Editorial roundup: A photo-op, a failure, a brutal spectacle?

The leaders have left and the fences are being torn down, so journalists and writers around the globe now cast a critical eye on the outcome of the G8 and G20 summits.
This word cloud includes text from the editorials below. Words including 'G20' and 'police' were used frequently in the editorials and accordingly figure largely in the graphic. Words that weren't used often, such as 'aid' and 'climate,' appear tiny in the image. ((wordle.net))

The leaders have left and the fences are being torn down, so journalists and writers around the globe now cast a critical eye on the outcome of the G8 and G20 summits.

Among the questions being posed: Were the summits worth the cost and the disruption? What did the leaders actually accomplish? Were the people of Toronto failed?

Here is a sampling of editorials:

The CBC's Rex Murphy describes the violent clashes in Toronto and suggests the Black Bloc degrades protests. "Some people are saying that Toronto shouldn't have hosted the summit because this crowd would cause trouble. Absolutely wrong.  Cities and governments don't choose to do, or not to do things because a couple of hundred hit-and-run artists put up a smarmy threat of 'direct action.' The splinter doesn't direct the oak.

"Yesterday's mini-riot had one irony that will be very hard for some to digest.  It gives at least partial cover for the extraordinary one billion dollar cost that went into security for the G20 meeting here. The Black Bloc, and they will love this, is Stephen Harper's best political friend today."

The Globe and Mail on Sunday suggested the summit meetings are important but noted the security needs and disruptions came at a great cost.

"Despite the best efforts of radical protesters aptly called thugs, G20 security accomplished its most critical task. Summit work was conducted without disruption for the participants. But the same can hardly be said of its impact on the rest of us. The major disruption caused to the economic life of Canada's largest city, and the staggering cost of the summit to Canadians generally, raise serious questions about the future of such meetings, and invites serious reflection about how to host a G20 summit."

John Cruikshank, publisher of The Toronto Star, on Monday published an editorial titled "G20 editorial: Brutal spectacle failed a city and its people." He writes: "The strategy that ensured G20 leaders would never have to see a Canadian who wasn’t a politician, a police officer or a waiter lacked even a glimmer of common sense when it came to the security of Toronto and Torontonians.

"They took our city to hold a meeting and bullied us out of the core, damaging the commerce of thousands of merchants and inconveniencing the entire population. Then, they failed to protect our property. Along Yonge St., as self-described anarchists were smashing stores unopposed, terrified merchants and their staffs sought shelter behind counters and in basements. If these establishments had been set alight, all of the thousands of fearsomely equipped police would have been able to do little more to save our citizens than they did to save their burning cruisers."

© Patrick Corrigan / artizans.com

The National Post 's Don Martin describes Harper's billion-dollar investment, suggesting that summit wins may prove modest. "Can't cut your deficit in half by 2013? Don't worry, be happy with continued red-inked spending, if that's what's required to keep your emerging economy percolating.

"Don't like a bank tax? Don't implement one, unless it works for you.

"And about that vow to eliminate fossil fuel corporate subsidies? Well, sure, but it's all 'based on national circumstances,' which means each country can set its own pace.

"By replacing a firm consensus with options for each to go its own way, Mr. Harper acknowledged the G20 falls short of serving as a united global force of dovetailed policy."

John Hilary of the Guardian suggests the Toronto G20 summit should be the last of its kind, suggesting the leaders failed to address the root of the economic crisis. He also describes the police presence in Toronto as intimidating and costly.

"Unbelievably, the G20 is scheduled to hold its next summit in just a few months. If the Canadian experience has taught us anything, it is that such meetings are simply not worth the candle. There are more than enough forums already available for national leaders to discuss the key issues of our time, and almost every one of them has a greater claim to openness and inclusivity than the G20. Now is the time to end the charade of these summits once and for all."

Howard Elliott of The Hamilton Spectator calls on the federal government to pay for the damages, suggesting there must be a better way to hold the conferences.

"To the thousands of legitimate protesters whose passion and right to demonstrate is diminished, we offer empathy. But we'd also remind them they are judged by the company they keep.

"And to the Harper government, we say: Pay up. You brought the summit to Toronto, and have some responsibility given the near certainty violence would follow. Pay for the damages sustained by innocent businesspeople caught in the crossfire. It's the least you can do."

Henrik Boehme writes for Deutsche Welle and is undecided on the value of the G20 summit, noting that the nature of the debate proved to be a revelation in and of itself.

He writes: "The summit was preceded by the rolling thunder of discord; America versus Germany, spending versus austerity. But in the end, reason prevailed. The ambitious formula: growth through intelligent austerity. These kinds of conflicts are important. In the final analysis, the players find themselves on virgin political soil. No one can come up with the ultimate solution, because every country is faced with different conditions. Thus, the debate has no winners and no losers — and that was the big surprise that came out of Toronto."

Michael Schuman for Time magazine cautions that the G20 leaders may in fact slow the recovery with their deficit-cutting plan in his editorial "Has the G-20 doomed the recovery?"

He writes: "By putting in place a promise that all industrialized nations dramatically cut their deficits, the G20 has set in motion the very rush to the exits that it says is a danger. I agree with the American position on the matter, that more or less got snuffed out at the summit, that countries that don't suffer from severe sovereign debt issues or large fiscal deficits (whether in the emerging world, like China, or the developed, like Germany) should delay or slow their fiscal adjustment in order to sustain the global recovery and help those other nations that can't wait to cut their budgets (Greece, Portugal). But that's not happening. Germany is leading the charge on fiscal austerity instead of coming to the aid of its neighbours and stimulating Europe's economies."

Bill Emmott for The Australian  writes about the diverging paths on which the U.S. and Europe find themselves in "Thrifty Europe a worry for U.S. cash-splash."

"It took an Irishman, George Bernard Shaw, to point out that Britain and the U.S. were two nations divided by a common language.

"It has taken a summit of the leaders of the G20, held in Canada, to show that Europe and the U.S. are two regions divided by a common crisis. Whatever the smiles, whatever the assurances that their friendships have rock-solid foundations, the weekend's get-together showed that the two are moving in quite different directions, or at the very least at quite different speeds."

British actor and Oxfam Global Ambassador Bill Nighy writes in "It's up to Robin Hood to Save the G20" in The Huffington Post.

He suggests the G8 money allotted to the maternal and child health initiative is weak. He also suggests other aid promises were exercises in "creative accounting."

"Sadly, the good news is limited. The money will come over five years. The G8 has promised only $5 billion, the rest will come from a combination of other countries and the Gates Foundation. I find it incredible that with a promise of $1.5 billion over five years, Bill and Melinda Gates are providing almost a third of the total of the world's richest economies.

"Worse, the promise of "new" aid is a scandal of creative accounting. With no increase in overall G8 aid, their money will have to be taken from other pots, from the budgets for food, clean water, health or education. I wish someone would tell me how it can be right that a mother's health should be secured by sacrificing her child's schooling."