How to spend $1 billion on G20 security

June 25, 2010

The question as to how Canada could possibly spend C$1 billion ($960 million) protecting world leaders for just three days becomes progressively easier to answer the longer you spend in southern Ontario, the central province where the Group of Eight and then the Group of 20 are meeting this weekend.

G20 leaders will gather on Saturday and Sunday in central Toronto and a large area around the city center venue has been sealed off with high-tech fencing designed to deter even the most ardent climbers. The government, on the defensive about the security bill after critics accused Ottawa of wasting money, isn’t giving a detailed breakdown of security costs. Ministers do admit that policing alone will cost C$450 million, most of which will go on overtime.

That isn’t surprising when you work out how money will be needed to pay the 10,000 police who could be called up. My taxi driver was fuming when he picked me up at the airport and his mood didn’t improve as we crawled past large groups of police not doing very much. “Look at that horse. He probably earns more than I do,” he fumed.

This morning we got on a bus for the two-hour drive north to the lakeside resort of Deerhurst, in the middle of prime cottage country deep in the woods, where the Group of Eight leaders are meeting. At first we could see the occasional police car here and there but the closer we approached our target, the more security we saw. Every path leading into the forest seemed to have a black and while Ontario police car blocking the way.

Then the checkpoints started. At the first one we were waved through by no fewer than seven tanned policemen, who didn’t seem to be doing very much. Just outside the resort a large grey observation balloon hovered in the air. Our bus stopped and waited and waited and all we could see were barricades and police, many of whom were watching the fence which had been erected around Deerhurst. About two dozen police motorcycles sat deserted outside the Algonquin Animal Hospital.

I looked in vain for anti-aircraft missile launchers, but did spot five small military helicopters on the golf course outside the resort. As I write this, a high speed black police launch is sailing up and down the lake outside the press center. Yes, you can start to see how they managed to spend C$1 billion.

No comments so far

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/