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House of Commons Hansard #53 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was summits.

Topics

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 SummitsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member raises an excellent point. Given that the meetings were about austerity and fiscal restraint and about bringing together the world to talk about how to spend less, what a great opportunity to have them in a location, be it a military base or somewhere else, that would be no-frills, easy to secure, at an extremely low cost. Why not put it in Trenton or some other location that was very easy to secure, and say to world leaders, “Sorry, it is just not the time for martinis and caviar. We have to really have a streamlined summit here to show the world we are serious about austerity”?

That would have been the right thing to do, but here is the crazy thing. They did not even ask the city of Toronto. It is not like the city of Toronto said, “Please give us the G20”. The city of Toronto said, “Do not put it in an urban environment. Please do not bring it here. It is going to cause massive disruption, an enormous amount of costs and lost revenue. Please do not put it here”.

Yes, it was wrong to put it in an urban environment. Yes, it should have been somewhere else, but at the very least, they should have asked the city of Toronto its opinion.

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 SummitsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Liberal Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's speech was an eye opener in many respects, because a few of the numbers that he put out there were quite astonishing.

However, before I get to that, one of the comments across the way was certainly about the military in the city, and if I am wrapping my head around this correctly, they thought the Liberal opposition was a reason not to invite the military. That is one of the greatest examples of trying to slip their way out of a situation that is an absolute absurdity. Do they think the people are that stupid to believe that they have a point?

I was living in Toronto when they brought in the military during a snowstorm. I believe, if memory serves me correctly, it was a Liberal government. I did not see any problem with it. I do not think the federal government had a problem with it.

I would like to ask my hon. colleague a question. He said that it started out at $179 million. How did we go from that to what he is talking about, into the billion-dollar range? Here we have it shoehorned into a minister's riding. If I had known about ridings, I would have asked for this thing to be on Fogo Island in my riding, for that matter.

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 SummitsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, it may have been cheaper on Fogo Island than this. If we were to spend $1.1 billion, Fogo Island would never look the same after spending that kind of money.

It is a good question. How did these costs get to where they are? It is the crux of this motion.

The government has to come clean here. It cannot just invoke the word “security” and think there is no accountability. What it refuses to do is give us any kind of meaningful breakdown of what exactly these costs are.

The member is quite right to point out the fact that the City of Toronto itself called in the military. What was different about that situation was that there was an engagement with the municipality around that decision. Every time I have ever talked to any councillor in the City of Toronto or we have had correspondence from the mayor's office, they say they have never been consulted and at the last second are told what is happening.

A different way of handling this would have been to go to the city and say, “We have mismanaged this terribly. We have really blown it. We are going to have costs that are just outrageous and Canadians are angry. Is it okay if we use the military? We know they came in once before to help you with the problem of snow. This time, Canadians are being snowed over by costs. Is it possible for us to use the military to get us out of this billion-dollar boondoggle that we have created?”

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 SummitsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.

Vancouver Island North B.C.

Conservative

John Duncan ConservativeParliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, the member for Ajax—Pickering is a master of overstatement. He made the statement in his speech that there have been 11 summits since 9/11 and none of them have cost anywhere near what we are predicting for the G8 and G20 in Canada. That is absolutely incorrect. Most of the time we are comparing apples with oranges, but we do have the complete set of numbers in from Hokkaido for the G8. That was $1.5 billion.

Why is the member politicizing the security of the leaders of the western world? This is ridiculous.

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 SummitsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, what is outrageous is that the government will not even acknowledge that it made an error here. Conservatives are continuing to stand up and justify $1.1 billion for 72 hours. The reality is, and the facts show, that the most expensive G8 that was ever held was just over $380 million, and that cost is infinitely less than the $1.1 billion being spent here.

Here is what the hon. member does not get, and maybe he needs to talk to some more people to hear the anger that is out there. People do not accept this. They do not expect that $1.1 billion will be used for 72 hours of meetings to have discussions about austerity. They do not get it, and I agree with them, that if we are going to have discussions about fiscal restraint, we do not kick them off with the biggest and most expensive meetings ever held. Even if somebody, somewhere, at some moment in history, found a way to blow as much money as the government did, that does not make it right.

We have the largest deficit in the history of this country. Canadians are saying there are extremely important priorities. Thousands of people are unemployed and need help. People are coming forward and saying that they cannot get by, that they cannot make ends meet. They are not looking at $1.1 billion for 72 hours and saying it is okay. That is the part that the government does not get.

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 SummitsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate the opportunity to speak about the motion brought forward to us today by the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering.

I want to say at the outset that some of the statements we have just heard from that hon. member only serve to reinforce many of the misconceptions about the security costs with regard to the upcoming G8 and G20 summits. They also serve to trivialize the very good work that all of us can and will accomplish with our international partners through these important conferences.

The truth is that this summer's meetings of G8 and G20 ministers represent a wonderful opportunity for Canada to shine on the world stage. They represent a chance for all of us as Canadians to show the world not only what we value and cherish as a society, but to have those values put front and centre on the international agenda.

As the Prime Minister recently noted with regard to the G8 and G20, it will be a tremendous opportunity to promote Canada's values and interests. Moreover, it will be a tremendous opportunity to advocate for open markets and trade opportunities, to assist on global action against global warming, and to champion values such as freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law, values that are cherished by all Canadians.

On the G20 front, Canada as chair has an equally great opportunity to work with our partners to ensure that we all honour the promises that were made at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh in order to ensure a complete economic recovery by developing credible plans to encourage long-term growth and prosperity.

The motion before us today, sponsored by the member for Ajax—Pickering, essentially suggests that Canada should abandon these opportunities and turn our backs on our international partners. We are not prepared to do that. It suggests that we should ignore the very pressing challenges all of us face and the chances that both summits present to work in a spirit of co-operation and collaboration to address those issues.

I say that because the opportunity to lead on the world stage comes with an obligation to ensure that we can accomplish what we want to do. It comes with an obligation to ensure that security concerns and issues do not become the prime focus of either summit. That is what our government is committing to achieve. That is what the motion before us today clearly ignores.

What we have before us today are unprecedented opportunities. Never before has Canada or any other country had the chance to chair and host back-to-back summits of global leaders. However, with that comes the need for unprecedented security operations, which will likely represent the largest deployment of security personnel for a major event in Canadian history. It will surpass the Vancouver Olympics on this front. It will surpass the Pope's visit to Toronto, the APEC summit in Vancouver in 1997, and even the very volatile Summit of the Americas in Quebec City.

This is what I would like to turn my attention to over the next few minutes. The cost of security is not money our government has arbitrarily decided to spend. This is a very important point. This is money that recognized security experts have told us we have to spend. The experts have been quite clear that hosting two major world summits could not be done on the cheap, as the motion before us today suggests it can.

These summits do not lend themselves to cutting corners when it comes to ensuring the safety and security of world leaders and their delegations as the motion before us today suggests they should. We have also been open and honest with Canadians as to what the costs would be. Those costs have been laid out clearly in supplementary estimates (A) and (C).

As well, the Minister of Public Safety has indicated that the Auditor General of Canada is more than welcome to review these expenditures once they are completed and that he will release a detailed breakdown of the cost after the summits are over.

For now, let me talk about the supplementary estimates. In March, our government tabled supplementary estimates (C), which included an initial allocation of $179.4 million for the fiscal year 2009-10 related to pre-event policing and security operations for the upcoming summits.

There was no indication that this would represent the final costs associated with the security and policing. I think the member for Ajax—Pickering knows that and is being quite disingenuous about it.

We have been quite clear. This allocation represented an initial drawdown on funds for security planning and preparation at the two summits.

Since the Prime Minister announced on December 7, 2009 that Canada would host the G20 summit in Toronto, a large proportion of the planning budget was allocated to the 2010-11 fiscal year and was included in supplementary estimates (A), which the government tabled on May 25. The supplementary estimates (A) allocate $653.9 million for policing and security at the two summits.

I want to be quite clear that this is not a case of escalating costs as the member for Ajax—Pickering would have us believe. It is a question of identifying the money required and getting it ready when it is in fact needed. That is the way the parliamentary budget system works.

The safety and security of Canadians, delegates and international visitors during the G8 and G20 summits are Canada's highest priorities. That is why we have consulted with experts in the field and have budgeted that the costs for policing and security at these events will be up to $930 million on a medium threat level.

Let me read a quote from John Kirton, the director of the University of Toronto's G8 Research Group, who has attended every G8 meeting since 1988. Mr. Kirton recently noted in an interview in BusinessWeek, “The cost for each of the two Canada summits are more or less within the range of what G8 and even G20 summits have been costing.”

One might ask about certain comparisons to the reported figure of $30 million for the G8 security in London. Let me read the comments of Bill Blair, chief of the Toronto Police Service. Mr. Blair recently told the CBC that he found the $30 million quote for the G8 in London to be “extraordinary” and that he was told this figure represented merely the overtime costs for police officers. What he was told was that it certainly did not in any way nearly represent the actual cost of providing security for the G8 that took place in that city.

One might ask about comparisons to the Vancouver Olympics. Let me quote Ward Elcock, co-ordinator for the 2010 Olympics and G8 security. Mr. Elcock recently told CBC that such comparisons cannot be made since the Olympics were not a security event, but instead were a sporting event for which we provided security.

The bottom line is that the experts agree that comparing security for the Olympics and G8 and G20 summits is like comparing apples to oranges. The two events are quite dissimilar.

Mr. Elcock said in another interview that the G8 and G20 summits are major meetings of global governance at the present time and in the context of the economic crisis not unimportant. He said that it means we are hosting 30-plus leaders of the most powerful countries in the world, many of whom travel with much higher levels of security, even within their own countries and we have an obligation to ensure that when they come to Canada to attend the G8 and G20 that they are secure.

To repeat, we have an obligation. That is what our government is committed to achieving and in the most open and transparent way possible. I would like, therefore, to outline for the House exactly where the allocations for security and policing for the G8 and G20 summits will be spent.

Security planning for the G8 and G20 summits, of course, is led by the RCMP through the integrated security unit in consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. The supplementary estimates (A) allocate $321 million to the RCMP so that it can perform this function in the most comprehensive, efficient and fiscally prudent way possible.

An additional $262.6 million is allocated through supplementary estimates (A) to Public Safety Canada to reimburse provincial and municipal partners for eligible, justifiable and reasonable incremental security expenses that may incur. Reimbursements to our security partners will be based on audits that will be conducted following the summits.

I want to point out that in both cases, these allocations will not be used only to ensure we protect the safety and security of visiting heads of state and their delegations. Indeed, they are being used to protect the safety and security of all Canadians, including those who wish to engage in peaceful protests during those summits. Clearly, our government believes in freedom of expression.

We believe that everyone has the right to be heard. That is why the community relations group within the G8 and G20 integrated security unit has been proactively reaching out to individuals and groups who may wish to protest in order to ensure their needs are accommodated and also to ensure that we can facilitate peaceful and lawful protests at both summits.

At the same time, the integrated security unit has been working to ensure the safety and security of residents around Huntsville and Toronto, as well as businesses and also their properties.

We have already seen senseless acts of vandalism connected to the summits. These are stark reminders that we need to remain vigilant and take action to keep our communities and streets safe for everyone. This is something our government has made a top priority since we were first elected in 2006.

Among other allocations, the supplementary estimates (A) allocate $63.1 million to the Department of National Defence to provide unique military capabilities that will assist in ensuring the safety and security of the G8 and G20 summits.

There is an allocation of $2.2 million to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to provide intelligence support related to threats to the national security of Canada, including the G8 and G20 summits.

As well, the supplementary estimates (A) allocate $1 million to the Canada Border Services Agency for activities associated with the provision of incremental border services and critical program support for both the G8 and G20 summits. In particular, border services will focus on managing the entry of all accredited G8 and G20 participants and ensuring that these individuals are in possession of the required travel documents.

Since our government was first elected, one of our top priorities has been to ensure that the necessary resources are always in place for law enforcement officials and our security partners to do their jobs.

We have invested prudently and transparently in the RCMP so that it has the manpower, the training and the equipment necessary to help make our communities safer places to be enjoyed by all Canadians.

We have invested prudently and transparently in the Canadian armed forces so that Canada can play a leadership role overseas in Afghanistan and elsewhere, and work with our international partners to help foster peace and security around the world.

We have made investments to further improve security at our domestic airports so that Canadians can feel confident about air travel and safely travel should they choose to do so by air.

These are just some of the investments our government has made to ensure we protect the safety and security of all Canadians.

We are committed to investing in the same prudent and fiscally responsible way with regard to the G8 and G20 summits. We are not going to cut corners.

According to a recent Leger Marketing survey, 50% of Canadians are sure there will be protests and violence at the upcoming summits, but they also think that Canada is well equipped to handle such events and to show the world what good hosts we are. The reason they believe that is our government's track record which speaks for itself.

We have told Canadians from coast to coast to coast that their safety and security is one of our top priorities, and we have delivered on what we said we would do. We have told them we would take action to crack down on crime, and we have delivered. We have told them that we would take action to combat the threat of terrorism both at home and abroad, and we have delivered. Most of all, we have told Canadians that we would do all that in an open and transparent way, and once again we have delivered.

We have delivered when it comes to improving accountability in government. We have delivered when it comes to being open and forthright in outlining security expenditures for the Vancouver 2010 Olympics and Paralympics, as well as the upcoming G8 and G20 summits.

With those comments, I therefore cannot support the motion from the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering, which I believe ignores these facts. If the motion passed, it would have the effect of encouraging the government to ignore our obligations to our international partners, as well as to all Canadians who expect us to show leadership on the world stage. That is the not the Canadian way. We will not ignore those obligations. I encourage all hon. members to vote against this motion.

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 SummitsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway NDP Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, in a column in The Globe and Mail on May 28, Jeffrey Simpson said:

A corner of Muskoka is being turned into a militarized zone, downtown Toronto shut off, baseball games moved out of town, thousands of police and security agents mobilized, to say nothing of helicopters, planes and, for all we know, submarines in Lake Ontario.

He further said:

The whole thing is over the top and way too expensive for three days that bid fair to be a non-event in substance.

If we accept that an urban setting is not the proper place for this type of event and the fact that people are concerned about the military in the streets, why would the government not consider simply holding the whole event in a secure military base where the costs should be almost zero?

I want the government member to respond to that and tell us why that could not have been done.

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 SummitsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am not familiar with Jeffrey Simpson, choosing not to read The Globe and Mail on a regular basis, but I will quote Sheila Fraser on the costs. The hon. member might have heard of Ms. Fraser, the Auditor General of Canada. She said:

Obviously $1 billion is a lot of money, but I think we have to recognize that security is expensive. There are a lot of people that are involved over a long period of time. We may think that the meetings only last for a few days, but all the preparations involve extensive planning, extensive coordination for months before that and I think we have to be really, really careful.

Toronto was chosen. There has been some debate regarding whether the locations were appropriate. Hon. members cannot decide whether they want to hold them in an urban area or a rural area because they also criticized the government when one of the summits was proposed to be in rural Ontario. The reality is wherever these summits are located, there is going to be security. There is going to be expensive security. We owe that not only to Canadians who reside in those areas, but we owe that to the delegations and the world leaders who will be coming. We also owe that security to the people who will be engaged in lawful protests. They too need to be protected. We do not want to see any violent incidents or protests that get out of hand.

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 SummitsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Liberal Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, on September 25, 2009, the industry minister, the MP for Parry Sound, said, “There may be some minor augmentations to the existing G8 budget”, talking about adding the G20, “but I would argue they should be minor. After all, one of the advantages of holding both in Muskoka would be the cost advantages”.

The minister acknowledged at that point that by holding the summits in one common venue it would contain the costs and keep it much cheaper. Would the member not agree that the venue in a downtown urban environment is a security nightmare with underground tunnels and towers but it was specifically chosen for a good photo op with all the buildings? Would he not agree that holding it in another area in Toronto would have cost a lot less? Would he not agree with his cabinet minister's own assertion that this would have been much cheaper to do in one venue? Therefore, would he not agree that this would have made sense to get the venue right in the first place, choose a location that would have been much cheaper and easier to secure? Does he not question, as the Minister of Public Safety has done publicly, the size of these costs? Does he not think that for 72 hours $1.2 billion is an outrageous amount of money?

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 SummitsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not accept the premise that the locations were incorrectly chosen in the first place. However, I am not a security expert and certainly the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering is not a security expert. The reality is that security is a necessity at these summits. All the world leaders are going to be at the G8 and G20 summits. They require protection. The issue is whether or not the costs of these summits and providing security is in line with similar summits that have been hosted in other parts of the world.

As I said in my speech, John Kirton, director of the University of Toronto G8 Research Group, has attended every G8 since 1988. I will quote what he said again because I do not think the hon. member for Ajax—Pickering heard me the first time:

The costs for each of the two Canadian summits are more or less within the range of what G8 and even G20 summits have been costing. It is a very good investment. Most of the money has permanent benefits well beyond the G8.

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 SummitsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was on a panel last week with the member for Oxford who publicly stated that the government knew from the very beginning that the costs of this summit would be in the $900 million range. Those are not my words; those are the words of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety. Yet the government put the figure of $179 million in the estimates tabled on March 3.

If the government believes in transparency and accountability, and if it knew all along that the costs were $900 million, why would the government have represented to Canadians just a little over 65 days ago that the costs would be $179 million?

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 SummitsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, clearly the hon. member for Vancouver Kingsway does not understand how the parliamentary budget system works and that is why he is in the fourth party and likely always will be.

In March, $179 million was allocated as part of the overall security budget for the G8 and G20 summits. The recently tabled supplementary estimates (A) allocate a further $654 million. As we have always stated, overall costs will be finalized following the completion of the summits. However, based on a medium level threat assessment we budgeted up to $930 million for security. This is the normal budgetary process. Now $179 million was allocated as part of the overall security budget. That was never intended to be the entire amount.

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 SummitsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is becoming very clear in this debate that there are people who are, in fact, security experts, who prefer to deal with factual information, and there are those, particularly the member for Ajax—Pickering, who think that they are security experts. Facts never get in the way of their telling their story.

I think the member for Edmonton—St. Albert has clearly articulated that when we are talking about this particular issue, to be factual, we should be talking about apples to apples rather than about apples to oranges. We should be using numbers that are realistic to use in comparisons.

I would like to ask the member for Edmonton—St. Albert if he is aware that--I just came in, and I do not know if this has come up--the cost of putting on the G8 recently, which I think was in Hokkaido, was somewhere in the neighbourhood of $1.5 billion, which is, in fact, much more than the total cost of the two events we are putting on in Canada. Do I have the correct number?

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 SummitsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

Brent Rathgeber Conservative Edmonton—St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, that is correct. The costs for one summit in Hokkaido, Japan were $1.5 billion.

As I said in my main speech, and I quoted from integrated security unit chief Ward Elcock, the hon. member raised a good question. We cannot compare apples to oranges or to any other fruit.

The integrated security unit chief Ward Elcock said:

I think Canada is one of the rare countries that has actually been transparent about the security costs.

He also said:

If you could actually compare apples to apples, the costs are going to be fairly comparable.

When the opposition rails on and on about these costs being out of the ballpark of normal security costs for other summits, they are being disingenuous. As the hon. member pointed out, it was $1.5 billion for Hokkaido, Japan.

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 SummitsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this motion, which criticizes the government for the anticipated $1 billion price tag for security at the G8 meeting in Huntsville and the G20 meeting in Toronto.

The motion also calls for a detailed breakdown of how the money will be spent and an explanation of how spending was permitted to spiral out of control.

Naturally, the Bloc Québécois will vote in favour of this motion. I want to make it clear that we are not against holding important meetings like the G8 and the G20, although we condemn the fact that some issues, such as development assistance, will not be on the agenda. We are not against holding these summits, but we do not understand how it can end up costing so much.

To be clear, a review of the government's budget documents reveals that the bill for three days of meetings ballooned from $179 million to $833 million. Worse still, the government has said that the final cost could climb to $930 million for security alone. In addition, $150 million is being spent on organizing the summits. These two summits taking place over the course of three days will cost $1.8 billion.

We have good reason to wonder about this. When a government talks about austerity and the importance of saving money, then turns around and, without batting an eyelid, says that it has to spend $1 billion on a three-day event, that is bound to raise some questions, particularly since this is the same government that spent thousands of dollars on plants and lamps. Who could forget that?

When we compare the cost of these two events to other similar events in Canada or abroad, or to major infrastructure projects, we have good reason to ask questions about an amount in excess of $1 billion.

Here are a few examples. The security budget for the Vancouver Olympic Games, which lasted 17 days, was $900 million. Millions of people and hundreds of athletes and teams were kept safe for 17 days. That was not a three-day event for a few heads of state and their entourages, regardless of how large. The cost of providing security for these two summits may well become the highest in all of Canada's history.

I have two other examples of security, such as the G20 in April 2009 in London, just one year ago. Prices have not gone up that much. London covers an area of 1,579 km2, and has a population of over 7,684,700. Those figures were from 2007, so its population has likely gone up since then. Toronto covers an area of 629.91 km2, and has a population of over 2,503,281. These figures are from 2006, so the population has certainly increased. So the two cities are comparable, even if London has a much larger population. The cost of the G20 over there, in 2009, was $30 million, according to the most recent reports from London.

It cost $30 million for the same number of heads of state and surely the same number of delegations, in a city that is bigger and has a larger population than Toronto. So why did the G20 cost $30 million, when the one in Toronto will cost much more?

The G8 summit that was held in Gleneagles, Scotland, in 2005, cost $110 million, and the G8 held in Japan, in 2008, cost $381 million. The G8 summit that was held in Alberta in 2002 cost $190 million. The G20 summit in Pittsburgh, in September 2009, cost $20 million.

None of the summits I just mentioned cost more than $400 million. We have to wonder.

I found another rather striking example. In 2008, the Government of Quebec announced that the 117 bridges in Quebec in poor shape were going to be made safe. Each bridge would be demolished, repaired, strengthened, rebuilt or replaced, depending on its condition. Out of the 117 bridges, 60 had to be demolished or replaced, and the other 57 repaired or strengthened. That is a lot of work. The cost to do all 117 bridges was only $100 million, which is 11 times less than the cost of the upcoming G8 and the G20. We need this money in Quebec for the health care system and for equalization. We would rather have our money instead of having it spent on who knows what for the G8 and G20 in Toronto.

What these figures tell me is that it costs less to make bridges safe than to keep heads of state safe. We need bridges that are in good condition, because there has already been one catastrophe in Quebec. In Laval, a whole overpass collapsed and killed people. Bridges are important to us.

The government has the gall to tell us that it wants to abolish the gun registry. In its throne speech, it says it wants to remove long guns from the registry, because the long gun registry costs too much. The Conservatives told us this repeatedly in committee. They sent their supporters to tell us the long gun registry was too expensive. Yet it would cost only $4 million to keep long guns in the registry. That is too expensive, but $1.08 billion for the G8 and the G20 is not expensive. It is necessary.

The Conservatives feel that $4 million is too much to spend on gun control. They are willing to let guns circulate freely. They even bemoan the fact that it does not occur to 14- to 18-year-olds today to buy a gun. Good God, what a scandal. Meanwhile, they are drafting bills to put young people in prison. They are all but putting guns in their hands. At least, they will be able to justify their bills and the prisons they are going to build. They even accuse single mothers of contributing to the decline in the number of hunters by not teaching their sons about hunting. They practically accuse them of causing car-deer collisions. It is so ridiculous that it is pathetic.

The Conservatives have the nerve to try to abolish the long gun registry to save a few dollars, yet a number of important people working in the field came to tell us how useful the registry is in police work, crime prevention and investigations. Moreover, a recent criminological study showed that the registry had saved 2,100 lives in seven years. The RCMP told us that more than 7,000 gun permits had been revoked in 2009 alone for public safety reasons.

Despite all the indications that the registry is important, the government tells us, through its MPs and the throne speech, that $4 million is too much to spend on saving lives.

But, $1 billion or more would cover the cost of managing long guns for 250 years. With $1 billion or more we could practically double the crime prevention budget in Canada for almost 20 years. It is a basic need that is not one of this government's priorities. With more than $1 billion, we could invest in the fight against poverty. I could go on and on.

It is our duty as parliamentarians to ensure that the cost of these summits is justified and that the government answers our questions and those of the public, of taxpayers, of those who are footing the bill. Citizens have mandated us to ensure that this government properly manages public money and is accountable for how it is spent.

Let us ask the question. Was choosing Toronto a wise choice? I have heard all my colleagues speak about this and it has become increasingly clear that it was not all that wise. The government itself maintains that providing security for two consecutive summits, in two very different cities—one of them Toronto—has driven up the price tag. I have to admit that I do not understand. If I want to organize something, the first thing I do is to ask for an estimate of the cost. If it is too expensive, I look for another cheaper estimate. I opt for what is cheaper. That is proper management by anyone organizing an event. Why choose a city like Toronto if the estimated expenses in that location result in higher costs?

Let us ask ourselves another question. Why is it expensive in Toronto, but it did not cost that much in London? One day the Auditor General will be looking at this and all will become clear.

On May 18, to explain the significant discrepancies in cost compared to other organizing countries, the head of G20 and G8 security, Mr. Elcock, who was just appointed, suggested that the governments of these countries are not transparent about the real costs of these events with their citizens.

That is what the security chief seemed to be suggesting when he said, and I quote, “I think Canada is one of the rare countries that has actually been transparent about the security costs.” Mr. Elcock also says that the high price of the security operation will be “comparable” to previous meetings held by members of the group. He said, “Our security practices are the same as other countries that attend the G8 and the G20 on a regular basis. And I would expect that, if you actually could find an apple-to-apple comparison, you would find that our security costs are actually pretty comparable.”

If Mr. Elcock's comments reflect the reality on the ground where G8 and G20 meetings have been held, then taxpayers are entitled to wonder if things could be done differently because these costs are exorbitant and unacceptable. It is a valid question. There are people, groups, citizens who are saying that we could achieve real savings by holding these summits and forums via teleconference. It is an idea that should be considered, like any other. It would be less expensive, greener and, in addition, it would not disrupt tourism or the routine of the country organizing the summit. These are ideas that should be explored. Perhaps we should listen when people speak.

How can we explain to the public that the Government of Canada is willing to spend $1.08 billion on two summits for heads of state and their delegations—there is a legitimate obligation to provide security—when it is not even meeting its international aid or development obligations?

From now until 2011, Canada will invest 0.29% of its GDP, even though the United Nations established the target of 0.7% in 1970. Canada has yet to reach the target of 0.7% that it agreed to. Unfortunately, since the 1990s under the Liberal government, this envelope has not stopped shrinking, going from a little less than 0.5% in 1991-92 to 0.25% in 2000-01.

Are things any better under the Conservatives? Have we reached our target? No. We will be at 0.29% in 2011. I am talking about a target set in 1970, so you could say that things are not going so well. In 2006, the OECD ranked Canada 15th among 22 donor countries in terms of official development assistance based on their GDP, down from the sixth place ranking it had received nine years earlier. Unfortunately, there is a desperate need. Considering the global situation, one cannot help but feel worried.

While I could provide several examples, I will instead give my colleagues just one important example: maternal health. Since I see I have only three minutes left, I will try to be brief.

For example, when we look at the millennium development goal of maternal and child health in developing countries, the numbers are appalling. Too many women are still living in poverty and do not have access to basic health care.

Here are some statistics. Every day, 1,600 women and more than 10,000 newborns die from truly preventable complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Again, 1,600 women and 10,000 newborns die every day in pregnancy or childbirth and these deaths could have been prevented. These statistics are truly outrageous.

Almost 99% of the maternal deaths and 90% of the neonatal deaths occur in developing countries.

A child born in a developing country is 13 times more likely to die in the first five years of life than a child born in an industrialized country.

In East Asia, in Latin America—not very far from here—and in the Caribbean, the infant mortality rate is four times higher than in industrialized countries.

It is estimated that malnutrition is the cause of one third of infant deaths in developing countries.

In 2005, 500,000 women died in pregnancy or childbirth or within six months of giving birth.

It is estimated that 14 million adolescent girls become pregnant every year and 90% of them live in developing countries.

Children born to an adolescent mother have a much greater risk of death in the first five years of life.

It is scandalous to see numbers like this and to see how little is being invested in official development assistance while billions of dollars are being spent on so-called security for summits to chat about how things are going elsewhere. How can we spend more than $1 billion on these three-day summits when we are not fulfilling our obligations?

We support this motion because we feel that the government has a duty to tell everyone what it is doing with our money. I am quite pleased as we all are, to know that the Auditor General is looking into this.

It is a good thing that Parliament looks at the administration of these events. Taxpayers have the right to know.

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 SummitsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro Liberal York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the fact is there are two locations, which clearly will have an impact on the cost. As well, people in the area of Muskoka have gone to huge expense to build a huge arena and various other facilities. What impact has that had on this budget?

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 SummitsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for her question. We must ask questions about the management of the whole thing, and not just about the infrastructure that was built. My colleague mentioned that some infrastructure was built, but it will be useless in the end, because the summit will not be held there. So why was it built? We must ask questions, because that is wasteful.

When a country hosts heads of states at a summit, the primary goal is to discuss important topics and to resolve issues. That is the primary goal; it is not about photo-ops in Toronto with the skyscrapers, as my colleague said, or about building infrastructure that will not be used.

Since these two summits are being held within a few days of each other, why were they not held in the same place, in a city that would not be too disturbed by the extremely high security? My colleague mentioned that tourism would be affected, among other things. I think that is unacceptable. We must certainly find a way to hold these summits in a secure place, but perhaps in a location that is less populated and not in the middle of the city. Why not hold them at the same time and in the same place? These are the G8 and G20. So at least 8 of the 20 countries will already be there.

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 SummitsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Conservative Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, the member has asked questions of why not do this or why not do that and has made some suggestions. I am certainly not a securities expert nor, probably, is anyone in the House, including the member. However, there are some very good security experts in the country from whom this government takes advice.

We have taken the advice that the locations chosen, as any location in the country, will bring some security problems that have to be addressed. They have made some estimates on what those costs would be. They have advised the government on security measures to keep our participants safe. They have given us all of this information. These costs are based on sound experience from experts in the security field.

It is great to speculate about things, but when the member speculates without taking the time to get the facts, then I think she does herself a huge disservice.

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 SummitsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understand that my colleague is not a security expert. I do not think that is what this is about. What we are saying is that we are taxpayers. If I wanted to hire security services for my office tomorrow, I would not necessarily hire the first contractor who gives me an estimate. I would call upon several experts who would give me their prices for certain aspects. Then another agency would tell me another price. Since I am the one paying, I would make the decision. Why did they choose services that are so much more expensive?

I do not believe that their decision was based only on the advice they received. I could be wrong, but I think the Auditor General will tell us if there were other, less expensive services available to the government.

We will not speculate, but we have every right to ask the question. Why will security for those two summits cost $1.08 billion when we probably could have paid less? It has cost much less in other places.

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 SummitsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston NDP Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member from the Bloc for describing the balance of the things that might have been done with some of this money.

We hear commentary back and forth across the House about whether one needs to be an expert or not. I suggest that members of Parliament, with the advice they get, are called upon to study many different issues. No one has to be an experienced person for any given one of them, especially when we look at the numbers for previous summits that have been one-third or one-half of what this one is proposed to be.

I submit that the government had choices to make in the budget. It made the choice to be so far out with this amount of money that it is almost unbelievable. There are so many other things it could have made choices on, such as putting $1 billion or $700 million toward seniors living in poverty, increasing the GIS and other things that have been proposed in the House.

It comes down to those choices, and I thank the member for proposing some of the alternatives.

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 SummitsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. That is exactly what I am trying to say. We might not be experts, but we receive proposals. A responsible government asks for several proposals before making a decision. If I understand correctly, the government was advised not to choose Toronto. It could have been held somewhere else. They could have saved money by having it all in one location, for instance.

This money could have been used for so many other things, such as the guaranteed income supplement, which is crucial. People are still calling for an increase to that supplement, something our seniors are entitled to. The government prefers to spend $1.08 billion on the G8 and G20 summits, instead of giving that money to seniors, to development, to the fight against poverty, or giving Quebec what it deserves in terms of equalization. We need that money for our health care system. I am not convinced that the government made a good decision, but I cannot be sure, since we have not yet seen the books. I think—

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 SummitsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

The hon. member for Chambly—Borduas.

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 SummitsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Yves Lessard Bloc Chambly—Borduas, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to start by congratulating my colleague from Ahuntsic on her excellent speech.

In society today, there are two sorts of people who are hyper-protected, with no debate as to the cost: criminals and the wealthy. When we think about it for a minute, it makes perfect sense. We do not need experts to explain it to us.

People who are in one of these two categories tend to be a bit paranoid, either because they are afraid because they have committed a crime or because they hold an office that has led them to behave badly, as in the Conservative government's case.

I would like my colleague to talk about political choices and all the cuts that have been made to women's rights and all the debates we have had on that issue, as well as about how readily the government invested huge sums of money in this protection.

Does my colleague believe the G8 and G20 could have been held here in this hyper-protected chamber?

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 SummitsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Conservative Barry Devolin

I would ask the hon. member for Ahuntsic to give a short answer.

Opposition Motion—G8 and G20 SummitsBusiness of SupplyGovernment Orders

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Maria Mourani Bloc Ahuntsic, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. He makes a very interesting suggestion. We received the President of Mexico here, and everything went very well. There are a number of rooms in Parliament where the summits could have been held.

The government made choices. It chose to hold the summits in Toronto at a cost of $1.08 billion. It is not true that the experts and the government's advisors are to blame. The head of state may ask for advice, but it is up to him to make the decision.

He chose to cut women's programs and not increase official development assistance. He is choosing to build prisons instead of investing money in crime prevention. He is also choosing to eliminate the gun registry. Those are all deliberate choices.