Posts Tagged ‘budget’

The first time I heard the number I thought the news anchor was joking.

But then I realized that news anchors aren’t usually the joking type. And then I heard it again. $1.1 billion. That’s the revised security budget for the upcoming G20/G8 summits that are being held in Toronto and Huntsville next month.

I say revised because there was an initial estimate when this whole affair was first announced and that was $179 million. That’s 600% higher than originally thought and – are you ready for it – that’s not the final number. That they won’t know until everybody goes home. I can’t wait to hear what that number will be.

As I I’ve been writing this I’ve been searching for the right word to express how I feel about that number. Flabbergasted. Dumbfounded. Stunned. But all those words somehow seem inadequate.

$1.1 billion. 4 days.

From the beginning the fact that we were hosting this summit has been met with a fairly tepid response. No one initially seemed too excited about it. And then the details started to come out. A giant fence surrounding a large part of the downtown core. Traffic hell. A huge film studio being turned into a temporary jail for the more unruly of us. A concerted effort to keep protestors as far as away as possible. They were originally going to shunt them to Trinity Bellwoods Park – a good 8 km from the sight of any world leader – but the local NIMBY folks got a hold of it and that location was quickly squelched.

Anybody who has any sense at all will get the heck out of Dodge during that week in order to avoid what could quite possibly be one of the worst disruptions in Toronto’s history. Far, far away. And not to Huntsville. That won’t be much better.

And now this number. $1.1 billion.

You have to put a number like that in perspective. You can build a lot of housing for that kind of money. Transit. Health care. Aboriginals. The list is endless and all are worthy. Now, the law enforcement community is poised to receive their own personal stimulus spending and while if you’re a Police Officer I’m sure you think this is quite appropriate. But nobody else does. Last night on the news they ventured out into the street to interview ordinary Torontonians about their reaction to this number. Most had nothing to say because their jaws dropped so low they couldn’t form intelligent sentences. Several questioned whether the reporter had her numbers right. She did.

So, I’m thinking to myself that their must be a benefit in hosting this summit if the government is going to such lengths to orchestrate it. It’s not going to increase tourism. News coverage outside this country will be somewhat sparse because it’s all pretty boring. There won’t be a bounce like we got from the Olympics (which went on for 18 days with a security budget of less than $900 million – and they had revenue.)

No, unless you’re Stephen Harper, who gets to play host and feel important, this is mostly a lose-lose for Canadians, Torontonians and the taxpayers. Just why are we doing this any ways?

Today we learned that the Toronto Police have used part of that money to purchase 4 sound cannons so that they can deafen any protestors who dare get too close. 1 truck mounted one and 3 hand-held ones. But, as they point out somewhat defensively, they will keep them after the summit to use on the everyday citizens of our fair city. Great. Just what I want my tax dollars spent on. Military deafness.

I’ve been trying to figure out how to spend $1.1 billion over 4 days and it’s not easy. That is an awful lot of money. I’m also very curious to know just how the original estimate of $179 million could have been so wrong and so low? Was it a PR move to placate the opposition or are the feds just plain incompetent? Something is very stinky in Whoville.

I suppose there’s no turning back now. I’m sure that, if asked, most Torontonians would politely suggest that this debacle be held elsewhere. But nobody is asking us. And then I had a thought. Why don’t they take about $20 million of that money and build some kind of meeting facility on Centre Island and hold the summit there? It would be very easy to secure and quite pretty, too. That would probably lop about $600 million off the estimate. But, again, nobody’s asking me.

I don’t really want Toronto turned into an armed camp, replete with soldiers, constant flyovers and disruptions of the highest order. I can already smell the tear gas.

Of course, one of the richer ironies is that one of the main agenda items at the G20 will be how to help the global economy better utilize its resources. I can think of $1.1 billion ideas to float past them.

I’m trying to remember the last time I felt so helpless in the face of such insanity. We have no voice in this, no ability to protest or to democratically subvert this whole mess. So, come June, we will all be good Canadians, suck up the inconvenience and wait out what will likely be the biggest cluster f#*@& we have ever been through.

You can do an awful lot of good for $1.1 billion but sound cannons, barbed wire and an armed camp surely should be low on the list. What kind of country do we want this to be?

O Canada, I’m sad for you today. Stand on guard, indeed…

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