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G8 and G20: $200 million for bug spray, rental cars, lunch, parking and communication

In Canada on September 23, 2010 at 20:18

OTTAWA — The federal government spent more than $200 million on hotel bills, rental cars, bug spray, box lunches, communications equipment, parking, and numerous other items, according to a cost breakdown for the G8 and G20 summits.

Government records show that hundreds of suppliers secured contracts for services rendered for the June summits, held in Toronto and Huntsville, Ont., including a $334,000 bill for sun screen, bug spray and hand sanitizer.

The government has estimated the total summit tab to be just over $1 billion and the newly released documents detail contract spending for about one-quarter of the overall bill.

The contracts provide an inside look at spending for the international gatherings, which were dubbed by the political opposition as the most expensive three days in Canadian history.

Almost 30 page of records show that a hundred dollars here and another million dollars there added up to spending of about $222 million for the Public Works Department and the RCMP alone, two of the several entities involved in the two summits.

For the two summits combined, Public Works shelled out about $132 million for contracts and the RCMP spent another $90 million.

Foreign Affairs, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and RCMP staffing costs, which consumed a significant portion of the total summit bill, were not included in the documents.

The records show the government paid $4.4 million for a summit security fence, tens of millions in accommodation at dozens of hotels, millions more for food and rental vehicles, and that at least 100 contracts were awarded to supply a vast array of communications and security equipment.

Some of the most expensive items included almost $12 million to lease the Toronto airport, $5 million to lease the Sheraton Toronto Centre, $3.7 million for the Westin Harbour Castle and $3.6 million for the Fairmont Royal York. Canada Catering Co. secured $2.5 million to supply box lunches at the Muskoka airport.

On the other end of the spectrum, Mountain Equipment Co-op provided $14,000 in "bug jackets."

While summit spending was lambasted by the political opposition, Canada’s parliamentary budget officer, Kevin Page, concluded in a June report that costs of international leaders gatherings have grown significantly in recent years and there is nothing to show that the tab for the G8 and G20 summits was out of line with other countries.

"Hosting these international summits has typically been a very costly undertaking," wrote Page.

Liberal MP Dan McTeague, however, condemned the spending.

"It’s an outrageous amount of money, most of it sole-sourced," he said Thursday. "The government appears to have taken the approach that money is of no object."

McTeague singled out a few items in the spending records, including a bill for $85,000 for snacks at Hyatt Regency Hotel and $2.2 million for car rentals for one day.

Auditor General Sheila Fraser is conducting an audit of summit spending and Miguel Lanthier, a spokesperson in her office, said the report is expected to be released in the spring of 2011.

"It will focus on whether costs reported were budgeted, accounted for, and expensed as intended," he said, adding that it will also consider whether the money was well spent.

Don Davies, NDP public safety critic, said he will push the House of Commons public safety committee to probe political accountability for the summit costs and treatment of protesters, among other things.

Summit spending, which dogged the Conservatives from much of last spring, has resurfaced just as Parliament returns after its summer break.

Canada was originally supposed to host only the G8 in Huntsville, but the federal government opted to expand the summit to include G20 leaders after it became clear that the larger organization is the dominant one for dealing with the world financial crisis and other economic priorities.

The government has said it based its security spending — budgeted at $930 million — on what Canadian experts say is needed to keep Canadians and world dignitaries safe.

© Copyright (c) Postmedia News

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