Harper says artificial lake cost $57,000, not $2M
It's not a "fake lake" that cost $2 million, it's a "fake lake" that's part of a $2-million "marketing pavilion" partially aimed at foreign journalists, Prime Minister Stephen Harper clarified Tuesday.
"This is a classic attempt for us to market the country," Harper told an outraged opposition Tuesday during question period.
The opposition was quick to protest the cost, which is in addition to the estimated $1 billion being spent on security for the upcoming G20 and G8 summits in Toronto and Huntsville, Ont.
"What do fake lakes, gazebos and boats that don't float have to do with security?" Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff asked during question period Tuesday. "It's not just a waste of money, it's that the summit promises to deliver so little on climate change, on women's rights and jobs and growth."
Harper said it's too early to judge the summit's outcome.
On Tuesday morning, the Conservative government issued the new cost breakdown for the controversial artificial lake that is being constructed in the media centre for the G20 summit.
The so-called "fake lake," as it was quickly dubbed by the opposition, boasts Muskoka deck chairs, canoes, a placid lake and star-filled sky.
It was reported on Monday that the lake display, intended to serve as a backdrop for international TV reporters, cost a whopping $2 million.
Government officials scrambled to get the word out to reporters that the lake itself actually cost only $57,000.
Officials said that $57,000 is part of the roughly $650,000 price tag for the entire Muskoka-themed Experience Canada exhibit, which includes the lake, chairs, dock and canoes, a large-screen TV displaying pictures of Canada, as well as wireless work stations for journalists.
The $650,000 represents about one third of the total cost of a larger 22,000-square foot, $1.9 million Enterprise Canada display designed to promote investment and interest in Canada to the thousands of international media and dignitaries who will be in town for the event.
That includes the cost of designing, building and tearing down the display after the G20, according to the PMO.
Dimitri Soudas, Harper's director of communications, said the new figures were in fact not new at all. Rather, "some of them may have been missed" when the details of the display were first released.
"But ultimately what this comes down to is a unique opportunity where we have over 3,000 media from all over the world that pretty much have two options: they're going to come to Canada and leave with a good impression or no impression," Soudas told CTV's Power Play. "So the government will put its best foot forward to make sure that our great country is showcased in the best possible way."
Soudas pointed out that representatives from agencies such as the Muskoka Lakes Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Tourism Commission, as well as officials with the Ontario government, all weighed in with their ideas for the pavilion.
When asked why the government doesn't just use the nearly $2 million budget to take all 3,000 journalists up north, Soudas replied: "Well, if you find the space we'll make every effort to accommodate that."
While the G20 meetings are being held in downtown Toronto, the smaller G8 meetings are in Huntsville, in Ontario's picturesque Muskoka region.