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G8 leaders at the Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville, Ont. (Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and)
G8 leaders at the Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville, Ont. (Kevin Van Paassen/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and)

Globe editorial

Review G8/G20 spending and site selection Add to ...

It is time to say "enough" to calls for yet another independent inquiry into what happened on Toronto streets during the G8/G20 summits. That said, many lingering questions remain, in particular around the summit's cost and how its site was selected. It needn't take an inquiry, or even be "independent," but governments and protective agencies should come together to review and lay out the facts about how the G8/G20 summits were planned and executed.

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The existing reviews amply cover the most contentious policing issues:

The Ontario Ombudsman is investigating the implementation and communication of Regulation 233/10, apparently misinterpreted by some as granting additional police powers. The Toronto Police Service is doing its own review of "all aspects of summit policing." The Toronto Police Services Board is doing an extensive independent review of the policing operation. An activist coalition is planning its own review. And there is a process to investigate each individual public complaint about police conduct.

With so much police behaviour already under the microscope, a full parliamentary, independent or judicial probe, as demanded by some, is not needed.

Where a public accounting is still needed, though, is on all the other major issues raised in hosting the summits.

The security cost has not been adequately explained. $850-million in public funds flowing to the RCMP and the Departments of Public Safety and National Defence merit more scrutiny. The Auditor-General has offered, but still has not been tasked, to review costs on a value-for-money basis. The Parliamentary Budget Officer took only a cursory look in advance. The federal government, fiscally constrained, derived little lasting benefit from the spending. Could the job be done for less in the future?

A large share of the non-security spending appears dubious. Forget the hand-wringing about the fake lake; much more expensive infrastructure improvements in the Muskoka region were of no apparent help in hosting the G8 summit.

The allegation by Toronto Mayor David Miller that the federal government ignored advice to hold the G20 summit elsewhere in Toronto is significant enough to require further investigation and explanation. If governments in Canada are to co-operate on major projects, they must agree on the fundamentals, such as where the project should take place.

Emissaries from the governments and agencies involved should review, and come to agreement, on these issues. A review could also produce recommendations for the G8/G20, where we still want to play a leadership role, regarding future summits. It's not street battles, but boardroom decisions, that merit a closer look than they have received to date.

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