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Former U.S. Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton discuss foreign affairs in Toronto on May 29, 2009. (HO/Reuters)
Former U.S. Presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton discuss foreign affairs in Toronto on May 29, 2009. (HO/Reuters)

Tab for Mounties to protect Bush <br/>expected to exceed $500,000 Add to ...

Keeping George W. Bush safe on the Canadian speaking circuit is on track to cost the RCMP more than half-a-million dollars this year, as taxpayers foot the bill regardless of whether they buy a ticket to any of the former U.S. president's exclusive events.

Mr. Bush is following the lucrative path of his predecessor, Bill Clinton, making big money as a speaker-for-hire with regular stops in Canada.

But as Mr. Bush prepares for three Canadian speeches next month, new figures show there's a big difference between a Bush speech and a Clinton speech when it comes to the public purse.

Government figures reveal the RCMP's security tab for Mr. Bush's first two Canadian speeches this year each ran more than $100,000. Given that he has three more events scheduled next month in Edmonton, Regina and Montreal, this year's cost to taxpayers for his visits is on pace to exceed $500,000.

Security for Mr. Bush's March event in Calgary cost the RCMP $124,000, while a May appearance in Toronto ran up $108,000. In contrast, the security bill to protect Mr. Clinton, who strolled down memory lane on the same stage at the same time as Mr. Bush in Toronto, was far less at $12,000.

The higher security cost for a Bush visit is likely due to the crowds of protesters - often dressed in black with bandanas hiding their faces - who arrive on site to accuse the former president of war crimes.

When he appeared in Calgary in March, helmeted police were on hand to take away the most agitated anti-Bush protesters who tussled with the officers.

There is no indication that his visits next month will be any different.

A Facebook site euphemistically called the "George W. Bush Welcoming Committee: Saskatoon" already has more than 1,800 followers. They won't be bringing flowers.

If there are other reasons to explain why Mr. Bush needs a higher level of security, neither the RCMP nor the company playing host to the event will say.

The security figures were tabled in Parliament this month by Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan in response to a written question from NDP MP Libby Davies. The response said a risk assessment is prepared by the RCMP with the assistance of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Canada Border Services Agency.

Sergeant Julie Gagnon of the RCMP said protecting Mr. Bush costs more because of these risk assessments.

"The reason behind that, it's the level of security," she told The Globe and Mail. "This is based on a threat assessment, and that's why there's such a big difference."

Sgt. Gagnon said she could not discuss the threat assessments for coming visits.

Christian Darbyshire of tinePublic Inc., the firm that is organizing Mr. Bush's Canadian speeches and has played host to Canadian events for Mr. Clinton, declined to comment on anything to do with security.

Mr. Darbyshire also declined to comment when asked whether the private-sector firms putting on such events should reimburse the government for the security costs incurred.

Ms. Davies, the MP who requested the information, said private-sector firms are likely making money from these events and should be helping the government with the security costs.

"I'm actually surprised that it's so high," she said of the cost. "Obviously for Bush it was a lot higher because of opposition and whatever trouble they expected. … I think it does raise some questions about organizations that in effect are making money off [the speeches]but, as far as I'm aware, they don't contribute to the security costs."

The figures released this month do not account for Mr. Clinton's Aug. 29 appearance at Toronto's Canadian National Exhibition.

That appearance attracted attention after it was reported his appearance was funded in part by a grant of up to $3-million from the federal government's stimulus money.

Mr. Clinton's CNE fee was not disclosed, but his past speaking fees are on the public record via financial disclosures by his wife, current U.S. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton, when she was a New York Senator.

Those records show Mr. Clinton routinely receives $175,000 for his many Canadian speaking events, and sometimes more. He received $525,000 for speaking at a June 2008 event in Edmonton. In November of 2007, Mr. Clinton managed to squeeze in three events in a single day, earning $150,000 and $200,000 for speeches in Toronto and $175,000 for a speech at Niagara-on-the-Lake.

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