View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – Billion Dollar Boondoggle?

Cornwall ON – The Liberals and NDP continue to harp on the costs of the G8 and G20 summits. Admittedly it’s quite a bill and whether or not there will be value for the amount spent will wait until after the summits are over.

Personally I think summits of this type are a huge waste. A waste of a leader’s time, staff time, the time of law enforcement officials, our military and many others who make these summits work. All of this of course comes with a hefty price tag.

For the most part various government officials representing all the countries spend months seeking common ground on key issues. What remains is the final blessing of the leaders at the summit and the final official communiqué and group photo op.

Is that worth a billion dollars, I don’t think so. With the technology available today, other solutions such as video conferencing are available. Another solution is to put strict limits on the size of the delegations. Do you really need more than 10 or so staff and bureaucrats to represent your country’s interests?

The problem for the government is two fold. If the summits go off without a hitch everyone will feel the money was wasted because there weren’t any incidents to justify the cost. If something serious happens, then they will still be blamed for being unable to stop it while having spent that much money. Essentially a lose-lose scenario.

In the mean time, opposition researchers will have a field day drawing up lists of important items that the billion dollars could have or should have been spent on. What you add to that list is only limited by the imagination of the researchers.

Fortunately, most voters will have made up their mind in the first couple of days news coverage and so far I haven’t met anyone, not even a conservative who is happy with the amount spent. At this stage of the game people are tuning out when the topic comes up. The opposition can go after this every day if they want too, but how many voters are still listening?

The government was wise to welcome Sheila Fraser’s decision to audit these summits. It will be most interesting to see her conclusions as to whether or not the expenses were justified and provided value for money spent.

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.


  1. I always enjoy reading you Keith because you speak the truth. While most around us are losing their heads with much wailing and gnashing of teeth, you bring back the calm to the debate.

  2. $1 billion for “final blessing…final official communiqué and group photo op.” When you boil it down like that, you’re right, Keith, it’s an obscene waste of people’s time and money. And, after all, these are mostly boring men in suits, not Hollywood stars.

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