developers or others as he strikes out in his new post-city hall career.

But he is visiting with people in the development community and, not surprisingly, observers are unclear about what kind of work he might be looking for and whether it involves lobbying on any level. My story here on what’s going on and what people are thinking of it.

It’s all a bit mucky because there are no rules to prevent anyone, councillor or staffer or ex-mayor, from lobbying people at city hall the day after they quit their municipal jobs.

Former deputy city manager Brent MacGregor also went straight to work as a development consultant for Concord Pacific after he quit in 2007.

Former COPE councilllor and mayoral candidate Jim Green turned to development consulting and lobbying at city hall after he lost his bid for the mayor’s seat to Sam Sullivan in 2005. There wasn’t too much complaining about it at the time, I think likely because he was in the awkward position of lobbying his political opponents.


Theoretically, these insiders have something valuable to offer — their knowledge of how the system works and how the personalities are — without having to do any lobbying. (Though some I talk to say that it’s really the lobbying that any developer would hire them for because the sophisticated developers in this town already know very well how the system works and who the personalities are.)

There’s also the tricky question of their relationships with staff who remain. It’s awkward for them when a former councillor or staffer calls, because they know that person and maybe even are friendly with him/her, but they’re put into the awkward position of potentially being asked for information or being lobbied in a way that’s not available to the general public.

I understand from city manager Sadhu Johnston that he did advise senior managers at city hall that they had no obligations to take any calls from a former chief of staff, in case there was any confusion about that.

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  • Kirk

    Do any of these guys ever go into something other than property development? Is this just a Vancouver thing?

  • Vancouver, and Metro Vancouver (GVRD) and each municipality for that matter, need a solid lobbyist registry. Surrey already has one. Why not Vancouver?

    More questions… Did Mr. Magee ever report back to City Council after his paid lobbying stint in Ottawa last year? It was absolutely required, by a much-discussed Council motion. Reference: Where’s Mike (Magee)? Former City Chief of Staff, “Special Advisor to the Mayor.”

    And remember another aspect of his moneyed relationship with the City and a certain political organization. “City staffer Mike Magee receives pay hike in 2015, donates $10,000 to Vision Vancouver”

  • jenables

    Read between the lines..

    From the article:

    “I’d assume I’ll be in the mayor’s office from time to time … or at his house for dinner. But I’m going to be careful about the lobbying role. I don’t preclude working for a developer but not in a lobbying role.”

    “I don’t want to do anything where I have to be in a lobbyist registry. And I’m not holding myself up as a development consultant.”

    As quoted above:

    “has no plans to do any lobbying work for developers or others”

    This all smacks of doing lobbying without calling it as such to me. He is clearly involving himself in development projects and making vague statements about not officially lobbying and being careful about it should be major red flags.