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Opposition miffed by $1 billion summit security

By Rob Gillies
Associated Press Writer / May 26, 2010

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TORONTO—Canada's leadership came under heavy criticism from opposition leaders Wednesday after announcing the country will spend nearly $1 billion for security at the G-8 and G-20 summits next month.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said Canada has budgeted up to $930 million Canadian (US$872 million). He said hosting the two summits back-to-back is unprecedented.

Canada is hosting the Group of 20 economic summit June 26-27 in Toronto. The G-20 is the group of leading rich and developing nations. The Group of Eight -- the group of leading industrial nations -- summit is being held in Huntsville, Ontario, a day earlier.

The near $1 billion tab in Canada comes as the governments of the G-20 conference are expected to discuss getting their deficits and debt under control.

Opposition parties in Canada decried the cost.

"Canada is on the world stage. Let's have a good show, but for heaven's sake let's get your budget under control," opposition Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff said. "The numbers are off the scales."

Public Safety spokesman Christopher McCluskey said it will represent the largest deployment of security personnel for a major event in Canadian history. McCluskey said Ignatieff's comments indicate no understanding of the reality of providing security to world leaders. He added that it's the first time in summit history that a country has hosted two summits back to back so there is no basis for comparison.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Sgt. Leo Monbourquette declined to say how many officers will be deployed, but thousands are expected. A massive temporary accommodations facility is being built in Huntsville and officers will be housed in hotels in Toronto. The leaders of the G-8 will be flown by helicopter from Huntsville to Toronto for the start of the G-20.

Toews said the budget is based on the assumption that the security threat is at a medium level. He said they believe experts who call it a necessary level of security.

Canada's Conservative government had planned on hosting both summits in Huntsville, but the G-20 venue was changed to Toronto, Canada's largest city, after concerns surfaced that the smaller town and surrounding area could not provide all the resources needed for such a huge event.

The costs of providing security in two locations is much greater. It is expected to be higher than the $900 million Canadian (US$864 million) the government estimated it spent on security during the 17-day Vancouver Olympic Games.

"I wonder if the minister would accept there's a degree of incompetence, a degree of a happen hazard approach to the planning for these summits that explains why you have such a high cost and cost overrun," opposition Liberal lawmaker Bob Rae said in Parliament.

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