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July 19, 2010

If it was so necessary for G-8 and G-20 leaders to have “face time” together, why were these summits not held on say, Baffin Island, rather than in downtown Toronto? One billion dollars down the drain on security and still the powers-that-be were unable to prevent violence. More than a thousand people arrested, most of them peaceful demonstrators, while many of the window smashers walked away untouched.

For the people of Canada, the most palpable effect of the summits was the suspension of democracy, the destruction of property by a loathsome black bloc and a heavy-handed police crackdown on protests where there was not a hint of violence.

To take but one example: Toronto Star writer Joe Fiorito told of a group of churchgoers walking to pray at the site of the summit after their Sunday service. A dozen police in uniform accompanied them.

Downtown, 80 Ontario Provincial Police met them to ensure nothing got out of hand. The group prayed for a couple of hours. Then riot police showed up, banging sticks on their shields. Perhaps they were expecting the praying elderly women in their Tilley hats to start smashing things. Who knows?

But if innocent lambs on the street were being treated as a threat to public order, innocents around the world are going to pay the price for the decisions the G-20 leaders made inside the summit.

Government leaders promised to slash their deficits in half by 2013. They also ignored widespread calls for a financial transaction tax that alone would have cut those deficits. Such a tax might also curtail some of the wild, computer-generated trading that could easily spark a rogue recession.

So, who will pay for those cuts to government deficits? The same folks who always pay — students, those who need health care and social services, government employees. In short, those who had nothing to do with causing the current recession will pay for the shortfall in government revenues. More innocents.

The one bright light of the summit was Canada’s promise to contribute $1.1 billion to improve maternal health in poorer nations. But if Canada, like other G-8 nations, lives up to its record of failing to meet promises for development assistance, the $1.1 billion will never see the light of day. Moreover, some of that which is spent will go to projects that aid donor nations more than the poor.

A billion dollars is a lot. In fact, we know where Canada could have gotten that money. Instead of spending the money on security in Toronto, the federal government could have held the summit in the wilderness and written a cheque to the poor.

But would the Canadian government have dared to do that? Can it really find money for mothers in need as easily as it can find the cash to send riot police to oversee praying grandmothers?