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NEWS: Harper government says G8/G20 summits cost almost $860 million

I’ve just finished an interview with Global News on the Harper government’s late Friday afternoon announcement of its spending on the G8 and G20 summits this past June.

More than four months after the summits, the federal government is saying it spent almost $860 million on the 16-hours of meetings in Huntsville and Toronto, but that the bills aren’t all in and the total cost may still be higher.

A spokesperson for the prime minister’s office admitted last June that the per minute cost of actual leaders’ meeting time was estimated to be an incredible $833,000.

The Council of Canadians has consistently argued that the proper forum for global gatherings is the United Nations, where 192 countries are represented, and not in these types of summits with small clusters of 8 or 20 self-selected leaders.

We also argue that $860 million spent on weekend summits as a stage for Harper to announce his promise to spend $1.1 billion – over five years, mind you – on maternal and child health is money wasted.

We believe that $860 million or more would have been better spent on more support for maternal health, or on access to clean drinking water, or on actions to counter or mitigate climate change.

When Canadians were asked last June about the billion dollar price tag for the summits, 78 percent said the cost was unjustified. By making this announcement on a Friday afternoon, and hoping for it to go relatively unnoticed, the Harper government presumably knows Canadians still firmly hold that view.