Canada gov't under fire for summit security costs

Tue Jun 22, 2010 1:22pm EDT
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By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) - At a time of global austerity and shrinking budgets, Canada is set to spend C$1 billion ($980 million) just for security at two big international summits this weekend.

The enormous amount of money needed to protect foreign leaders for such a short period of time has prompted outrage and cut the minority Conservative government's popularity.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and security officials insist the costs are reasonable, given that Canada is hosting two separate summits in two different locations.

The Group of Eight will meet in the town of Huntsville, Ontario, 215 km (135 miles) north of Toronto on June 25-26. The larger Group of 20 then gathers on June 26-27 in Toronto, where the city center is awash with police and security fencing.

The furor is good news for the main opposition Liberal Party, currently lagging in the polls. This week it launched a G8/G20 waste clock (here) and calculated the summit was costing C$4,928.32 a second.

"In the time it takes for you to wash the dishes, or cut the grass, or cook dinner, you'll be able to see how much of your money Stephen Harper will blow at the same rate during the summit," said Mark Holland, the party's security spokesman.

Ottawa has declined to give a detailed breakdown of the full summit costs. Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says the police bill alone will be C$450 million, most of it for overtime payments.

"I take my advice from the experts ... and the indication we received was that the amount of money spent is what was required to address the threat that was in place," he told reporters on Tuesday.   Continued...

<p>A man is arrested by police officers in a garden during a protest ahead of the G20 summit in Toronto, June 21, 2010. REUTERS/Mark Blinch</p>