Tories defend summit costs against new criticism
The Conservative government is defending the $1.2 billion spent at the G8 and G20 summits this June, which included $26,661 for mosquito traps and $439,186 for portable toilets, according to documents recently tabled in Parliament.
Rona Ambrose, the minister of public works and government services, said Friday that while the price tag for the back-to-back summits was steep, most of the $1.2 billion covered security measures.
"Hosting these events takes a lot of organization and they are costly, particularly on the security front," Ambrose said, echoing a statement earlier in the day by Public Security Minister Vic Toews.
Ambrose added that contracts for the summits had to adhere to Treasury Board guidelines and noted that summit spending is currently being audited by Auditor General Sheila Fraser.
"We're being very accountable and transparent," Ambrose said.
However, many of the costs associated with the back-to-back summits remain a closely guarded secret.
The Canadian Security Intelligence Service has refused to reveal many details about its expenses, because they say it could compromise national security and interrupt "operational integrity."
The RCMP's costs account for about $70 million of the total tab. The Public Works department wracked up $100 million in costs.
Earlier this week, documents were tabled in the House of Commons that outline where a small portion of the summits' overall spending went.
The list of expenses includes:
- $10 million on hotels for the RCMP
- $2 million for boxed lunches
- $4.4 million to put up the security fence in Toronto
- $333,831 for sunscreen, bug spray and hand sanitizer
- $735,000 leasing furniture, mostly desks and chairs, from a Toronto company
Opposition MPs say the documents show that spending on the two summits spiraled out of control.
"This isn't really about whether or not an appropriate amount of money was spent for security," Liberal MP Dan McTeague told CTV News Friday afternoon. "What it really suggests is a tremendous lack of oversight."
While a large number of items listed in the documents were purchased after competitive bidding, others were ordered directly from a single company.
The "sole-sourced" items show that "the usual checks and balances in these kinds of events never took pace," said McTeague, who is the Liberal critic for foreign affairs, industry, science and technology.
But in a Friday afternoon interview on CTV's Power Play, Ambrose said that the cash was spent wisely.
"Ninety-three per cent of expenditures were competitively awarded," Ambrose said.
"These are massive, massive organizational undertakings," she said, adding that security needs were "unprecedented."
"I think you have to pull back and think of the big picture here," Ambrose noted.
"Everyone walked away saying that Canada knows how to host the world, and come out on top."
Thousands of police officers were brought into Ontario to provide security for the summits, which took place in downtown Toronto and the central Ontario resort town of Huntsville during the weekend of June 25-27.
Only a small proportion of the more than 3,000 journalists who covered the summit made the trip from Toronto to Huntsville, even though millions were spent by the feds on upgrading the local hockey arena into a media centre.
The G20 summit all but paralyzed Toronto's downtown as police dealt with thousands of protesters, a small group of whom burned police cars and smashed business storefronts.
Other summit costs include:
- $1.7 million for two food catering contracts
- $22,403 on snacks from Pickle Barrel
- $23,100 on thermal night-vision video cameras
- $439,186 on portable toilets
- $98,225 on sirens
- $31,390 on flagpoles
- $246,000 on a "living wall," such a row of bushes
- $16,014 on plastic handcuffs
- $13,061 on police notebooks
- $107,748 on Nikon cameras
- $55,432 on video cameras
- $1,399 on memory sticks
- $191,411 on antennas
- $702,597 on two-way radio rentals
- $232,036 on phone rentals
- $207,900 on solar lighting
- $138,446 on a digital-pen system
With files from The Canadian Press