Given the nearly universal public backlash from the left and the right, I've been left wondering - what could Stephen Harper's motivation possibly have been? What possessed him to suddenly abandon his own party's avowed ideology and blow over a billion dollars on one wild weekend in the Big Smoke? Is it pure ego as the Liberals claim? Or is this some Machiavellian political strategy that went horribly awry?
Certainly incompetence has played a big role. As with most decisions based on politics rather than sound policy, the decision to host both summits in Muskoka and then suddenly move one to Toronto has cost the government a fortune in last minute preparations, including gaffes like hiring an overpriced and unlicensed private security firm.
The idea that all of this was some unintentional clusterfuck is terrifying, but is bolstered by the fact that the rationalizations given by the Conservatives have been more than a little confusing. First they were saying that this was just the cost of being a world player, and that events like this required extraordinary security measures because of 9/11 and dangerous demonstrators armed with spray cans. And yet, apparently all of the previous G20 or G8 summits - pre- and post-9/11 - have been pulled off for a fraction of the cost. Even in more expensive cities. Even in the U.S.
Once that was pointed out, the Conservatives suddenly switched tack. It's not just the security, they said - it's about "showcasing Canada to the world".
I thought Jim Meek did a fine job of taking that one apart.
Harper says the fake lake isn’t a fake lake, despite the canoes and the phoney docks. Harper insists it is really a reflecting pool that is part of a $2-million marketing pavilion to promote Canadian tourism.
This means the media centre for the G8 summit isn’t a media centre, but an element in a marketing campaign designed to transform 3,000 international financial journalists into tourism ambassadors.
So the media centre that is not a media centre, housing the fake lake that is not a fake lake, will allow reporters to experience the simulated joys of the G8 summit site — which they cannot visit.
...This begs two questions.
Is this summit a billion-dollar-plus tourism campaign, even though the reluctant travel writers can’t do any travelling? Or a summit of world leaders designed to stave off a second economic calamity, at which the financial writers can’t interview the designers of a shining new tomorrow?
The truth, of course, is that the government’s agenda is at cross purposes. Sorry, guys, you aren’t going to capture the hearts and minds of seasoned economics reporters by scaring them with virtual loon calls.
About the only time this week that the Conservatives appeared to be on top of the G20 debacle was the "gardening incident", where an innocent fertilizer purchase was suddenly transformed into a national security threat, complete with police sketches and stock footage of Oklahoma City.
It also became a convenient justification for spending ungodly amounts of tax money on security. Which, of course, makes me wonder if all incidents of faulty fertilizer paperwork are met with such a well publicized hue and cry.
As for my little ditty, I'm happy to think that it has played some small role in galvanizing public opinion against this government. As one interviewer put it, when what you are doing becomes mockable, you know you're in serious trouble.
And when what you write becomes graffiti, you know you've really made a difference.
(found by a friend on College Street in Toronto)
Interview with Jerry Agar on NewsTalk 1010 (June 10 podcast, approx. 29:05)
Interview with Bill Kelly on CHML Radio, Hamilton (June 11, interview #3)
Interview on GlobalTV Toronto (June 10)