I just don’t know what to say… except maybe
NINE years ago, we paid what seemed like a king’s ransom to corral la crème de la crème of the continent in Quebec City. The security bill for protecting 34 international delegations at the Summit of the Americas cost somewhere in the neighbourhood of $100 million. No one remembers if the tête à tête was a smashing success — except perhaps the hooligans who took the opportunity to trash the city.
If only Canada could still protect modern-day summiteers for that kind of coin — give or take $20 million in inflation costs. Apparently not. It was revealed last week that the pricetag for providing security for the G8 and G20 summits in Ontario next month is estimated at a mind-boggling — perhaps even boondoggling — $833 million. It could climb to almost $1 billion.
In 72 hours, Canada will spend roughly as much on security for world leaders as it did during the 17-day Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
The cost of summit security does vary widely depending on location. A year ago, the G20 get-together in London apparently came in at $30 million; two years ago, the Japanese spent 10 times as much to ensure the safety of the G8. But $833 million, or more, is unheard of.
The cost began ballooning after the G20 crashed the party. The original plan was for Canada to host the G8 in rural Muskoka, but world leaders recently decided the G20 — comprising top developing countries like India, Brazil and China as well as the richest economies — is the new G8 for all intents and purposes.
In an unprecedented move, Canada offered to piggyback the G20 on the G8. But the logistics of accommodating 12 more delegations no longer worked for Muskoka. So it stuck with the G8, while Toronto is now hosting the G20.
Security costs skyrocketed when the latter moved within range of skyscrapers. Sealing off a cityscape is a much more expensive proposition. Vast sums are now being poured into this operation, although no breakdown in costs has yet been presented. The opposition rightly wants federal spending watchdogs to investigate. The secrecy around security bills must change.
So must the way in which these pre-cooked, glorified photo-ops are arranged. If world leaders want to meet in person and in peace, let them choose sites that already have secure perimeters, like military bases. Citizens’ lives need not be disrupted, nor their wallets depleted.