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Huntsville Mayor Claude Doughty fields questions at a press conference in Huntsville on April 11, 2011. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)
Huntsville Mayor Claude Doughty fields questions at a press conference in Huntsville on April 11, 2011. (Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail/Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail)

Huntsville's G8 legacy largesse a sound investment, mayor says Add to ...

The Muskoka region got 10 times the G8 "legacy" that Kananaskis or Quebec City received for their summits.

That's no mistake, says Huntsville's mayor, who argues plans for last June's summit dovetailed serendipitously with the region's vision for growth - a vision he says had the support of MP and Industry Minister Tony Clement well before the summit's location was made official.

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Competing leaked drafts of an Auditor-General's report into G8 spending lobbed a grenade into the federal election campaign Monday. An initial draft slammed the Conservative government for the way it lavished $50-million in G8 legacy infrastructure on the prominent Tory minister's Parry Sound-Muskoka riding in the lead-up to the summit in June of last year.

The report criticizes the government for a lack of transparency in approving the cash.

"We are concerned by the lack of documentation around the process of selecting projects for funding," a draft of the report read. The report suggested the manner in which the funding was doled out was potentially illegal, though a later draft removed references to the possibility of legally dubious decisions.

Auditor-General Sheila Fraser said she has no intention of releasing the report until after the May 2 election.

Mr. Doughty, for his part, argues nothing "surreptitious" took place. And as far as he's concerned, the money was a good investment.

"We clearly have more legacy ongoing. We've got some pretty significant infrastructure, as legacy, that will continue to do good things for the region in the long term. And I don't believe that's true of Kananaskis," Huntsville Mayor Claude Doughty told The Globe.

He agreed the "Kananaskis model" - a relatively out-of-the-way location - was part of Huntsville's appeal as a host for the G8 summit.

But, he said, Huntsville and Kananaskis are distinct.

"We're more of a community. … We're not just one resort that's somewhat isolated," he said.

"We had just finished a community master plan ... and we had a lot of dynamic people in our community really wanting to move forward. So in our sense of a larger community, we had a menu of things that we were looking to do. So the synchronicity of the G8 happening and all of that allowed us to take advantage of it."

Mr. Doughty said he approached Mr. Clement with that "menu" before the G8 was confirmed.

"Before I knew the G8 was coming, he said to me, 'That's really good planning.' And I looked at him: 'Thanks, Tony.'"

But Mr. Doughty said the town of Huntsville, along with the rest of the municipal recipients of G8-related largesse, had to apply for their projects through Infrastructure Canada.

Opposition parties seized on the leaked report as further evidence of what they see as the Conservative government's obfuscation in relation to summit spending; NDP Leader Jack Layton used it to bolster his previous calls for a full review into the summit's billion-dollar bill.

But Conservative candidate John Baird said the original draft changed dramatically before its final form. Another version of the report, leaked by the Conservatives, was still critical of the way the funding was allocated and approved, but dropped any reference to potential illegalities.

"We did a bit of sprucing up to a part of Canada that is beautiful," Mr. Baird told reporters Monday. "There were legacy funds to thank the greater region of Muskoka for hosting the summit."

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