The National Today

G7's really expensive weekend: Here's what the 28-hour summit is costing taxpayers

A closer look at the day's most notable stories with The National's Jonathon Gatehouse: here's where the $605 million for the G7 summit is being spent; Iraq in political chaos amid allegations of voter fraud; violence flares in Nicaragua as demonstrators push back at Ortega's policies

Newsletter: A closer look at the day's most notable stories

A Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer stands next to the G7 logo at the summit's press centre in Charlevoix, Que., on Wednesday. Ottawa has spent more than $2.2 million to charter planes to fly Mounties and their equipment to the venue from all over the country, just part of the massive security budget. (Yves Herman/Reuters)

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TODAY:

  • 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
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here


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.  

Police officers stand outside a security perimeter surrounding the G7 Summit media centre in Quebec City on Wednesday. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)
But the annual event, which brings together the leaders of Canada, the United States, France, Germany, the U.K., Italy and Japan, is also incredibly costly — and getting more expensive with each passing year.

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.

Police officers stand guard as a worker secures fencing outside the Quebec City Convention Centre on Wednesday. (Darren Calabrese/Canadian Press)
The security budget for this year's summit is $396 million:
  • $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.

A pedestrian walks past boarded-up shop windows in Quebec City on Thursday as preparations are made for possible protests around the G7 summit. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)
Ottawa has spent more than $2.2 million to charter planes to fly Mounties — and their German shepherds — in from all over the country.

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:

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.

An activist wearing a Donald Trump mask takes part in a protest outside Quebec City's Regional Parliament building on Thursday. (Yves Herman/Reuters)

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 unrest

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.

Demonstrators are demanding that Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega step down. (Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images)
The street protests began in mid-April, first in opposition to the government's bungled handling of a forest fire at a nature preserve. They spread in reaction to Ortega's now-abandoned attempt to increase social security taxes and reduce pension benefits.

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.

Protesters clash with riot police in Masaya, Nicaragua, on June 2. (Oswaldo Rivas/Reuters)
The government's heavy-handed efforts to quell the protests — with masked paramilitaries being dispatched to beat demonstrators, reports of arson attacks and indiscriminate firing into crowds — have been condemned by human rights organizations inside and outside the country.

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.

Firefighters extinguish a blaze at the town hall in Granada, Nicaragua, after it was set on fire during a protest. (Jorge Cabrera/Reuters)
An attempt last week to strike a "national dialogue" broke down after just three days, amid more violence and deaths.

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.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi speaks to reporters after casting his ballot in the country's parliamentary elections in Baghdad on May 12. His al-Nasr coalition came third with 42 seats, and yesterday the outgoing parliament ordered a recount. (The Associated Press)
Following his lead, members of parliament yesterday fired all nine of the top officials at Iraq's independent electoral commission, replacing them with judges.  

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.

An Iraqi woman shows her ink-stained finger after casting her vote in the country's parliamentary elections in Ramadi on May 12. The turnout was a record low, with just over 44 per cent of eligible voters casting a ballot, (Hadi Mizban/Associated Press)
The likeliest outcome now appears to be some sort "national unity" government, drawing from the three main parties as well as the dozens of other political blocs that will be represented in the new parliament. There are three other alliances that won between 20 and 40 seats, as well as 10 different Sunni parties that control a total of 39 seats, and 28 groups that each won five seats or less.

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.

Iraqis inspect the aftermath of an explosion in Baghdad's Sadr City district on Thursday. At least 18 people were killed and 90 injured, and the security forces have opened an inquiry to determine the cause. (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images)
State television had initially reported it as "terrorist aggression on civilians," but police later suggested it was an accident involving the transfer of an ammunition cache to a vehicle.

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.

Russian President Vladimir Putin used his annual phone-in to tell Europe that he had warned them about the current U.S. trade threat. (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik/ Kremlin Pool Photo via Associated Press)

What The National is reading

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  • 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.

Pilots land a blazing plane in what is one of three 1983 Air Canada disasters. 2:59

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About the Author

Jonathon Gatehouse

Jonathon Gatehouse

Has covered news and politics at home and abroad, reporting from dozens of countries. He has also written extensively about sports, including seven Olympic Games and a best-selling book on the business of pro-hockey.