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Tories pilloried for fake lake at G8/G20 media centre

Fred Lum/Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

A $2-million fake lake, a boat that won't float and a $23-million media centre that the media won't use will showcase Canada to the world at the upcoming G8 and G20 summits. Never mind that there won't be weighty discussions about banking policy or the environment.

The opposition was having a field day Monday in Question Period as more and more details about the summits' costs were revealed.

At one point, Liberal MP Mark Holland, noting that $20-million is being allocated to dancers, fiddlers and flowers, suggested the government would be better suited to "party planning for Lady Gaga" rather than holding a substantive summit.

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"How can the government look at people whose EI has just run out and justify this billion-dollar spend fest?" Mr. Holland asked.

It's been revealed that a $1.9-million artificial lake is being built inside the Direct Media Centre at the CNE. It will have a fake dock and a Jumbotron to show off images of Muskoka cottage country.

As well, summit legacy funds are being used to fix a steamboat. Industry Minister Tony Clement, whose Muskoka riding is the venue for the G8, denied this was the case.

Still, according to the opposition, the summits are more about showing off Canada's attributes than dealing with substance.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said the crucial issues dealing with the environment, the banking industry and a maternal-health initiative that does not include safe access to abortion, will not be dealt with at the two summits.

"So Canadians are asking themselves: 'We paid for the world's most expensive photo op, we did not even get banking reform.' What was the Prime Minister thinking?" asked Mr. Ignatieff.

NDP Leader Jack Layton called the summits a "farce," arguing that no progress will be made on issues such as the environment, including the huge oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

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Mr. Layton asked how the Prime Minister can justify the costs.

"And get this: we've got a government here that has to create an artificial lake when Canada has more lakes than just about any other country in the world. It is the taxpayers who are going to end up at the bottom of the fake lake."

The Prime Minister wasn't in the House today, leaving it up to Transport Minister John Baird to do the justifying.

"We are tremendously proud to be hosting the world at the G8 and the G20," said Mr. Baird. "Some 8,000 delegates from around the world will convene on Muskoka and Toronto as well as some 3,000 media. Canada is a major player. We are a world leader. We are proud to welcome these folks."

He noted, too, that television networks from around the world will be in the country, giving the government a chance to "showcase the very best that this country has to offer, whether it is in the great region of Muskoka or whether it is in a world-class city like Toronto. We are proud of that. We are excited about that."

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said it was "normal practice" for the host country to showcase its attributes.

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What about that leaking steamboat?

Liberal MP Siobhan Coady says that the SS Bigwin steamship is being revamped for a cost of $400,000 as a G8 summit project.

"If hauling out a sunken steamboat can be billed as G8 spending, how much more money is being squandered in this massive Conservative boondoggle?" she charged.

Squandering money? No. Imagine the impact of the picture of that Canadian steamboat beamed around the world.

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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