The Spin Is In On $300,000 Donation: BENN




Perception is everything, and perception is always in the eyes of the beholder. That applies to the current $300,000 development donation for Capital ward.

Katasa Group is offering a $300,000 contribution to be used in the vicinity of a to-be-constructed high rise residential building for traffic calming and other amenities. The terms of the contribution were developed in concert with Capital Councillor Shawn Menard.

The zoning application for the property at issue, near the intersection of Bronson and Carling avenues, had been approved long before the discussions began. In short, this $300,000 contribution is not part of the zoning approval process. It is an ex gratia contribution by a developer to enhance the area near its property, perhaps to make living in the building more attractive. It is my understanding that the city did not require any funds in lieu of meeting shortfalls in site plans.

Which takes us to the matter of perceptions. Orleans East-Cumberland Councillor Matthew Luloff chastised Menard regarding the transaction, with Luloff asserting that he had heard that Menard had pressured the developer to make this contribution. Kanata South Councillor Alan Hubley chimed in regarding “a bag of money”. The general theme being that this tawdry affair makes the city look bad. Fair enough. After all, there is a perception, whether earned or otherwise, that developers only dole out cash in exchange for favours, past or future.

Menard has made it clear that his election campaigns have never accepted any money from people affiliated with the development industry. He does not want to be perceived to be beholden to companies that do business with the city. In contrast, there are reports that Hubley and Luloff accepted campaign contribution from people affiliated with the development industry.

The city receiving $300,000 of ex gratia funds from a developer and an individual councillor accepting contributions from people in the development industry is a difference without a distinction. There is a widespread public perception that the development industry is buying influence. Whether it is by contributing to councillors who are in a position to vote on a zoning application, or to the city, whose bureaucracy is in a position to recommend an application, the perception is that influence is being exerted with a cheque book.

Candidates for councillor and mayor who accept campaign contributions from people closely affiliated with organizations doing business with the city does not look good. Similarly, the city accepting a “bag of money” from a developer is not a good look, either.

And therein the problem lies. The current tempest is between people who are more than happy to manipulate the facts to support the perception they want the public to hold. Pots and kettles, pointing out how much soot is on the other party.

We deserve better. We won’t get it, but we deserve it.

Ron Benn, a finance executive, has been a member of the Centrepointe Community Association for the better part of three decades.


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1 Response

  1. Theresa says:

    Ron Benn, I completely agree with your analysis, and commend you on how clearly and logically you have explained the context of the donation and the background of the people involved in this dispute.

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