G8 closes as Huntsville, Ont., expresses relief

Residents of Huntsville, Ont., are breathing a sigh of relief as the G8 summit wraps up, after two years spent preparing and bracing for major protests.

'We got the goodies without the grief': deputy mayor

Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino inspects security measures in Huntsville on June 26, the opening day of the G8 summit. ((Dave Seglins, CBC))
Huntsville residents are breathing a sigh of relief as the G8 summit wraps up, after two years spent preparing and bracing for major protests.

"I know people really expected a lot more. It never really came and it's probably for the best," resident Randy Pielsticker told CBC News on Saturday.

"Many left town. I decided to stay to see what I could see," Pielsticker said.

But Pielsticker and other residents are a little disappointed.

Not one world leader visited the town or set foot outside the heavily fortified Deerhurst Resort east of town during the 24-hour summit, with the exception of Russian President Dimitri Medvedev, who dined at a restaurant on the main street on Thursday night.

The closest glimpse any residents got of the visiting dignitaries were of helicopters flying overhead and then touching down at the summit site.

Obama rumours

Late Friday, hundreds of curious onlookers lined the streets of downtown Huntsville amid rumours a motorcade carrying U.S. President Barack Obama might pass through. But like the protests, it never happened.

Huntsville deputy mayor Fran Coleman. ((Dave Seglins, CBC))
"We got the goodies without the grief," Huntsville Deputy Mayor Fran Coleman told CBC.

She says her town was initially in the running to host both summits, but in the end, it was decided the G20 portion of the weekend (and the inevitable protests) should instead be held in Toronto. So world leaders didn't get to see any of Huntsville's multimillion-dollar facelift.

The federal government spent tens of millions of dollars in the Huntsville area on road, street and lighting upgrades, as well as building an Olympic-sized ice complex. The improvements stretch well beyond Huntsville itself, and include a new fire hall and sidewalk improvements across Parry Sound-Muskoka, the riding of Conservative Industry Minister Tony Clement.

The question of what some here have called blatant "pork-barrelling" turned out to be one of the only "news nuggets" for reporters covering the Huntsville summit from outside the resort's security perimeter, set up east of town.

Many journalists came prepared with protective helmets and gas masks, concerned about potentially violent confrontations between police and demonstrators. It's a relief that never happened, though it's made for a sleepy news story.

Ontario Provincial Police Commissioner Julian Fantino toured Huntsville's downtown Friday night with a smile on his face, pleased with the peaceful turn of events.

CBC News to go

Keep up with breaking news from the G8/G20 summits. Sign up for CBC news alerts, or follow us on Twitter or Facebook.

Asked whether the thousands of police officers and military personnel brought in for the event was overkill, Fantino told CBC News: "We have world leaders that have converged here and a lot of others from an international point of view, so we had to plan for the worst and hope for the best.

"We felt we needed to create this presence," Fantino said. "Some will say it's overkill, but if we had under-planned and something went wrong we'd be the first to wear it. You can't have it both ways."