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Opposition focuses on "Lake Wastemataxes" - again

Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff speaks during Question Period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa June 10, 2010.

CHRIS WATTIE/Chris Wattie/Reuters

Michael Ignatieff focused on the fake lake - again - today in Question Period. The Liberal leader is running out of lines of attack.

He's not the only one - for four consecutive days now the Liberals along with the Bloc and NDP have been grilling and mocking the Harper Conservatives over the costs of the G8 and G20 summits. About $1-billion is being spent just on security for three days of summiteering.

But there was one piece of good news that came out after the 45-minute session: it appears the House is to rise next Thursday for the summer.

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The opposition has been having fun all week with the artificial lake that is being built for a princely sum (about $57,000) in the G20 media center in Toronto. It is part of a $1.9-million Canadian pavilion that brings the outdoors indoors (lake, canoes, Muskoka chairs, fake loon noises) and features business themes that will be on display at the media centre.

NDP leader Jack Layton dubbed the entire affair, "Fake Lake-Gate".

Today, Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff called it "Lake Wasteamataxes." He got a laugh.

"This summit could have been practical, could have been focused, could have been modest, could have been oh so Canadian and, instead, it has morphed into a kind of monster," charged Mr. Ignatieff.

"Can the Prime Minister explain how he managed to lose control of Canada's moment in the sun because everybody knows the only thing anybody is going to remember from this summit is Lake Wastamataxes?"

The Prime Minister defended the costs - again - noting that his government consulted the same people as they did for security at the Vancouver Winter Olympic Games, which were clearly a success.

The latest boondoggle was also discussed today: $1.1-million is to be spent on "wallpaper backdrops" - the identifying logo that will appear behind the Prime Minister and other newsmakers during press conferences and photo-ops.

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"The government has lost control of its spending for the G8 and G20 summit: $1-million for posters and banners, all this money for a fake lake, $1-billion for security," charged Mr. Layton.

"It just does not make sense. This is money that could have been used to help women and children. Why?" asked Mr. Layton.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper accused Mr. Layton of uttering inaccuracies.

"The summit has incurred costs, which are natural for this kind of summit," said the Prime Minister. "We are bringing in the same kind of safety measures, security measures that other countries do."

"The budget is appropriate," he said.

But there is a broader point, too, which the opposition has tried to emphasize all week - that the backdrops and gimmicks are at the expense of substantive debate at the summits on such issues such as climate change.

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Bloc leader Gilles Duceppe asked why the summit leaders cannot discuss the environment along with the economy as the two are clearly linked.

The Prime Minsiter said he agreed with the Bloc leader that the two are linked and they will be discussing both issues. But he was not enthusiastically pushing the issue.

Did we mention that the House is to rise next Thursday?

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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