Where the money could've gone

With the bill for security for the G8 and G20 summits closing in on $1 billion, many are wondering whether the money could have been better spent.
Police were on hand en masse for the April 2009 G20 summit in London. Total security bill: $30 million. ((Tim Hales/Associated Press))
It's no surprise, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says, of the $930 million it will cost to make sure more than 20 world leaders — and their entourages — are safe when they come for three days in Ontario at the end of June.

Security costs at previous summits

  • G8 summit Japan October 2008: $381 million
  • G8 summit Gleneagles. Scotland July 2005: $110 million
  • G20 summit London April 2009: $30 million
  • G20 summit Pittsburgh, September 2009: $18 million

In fact, Toews says, the price tag may even go a little higher.

In an interview with CBC News, Toews insisted the estimate was not a cost overrun and said the G8 and G20 summits were actually moved closer together to save money.

"This has been budgeted for, and the money is released as it is required," Toews said.

The G8 leaders will meet in Huntsville, Ont., on June 25 and 26. The 12 other leaders who make up the G20 (along with other invited leaders) will be waiting 220 kilometres away in Toronto, for more meetings on June 26 and June 27.

The Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) spent $477.2 million to ensure the safety and security of Canadians in the 2008-2009 fiscal year. The G8/G20 security bill could have paid the CBSA's budget for two years.


That $930 million is just for security and doesn't include meals, transportation or upgrades to local roads.

That works out to about $12,916,666.67 an hour for the three days of meetings. It would also pay for the entire 2010 Toronto police services budget — which covers 5,567 police officers and 2,056 full-time civilians and part-time or casual employees, including benefits and overtime.

New light rail streetcars are a main feature of Toronto's Transit City plan. One 15-kilometre line will cost $950 million - over four years. ((Canadian Press))
Put that money in your hands, and you could buy a home security system with two-way voice communication and pay a security company to monitor and maintain it — for 2,583,333 years.

Part of the security plan will mean a large section of downtown Toronto will be enclosed by a security fence — shutting down some of the city's busiest streets to traffic, making it difficult to get around.

Toronto transit officials might like to get their hands on that security budget. It would've covered the cost of the Sheppard East Light Rail Transit line. But it would've taken the city four years to eat up that budget before the 15-kilometre long route opens in 2013.

Calgary could have used the cash to pay for a long-planned tunnel linking northeast communities and businesses to Calgary International Airport. The city says the estimated cost has gone from $287 million to around $900 million, so it won't likely be built this decade.

The $930-million security tab could have locked up former Blue Jay ace Roy Halliday for 46 years. ((Evan Vucci/Associated Press))
The security plan has forced the city to shut down one of Canada's most-recognizable tourist attractions — the CN Tower. It's also forced the Toronto Blue Jays to shift a key three-game series with the Philadelphia Phillies to Philadelphia. Baseball fans were looking forward to that series, since it would have marked the return one of baseball's best pitchers — Roy Halladay — to the city he left last year in a trade.

Blue Jays management were also looking forward to the series, as it would have meant large crowds at the Rogers Centre — something that's been lacking in a season of rebuilding.

That $930 million could have done wonders to boost Blue Jays attendance. It could have paid for a ticket in the 200 level of the stadium for every man, woman and child in the country — for a premium game, like one featuring the Phillies and Halladay.

The money also could've been used to keep Halladay pitching for the Blue Jays — for the next 46 years. It could also have covered the Blue Jays entire team payroll for the next 10 years — had it stayed at the opening day level of $78,689,357.

Or maybe the federal government could've bought the Washington Nationals, moved them back to Montreal and built them a decent stadium. The Nationals are a relative bargain, valued by Forbes at $387 million US this year.

Ottawa could have used the money it's spending on security to buy the Phoenix Coyotes, Colorado Avalanche and Atlanta Thrashers and move them to Winnipeg, Quebec City and southern Ontario, respectively. ((Christian Petersen/Getty Images))
Sticking with sports, Ottawa could have coughed up $140 million allowing the NHL to recoup what it paid for the Phoenix Coyotes, added $60 million to let the league claim a tidy profit and then move the team to Winnipeg. And for good measure, throw in $205 million for the Colorado Avalanche and $143 million for the Atlanta Thrashers moving the Avalanche back to Quebec City and the Thrashers to southern Ontario, marking the return of competitive professional hockey to Canada's biggest market. There'd be enough cash left over to help with the building of stadiums for each team.

Let the private sector pay?

The G8 and G20 leaders will tackle several economic issues at the summit. Banks may get some attention. The Bank of Montreal reported a much bigger than expected profit of $745 million on May 26 — and that's just for the second three months of 2010. That would cover most of the security cost and still keep the bank out of the red.

There may be some political theatre during the meetings, perhaps of cinematic proportion. The people behind the Shrek dynasty could be tapped for some of the production costs. Shrek the Third hauled in $798 million around the globe and Shrek 2 broke $900 million. Shrek Forever After — the final installment in the series — pulled in just over $70 million in its first weekend in the theatres.

Not a sports fan? There's plenty the money could have accomplished to keep Canada in the forefront of research and development. Think 19 top scholars for $200 million was a good deal? How about another 94 for $930 million?

We could've given the 500,000 Canadian college and university students a real edge next September. The money could have bought each of them a 64-gigabyte Wi-Fi-only iPad - and there would be enough money left over to load them with a year's supply of textbooks.

Or the federal government could have forgiven the student debt for:

  • 33,214 graduates in Atlantic Canada, where the debt at graduation is $28,000 (the highest in Canada).
  • Or 71,538 graduates in Quebec, where the average debt at graduation is $13,000 (the lowest in Canada).

None of that catch your eye? How about a year's supply (about three litres) of maple syrup for every man, woman and child in the country. There'd be enough money left over to mail souvenir containers of the stuff to the leaders and their entourages. And maybe even a T-shirt, too.