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Living wall, 'mass casualty kits' all part of $1-billion tab for G8/G20 summits

A fake lake with Muskoka chairs, canoes and a giant screen showcasing images from cottage country can be seen inside the G20 Direct Media Centre in Toronto.

Fernando Morales/Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

The G20 summit's "living wall" didn't quite get the attention of the flashy fake lake nearby, but many were curious this summer as to the cost of Toronto's brand new indoor greenery.

Billed as a legacy gift to the city, its cost and that of many others are revealed for the first time as Canadians get a close look as to how the hosting tab for the back-to-back G8/G20 summits climbed to $1-billion.

That green wall inside the Direct Energy Centre? $246,000. Other odds and sods on the list include a $26,661 tab for electronic mosquito traps, $31,390 on flag poles and $14,049 for glow sticks.

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The documents do not detail the full $1-billion in expenses for the summits, the G20 in Toronto and the G8 in Huntsville, Ont. What they do reveal is less than a quarter of those expenses - those that were incurred in the form of outside contracts approved by the RCMP and the Public Works department.

Hotel costs for the thousands of police officers who came from across the country for the event make up a large part of the expenses. An extensive amount of police equipment was also purchased for the summits.

Liberal MP Dan McTeague, who requested the documents from the government, said the list of expenses is "very disturbing" and point to serious problems as to how money was spent for the two day event.

"There was no accountability or oversight in terms of expenditures and money was no object," he said.

Auditor General Sheila Fraser has promised to audit the government's G8/G20 spending, but that report is not expected to be released until next year.

Parliamentary Budget Officer Kevin Page released a report in June that found the summit costs were "significantly" higher on a per-officer basis than the G8 summit in Kananaskis, Alta., in 2002.

However, Mr. Page said at the time that he didn't not have enough information from the government to conclude whether the $1-billion figure was reasonable. He did note that Canada could have saved $200-million by hosting both summits in the same location.

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A spokesman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews said the summits were a success, most of the costs were security-related and the release of the figures shows the government is being transparent and accountable.

Among the line items listed in the documents:

Hotels and furniture

  • $315,000 for "high-end furniture"
  • $420,000 for "standard furniture"
  • Millions of dollars for hotels in and around Toronto, including $1.1-million for accommodations at the Crown Plaza Toronto Airport

Law and order

  • $18,436.95 for "fireballs," which are portable red flashing lights that plug into a cigarette lighter. They are used by unmarked police cars to identify them as emergency vehicles.
  • $22,585.77 for "Mass Casualty Kits," an item the RCMP could not immediately explain Thursday $4.4-million for a security fence

High tech

  • $138,446 for a "digital pen system"
  • $23,100 for a "Tactical Thermal Night Vision Video Cam"
  • $23,100 Panasonic HD TV

Health and safety

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  • $333,831 for personal outdoor kits that include sun screen, bug spray and hand sanitizer
  • $9,730 for "Police Dog Service Equipment" from Pet Klean Inc.
  • $74,898 for defibrillators

With a report from Stephanie Chambers

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About the Author
Parliamentary reporter

A member of the Parliamentary Press Gallery since 1999, Bill Curry worked for The Hill Times and the National Post prior to joining The Globe in Feb. 2005. Originally from North Bay, Ont., Bill reports on a wide range of topics on Parliament Hill, with a focus on finance. More

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