Donationgate Reveals Incompetence And Ethical Bankruptcy


Few things get a newspaper editor’s spidey sense up faster than an unnamed accuser.

In journalism, the first thing that’s troublesome is why won’t this person use their name? And if they won’t put their name behind their accusations, is it because they are not true? Or is the source shy or embarrassed? Or unsure? Or a coward?

The first thing an editor will say is “get me some names because right now your story looks like its only source is thin air.”

Unnamed accusers put a publication’s reputation in doubt and leaves it in a precarious position because if the publication is sued, what’s the defence? Thin air? Rather than fight that suit in court, best the publication just open its wallet and say: “How much do you want?” It doesn’t have a chance.

So unnamed accusers are bad things in so many ways.

Which brings us to Matt Luloff and Donationgate.

“This doesn’t pass the smell test. I have it on good authority that this developer felt pressured by this councillor to make this contribution and understood that this is simply the way we do things in Ottawa. I really don’t like that implication.”

Yes councillor, this doesn’t pass the smell test … in so many ways. Mostly concerning an unnamed accuser but other things as well.

The Orleans East-Cumberland councillor was riled by the fact that Capital Councillor Shawn Menard had a pledge from developer Katasa Group for a donation of $300,000 for Menard’s ward. A pledge … not money in the bank.

Now Katasa has a very interesting history. A history that is such that it is unlikely to be pressured by one councillor in a medium-sized city such as Ottawa. Menard pressuring Katasa? Get real. Very few thing in this world would intimidate Katasa and one of them is not Shawn Menard.

And interesting is the fact that Luloff revealed this at Ottawa City Council. There is limited ability to sue in a governing body in public debate. That is so that free speech is not hampered. But politicians take liberties.

So now we have an unnamed accuser making unsubstantiated claims in a body where such claims are almost impossible to be sued. So the credibility of the claim is somewhere around thin air. If Luloff can’t be sued, why not name the accuser? The Bulldog asked that but we heard nothing so the councillor’s subscription must have expired or some such thing. We can fix that for you councillor, if you like.

So now we’re discussing the topic of ethics which in this example is a bit foreign to city council. The solution to this $300,000 that couldn’t pass Luloff’s self-avowed “smell test” is to divide this stinky lucre among all the wards on council, one of which is Luloff’s. It doesn’t stink if I’m getting it.

So smelly cash passes the Febreze test if Luloff’s ward gets it but not if Menard’s ward gets it. That’s a dicey ethical position and brings into question the issue of the unnamed accuser and the difficulty of suing Luloff over his unsubstantiated claims. Given Luloff’s position on stinky cash, on what else is he ethically challenged … and these by his own admission are smelly funds? In other words, this is questionable money if Menard gets it but it’s fine if Luloff and his council colleagues get it. You know, that doesn’t pass the smell test.

Not sure the councillor for Orleans East-Cumberland thought this all the way through.

But not all questions in this car wreck of an issue surround Luloff.

There’s Menard, for example. Didn’t any alarm bells go off in the councillor’s noggin when his ward was getting $300,000 from Katasa. Best perhaps to do some research on that? Menard said he had heard something or other about Katasa but he didn’t pursue it. Why not? How incredibly naive. Was the councillor too busy watching a Disney movie or helping a little old lady across the street? Running a boy scout troop? Did his good works get in the way of plain old-fashioned common sense? Or put in an earthier way, best you watch your butt.

Of course, Menard’s friends on the left responded by saying that Luloff was playing politics. Lame. Politics is omnipresent. A conversation between two people is politics and so is everything else. Could not Menard’s people have stretched and come out with a better defence. You know, say the argument above.

And then there’s the issue of Mayor Mark Sutcliffe receiving money from a person associated with Katasa. The mayor gave it back. That’s the end of it? No. If young bushy-tailed politicos can find the donation, maybe they could read the Ontario Municipal Act as well.

Elections Ontario says: “Contributions to political parties, constituency associations, candidates, leadership and nomination contestants may only be made by individuals normally resident in Ontario using their own funds.”

The donation in question carries a Gatineau address. Anyone looking into this?

Below is a screengrab from Sutcliffe’s 2022 campaign financial statement:



Really, the only smart organization in this mess was Katasa which withdrew its pledge. Remember it was only a pledge.

Luloff’s claim is questionable and unlikely, Luloff and council compromised themselves by taking money that the councillor said didn’t pass the smell test (until the pledge was withdrawn) and the mayor was compromised by a donation.

And where were staff and legal when all this came down? Did no one caution Menard or was that the point?

What that speaks to is the horrible lack of competency at Ottawa City Hall.

And it just doesn’t manifest itself in Donationgate. You see it in light rail, Lansdowne, poor road maintenance, a useless nightmayor, an inability to get good senior people to come to Ottawa … it goes on. Ottawans deserve better. City hall has been allowed to rot. The people on Laurier Avenue either can’t or won’t do the job.

Donationgate shows incompetence, carelessness and simple but important ethical problems.

Add on an auditing function that fails to address important questions in the city’s governance and you have an organization that not only functions abysmally poorly but refuses to reform itself. It is paralyzed by its own inaction and moral bankruptcy.

It is time for a provincial administrator to run this city until the next election. That administrator must clean up this civic political and public service fiasco and return good governance to the Ottawa municipal sphere.

Ken Gray


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3 Responses

  1. Luke Chadwick says:

    A five minute Google search about the background of the owner of Katasa would have raised many red flags for the initial background of the owner in Canada. I can’t believe that the Councillor never looked into this. If I was getting a $300 k contribution I would want to know who I was dealing with.

  2. Theresa says:

    Ken, a good summary of this whole issue, which I hope Ottawa councillors and staff are reading. But do you really think getting a provincial administrator appointed by Doug Frod’s government is the way to go to fix Ottawa City Hall’s management? The way the provincial government operates makes Ottawa look good. Having said that, I entirely approved of the Province’s investigation into the LRT procurement process, but don’t think this $300K pledge from Katasa warrants something similar.

  3. Ken Gray says:


    The LRT inquiry was very worthwhile. Let’s investigate the mess at city hall by way of a commissioner running the city. It was done before with the transition board at amalgamation two decades ago.



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