Opposition MPs are ridiculing the Conservative government for spending almost $2 million to create an artificial indoor lake and cottage backdrop inside a Toronto media centre for this month's G8 and G20 summits.
Summit organizers are constructing the artificial lake inside Toronto's Direct Energy Centre to showcase the actual site of the G8 summit hundreds of kilometres away in Huntsville, Ont., June 25-26. The temporary media centre will host all but about 150 of the estimated 3,000 journalists from around the world covering the G8, as well as the G20 summit in Toronto's downtown core June 26-27.
Opposition parties have targeted Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government in recent weeks over the costs of the back-to-back international summits, which carry an estimated $1-billion price tag on security alone.
G8/G20: Can the costs be justified?
During Monday's question period in the House of Commons, Liberal MP Mark Holland asked why the Conservatives would "splurge" on an indoor lake during meetings where Canada will be preaching fiscal restraint to the rest of the world.
"The government is literally going to flush it down the drain when the 72-hour spend-fest is over," Holland told the House.
Speaking for the government, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon replied it is normal for summit host countries to showcase "all their country has to offer" to visiting media.
"We're going to be proud to showcase Canada to the world, contrary to what the Liberals want to do," Cannon said.
Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff labelled the dual summits "the world's most expensive photo-op," citing a leaked G8 communiqué that he said showed no progress on maternal health, climate change or the environment. On the issue of banking reform, Ignatieff said it appeared that all decisions would be left for another G20 summit in Korea at the end of the year.
Cottage scene includes canoes, deck chairs
Bloc Québécois Leader Gilles Duceppe labelled the G8 meeting a "tourist event," while NDP Leader Jack Layton called it a "billion-dollar boondoggle that is ballooning" under the Conservatives' wasteful mismanagement.
"We've got a government here that has to create an artificial lake, when Canada has more lakes than just about any other country in the world," Layton told the House. "It's the taxpayers who are going to end up at the bottom of the fake lake, with a fake Muskoka behind them."
But Transport Minister John Baird said the government has made a strong commitment to working multilaterally with international partners and is proud to showcase Canada as a "magnet for jobs, investment and opportunity.
"Only the leader of the Liberal Party would think it would be a waste of time of getting the G8 leaders together, the G20 leaders together, to plan on what we can do to revive economic growth in this country," he said.
The Toronto Sun reported the planned lake site — part of a larger "Canadian corridor" at the media centre — includes mocked-up canoes and Muskoka chairs, as well as large flat-screen televisions showing scenes of Muskoka's cottage country.
The Council of Canadians, an advocacy group opposed to Canada as host of the G8 and G20 summits, said Monday it has applied to the Geographical Names Board of Canada to have the temporary body of water named "Harper’s Folly."
The G20 summit will take place in Toronto on June 26 and 27. Incorrect information appeared in an earlier version of this story.Oct 17, 2013 10:44 PM ET