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Some portions of the G20 security fence in Toronto are already complete, such as this portion along Rees Street and Lake Shore Boulevard. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)
Some portions of the G20 security fence in Toronto are already complete, such as this portion along Rees Street and Lake Shore Boulevard. (Peter Power/The Globe and Mail)

Judith Timson on the G20

Fake lakes and rivers of ridicule: I'm closing up shop for the G20 Add to ...

This is a public service announcement. After much deliberation, I have decided to remain closed during the G20 summit.

It makes perfect sense. I live in Toronto on a side street near a road that leads to the perimeter of the perimeter of where the G20 leaders and their legions of lesser beings will be watching the World Cup. I mean, meeting to make the world a better place.

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Granted, I work in a third-floor home office, but there's no telling what serious disruptions I may face. And forget about cooking. Venturing out for green beans could be a tactical mistake of historic proportions. What if the sonar cannon is suddenly shot off, and my ears are irreversibly damaged? What if the demonstrators at Queen's Park suddenly break free and arrive in wild rampaging herds at my local pub?

Or what if a neighbour initiates another terrifying "gardening incident," as one police officer discreetly described the less than terror-filled outcome of the frantic day we all experienced on Wednesday? With much hoo-hah, the RCMP anti-terrorist unit searched for a "possibly" Eastern European man with severed fingers, a limp, and, reportedly, a flatbed truck filled with enough ammonium nitrate fertilizer to blow us all to smithereens.

That was quite the load, all right.

Come on, Canadians, let's celebrate our signal achievement here! With this G8/G20 summit planning, we have ascended to world-class heights (or is it depths?) of comedy (or is it tragedy?).

As both politicians and public continue to froth over that fake lake and other indefensible items that help make up a whopping billion-dollar price tag for the summit, the G20 planning reminds me of that familiar children's toy warning: "batteries not included." Only substitute the word "brains" for "batteries."

Our summiteering has already spawned international snickering, a YouTube parody (If I Had a Billion Dollars) and Question Periods that could have been scripted by Monty Python. I loved the one in which the Tories walked into Liberal MP Mark Holland's trap, yelling back defensively across the aisle that, No-o-o, the fake lake complete with canoes and surrounded by Muskoka chairs designed to fool international journalists into thinking they were experiencing the great Canadian outdoors didn't cost a million, but "only" $57,000! To which Mr. Holland, summoning his most triumphantly outraged voice, responded, "That is more than the annual income of 40 per cent of Canadian families."

Oh me, oh my. Where is Stephen Leacock when we need him? Huntsville, Ont., where the G8 summit is being held (and only incidentally, I'm sure, part of Tory Industry Minister Tony Clement's riding), has become such a pork barrel of civic improvements that there should be a trough running straight through town.

And in Toronto, the list of shutdowns - museums, art galleries, Blue Jays games, the University of Toronto, Union Station, even Mamma Mia! - goes on, returning a vibrant modern city to its insufferably uninteresting previous incarnation, when, on Sundays, nothing was open and nothing was happening.

Would New York have stood for this? Mayor Michael Bloomberg would have sent the summiteers sprawling on their keisters before he agreed to this kind of civic castration. But here, in the home of the not-so-brave, where former mayor Mel Lastman once hysterically dialled up the army over a few feet of snow, it shouldn't come as a revelation that our civic character is beyond wimpy.

Perhaps the G20 demonstrators will include brave Toronto resisters who are disgusted by the disruptions this global photo op has created and will rise up and take their city back.

Meanwhile, ordinary citizens have outdone themselves in response to the G20 follies, going online with pithy suggestions to name that fake lake - the Fuddle Duddle Puddle, Lac of Money, Harper's Folly - and cheeky Facebook invitations to G20 parties. I enjoyed this one: "In honour of the colossal waste of resources known as the G20 … the beer will flow like blood in the streets."

Right now, with the G8/G20 joke level raised right past orange to red, I'm mostly worried that all the good lines have been taken. Like Maclean's columnist Scott Feschuk saying that part of the astronomical cost includes $2-million to make sure that Stephen Harper doesn't miss another group photo: "Twenty bucks for an alarm clock and $1,999,980 for a team of stout men to follow around the Prime Minister carrying a porta-potty." (Note to Tories: When the mocking runs like blood in the streets, it's a bad sign for you.)

And so bowing to international pressure, I will spend my G20 watching TV and devouring the second instalment of the Stieg Larsson trilogy. I hear it's really scary, with women being mistreated all over the world amid global mayhem and destruction.

Kind of like what the G20 was supposed to address before a fake lake created a reservoir of ridicule.

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