Final G8/G20 bill not yet in: Elcock

The man in charge of organizing security at the G8 and G20 summits in Ontario during the summer says a final price tag for costs has not yet been tallied.

The man in charge of organizing security at the G8 and G20 summits in Ontario during the summer says a final price tag for costs has not yet been tallied.

Riot police push against a crowd during a street demonstration on the closing day of the G20 Summit in Toronto on June 27. ((Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press))

"At this point, we don't know what the final security costs will be," Ward P.D. Elcock of the Privy Council Office told the Commons committee on government operations and estimates on Tuesday.

Elcock was Ottawa's security co-ordinator for the 72-hour event in June. Outrage over ballooning costs has grown ever since it became clear the Canadian government spent almost $1 billion hosting world leaders for three days, when other host countries reported much lower security costs.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has said security costs will be a fraction of what Canada spent when France hosts the summit in 2011.

The Conservative government has steadfastly defended the summit costs, saying the expenditures were necessary to protect thousands of international delegates and media during the unprecedented hosting of dual events back-to-back.


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The government has cited the violence seen on the streets of downtown Toronto as an example of what security personnel were up against.

The next G20 summit begins in South Korea next month.

Elcock faced largely testy lawmakers in the committee in Ottawa on Tuesday, who demanded answers on where, how and why the money was spent. Liberal Siobhan Coady, the MP for St. John's South-Mount Pearl, wanted assurance that bills were not in fact still mounting, something Elcock confirmed.

"No, I don’t think there are any costs accruing," he told her.

Initial security estimates started in the hundreds of millions of dollars but quickly expanded. The last estimate before the summit started put the figure at $930 million, plus a $50 million contingency fund. Reports have suggested, however, that Ottawa spent more than $1 billion.

"It was unprecedented in Canadian history to host two leaders summits over the course of single week," Elcock said. "The key to its success was our preparedness, because the endeavour incurred costs that we mitigated through economies of scale.

"I expect it to probably be less but certainly not more."

Within that $930 million figure, $507 million was earmarked for the RCMP, $278 million for the Department of Public Safety and $78 million for National Defence, the Parliamentary Budget Office said in a recent report.

The office found it difficult to make a true apples-to-apples comparison between summits because of different standards of disclosure, a view Elcock echoed. He also noted that Canada was in the unique position of hosting multiple summits at the same time.

The final costs haven't been tallied, because the Ontario Provincial Police and agencies in Toronto and Huntsville, Ont., haven't invoiced the integrated security team with their final bills, which will then have to be audited, he said.

"The reality is until you're planning a major event like the G8 and G20, until you have an actual plan, you don't know what the cost will be," Elcock said.

And the summits incurred costs that previous ones didn't in part because of Canada's size and population, he said.

A police officer stands near the security fence for the G20 Summit in Toronto on June 14. ((Mike Cassese/Reuters))

"In our situation, if they want 20,000 police officers, they have to come from across the country," Elcock said. "In London, they can do it and all be home for tea."

Canada also had to buy a lot of the equipment and manpower that other countries already have in place, he said.

"We do all that from the beginning, we have to bring in the people and buy the equipment. It makes it a more expensive event than it would otherwise be."

Bloc Québécois MP Robert Vincent asked why more members of the Canadian military weren't used for security services, instead of provincial police agencies that can cost up to four times as much. "We used this money in a haphazard way," he said in French.

Elcock dismissed the notion, saying having armed soldiers dealing with civilians would have been completely inappropriate.

"They are neither trained nor have the capacity to deal with civilians," he said.

Peter McGovern, the assistant deputy minister in charge of the G8 Summit, said the event showcased Toronto on the world stage and brought in $50 million to the city's hospitality industry alone.

"It was a success," he said.

Winnipeg area NDP MP Pat Martin pressed McGovern on who authorized all the costs — in particular, whose idea it was to build a "fake lake" meant to represent the Muskoka region to dignitaries in Toronto at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars.

"Those projects, which are deemed to be infrastructure projects, are not an element of my work," McGovern said.

Martin pressed on for information about who signed off on other alleged cost overruns but didn't get an answer.