Kirton Says Canada’s Summit Costs Are ‘Within Range’

Canada’s spending to host the Group of Eight and Group of 20 summits in and around Toronto next month is “within range” of what similar summits cost, John Kirton, the director of the University of Toronto’s G-8 Research Group.

Canada is planning to spend up to C$930 million ($885 million) to ensure the safety of visiting officials from Group of Eight and Group of 20 countries next month in Huntsville and Toronto, Ontario, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said in Parliament this week. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is chairing the meetings from June 25 to June 27.

“If you want to be at the G-8 table, you can’t go to washroom when the bill comes,” said Kirton, who has attended every summit since the 1988 meeting in Toronto. “The cost for each of the two Canada summits are more or less within range of what G-8 and even G-20 summits have been costing.”

The opposition Liberal and New Democratic parties this week asked the country’s auditor general and the Parliamentary budget officer to probe the summit costs. The amounts are “excessive” and will surpass security spending for the Vancouver Winter Olympics in February, as well as the C$190 million Canada spent in 2002 for a G-8 summit in Alberta, Liberal lawmaker Mark Holland said in a letter to the auditor.

‘Security Nightmare’

“After choosing the wrong venue, they split it into downtown Toronto, which is a security nightmare, and drove the costs through the roof,” Holland told reporters in Ottawa today. “I don’t get the sense that they’ve done any proper planning here. I think this thing’s done on the back of a napkin.”

Sheila Fraser, the auditor general, told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. today she plans to conduct an audit.

Toronto police plan to fence off four square blocks in the downtown core during the Group of 20 summit and seal the area off on June 25, Tom Russell, a Toronto police service superintendent, told reporters today.

Toews told reporters in Ottawa today that he plans to release the full details of the spending after the summit. He also said the auditor general is “more than welcome” to probe the spending and that he will give the Parliamentary budget officer the same access.

“It’s a very good investment,” Kirton said. “Most of the money has permanent benefits, well beyond the G-8.”

The most expensive summit was Japan’s 2000 G-7 summit in Okinawa, which cost about C$1 billion and included projects like wiring the island for high-speed Internet and wireless communications, Kirton said. Similarly, Canada renewed the communications equipment for police and first responders in the region near Huntsville, and built or renovated facilities like the North Bay airport.

“It’s not as if they blew C$1 billion in one big weekend and the money was gone,” Kirton said.

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