OTTAWA – Our federal government plans to spend $1 billion over seven days hosting the G8 and G20 international summits. The Conservatives say this is quite “normal” due to the high security costs in the post-9/11 world of international summits. Let’s take a closer look at this claim.
The “sticker shock” as I like to call it for the G8/G20 is primarily the result of $1 billion in security costs according to a recent statement by the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Citing the tragic events of 9/11 and the need to protect numerous heads of state from a terrorist attack, the Conservative government has said that the $1 billion cost as “normal” for any country wanting to host a major international summit nowadays. Fair enough, but given this government’s record for competence, honesty, and transparency I thought I would have my staff check the numbers anyhow.
Here then, is the security and overall costs for each G8 summit since September 11, 2001 (converted into 2009 US dollars):*
2002 – Canada (Kananaskis, Alberta) – $112.8 million (security), $236 million (overall costs)
2003 – France (Evian) – N/A.
2004 – United States (Sea Island, Georgia) – $28.9 million (security), $30.4 million (overall)
2005 – United Kingdom (Gleneagles) – $89.4 million (security), $175.4million (overall)
2006 – Russia (Saint-Petersburg) – $ N/A (security), $429.7million (total)
2007 – Germany (Heiligendamm) – $ 130.5 million (security), $141million (total)
2008 – Japan (Okinawa) – $283.7(security), $556.5million (total)
2009 – Italy (L’Aquila, Abruzzo) – $126.1(security), $264.4million (total)
2010 – Canada (Muskoka, Ontario) – $475million (security), $ ??? (total)
Remember, these numbers have been adjusted for inflation. From these figures, we can see that the average cost of hosting a G-8 Summit in the post-9/11 security environment is about $288 million – all inclusive and after adjusting for inflation. The overall cost of the upcoming G8 in Muskoka is not yet clear, but we do know that the federal Conservative government will be spending at least $475 million on security alone. So far, we are spending 65 percent more than the average summit host and we have only accounted for security.
The G8 budget blowout certainly looks bad thus far, but this boondoggle gets worse when the G20 meeting in Toronto is also factored into the equation. Here are the figures for the G20 meetings that have been held over the last couple of years. We only have these meetings to reference because the G20 is a fairly new international organization that only began to meet regularly in 2008. Anyway, here is the data we have so far;
2008 – United States -NA
2009 – United Kingdom (London) – $29.1 million (security), $30.5 million (overall costs)
2009 – United States (Pittsburgh) – $12.2 million (security), $18.3 million (overall)
2010 – Canada (Toronto) – $465 million (security), $475 million (overall)
If the G8 numbers were troubling, then the G20 figures are nothing short of mind-blowing. Two separate G20 summits were hosted on different continents in 2009 and in two countries where serious acts of terrorism have occurred in recent memory, yet the cost of our single Toronto summit next week will be 10 times greater than those two summits combined.
What’s worse is that aside from the $1 billion budgeted for security at the G8 in Muskoka and G20 in Toronto, there are also millions more in other ‘costs’ that must still be added to the final price tag. For example, $50 million has been set aside for unnecessary “legacy” projects that are supposed to be attached to these meetings. From indoor lakes to outdoor theatres, several of these G8/G20 legacy projects are 100 kilometres or more from the locations of these meetings and most will not even be completed in time for the three day events.
Oh, and unbelievably, one of the themes of the summits we are hosting is curbing budget deficits as the global economy emerges from the recession. With our $65 billion deficit and $1 billion cost to host these meetings, am I alone in thinking that the Mr. Harper has gone off his rocker or does all of this sound “normal” to you?
*The information used in this column was compiled by the world renowned Munk Centre for International Studies at the University of Toronto (http://tinyurl.com/G8-G20-Costs) and the current dollar amounts were derived using the Inflation Calculator at the US Bureau of Labour Statistics (http://tinyurl.com/US-Infl).