PRESS RELEASE: Mayor Sutcliffe and Other City Officials Lobbied by Former Councillor Jan Harder Within Months of Her Exit From Public Office

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

OTTAWA - Former Planning Committee Chair and Barrhaven City Councillor Jan Harder lobbied Mayor Sutcliffe and Issues Coordinator and former Councillor Scott Moffatt mere months after leaving office. This was done despite the existence of a new bylaw, supported by both Sutcliffe and Moffat, that prohibits lobbying for a year after an elected official has left office.

The new restrictions only came into effect on December 14th, 2022, meaning that former Councillor Harder, who last held office on November 14th, narrowly avoided the new regulations by one month.

Just five months after leaving office, Harder lobbied Mayor Sutcliffe’s office to support a ministerial zoning order (MZO) for Southbridge Care Homes (which was eventually approved) under her newly-established consulting firm StrategyHive Inc. Harder’s consulting firm she would eventually use to lobby the city was only founded and incorporated at the end of August 2022, while she was a sitting City Councillor. She also met with Councillor David Hill and several senior city staff over a period of several months.

This was done despite a new section of the Lobbyist Registry bylaw approved and enacted by the current council at one of Mark Sutcliffe’s first meetings as Mayor, that restricts any former public office holder at the city from lobbying the city for a period of one year after leaving office. The motion that led to the establishment of these new restrictions was also supported by Moffatt while he was a councillor last term.

The new rules are the result of a motion at city council in 2021 that was in response to a 100-page Integrity Commissioner report that found that Harder had breached the Code of Conduct and that put the revolving door between City Hall and industry on full display. As a result, Councillor Harder was forced to resign as Chair of the Planning Committee.

“The new post-employment restrictions were introduced to curb the perception of developer influence, to stop this exact situation, and to end the ‘revolving door’ between City Hall and the development industry. It’s disappointing to see the Mayor, former Councillor Moffatt, Councillor Hill, and senior staff accept these engagements when they know full-well the ethical and political implications” said Meaghan Burden, a member of the Board of Directors for Horizon Ottawa. “Because of a technicality, namely that new rules cannot be retroactively applied, the rules were not technically breached, but this is a clear violation of the spirit of the new rules. It reveals a lack of respect and concern for new city rules meant to limit conflicts of interest at City Hall, and it reveals a serious lack of judgment for all involved. It’s quite cynical.”

Under the new rules, if former public office holders or city staff are found to have breached the post-employment restrictions bylaw they could face up to a three-month lobbying ban and potentially even higher penalties.

A more severe ‘cooling off’ period exists at the federal level where those leaving office are prohibited from lobbying for five years and could face high fines for breaching the federal Lobbying Act.

“This isn’t about whether there was a technical breach of the new rules. We know the city can’t retroactively apply new rules for good reason. It does, however, reflect a general culture at city hall that prioritizes developer interests over accountability and transparency” said Burden. “It’s clear that to combat this culture we need to have greater accountability and transparency.”

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FOR MEDIA INQUIRIES:

Sam Hersh
613-663-7018
[email protected]

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