You’d think the federal government would have learned by now that hosting international summits only creates Canadian nightmares.
But after disastrous G8 and G20 summits in the Toronto area in 2010, where protests made the headlines more than any of the discussions at the summits did, Canada wants to host another one.
Canada will host the G7 summit in La Malbaie, Que., a municipality in the Charlevoix County region, in June and Global News and The Toronto Star have both reported that will cost Canadian taxpayers about $600 million, including $300 million for security. Why does the government even want to host this meeting?
“The last time Canada hosted the global gathering, then-prime minister Stephen Harper held two summits simultaneously: the G8 (which then included Russia, pre-annexation of Crimea) and the G20 in Toronto,” a Toronto Star report reads. “It was marred however by violent anti-globalization protests and excessive police security which led to the kettling of more than 1,000 citizens and by a spending scandal that erupted over the Conservatives’ diversion of border security funds to pay for all kinds of goodies in Tony Clement’s Muskoka riding — and the likes of fake lakes and gazebos.”
But Tondra McCharles of The Toronto Star says: “There’ll be no need for fancy fake lakes at the next G7 summit that Canada hosts in picturesque Charlevoix, Quebec, because this year’s global gathering will be nestled in rolling hills that border the mighty St-Lawrence River.
“But the annual shindig for leaders of the top seven Western economies will still cost a pretty penny.
“Canadians will pay nearly $600 million for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to host the G7 summit in June and hold related meetings — money that will be spread over budgets this year and next, and will be spread across a range of departments.
“Government officials say the cost actually will cover not just a two-day summit, but also several other meetings Canada will host throughout the year of key G7 ministers responsible for their nations’ foreign affairs, security, environment and energy, and finances, along with central bank governors.
The 2010 G7 meetings were held in Ontario’s Muskoka region and were followed by a G20 summit in Toronto.
The security for the two events cost over $1 billion.
The federal government just tabled its 2018 budget. That budget included a $18.1-billion deficit. Canada is close to $1.4 trillion in debt across all provincial and federal governments.
So why does the federal government plan to spend so much on this summit in Quebec?
Well, it will give Prime Minister Trudeau another chance to play his gender equity card. You know, the same one that just made a mess of the 2018 federal budget. The Liberals are looking to make gender equity a major theme of the G7 presidency.
Lauren Dobson-Hughes, a gender and global health consultant, said she is excited about gender issues being such a big part of the agenda, but concerned that things like sexual and reproductive health rights could end up falling off the road to consensus.
“The risk is you end up with a split where the U.S. goes offside and does its own statement or communique or, on the other side, you just risk watering down the communique to basically nothing,” she said. “How do you still make advances while holding the line and not giving anything up?”
Oxfam Canada’s Diana Sarosi said it will be important for the Liberals to include feminist organizations in all sorts of G7-related discussions and not just on topics traditionally linked to gender.
“Women have opinions about trade. They have opinions about finances and so on, so these topics that are not generally regarded as women’s issues are women’s issues,” said Sarosi, the women’s rights policy and advocacy specialist.
The headline on the CTV news web page says it all: “Liberals to push for gender equality during Canada’s turn at G7.”
Do these Liberals ever stop pushing buttons? How about some global talk on international trade, border security, illegal immigration…any of that stuff ring a bell to Liberals? Guess not.
So look for Canada to squander away another $605 million talking about gender issues, while representatives from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States just shake their heads.
A MacLean’s magazine’s sub headline read like this: The U.S. president is finally coming to Canada for June’s G7 summit. The plan so far? Keep him away from ordinary people.”
But who are the ordinary people? Are they the feminists who are planning to sidetrack these meetings? Are they the protesters, who always show up even in remote areas to protest nothing in particular, but make a mess of proceedings and cost a bundle to control? Or are they people like Justin Trudeau, who just came back from dancing around India in funny-looking costumes?
Let’s face it. Hosting this conference will not only be another security nightmare. It could also lead to further embarrassment as Trudeau and his gender-equity buddies push issues nobody else in the world is interested in talking about. How be Trudeau and his gender-equity friends just push these meetings off to some other country that might want to talk about more critical issues and might be able to do it for a lot less money at the same time.
Canada is in no position to be blowing in the neighbourhood of $600 million to talk about issues nobody else in the world will even discuss. But what’s $600 million to a guy like Prime Minister Trudeau? After all, he just tabled a budget with an $18-billion deficit. He just squandered away who knows how much money on a vacation in India that embarrassed the whole country. I guess we can just add the bill for this summit to the list. And to think we’re still a year away from an election.
Jeff Wilkinson is a Senior Politics Reporter at Debate Report covering provincial and national politics, . Before joining Debate Report, Jeff worked on several provincial campaigns including Jack Layton. Jeff has worked as a freelance journalist in Toronto, having been published by over 20 outlets including CBC, the Center for Media and VICE.com.