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G8 and G20 summit costs irk Canadians

Text by Marianne NIOSI

Latest update : 2010-06-26

Hosting the G8 and G20 summits will cost Canada around 770 million euros, and while journalists may enjoy reclining around an artificial lake and getting a taste of Canada in a costly media centre, the Canadian public is far from impressed.

Almost a billion Canadian dollars, or 770 million euros. That’s how much organizing the G8 and G20 summits, taking place in Canada from June 25-27, will cost. It’s an expense that Canadians are none too happy about.

An opportunity to promote tourism?

Leaders from the Group of Eight will meet in Huntsville, a picturesque town in the Muskoka region of Ontario province, on 25 and 26 June 2010, before heading to Toronto for the G20 summit on the 26th and 27th. The journalists won’t follow the politicians around, but can console themselves by admiring the artificial lake constructed inside the official media centre in the centre of Toronto, some 200 kilometres south of Muskoka's lakes.

This media pavilion has become emblematic of what Canadians view as the financial wastefulness of the G20 enterprise. Poetically named “Experience Canada”, its sumptuous artificial décor is designed to give the international media a taste of the country, and includes a recreation of the Ontario lake region and an environment that purports to evoke the “urban setting” of Toronto. The total cost comes in at 2 million Canadian dollars (1.6 million euros).

Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper justifies the spending by saying that it will help to promote tourism. But that response irks his political opponents: Canada will not welcome “travel journalists with their Lonely Planet guidebooks” to the event, says one liberal parliamentarian; while the leader of the opposition asks: “why does the Prime Minister tell other countries how to manage their money, while he here wastes taxpayers’ money?”

Seizing the opportunity to take another swipe, the Liberals have placed a “G8/G20 Waste Clock” online, which lets you evaluate “how much the government would have spent while you do the dishes or mow the lawn.''

Heavy Security

Overtime pay alone for the Canadian police deployed at the G8 and G20 summits will make up a large chunk of the events’ budget: 450 million dollars (340 million euros). As with any international event of this magnitude, anti-poverty activists, anti-capitalists, trade unionists, anarchists and other protestors are expected to converge on Toronto by the millions.

While the unions are calling for a large protest on Saturday 26 June, more radical protesters are hoping to break the security cordon in order to march towards the fence ringing the world leaders. It’s here that things could get complicated...

5.5 million dollars for a fence

Moreover, looping around the G20 summit that weekend will be a 3.5 km long fence, to protect the participants. Its cost? 5.5 million dollars (4.3 million euros). Revelations such as these concerning government spending are causing an outcry. Canada’s public broadcaster, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, has come up with a list of things that could be achieved if the money were spent otherwise: enough maple syrup to feed Canada for a year, a new Montreal hockey team (ice included), one iPad per student...

And on the website of Canada’s leading newspaper, the ‘Globe and Mail’, more than one reader has posted the question: “And teleconferences? Has anyone thought about that?”


Date created : 2010-06-24