G7's really expensive weekend: Here's what the 28-hour summit is costing taxpayers
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- The G7 summit is costing taxpayers hundreds of millions, roughly double the bill for the 2010 G8 meeting in Toronto
- Violence flares in Nicaragua as demonstrators push back against Ortega's policies
- Iraq has been plunged into political chaos amid allegations of voter fraud
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G7's hefty price tag
The G7 Summit in La Malbaie, Que., begins with an official welcome at 11:45 a.m. on Friday morning, followed by a working lunch. And it ends — 28 hours, three meals and hundreds of millions of dollars later — at around 3:15 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
"To have the opportunity for seven allies to gather in a less formal, more relaxed setting, surrounded by beautiful landscapes and a warm welcome, to talk about real issues — it's extremely important," G7 host Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said late last month.
The federal government has budgeted $605 million for the summit and associated meetings before and after.
That's almost double the $305 million price tag of the last Canadian G8 summit (Russia came) in Toronto in 2010, and 20 times the $29.3 million cost of the 1988 meeting.
Or if you really want to simplify it, Canadian taxpayers are on the hook for at least $21.6 million for every hour that our visitors are in town.
The lion's share of that money is being spent on protecting the seven leaders and their entourages.
- $259 million for the RCMP
- $99 million for Public Security Canada
- $35 million for the Department of National Defence
- $2 million for CSIS
- $1 million for the Canadian Border Services Agency
Some of that has been spent on very visible measures, like the 3-metre-high, 10-kilometre-long fence that now surrounds Le Manoir Richelieu and the Casino de Charlevoix, where the meetings will take place. There's also a smaller security perimetre surrounding the official "free-speech zone," located in a museum parking lot 1.5 kilometres away.
There are cameras and metal detectors, concrete barriers and bomb-sniffing equipment. Boats will patrol the maritime exclusion zone in the nearby St. Lawrence River. And helicopters and aircraft will enforce the no-fly area around the Manoir and CFB Bagotville, where the leaders' planes will touch down.
But the biggest expense will be salaries and overtime for the 3,000 RCMP officers who are providing front-line security, guarding the length of the fence and checking the ID of the more than 1,000 La Malbaie residents who live in the neighbourhood adjacent to hotel.
There will also be a considerable rental car bill, with arrangements having been made for 63 sedans, 118 small vans and 57 mini-buses.
Depending on your perspective, a $396 million security investment is either a lot, or a little:
- It's roughly the same amount that Ottawa will spend over the next six years to try and rectify the Phoenix pay system debacle.
- It's similar to the figure allocated in this year's budget for a 10-year, Inuit-led housing plan.
- It's what Quebec City (the urban centre nearest La Malbaie) has spent on a state-of-the-art hockey rink that has so far failed to attract an NHL team.
- It's the amount that Mike Tyson blew through in his post-boxing career.
- It what the Hudson's Bay Company lost in the first quarter of 2018.
Although it seems that some of the invited leaders are questioning the summit's value.
The Washington Post reports that U.S. President Donald Trump has been complaining long and loud about having to fly to Quebec to meet his counterparts, believing — probably correctly — that he's in for a bunch of lectures on his new trade tariffs.
There has been talk about sending Vice President Mike Pence in his place.
Even if Trump does arrive as scheduled, there are fears among his aides that he might refuse to sign the final communiqué.
Maybe next year it will be a slightly cheaper G6.
Nicaragua's embattled President Daniel Ortega is meeting with the country's Catholic bishops today to try and find a way to defuse weeks of anti-government protests and police violence that have left more than 120 people dead.
Most of Nicaragua's major roads remain blocked by demonstrators. Business owners are calling for a national strike and threatening to withhold taxes to put additional pressure on the government.
Now, however, the goal is clearly regime change, with demands that the dictator-turned-president leave the office he has held for the past 11 years.
Violence flared in the tourist town of Granada yesterday, with at least one person killed in clashes that resulted in the torching of the city hall and reports of looting.
The city of Masaya, once the heartland of Ortega's Sandinista Revolution, is now totally under the control of locals armed with home-made mortars and stones.
This time, the Catholic Church is hopeful that all sides are ready to talk.
The protesters, however, seem unlikely to accept anything short of Ortega's immediate resignation.
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Iraq's political chaos
Iraq has been plunged into political chaos amid allegations of voter fraud.
The outgoing parliament yesterday ordered a full, manual recount of the 11 million ballots cast in May's election.
Earlier this week, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi had complained of "dangerous violations" in the May 12 election, won by the fiery Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, citing reports of errors produced by new vote-counting machines.
The recount will further delay the formation of a new government — an already tricky proposition, given that no party or alliance came anywhere near securing a majority victory:
- Sadr's nationalist Sairoon coalition, a blend of religious and secular Shia groups, was the surprise victor, capturing 54 of the country's 328 seats.
- Then came the Fatah slate, a grouping of Iranian-backed Shia militias that did most of the fighting against the Islamic State, with 47 seats.
- Prime Minister Abadi's al-Nasr coalition came third with 42 seats.
Sadr, who led a resistance against American occupying forces following the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein, isn't eligible to become the new prime minister because he didn't run for a seat. And his fierce criticism of Iranian meddling in Iraq's politics has won him the enmity of his fellow clerics in Tehran, effectively ruling him out anyway.
But his party's promise to oppose all foreign interference in Iraqi affairs, and to concentrate on rebuilding roads, schools and hospitals while helping the poor, clearly resonated with some.
Meanwhile, there are signs that ordinary Iraqis don't have much faith in the current political process. There was a record-low turnout for the election, with just over 44 per cent of eligible voters casting a ballot, down from 60 per cent in 2014. Only 285,000 of the three million internally displaced citizens registered for the polls.
Last night, hours after parliament's recount decision, a pair of explosions ripped through a Baghdad mosque frequented by Sadr's supporters. At least 18 people were killed and 90 wounded.
Sadr has formed a committee to investigate the cause of the blasts and given it three days to report back. This morning, he issued a statement calling for "patience and self-control" from his supporters.
Quote of the moment
"This is a method by which to restrain Russia, the notorious sanctions, because endless accusations lay the groundwork for introducing restraining measures. It is because Russia is seen as a threat, because Russia is seen as becoming a competitor."
- Russian President Vladimir Putin, during his annual nationwide call-in show with voters, sells his explanation for why Western nations have been imposing economic sanctions on Kremlin power brokers.
What The National is reading
- Missing from Trump's White House Iftar dinner? Muslim-American guests (CBC)
- The millennial housing crisis is real and worse than you think (Financial Post)
- $400K vanishes from public service union's coffers (CBC)
- New HIV treatment developed, approved by China (Telesur)
- The more kids study, the worse their eyesight, says new research (The Times)
- Fentanyl test strips for sale at Vancouver dollar store (Vancouver Sun)
- Texas man nearly dies after being bitten by severed snake head (BBC)
- A crucial archaeological dating tool is wrong and it could change history (Science Alert)
Today in history
June 7, 1983: Pilots recount fatal Air Canada flight
Twenty-three passengers died when an Air Canada flight from Dallas to Toronto caught fire at an altitude of 9,300 metres. The toll could have been much worse were it not for the heroism of the pilots, Donald Cameron and Claude Ouimet, who landed the smoke-filled plane in Cincinnati without the aid of instruments and guided only by the voice of an air traffic controller. By the time the plane rolled to a stop, Cameron's seat was on fire and he had passed out from smoke inhalation. It was only a burst of foam from a firefighter's hose that woke him up in time to escape with the other 27 survivors.
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