Summit costs surpass $1 billion

Federal documents show Ottawa plans to spend another $160 million for the G8 and G20 summits, above and beyond the $933-million price tag for security that was made public this week.

OTTAWA — Federal documents show Ottawa plans to spend another $160 million for the G8 and G20 summits, above and beyond the $933-million price tag for security that was made public this week.

Canada’s three-day summit bonanza at the end of June will cost taxpayers at least $1.1 billion, with further costs still not fully accounted for.

“This might be the most expensive 72 hours in Canadian history,” said Liberal MP Mark Holland.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has already confirmed Ottawa is budgeting at least $933 million for security, and could come back to Parliament for more in the fall if security costs spike higher.

“This is what the experts tell us is required. I don’t think people understand exactly how many people are at these summits,” Toews said Wednesday.

The security price tag does not include the cost of hospitality, infrastructure, food safety or extra staffing needed to handle pre-summit meetings.

Federal documents released this week show Ottawa is spending $101 million to organize the G20 process.

Most of that pot goes to Foreign Affairs to expand its summit management office, pay for meeting space and hold outreach and preparatory meetings.

About $1.2 million is for the Health Department to ensure foreign dignitaries stay healthy and don’t eat bad food.

The documents also show that Ottawa is allocating $10 million to the border infrastructure fund for G8-related projects. No further details were given.

And previously released documents show Ottawa has already spent $50 million to spruce up the area around Huntsville, Ont., host of the G8 summit.

Experts say security costs are usually the biggest part of any summit bill. Salaries, transportation, accommodation and per diem allowances for security personnel can add up quickly, but overtime is often the highest and most unpredictable cost.

Beyond security, Ottawa is on the hook for holding many pre-summit meetings, arranging the logistics of the summits, making the summit areas look pretty, and hosting foreign dignitaries while they’re here.

Usually, the host country only pays for the leader’s accommodation, and does not pick up the tab for delegations or media.

The Liberals have been quick to accuse the government of overspending and mismanagement of the summit process at great expense. By holding the G8 summit in Huntsville, and the G20 summit in Toronto, the federal government is running up extra costs needlessly, they argue.