The security tab for the RCMP to protect the G8 and G20 summits is "significantly" higher on a per-officer basis than what the force spent policing the last global gathering of this sort in Canada, Parliament's budget watchdog says in a new report.
But Kevin Page was unable to render a complete verdict on whether the security costs of this week's meetings - at $1-billion, the costliest on record - are reasonable because he failed to obtain sufficient comparable information on protective bills for other G20 summits.
The Parliamentary Budget Officer added in an interview that Canada could have saved at least $200-million in costs for protecting the overlapping summits if it had held them in one location instead of 200 km apart in Toronto and Huntsville, Ont.
In his report released on Wednesday, Mr. Page said he's been unable to get the Harper government to explain why security costs for the RCMP have jumped so much on a per-officer basis since the 2002 G8 summit outside Calgary.
NDP MP Don Davies asked Mr. Page to probe the controversial security tab for the two meetings. The watchdog concluded in his report that the protective cost for the G8 summit alone was not "unreasonable" when matched with bills racked up by other countries for similar meetings.
Mr. Page flagged overall RCMP security spending however, saying when broken down on a per-officer basis, it raises questions that have so far gone unanswered.
He calculated that the per-officer tab for the RCMP to protect the Group of Eight meetings in Muskoka and the Group of 20 meetings in Toronto is quadruple what it cost the force to secure the 2002 G8 meeting in Kananaskis, Alta. It will also be four times higher than what it's costing the Canadian military on a per-soldier basis to secure the G8 and G20.
The budget watchdog, who's been a thorn in the Harper government side with his questions about its budgeting, called the sharp differences in costs "significant unexplained variances" that require a more detailed breakdown by government.
In 2002, the RCMP spent $25,570 per officer on security for the G8 meeting in Alberta, Mr. Page calculated. For the 2010 summits, he said, this spending has climbed nearly 400 per cent, with estimates suggesting the force could spend $101,492 per Mountie. (He noted that Forces spending per soldier will be 300 per cent higher compared to the 2002 G8 summit.)
While he couldn't pass judgment on the G20 meeting - which he estimated eats up $600-million of the overall security tab - Mr. Page suggested that Canada has greater protective costs for such gatherings because it does not have such a large security apparatus already in place as some of its peer countries,t meaning it has to hike spending for summits.
RCMP Chief Superintendent Alphonse MacNeil told CTV's Power Play the overall security bill reflects the fact that authorities must protect two summits at once. He added that protective costs "are much greater" in 2010 than they were in 2002.
Conservative Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the Page report vindicates the government. He noted that Mr. Page found the G8 summit security estimates reasonable and pointed out that the watchdog lauded the Harper government for being "relatively transparent, when compared with other countries," on protective spending.
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