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The brief G8 summit is planned for the Deerhurst Resort, near Huntsville in Ontario’s cottage country. The G20 has been moved to Toronto.

When Ontario's cottage country plays host to world leaders this June for the Group of Eight summit, it will boast beefed-up cellular tower coverage, an updated power grid and assorted other infrastructure projects that total more than $50-million.

Not bad for a day's work.

The much-hyped gathering is now shaping up to be more of a brief diplomatic huddle, a reflection of how quickly the stature of this annual event has shrunk amid the swift ascendancy of the Group of 20.

When Canada was awarded the G8 meeting, it envisioned a three-day meeting. But that was scaled back to two days in the fall, after world leaders decided to make the G20 the key forum for international economic co-operation and Ottawa was forced to crowbar this more expansive group into its weekend schedule.

Now government insiders suggest the G8 may last barely 24 hours, as delegates will be forced to leave the meeting and journey 200 kilometres south to join the G20 in Toronto.

"That sounds to me like a photo op," said Nancy Tapley, a councillor for the township of Lake of Bays, an adjacent township to Huntsville, which is hosting the gathering. "A chat over dinner, a chat over breakfast and everybody leaves."

Federal Industry Minister Tony Clement, whose riding includes Muskoka, rejected any suggestions that the stature of the G8 summit has diminished.

"Canada's position is that the G8 still has an important role to play in world diplomatic affairs, and the G20 has an obvious role to play in international economic co-operation. So one isn't bigger, one isn't better. They're both equally important."

Huntsville Mayor Claude Doughty said Muskoka is, of course, happy for the media attention that even a briefer G8 will bring. But he said Huntsville had been "really hoping the spotlight would be on us," and acknowledged that some of that attention would now be siphoned off by Toronto.

But officials here concede that's a small price to pay for the breadth of civic improvements Ottawa has ushered in.

"Maybe we'll lose a little bit of exposure because it will go to Toronto - that's fine," said Mike Greaves, a Huntsville town councillor. "This town is getting infrastructure improvements that will fill its appetite for probably 20 years, and it came at a time when the rest of the country and the world for that matter were suffering huge economic woes."

One thing locals shouldn't count on: easier access to tee times.

At a G8 information session last Friday in Huntsville, the second question was whether golfers could get back on the links any faster now that the summit was ending early. The answer from security officials was no.

Ms. Tapley, who like many residents isn't looking forward to the road closings or protests that may accompany the G8, joked the summit was growing more appealing as it diminished in duration.

"It's almost reached its perfect conclusion," she said. "The perfect conclusion is they still spend $50-million on infrastructure improvements and don't show up."


Distributing the riches

Projects funded by the federal G8 Infrastructure Fund, supporting this summer's summit in Huntsville, include civic improvements to many towns far from the summit site. All but two projects lie inside the Parry Sound-Muskoka electoral district represented by Industry Minister Tony Clement.


Distance (km)





Expansion of Huntsville Centennial Centre and Summit Management Office, rebuilding Deerhurst Drive




Road upgrades


Lake of Bays


Improvements to band shell, new public washrooms




Signage, downtown improvements




Renovation of bridge, Main Street and town centre


Burk's Falls


Downtown improvements


Bala Falls


Roadwork, signage


Rosseau, Humphrey and Orrville


Improvements to downtown areas, new signage, fencing and landscaping




Downtown improvements




New sidewalks, various civic improvements


Muskoka Lakes Township


Upgrade to Minett's Paignton House Road


South River




Parry Sound


Upgrades to streets, signage


Port Severn


Signage, streetscaping, park improvement


North Bay


Improvements to Jack Garland Airport


Highway 11