G8/G20 organizer says marketing Canada worth cost
The chief organizer of the G8/G20 summit is defending a $1.9-million media pavilion, saying international reporters will be a "captive audience" for marketing Canada.
The 20,000-square-foot pavilion, called "Experience Canada," has a Muskoka portion for journalists in Toronto who may not have a chance to see Ontario's cottage country, the site of the G8 portion of the talks.
Sanjeev Chowdhury, director-general of the summit's management office, said 3,500 journalists have applied for accreditation to the summit, surpassing expectations by 1,500.
"A lot of people are coming there -- a captive audience -- to our media centre. This is a great opportunity for us to highlight the best of our country to these journalists," Chowdhury told CTV's Question Period on Sunday.
The Liberals and NDP have slammed the pavilion as a waste of money, singling out the Muskoka area of centre, which features an artificial lake, canoes, and a massive flat-screen television.
"Yes there is a Muskoka portion to it, there's a central bridge area and there's something called a cityscape, which is allowing us to highlight some of the best success stories -- in terms of sectors that are doing very well -- to the world's press," said Chowdhury.
"They want to look for other stories besides just the summit," he added.
He also defended the cost of the pavilion as minor compared to the overall price-tag of the summit. Based on security costs alone, it has exceeded $1 billion.
"I think that some of the elements … are very minor costs when you look at the overall expenditures that are being spent on hosting the summit," he said.
Critics have also questioned why organizers have divided up the talks, and whether that has further driven up costs. The G8 will be held in Huntsville, Ont., on June 25-26, while the G20 will take place in downtown Toronto on June 26-27.
"The G8 has always had a retreat element to it, an opportunity for leaders to be in kind of a quiet and reflective place to think about world issues," Chowdhury said.
He also downplayed concerns that hosting the G20 in downtown Toronto will be too disruptive to the city.
Theatre productions have shut down for the talks, the Blue Jays have moved a three-game series to Philadelphia, the University of Toronto has closed its downtown campus, and some financial institutions have asked employees to take vacations or work from home.
Traffic will also see major disruptions as police monitor a thick security perimeter to keep world leaders safe.
"Don't forget that we are hosting the G20 in Toronto on a Saturday and Sunday," said Chowdhury. "By and large, the downtown core is empty. It is pretty much business heavy. That was one consideration when we chose the location."