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The Globe and Mail

G20 compensation unevenly awarded, claimants say

Graham Hnatiw, manager of the Old Spagheti Factory, calls it 'beyond ridiculous' that the restaurant's claim was denied.

Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail/Moe Doiron/The Globe and Mail

The single greatest reason compensation claims were rejected after the 2010 G20 mayhem was because the claimants – mostly Toronto businesses – weren't inside the government's designated security perimeter or officially "affected" areas.

Documents, obtained by the Globe and Mail through an access to information request, show that of the 367 claims filed to Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, 165 were deemed ineligible as of mid-November. However, claimants are questioning why other businesses, also located outside of the designated areas, were worthy of thousands in compensation.

"To say that we weren't affected is beyond ridiculous," said Graham Hnatiw, general manager of the Old Spaghetti Factory, which is on the Esplanade and didn't get any money back. It was one of the 55 claims dismissed for being outside of designated areas.

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Nearby pubs and restaurants including Scotland Yard and the Keg didn't get compensated either. But a three-minute walk north and still outside the affected area, C'est What was approved to receive more than $4,000. Across the street, Hothouse Café received more than $8,500.

Mr. Hnatiw said the street was closed down on the Saturday night, as about 200 protesters were boxed off by police near a hotel across from the restaurant. Most Saturdays, the business makes $30,000 but only made $4,500 that day, he said.

"We had 150 uniformed, riot police take over our patio and whole restaurant. We had to escort, one by one, all of our guests out of our restaurant," Mr. Hnatiw said, adding that he worked that night and staff gave officers bread and other food because there were no customers.

A Foreign Affairs spokesman replied to questions about the process, reasoning and compensation budget by saying that "losses and damages to Toronto businesses are regrettable." This spring, Minister John Baird agreed to a review of the claims process, the spokesman said in an e-mail.

Interim Liberal leader Bob Rae, MP for Toronto Centre, said he's yet to hear the results of the review but it must be public. "It appears that some of the decisions have been quite arbitrary," he said.

"I think that there's a sense the government is obviously trying to minimize whatever payments it has to make."

After looking at the documents, Adam Vaughan, the Toronto city councillor whose riding covers much of the G20 area, said it appears the 13 clauses limiting compensation were applied unevenly.

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"There are businesses next door to each other, one gets the claim, one doesn't," he said, noting the application was complicated and there could have been documentation problems. "You'd expect to see a pattern, if there was a degree of fairness, and there is no pattern."

On Queen Street West, Condom Shack didn't receive funding because it closed without being told to. Businesses both three doors down (Adrenaline Body Piercing & Tattoos) and not far across the street (Queen Mother Cafe) got thousands of dollars back.

"They take precautions to protect themselves and they get nothing out of it. Other businesses tried to stay open and because the maps were drawn the way they were, they get nothing out of it," Mr. Vaughan said.

The government has agreed to pay out just over $2-million to Toronto businesses. It falls close to $9-million short of what was asked for.

The second most predominant reason applications were turned down, 52 in all, was because businesses shut down that weren't required to.

University of Toronto officials said they closed part of the campus for safety reasons because they were located beside the protest site at Queen's Park. It meant cancelling and rescheduling events and moving students staying in residences at the university's expense. All of that added up to about $789,111, but the university wasn't eligible for compensation because it wasn't asked to shut down.

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The Toronto Blue Jays moved three games to Philadelphia during the summit. The team was denied a request because although they were eligible, the government said there was no loss of profit.

In the financial district, 20 King West Investments didn't get any money back because of "[i]eligibility of claims for damage caused by third parties, including vandalism," the documents say.

The Elmwood Spa near Elm and Yonge streets was within the affected area, executive manager Marie Picton said, but she didn't get money back because the government said an "obligation to minimize disruption" on that weekend wasn't demonstrated.

"We made the call to close the business because we obviously had great concern for our staff who had to come downtown and also the clients who were booked in for services," she said.

Ms. Picton said she would appeal the funding decision if she knew how. Foreign Affairs didn't answer the Globe's questions about how businesses could appeal.

It wasn't simple to apply in the first place, Ms. Picton said. "I really feel badly for really small entrepreneurs who had to access and fill out the forms – they're quite lengthy," she said, noting she needed to provide three years of records.

Two claims were dismissed because they involved events being relocated without being told to. One of them was a wedding reception, which had been planned for two years by John Kourkounakis and his wife for their daughter, Angiliki.

Mr. Kourkounakis said it cost his family about $9,000 extra to move the reception from Fionn MacCool's, at University Avenue and Adelaide Street West, to a conservation area. The decision was made one month before the wedding because the pub and family were worried about safety, he said.

"Was it a hassle? My daughter was in tears," he said. "It's not about getting the money but I want that money back. It's more important that [at]my daughter's wedding, she has a lot of fun and she enjoys it."

In total, 198 claims were approved and four were withdrawn. Steve's Music store on Queen Street got compensation but manager Kevin Parker said the amount was much less than what was needed to recover his costs and he still hasn't received the money. The store's melted sign and windows were damaged when a police cruiser was set on fire by protesters outside.

He applied for roughly $80,000 to cover loss of business and got back about $23,000. "Obviously it's not sufficient," he said.

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