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The Globe and Mail

What a deal: It's $930-million for summit security, not $1-billion

Police demonstrate the use of a Long Range Acoustic Device as the Integrated Security Unit for the G20 provide a technical briefing at the Toronto Police College Thursday, June 3, 2010.

Darren Calabrese/Darren Calabrese for The Globe a

It's not $1 billion; it's $930 million - when you're talking those sorts of numbers, it doesn't seem to make that much of a difference.

But it does to the summit media team, who are now quibbling with some reports.

Indeed, it seems the pounding the government is taking over the high security costs ($1-billion? $930-million?) for the upcoming summits is hitting a nerve.

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There is some sensitivity. Look what happened this morning:

A column by the Globe and Mail's Roy MacGregor provoked swift comment from the officials who toil at summit HQ.

Mr. MacGregor had written - as many other reporters have - that the security costs for the summits are $1-billion.

No, no, no. That is wrong, according to the government officials.

Here is what Mr. MacGregor was e-mailed from the summit media team:

From: PS Media Relations Sent: Monday, June 14, 2010 9:08 AM Subject: Correction

Good morning,

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We have reviewed the article in the Globe and Mail, A2, June 14, entitled "Splitting the summit is where it all went wrong".

We would like to correct some misinformation that appeared in the article as follows:

A report states that while previous G20 summits in Pittsburgh and London had cost $18-million and $30-million respectively, the combined Canadian G8/G20 security costs ballooned to $1-billion or more.

In fact,

Please note that the estimated security cost for the summits is $930 million which includes a contingency reserve for unforeseen security costs. As the Government has continually stated, overall costs will be finalized following the completion of the summits.

All departmental and agency business cases were challenged and scrutinized to ensure costs put forward were examined thoroughly.

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We appreciate your cooperation in correcting this. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you would like to discuss further.

Best regards, PS media relations team

Take that - security costs will come in at the much lower price of $930-million.

However, the Liberals - who have just released attack ads calling the summits a "$1-billion boondoggle" - say the costs could go even higher than $1-billion.

"The security costs went from $179-million to $930-million within a few weeks," says a senior Ignatieff official. "And Vic Toews (Public Safety Minister) said that it could go higher. So we are looking at overall costs of $1.1-, or $1.2- or $1.3-billion, or more. Who knows?"

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff and his team have been asking questions about the overall costs in Question Period.

"But no one on the government side answered. They preferred defending the reflecting pool," says the official. "Canadians know that way over a billion of their dollars will be spent on this - all because of Conservative improvisation, poor management and pork-barrelling to help Tony Clement. That is the reality."

EKOS pollster Frank Graves says it's "just stupid" that they are correcting the $1-billion figure. His research shows that for the public, $1-billion or $930-million simply reads "it's a whole lot of money."

And he believes that the controversy over the summit costs is not helping the government. It won't make or break them, he says, but it does contribute to a belief that this government may be "careless" with taxpayers' money.

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