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UPDATE: Civil society is winning against the G8 and G20 summits

The Toronto Star is the country’s largest circulation newspaper, it is the biggest newspaper in the host city of the G20 summit, and it is influential with its diverse readership.

Their editorial board writes today, “By now Prime Minister Stephen Harper must be asking himself why he bothered. Instead of basking in the limelight of playing host to two big summits, he’s being ridiculed in Parliament and roasted on Main Street for inflicting a $1 billion bill on a nation in sticker shock.”

“At a time when the Americans are struggling with a breathtaking deficit, the British are facing years of belt-tightening, and the Germans are bailing out Europe, it seems perverse to squander $1 billion to sing the virtues of fiscal restraint and austerity. …(And) Auditor-General Sheila Fraser is taking an interest, following claims that ‘improper planning and foresight’ drove up costs.”

The Council of Canadians has already called for a line-by-line accounting of the cost of the summits before they take place, that’s at http://canadians.org/media/other/2010/09-Jun-10.html.

“Harper himself is under fire, not just for the overall cost but also for follies that include a fake Muskoka lake, with fake dock and canoes, in the Toronto Group of 20 media pavilion.”

We took the lead on the naming of this lake, dubbing it ‘Harper’s Folly’, and were in media across the country on this, including on national newscasts, http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=3854.

“Whatever U.S. President Barack Obama and the 8,000 other dignitaries and 3,000 media may make of the oddball preparations, many Canadians now feel that this summitry is fast becoming the sum of all folly, making us an international laughingstock.”

To vote on our on-line petition about whether the summits are a good use of public money, go to http://canadians.org/. People are overwhelmingly telling us the summits are a folly.

“There are options. Summits could be held at more easily protected sites. Secure châteaux, the United Nations, military bases, even cruise ships have been suggested. …These affairs are sinking under their own weight. It’s time to lighten the load.”

The Council of Canadians campaign on the G8 and G20 summits has stressed that the place for global discussions is at the United Nations. We have repeatedly made that argument in Canadian Perspectives, in our e-newsletter, in print media, and recently on the Global National television news at http://www.globalnational.com/money/Toronto+prepares+upcoming/3124416/story.html.

“Harper’s extravaganza ought to be seen as the high-water mark for these affairs. It’s time to curb the sheer scale, cost and disruption. Perhaps the leaders could task a handful of their 8,000 nimble-minded advisers with devising a way to meet on a smaller scale.”

And we have launched a campaign to ‘scrap the summits’. Please support this action alert by going to http://canadians.org/campaignblog/?p=3877.

In many ways, civil society is winning this campaign. Most Canadians see the G8 and G20 as a very expensive photo-op, the security expenditures as too expensive and unnecessary, and recognize that very little will be coming out of these summits – not enough money for maternal health, no global bank tax, no action to address climate change, and no move away from the ‘business as usual’ approach that has brought unemployment and suffering to so many people.

But so much more needs to be done. The important tasks before us now include intensifying this work in the weeks leading up to the G8 and G20 summits, staying in the media with our concerns, and ultimately ensuring that all countries take the immediate actions necessary to move the world toward climate, trade and water justice.

If you are in the Toronto-area, be sure to be a part of all this on the evening of Friday June 25 at Massey Hall. Get your tickets now at http://www.masseyhall.com/eventdetail?eventId=491.