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Military helicopters fly, April 20, 2010, in and out of a DZ right beside the doors of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in preparation for the June 26/27 meetings of the G20 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Norm Betts/Special to the Globe and Mail)
Military helicopters fly, April 20, 2010, in and out of a DZ right beside the doors of the Metro Toronto Convention Centre in preparation for the June 26/27 meetings of the G20 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Norm Betts/Special to the Globe and Mail)

Kevin Carmichael

$1-billion is well spent Add to ...

Ignore the calls for an audit of the security costs for the Group of Eight and Group of 20 summits, at least if you are one of those people who believe that you know you have something good if opposite sides of the political spectrum hate it.

Kory Teneycke, the former spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper whom the CBC hired to add a little Fox News flavour to Evan Solomon's politics show on CBC News Network, sent out this tweet on Wednesday:

FB Friend just called G20 a "no fixed address version of the UN." So true. Expensive and mostly useless. Sop to martini & caviar crowd.

The good folks at the Canadian branch of Oxfam, the global anti-poverty organization, are equally distraught at the thought of $1-billion being spent on security fences and overtime for cops rather than food, medicine and schools.

"It is painful to think a billion dollars is being spent on the security for a three-day event when we are capping commitments to international aid for the next several years because we can't find the money," Robert Fox, executive director of Oxfam Canada, told The Globe and Mail's Steven Chase. "It just speaks to our priorities and the fact that when we choose to, we can mobilize resources and when there is a lack of political will, we fall short."

Mr. Teneycke's sop to the beer-and-wings crowd and Mr. Fox's upset over $1-billion apparently being flushed down the drain unfairly maligns a process that, frankly, has proven itself capable of standing up to a crisis over the past 18 months. The unified response that former U.S. president George W. Bush led by calling the G20 leaders together for the first time in November, 2008, almost certainly avoided an economic depression. As Europe's struggles show, there remains much work to do -- the kind of work that is best done face to face, not by teleconference.

Is it expensive? Depends how you choose to look at it. The global economy shrank by $3.28-trillion (U.S.) in 2009, according to the International Monetary Fund. This year, the world's gross domestic product will expand by $3.84-trillion, recovering the losses from the deepest global recession since the Second World War. To keep things simple, lets assume the Canadian and U.S. dollars are at par. The $1-billion that Canada will spend on security to host the G8 and G20 summits is less than 0.2 per cent of the more than $560-billion that the IMF predicts will be added to global GDP in 2010.

So, given that the global economy is hardly on a sure footing, how much is a summit worth that has a proven ability to restore at least some measure of confidence? Canada was pulled into a recession in 2008 even though it had done most everything right. Surely an in-kind payment of $1-billion is a small price to try to keep that from happening again?

To its credit, that's the position the Harper government is taking.

"The costs are substantial. They are essential," Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said Thursday on a conference call from Lima, Peru, where he is attending meetings of his counterparts from the Western Hemisphere. "We live in a world where extensive security precautions are necessary for a host country to take when we host leaders of the importance of the G20 leaders and the security requirements those leaders have."

Follow on Twitter: @CarmichaelKevin

 

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