Skip to main content

Toronto's police chief says he expects to come in under budget on his portion of security for the G20 Summit, but that doesn't impress some MPs still stunned by the size of that budget.

William Blair told a House of Commons committee Thursday that he budgeted $124.8-million to keep Toronto streets safe during the June summit. A big portion of that was to fly in, accommodate and pay about 2,000 cops from across the country.

The hefty tab does not include policing by the Ontario Provincial Police and the RCMP, which had even higher costs.

Overall, the G20 in Toronto and the G8 in Huntsville, Ont. - held over three days - are estimated to have cost about $1.3-billion.

"We're reeling, we're staggering to understand how you can spend that amount of money," said New Democrat MP Pat Martin.

"It's just beyond the scope of my imagination how you can spend $124-million in that period of time, and even more so how the RCMP could spend $546-million."

Chief Blair said about 60 per cent of his budget went to personnel, noting most had to be paid at a "premium" rate because officers were called in from leave or off days. The remainder was spent on equipment and infrastructure, including $15-million for expanded radio communications and $1.7-million for a prisoner processing facility.

The summit has come under heavy criticism not only for its costs, but for a day of violence. Chief Blair estimated the city suffered about $2-million in damages, mostly broken windows to shops.

As well, about 10 police officers and five demonstrators were injured during the mayhem, he said.

The police chief defended his force's actions, saying officers reacted appropriately under the circumstances. However, he said about 90 could face disciplinary action for removing their name badges - if they did so to avoid scrutiny.

"I think we were ready to deal with what took place," he said, adding that the actions of a few led the police to round up hundreds, who were never charged.

"It [preventative detention]was used a great deal, but when people began to riot in our streets, there was a reasonable expectation that the peace would be breached."

Chief Blair said many of those responsible for the violence have been identified and will be prosecuted.

The summit was not just costly for taxpayers. Shopkeepers, particularly those in the city core where the world's leaders met, also paid a heavy price.

A survey by the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association found that 93 per cent in the downtown core and 54 per cent outside reported a significant drop in business around the summits.

"Our operators had no idea what to expect. The overall message was that it was far worse than anything they could possibly have imagined in terms of impact," Joyce Reynolds of the association told the committee.

The federal government established a system to reimburse store owners for loss of business, but the association's Justin Taylor said the process is so complex and costly, few have even applied for compensation.

And he questioned why the rules exclude those who chose to shut down during the summit, or were not in the immediate area, or suffered property damage.

Mr. Taylor and Ms. Reynolds said they have not heard of one restaurant operator who has received any compensation from Ottawa to date.