Canada defends huge cost of G8/G20 summit security

Wed May 26, 2010 4:23pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada defended on Wednesday the huge cost of providing security to two international summits it will host late next month and attacked critics who asked why the bill had shot up to C$930 million ($880 million).

In March, Canada allocated C$179 million for security costs at the two summits. This week it shocked legislators by revealing the overall total would in fact be many hundreds of millions of dollars more.

On June 25 and 26 leaders from the Group of Eight industrialized nations will meet in Huntsville, Ontario, about two hours' drive north of Toronto. The Group of 20 nations will then gather in Toronto on June 26 and 27.

"This is an unprecedented event where you have two summits back to back and we believe the experts when they say this is the necessary level of security," Public Safety Minister Vic Toews told the House of Commons in response to criticism from the Liberals, the biggest opposition party.

"I understand that the Liberals don't believe in securing Canadians or the visitors here. We're different."

The Liberals, noting that security for the two-week Vancouver Winter Olympics in February had cost under C$900 million, said the summit bill was excessive and blamed incompetence and haphazard planning.

"It's shocking. It's frankly irresponsible ... we can't afford to be spending C$1 billion in 72 hours," said Mark Holland, the Liberals' national security spokesman.

Toews said it was wrong to compare the summits to the Olympics because far fewer leaders had visited Vancouver.   Continued...

<p>Canada's Public Safety Minister Vic Toews speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa May 6, 2010. REUTERS/Chris Wattie</p>